Device Construction

Model Wave Energy Devices 

Waves are in constant motion and therefore have a consistent form of energy. This energy is called kinetic energy, which exists within a moving object. Since the ocean has near-constant energy from motion, wave energy devices are being developed to harness that energy and convert it to electricity. There are several different types of wave-energy devices being developed. For some examples of devices, go to Wave Energy Device Examples. 

When developing devices for the ocean, engineers must consider: The cost of building and maintaining the device. Using materials that can withstand the harsh ocean environment. Safe and effective anchoring and mooring systems.  How efficient devices can be at producing electricity from the available energy. The environmental and social impacts.  

The following sections will explain the construction and operation of a model wave energy device, called a wave energy point absorber, to convert wave energy into electrical energy. In this model, a magnet moves in a straight line, passing through a wire coil that generates an electrical current, lighting the LED. 


  • Tank: The tank for the device must be a minimum of 16 in wide x 23 in long x 14 in tall. Preferably, the tank is transparent to enable visualization of the device in action. It should be filled with roughly 9.5 in of water (slightly over 2/3 of the tank described). A standard bathtub works as a replacement, filled with 7.5 in of water (slightly under 2/3 filled). 
  • Paddle: Flat rectangular floating material (a slender sealed Tupperware works well) that spans at least 1/3rd of the tank width. For the tank mentioned above or a bathtub, a 6in wide x 9in long sealed plastic Tupperware works well. 
  • Tape: scotch tape, masking, or duct tape 
  • Wave energy kit (supplied): tube with red coiled wire, magnets and magnet hook, bobber, 2 sections of fishing line, foam, LED, sandpaper, command hook 

Device Construction 

There are numerous ways to construct this wave energy device. An additional activity involves finding innovative approaches to building a model wave energy converter. Another great idea for innovation comes from trial and error. We suggest documenting what works and what doesn’t, what conditions are found to be optimal or ill-suited, etc., and learning from this process. Below, are two documents that outline the instructions, the first is in Spanish and the second in English. 

Below is a tutorial that follows the above instructions with subtitles in Spanish and English. Note: there is no audio for the video.

Safety: The electricity generated in this model is so low, it is not enough to be felt or dangerous. Keep small parts away from young children.    

When you are finished you can post pictures, videos, or other media to social media platforms using the hashtag #SmileWec. We would love to see your results! 

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