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Welcome back to NEF’s Summer Energy Series! Last month, we harnessed the sun’s energy to cook tasty treats in a DIY solar oven. This month we’re going for a spin with homemade anemometers (aka a fancy weather vane). Keep hold of your hat as we breeze into summer learning fun! 

An anemometer is an instrument that measures wind speed. As always, you can follow the list of suggested materials and steps or try it on your own and see where your imagination takes you. 

Build Your Own Anemometer

Energy Concepts

  • Wind energy
  • Rotational rate 
  • Air pressure
  • Atmosphere

Suggested Materials

  • Four paper cups
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Stapler 
  • Tape
  • Thumbtack
  • Straight pin
  • Pencil with eraser
  • Marker
  • Fan (optional)
  • Timer (optional)


  1. Cut out two strips of cardboard about 12 inches long and 1 inch wide and mark the center of each strip. 
  2. Staple the side of a cup to each end of the cardboard strip, making sure the cups face opposite directions. 
  3. Tape the cardboard strips together to make an X at the center of each strip. The top of each cup should be pointed at the bottom of the next cup all the way around. 
  4. Use the thumbtack to make a hole in the middle of the X. Poke the hole and wiggle the thumbtack around to widen it slightly. 
  5. Push the straight pin through the hole and straight into the pencil eraser. The anemometer should spin freely around the pin. 
  6. Your anemometer is ready for use! Take it outside on a windy day or hold it in front of a fan to watch it spin. 

Want to calculate wind speed? Use the marker to color or mark one of the cups. Then, use the stopwatch to count how many times the marked cup spins around the anemometer in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by 4 to get the rotational rate per minute. Try placing the anemometer in different locations to see where would be the best place to put a wind turbine! 

We’ll be posting energy topics related to this experiment on social media throughout the month to extend the learning. Also, watch for another Summer Energy experiment in August.

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