Lauren Hodson | August 2016

STEAM Design Challenge: Kinetic Wind Sculptures

Kinetic Wind Sculptures are not only fun to make, they are perfect for STEAMing up school campuses and classrooms! Kinetic = Movement and there is something amazing that happens when a student sees their artwork in motion.

In addition to being absolutely mesmerizing, Kinetic Wind Sculptures artwork requires knowledge and application of technology, engineering, artistic habits of mind, and can easily integrate into other content areas.  

My favorite way to implement STEAM is through a Design Challenge, like the ones we share in our online class Designed to STEAM. They are a great way to encourage collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking (The 4C’s). The Partnership for 21st Century Learning outlines the 4C’s in more detail HERE.  
In this Design Challenge, I will provide you with some basic ideas, possible extensions, ways in which you can integrate the arts, and introduce you to notable artists from the past and present.


“As a team, create a Kinetic Wind Sculptures that can move in the wind.”

Possible Materials:

  • Scrap Wood
  • PVC Pipes
  • Plastic Spoons
  • Plastic Cups
  • Recycled Plastic Bottles
  • Ping Pong Balls
  • Paper, Cardboard, Foam Core
  • String or Yarn
  • Straws
  • Elastic Bands
  • Metal Washers
  • Duct Tape
  • Variety of Tools: Pliers, Hammers, Wire Cutters
  • Paper Punches
  • Staplers

Setting Parameters

In order to make things a little more interesting, you can set specific parameters for your Kinetic Wind Sculptures challenge.  This can add a higher level of critical thinking.


  • Set a height requirement
  • Set a requirement for the number of moving pieces
  • Limit supplies

Brainstorm Seeds

  • What shapes or forms catch the wind?
  • What objects around us use wind to create a movement? (Sailboats, Pinwheels, Kites)


This challenge can be extending into many content areas from technology, engineering, science, or math.  Check out these Technology Apps for the Arts.



  • Students can use iMovie or other platforms to create videos of their Kinetic Wind Sculptures moving in the wind. Find out more about using iMovie for arts integration HERE.
  • As a group, they can add a voiceover explaining their process.  
  • Students could write a poem about wind or their specific sculpture and read it over the footage.
  • Music can be added to the video.  This could be an existing song or one that students compose.


  • Create a kinetic sculpture that is a model for an aesthetically pleasing structure that also provides wind energy for a community, neighborhood, or even a town.
  • PBL Connection: As a class, talk with someone involved with alternative energy or specifically, wind power.
  • Brainstorm Seeds:
    • How does your sculpture interact with its environment?
    • How does it withstand extreme wind and weather?
    • What would the benefits of your sculpture be? How would you pitch it to the community?
    • How can people maintain the sculpture? What would need to happen yearly or in a decade?
  • Create a pitch for local lawmakers or write a plan in order to gain funding for your project.
  • Create a presentation explaining your vision for the sculpture.

Inspiring Artists

Alexander Calder 1898-1976: Calder Foundation Website

  • American artist is known for his mobile sculptures made of metal and wire.
  • His background was in engineering and technology and his passion for art helped form his life’s work.
  • Experimented with air currents to propel his artwork and delight many throughout the years.

“To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there’s no such thing as perfect.”     

– Alexander Calder

Anthony Howe 1954-: Anthony Howe’s Website

  • Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Anthony has traveled the country working on his craft.
  • His artwork has traveled the world and recently was featured in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Read the article HERE.

“Kinetic sculpture resides at the intersection of artistic inspiration and mechanical complexity. The making of one of my pieces relies on creative expression, metal fabrication, and a slow design process in equal parts. It aims to alter one’s experience of time and space when witnessed. It also needs to weather winds of 90 mph and still move in a one mile per hour breeze and do so for hundreds of years.”          

– Anthony Howe

Theo Jansen 1948-: Strandbeests

  • Jansen creates new life forms, or Strandbeests, that walk with the wind.
  • Using his background in technology and engineering, he has worked tirelessly designing these playful life forms from plastic tubes, specifically designed gears and levers, and sails.

The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds, and few go beyond them.”        

– Theo Jansen

How do you use Kinetic Wind Sculptures STEAM challenges in your classroom?

About the Author

Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.