Magnets have two poles or sides, the positive and negative. These are also known as the north pole and south pole. The basic law of magnets states that opposite poles attract and same poles push back. Thus, when a magnet is placed near another magnet it will either become attracted to it or repel it, depending on whether the opposite or same poles face one another. Students can demonstrate this basic magnetic law with a science project that also shows how magnets can float or hover.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Ring magnets
- Ruler with millimetres
Form a small ball of clay and set it on the desk.
Place a pencil into the clay ball so that it stands upright, eraser-side up.
Slip a ring magnet over the pencil and let the magnet rest on the clay.
Slip another ring magnet over the pencil, making sure to place the magnet so that the same poles of each magnet face each other. If the same side poles are facing, the magnets will hover or float. If the opposite poles are facing each other, the magnets will stick together. The pencil holds the magnets in place and prevents them from slipping to the side.
Keep placing pencils into the clay and adding magnets until the pencil is covered with floating magnets.
Expand the floating magnet project by determining how powerful the magnets are. Ask students to guess how many magnets stacked together can be supported by another magnet. First, follow steps 1 through 3 of the floating magnets experiment above.
Slip another magnet over the pencil with the same sides facing each other. Use a ruler to measure the space between the hovering magnets and record the distance.
Slip another magnet over the pencil so that same poles are facing in regard to the middle magnet. These top two magnets will stick together, yet both will still float above the bottom magnet. Measure the space between the hovering top magnets and the bottom magnet, then record the distance.
Continue slipping magnets over the pencil and measuring the distance between the base magnet and the floating magnet stack.
Analyse the data and determine if the distance between the base magnet and the magnet stack stays constant or becomes smaller.
Floating Magnet Strength
Tips and warnings
- Use unsharpened pencils to reduce the risk of eye injury.
- Supervise children with magnets. Never allow them to put magnets inside their mouth, ears or nose.
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