AAUW Expanding Your Horizons - 2004

Link to McLaughlin'sTuesday Afternoon Science Club!
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Your Safari Leader
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EYH 2003
EYH 2004
Contracting/Reference Documents
Science Safari Electromagnet with Switch Project
Completed Electromagnet Project

Wiring Diagram

How to attach the paperclip to the the battery

Here's how it looks

Preparing the battery chamber

Install the paperclip in the top of the film can

Install the battery with clip in the film can

The finished battery chamber

Here's how to connect the wires to the battery

Here's how to attach the wires to the switch
Now look at the 1st two photos to see how to finish!

You've just done 2 things!  First, you've built an electrical circuit.  "Circuit" sounds like "circle" because they're both from the Latin root "circ-" which means "circle". 
Electricity from the battery travels in a circle - as long as the circle doesn't have a gap in it!  A gap is called a "short".  That's where we get "short circuit". 
Second, you've made an electromagnet.  It's only a magnet when electricity is actively running along the wires.
Once you've connected everything, test by sliding the paperclip to connect the 2 screws that are the switch.  When electricity travels along a coil (your wire-wrapped nail), it creates a magnetic field.  Touch a paperclip to the head of the nail.  When the switch is connected (on), the clip should "stick" to the nail head.  It'll fall off when you slide the paperclip switch away from the screw (off).
If it doesn't work, that means there's a short in your circuit.  Someplace, the wires or clips are not totally touching each other or they're not touching the battery securely.  So, go around your circuit and tighten it.  Make sure ALL of the connections are touching very well.  Try touching the switch's paperclip to different spots on the switch's screw.  Also, it could be that the battery has lost its power.  You can replace the battery the same way you installed the first one.  Don't leave the switch on, or it will overheat the battery and use it up!
Now for some thoughts:  This could be the start of a great science fair project!  (I know.  Every year I'm a science fair judge all around the Metroplex!)  So keep a lab notebook where you write all the things you think of or try out - it'll really set your project apart from the rest!
I Wonder...
  •  What if you wound TWICE as much wire around the nail?  (What about 3 or 103 times as much?)  You can buy wire at Radio Shack or the hardware store.  The type of wire we used is "16 gauge bell wire".  It's pretty cheap!
  • Speaking of wire, what if you changed the size or type of wire?
  • What if you changed the size of the nail?
  • What if you added a second battery? (Or a 3rd?)  How would you add another battery to your circuit?  Look up the words "parallel" and "series" in a book about electricity and circuits.
  • What if you added a different type of battery? (Like "AAA, C, D, 9-volt".)
  • How could you test your electromagnet's power? (hint: wonder how many paperclips or washers or little metal pieces it can pick up?)
  • Could you use this circuit to power another device?
I hope you have lots of fun with your electromagnet circuit.  I also hope you'll discover that it's TONS of fun to make projects like this!

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs copyright Susan Campbell 2006, all rights reserved.