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Project Plan for an Electromagnetism Experiment

By Kathy Foust

Electromagnetism is one way to interest young learners in the field of physics. This simple physics project demonstrates how to create electromagnetism. Students will learn about the topic and may come up with their own magnetism experiments after completing this project!

What You'll Need

This physics experiment involves creating an electromagnet. For this physics project you will need the following materials.

  • About a foot of insulated copper wire with the ends stripped of the insulation.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Electrical tape.
  • One of any of the following types of batteries; AA, D or C.
  • Metal paper clips with no type of covering.

Creating an Electromagnet

Gather together the materials listed. Explain to students that a wire can produce a magnetic field when used with electricity. To strengthen that field, you can wrap the wire around a metal piece in coils. This in effect produces a solenoid. This is what you will be doing in this physics project. Follow the instructions below.

  1. Wrap the wire around the screwdriver about eight times leaving about four inches exposed on one end and the leftover wire on the other end.
  2. Tape one end of the wire to the negative side of the battery.
  3. Grasp the screwdriver by the plastic handle, avoiding contact with the metal part of the screwdriver.
  4. Place the other end of the wire on the positive side of the battery.
  5. Touch the metal end of the screwdriver to the pile of paper clips. How many can you pick up at once?
  6. Remove the wire from the positive side of the battery while holding up the paper clips. What happens?
  7. Wrap about half of the remaining wire around the screwdriver and repeat steps 1-5. Is there an increase or decrease in the amount of paper clips you can pick up?
  8. Repeat step seven until there is no wire left to wrap around the screwdriver.
  9. Discuss the experiment with your students, being sure to include the following questions; How did you increase the power of the electromagnet? How did you turn off the electromagnet? How did you turn it on? What practical applications can such a device have in every day life?

You may want to inform the students that some trains are run on electromagnetism. The magnetic current pulls the train forward. When the current is shut off, the train stops. Can you think of any other ways such a device is used?