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The Magic Magnetic Tower of Magnetism!

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 2:45 PM

Magnets are…. Weird. They attract, they repel, and none of what they do can be seen with the naked eye. Even the study of magnets can get confusing as it has been tied in with electrical studies for a long time, yet also recognized as its own field of study. Though magnets may be a bit perplexing, they are an integral part of a lot of today’s technology. Common items, such as debit cards or CDs rely on magnetic technology. On the flip side, we also use magnets in very uncommon and specialized technology, such as maglev trains or vortex fluids.

What exactly is a magnet, though? Really, it is any item that exhibits an external magnetic force. This can include the magnets on your refrigerator, electro-magnetic cranes (often seen in junk and scrap yards), or even the Earth itself! Not all magnets are the same, however. Let’s take a look at the different types of magnets we know of.

-Permanent magnets

These types of magnets don’t lose their magnetic force, or lose their force at an incredibly low speed. Though some permanent magnets are naturally occurring, such as Neodymium Iron Boron, most are manufactured.

-Temporary magnets

These types of magnets are any object or material that behaves like a permanent magnet, but only when in the presence of a magnetic field. A good example of temporary magnets are common house nails. As a demonstration, try sticking one to a magnet, then another nail to the first one, then keep adding until you have a chain. The nails don’t behave this way when not in the presence of a magnetic field, but once you introduce a magnet they behave the same way as the magnet!

-Electromagnets

These types of magnets also only have a temporary magnetic field, but for an entirely different reason than other temporary magnets. Electromagnets are formed by wrapping wire or specialized tubes around a special core material, such as iron, then passing an electrical current through the tube or wire. As the current passes through, it generates a magnetic field. Different materials, the amount or length of coils, and the strength of the electrical charge all effect how strong the electromagnet is.

All of these different types of magnets are used and studied through so many different fields of science, such as physics, engineering, biology, astronomy, and much more! With the following project, we will get to practice some engineering skills and get some hands-on education with magnets!

An example of nails acting as temporary magnets. 

The Magic Magnetic Tower of Magnetism


What you will need:

-Building Materials

-Strong magnets

-Thread or fishing line

-Magnetic objects (i.e. nails, paper clips, key rings, etc.)

-Tape

-(optional) markers

-(optional) cutting tools, such as a craft knife or scissors

What to do:

We are going to be building a wide tower with an upper and lower platform. For this you will need your building materials…. Buuuut “building materials” seems kind of vague, huh? Don’t fret, just be creative! Use what you have at your disposal. Use Legos, or wooden building blocks and rulers, or soda bottles and pencils! Just keep in mind that your upper platform will be holding your magnets, while your lower platform will hold your magnetic objects.

(Hint: Once you’ve figured out your building materials, you might want to decorate them before putting the whole thing together)

Once your tower has been built, it’s time for the magnetism! Place your magnets on the top rail. Be sure they are far enough away from each other that they aren’t interacting (pushing or pulling each other). Once you think you’ve found a good placement, you may want to fasten them down with something, such as tape. Depending in your magnets, this part may take a decent bit of adjusting and fidgeting to get it just right.

Next, tie your thread or line to one of the magnetic objects. Tie your thread to one of the magnetic objects, then stick the object to the bottom of the upper platform, letting the magnet hold it into place. Lightly wrap the other end of the thread around the bottom platform. Pull the line slowly, so that you begin to pull the object away from the magnet. See how far you can get the object away from the magnet before it exits the magnetic field and falls. Once you’ve figured out how far you can get the object before it falls, tape or tie the thread to the bottom platform, holding your object suspended in the air.

So far, so good? Awesome… IT IS COMPLETE!!! Now take your tower to amaze your friends and family members with the magic of magnetism!

Project notes: While we used rigid pieces of cardboard and paint stirrers for our building materials, you have so many other options! Just take a look around your home and see what you can come up with. In fact, think of this project as an engineering challenge.

CJ w/ Children of Terra-NEO

What did you learn about magnets? What kind of building materials did you use? Did this project help you obtain a better understanding of magnetism? Let us know in the comments below OR post it to us on Facebook (facebook.com/childrenofterra), on Instagram (@childrenofterra), or on twitter (@ChildrenOfTerra).

Resources:

https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2014/12/complex-magnetic-fields-breathe-life-fluids" target="_blank">National Institute of Standards and Technology-Complex Magnetic Fields Breathe Life Into Fluids

https://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/engines-equipment/maglev-train.htm" target="_blank">How Stuff Works-Maglev Trains

Physics4Kids-What is a magnet?

https://www.kjmagnetics.com/blog.asp?p=earth-science" target="_blank">K&J Magnetics-The Earth is a Magnet

https://www.thomasnet.com/articles/electrical-power-generation/magnet-types" target="_blank">Thomas-Types of Magnets

 

Categories: leafSTEM: Connecting Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math with the Environment, Eco-Fun Kids Corner

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