Electromagnetic Dancer

Parts Needed:
  • 2 Models

  • 1 Base board, at least 8" long

  • 1 C battery 

  • 30' magnet wire, any gauge 

  • 1 Bolt or nail (2.5" 1/4 machine screw works well.)

  • 12" 1/4" dowel

  • 6 Small paperclips

  • 1 Rectangular magnet

  • Duct tape

  • Markers

  • Aluminum foil

  • Stiff paper or card stock for the dancer 

  • One side of transparent CD case 

  • Tiny binder clip

Extra Tools: 
  • 15/64 bit for drill

  • Sand paper for stripping magnet wire 

Project Description:

Drill a 15/64” hole in the piece of wood near one end. Cut about 12” of a ¼” dowel. Hammer the dowel in the hole drilled into the base wood.

Glue the film can on the other end of the wood base. This is the battery holder. Cut a piece of wire to make a hook to hang the dancer. (If your magnet wire is big enough, you can use a piece of it. If not, you will need another stiffer wire.) This wire should be long and springy, not sturdy and stiff.

Use duct tape to tape the hook to the top of the dowel. Wind the magnet wire around the big bolt, being careful to leave both ends of the wire exposed.

Sand the insulation off both ends of the wire. You can also scrape it off with a knife or one blade of scissors. Glue the bolt head down on the middle of the baseboard.

Fold a piece of aluminum foil onto one end of the coil. Put this end of the wire with its aluminum foil inside the film can at the bottom.

Cut two pieces of hot glue stick, about 3/4" long. Glue the two magnets to the pieces of hot glue stick. (The two magnets should be arranged with the same side up, or they will stick together too easily.)

Glue a paper clip the other end of each piece of hot glue stick.

Attach another paper clip to first paper clip.

Cut out the figure of a dancer from stiff paper or card stock. Make two holes with the hole punch on the bottom of the dancer to hang the pieces of glue sticks with magnets. These are the legs. (They can’t be too close together, or they will stick to each other.)

Punch a hole near the top of the head. Put a paper clip to hang the dancer from the hook.

Punch holes on each side to attach two paper clips each. These are the arms.

Hang the dancer from the hook and adjust the hook until the dancer’s feet are directly above the bolt and coil, but not so close that they stick to it. Place the battery in the film can. When you touch the other end of the coil to the top of the battery the dancer begins to dance. It will dance very actively if you keep brushing the top of the battery with the wire; that is, connecting and disconnecting the coil.

A Bit More Info:

A wire with an electrical current running through it is a magnet. You can demonstrate this by hooking a very thin wire (#30) directly to the two sides of a 1.5V battery, and then pushing on the wire with a magnet. If you want to make it stronger, you could increase the electrical current. If you want a north and south pole, you need to wrap it around into a coil. In a coil, the field lines from each wrap of wire add up to create poles.

An electromagnet behaves just like a permanent magnet, with two poles, likes repelling and opposites attracting. The electromagnet is different because it can be made stronger by adding more coils of wire, or by adding more electrical current. Electromagnets are the key to making motors because, unlike a permanent magnet, you can turn them off and on at will. In this project, she will stop dancing if you connect the wire and leave it connected. Like a motor, to stay moving she must be continually connected and disconnected.

In this project, if you put other things in the circuit (in series) with the wire, less current would travel through the wire, and the magnet would not be so strong. If you take out the bolt, and replace it with a piece of wood, plastic or just air, the electromagnet would also decrease in strength.

  1. A wire becomes a magnet when electricity passes through it. If the wire is in a coil, it will become an
    electromagnet with a north and south pole.

  2. Permanent magnets can be attracted or repelled by an electromagnet, just like they can attract and repel

  3. If you put a piece of iron or steel in the center of the coil of wire, it will make an electromagnet even

  1. How could you make the electromagnet stronger?

  2. How could you set it up to make the dancer keep dancing?

  3. What do you think would happen if you put a light in the circuit with the wire?

  4. What do you think would happen if you didn’t have the bolt in the center of the coil of wire?

© 2020 by Victoria Matelli, Calvin Norwood, Jade Murray

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