Electromagnet Design Challenge
The Challenges In Physical Science curriculum's Electromagnet
Design Challenge asks middle-school students to design
a battery-run electromagnet so that it picks up as many
nails held in a plastic cup as possible. Watch MOVIE
1 for a Quick Peek overview of science teacher Nancy
Cianchetta as she introduces and teaches with a materials-constrained
Since students will be redesigning rough plans they
are given at the task's outset, you might want to review
of Naive Designers page for teaching strategies
that target such designers.
View or print out a copy of the Electromagnet materials by
Day 1 - Get Electromagnet Working
Watch Nancy set the stage for students' building their
first electromagnet that lifts a chain of paperclips.
Day 2 - Adding Capacity
Students take forays into testing key variables to
make a high-performing electromagnet.
Designing Your Lessons
Cianchetta, a science teacher, recommends paths to
take when teaching this unit.
History of Magnets
is described, including the use of magnetite and the
compass, and Oersted's accidental discovery of electromagnets
from passing current through a wire.
Fundamental facts of magnets are discussed, including
permanent/temporary and poles.
Building an Electromagnet
Practical suggestions for making strong electromagnets
are presented. This page is ripe with potential design
rules-of-thumb for the electromagnet design challenge.
Magnets and Electricity
Get a brief overview on the relationship between moving
charges or changing electric fields and magnetism.
Electromagnet Challenge (7 pages)