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Shirley Porter-Cesair Charles R. Henderson
5650 So. Wolcott
Chicago Il 60636
The students will make an electromagnet and determine the strength of the
Three feet of insulated copper wire per person
Size D batteries
Pieces of Cardboard
Nails (3 inches or longer)
Paper clips, tacks, pins, or other small magnetic objects
Glass or plastic cylinder (100 ml)
Wrought iron stand
Students will work in pairs. Each pair of students will receive a baggie
containing materials needed. Allow the students ten or fifteen minutes to
explore and manipulate the materials. Have one student from each group connect
their compass with wire through the holes in the cardboard. Insert the wire
through the Fahnestock clips on both ends. Place the wire over the compass.
What happens and why?
The electrical current flowing through a wire will create a magnetic field.
This magnetic field causes the needle to turn at a right angle to the wire.
Reverse the connections to the battery, thus reversing the direction of the
current flow, and the needle will point in the opposite direction.
Using the same bag of materials, the pairs of students will begin wrapping the
wire around the nail in the same direction until a foot of wire is left at both
ends. Insert the end wires into the Fahnstock clips. Hold the electromagnet
over a small pile of paper clips, tacks or other small metal objects. How many
objects does your electromagnet attract? Take the wire off the battery
terminal, and the tacks will immediately fall off.
The current passing through the wire produces an invisible magnetic field. When
the current is cut off, the magnetic field disappears, then the molecules of
the iron return to their helter-skelter position and the nail loses most, but
not all, of its magnetism.
As a result of the electromagnet mini-teach, the sixth grade students will be
able to describe the characteristics of a magnet and an electromagnet. Both
attract metal and have magnetic fields; the electromagnet needs an electrical
The students will be able to make an electromagnet with a wire, a battery, and
The students will be able to test the strength of the electromagnet by using
more coiled wire and additional batteries and nails.
In activity 1 we found that electricity can produce magnetism and magnetism can
produce electricity. The opposite ends or poles of magnets are attracted to
each other and like ends repel.
In activity 2 we found that current through a wire produces an invisible
magnetic field. When the current is cut off, the magnetic field disappears,
then the molecules of the iron return to their helter-skelter position and the
piece loses most, but not all, of its magnetism.
Safe and Simple Electrical Experiments. Rudolf F. Graf. Dover Publications,
Inc.,N.Y., 1964. pps. 86-88 and 93-94.
Be a Kid Physicist. William R. Wellnitz, Ph.D., Tab Books. McGraw-Hill, Inc.,
Blue Ridge Summit, PA. 1993. p, 82.
Science Projects About Electricity and Magnets. Robert Gardner. Enslow
Publishers, Inc., N.J., 1994. pps. 72-82.