Electric motor activities are good for introducing electricity and magnetism to children. These topics are not always taught in depth because of their difficulty. These 7 fun and easy motor activities will make the concepts concrete and hands-on!
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. These experiments use batteries and magnets. Eye protection should be used. The magnets should not be swallowed (highly dangerous!). Wires can get hot during motor operation. Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for entertainment and education purposes only. Using any information from thecasabouquet.com is at your own risk.
The basic setup for electric motor activities is a battery to provide power, a magnet, and wire formed in a loop. The current through the wire loop becomes an electromagnet and the fixed magnet makes the wire loop turn. These 7 electric motor activities for kids encourage children to ask questions about electricity and magnetism, collect data, analyze, and share their findings.
- The Motor Effect from the Exploratorium
- Motorized coloring robot from Crystal and Company
- Simple mini-motor from the Exploratorium
- Simple electric motor from education.com
- How to build a motor from Maker Dad
- Homopolar motor from Arbor Scientific
- Tiny dancers homopolar motor from Babble Dabble Do
When trying an electric motor activity, I always encourage children to make it into an experiment. There are several areas where variables can be changed.
- Change the number of loops of wire to see if the strength of the electromagnet changes.
- Experiment with the insulation on the arms of the wire loop. Try all insulated, no insulation, and half insulated. How do these affect the motor operation?
- Change the number of batteries.
- Change the number of fixed magnets.
What is the science?
Content: electricity, magnetism, motors, batteries, electric circuits, energy transfer, electromagnet
Electric current will flow from the battery through your circuit to the wire coil. The coil becomes an electromagnet with a north and south pole. The magnet in your motor will attract one side of the coil and repel the other. The motor is changing electrical energy to mechanical energy. With a big enough electric motor, the spinning can be used to power something, like turn a wheel.
Resource links for electric motor activities
- General Lab Safety resources from Flinn Scientific. Be sure to check out the Student Safety Contract.
- World’s simplest motor from Arbor Scientific
- Michael Faraday from BBC History
- Oersted’s discovery of electromagnetism from American Physical Society
- Electric motors from Khan Academy Physics
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