Easy Electromagnetic Copper Battery Train STEM Activity for Kids. Aa battery experiment

Which Battery Lasts the Longest? Science Fair Project

Instructor: Amanda Robb Show bio Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. She has a Master’s Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master’s of Teaching from Simmons College. She is also certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.

In this project, we’ll be learning the science behind batteries. We’ll learn what’s inside batteries that allow them to create electricity and why certain batteries last longer than others.

easy, electromagnetic, copper, battery

Materials

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Steps

Put the batteries in each flashlight and make sure it turns on.

Use masking tape to attach each flashlight to the cardboard so the beam of light can easily be seen.

Label the masking tape on each flashlight with the type of battery it contains.

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Troubleshooting

Depending on what type of flashlight you are using, this process can take several hours. Be patient and get a friend to join you to pass the time. Some batteries may last over four hours.

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Discussion Questions

Which battery lasted longer? Was it the one you expected?

What do you think makes some batteries last longer?

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How It Works

Before we can understand why one battery is better than another, we need to get some basics about how batteries work. Energy in the batteries is stored in chemicals. The chemicals react with each other when the battery is put in a circuit and powers the device that it is connected to.

The anode is the part of the battery that contains chemicals capable of giving off electrons, tiny negatively charged particles. The movement of these particles through a wire is what creates electricity. The cathode is the part of the battery that accepts the electrons from the anode. The cathode and anode are separated by a barrier and bathed in an electrolyte, a substance that reacts with chemicals in the anode to allow it to release electrons.

Parts of a battery

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Easy Electromagnetic Copper Battery Train STEM Activity for Kids

Building a simple electromagnetic train is part science and part magic! Using a few supplies, kids can build a copper coil tube that will propel their battery train to move on its own! It is all very cool and a really fun STEM activity or science fair project starter for kids of all ages.

Build a Magneto-Electric Train

One of the things I love about this simple science experiment is that although it is easy to make and fun to play with, there is unlimited learning experiences for kids of all ages and grade levels. Adults will be challenged with these concepts too. It is all so fun to explore the science behind the play! Related: This is one of over 50 science fair project ideas Once you have built your electromagnetic train, be sure to stock up on batteries because it is really fun to play with and those batteries don’t last forever… Did you know we wrote a science book? Check out all the fun…101 Cool Science Experiments to be exact. Note of Caution: This simple science experiment uses neodymium magnets which are small and very strong which can be a safety hazard. The magnets absolutely have to stay out of kids’ mouths and never swallowed. Younger children need constant supervision while playing with the train because the magnets are so strong and there are batteries and copper wire with sharp ends.

Supplies Needed

  • AA Battery or AAABattery – it can not be dead!
  • Fat Marker or something cylindrical that has a larger diameter than the battery you are using – we used a Crayola Washable Marker
  • Copper Wire – the longer the wire, the longer your train tunnel
  • Round Neodymium Magnets – these are very strong Magnets that have a diameter smaller than the marker

Related: Need more fun magnet experiments?

Directions to Make An Electromagnetic Copper Coil Train

Step 1

Using the marker as a guide, wrap the copper wire tightly around to create a circular tunnel. The coil doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to avoid areas that have a large enough space that could disrupt the batteries path through the coil tube.

Keep winding and winding the copper wire around the marker and pulling it forward when you need more marker space to wind. You will be creating a long copper coiled tube.

Step 2

To make the battery and neodymium magnet train, we placed three magnets on each side of the battery at the ends.

Does it Matter Which Way You Put the Magnets on the Battery?

This question could be your first experiment! Will the magnet position change the way the train moves?

–Spoiler Alert: Yes! In fact, the magnets on each end need to be positioned so they are pushing away from each other.

If you line the magnets up so the two of the same poles face each other, the magnets will push away. This is called repulsion. Opposite poles attract each other, but similar poles repel.

DK Find Out, Science of Magnets

Step 3

Position your long coil of copper “train track” so that there aren’t any sharp corders or twists creating a clear path for the battery train.

Place the battery train inside on one end and let go…

Will the Battery Train Go In Both Directions?

This is another fun experiment you can try. Insert the battery train in one way and then try the other. Do they both work? Or is your electromagnetic train a one way train?

–Spoiler Alert: Your electromagnetic train will only go in one direction because of the magic of magnetic poles.

Watch Our Electromagnetic Train in Action [Video]

Lorentz Force

Hendrick Lorentz was a physicist that figured out something about magnetic fields a few years later in 1895 that can help us look at this deeper.

Lorentz Force is the force that is exerted by a magnetic field on a moving electric charge. So it is the combination of electric and magnetic force on a point charge due to electromagnetic fields.

–Medium Youngwonks, What is the Lorentz Force

Homopolar Motor

And all these discoveries lead to the understanding of something Faraday had discovered years earlier called a homopolar motor which is a very simple motor built to use direct current powering the motor in one direction. Another homopolar motor can be built with copper wire, a battery and strong magnets…sound familiar?

The magnet’s magnetic field pushes up towards the battery and the current that flows from the battery travels perpendicularly from the magnetic field. This causes the creation of a force perpendicular to both the magnetic field and current.

–California State University of Bakersfield Department of Chemistry, How to Build a Homopolar Motor

Putting it All Together

When the battery with magnets on each end is placed inside the copper coil it completes a circuit creating current to flow through the coil which then creates a magnetic field.

What happens: the “virtual bar magnet” created by the current flowing through the coil pushes the magnet in front and pulls the magnet behind. Of course the battery between them gets taken along for the ride!

–Skulls in the Stars, The Mystery of the Magnetic Train

Learning About Electromagnetism

We were inspired by the viral video that was circulating that showed what they called the World’s Simplest Electric Train:

Welcome to Kids Activities! My name is Holly Homer I am the Dallas mom of three boys…

How to Make an Engine from a Battery, Wire and a Magnet

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In 1821, Michael Faraday built a simple homopolar motor using a battery, a magnet, and wire, which paved the way for the modern electric motor. With the same materials, you can build your own homopolar motor and try some experiments to watch physics at work! [1] X Research source [2] X Research source

Building a Simple Homopolar Motor

  • You can use any kind of alkaline battery, but a larger battery, such as a C-cell, will be easier to hold. [4] X Research source
  • Get a few inches of copper wire. You can use bare wire or insulated wire. If you choose to use insulated wire, strip some of the insulation off at each end. You can find copper wire online, or at most hardware stores. [5] X Research source
  • Any neodymium magnet should do the trick for this experiment, but search for one with a conductive plating. You can buy nickel plated neodymium magnets of varying sizes online. [6] X Trustworthy Source Science Buddies Expert-sourced database of science projects, explanations, and educational material Go to source
  • You will also need one drywall screw. The screw will let you see the motor in action. Once you’ve successfully constructed the motor, the screw will spin. [7] X Research source

Put the magnet on the screw. Take the neodymium magnet and attach it the head of the drywall screw. [8] X Research source

  • The single point of contact between the tip of the screw and the battery serves as a low-friction bearing. A heavier magnet will decrease the amount of friction between these two points. [10] X Research source

Place the copper wire on the battery. Take your copper wire and hold it to the other end of the battery. For example, if you placed your screw on the button end of the battery, hold the copper wire to the flat end. [11] X Research source

  • When you place the copper wire to the side of the magnet, you complete the circuit between the battery terminals. The current flows from one end of the battery, down the screw, and into the magnet. By touching the wire to the side of the magnet, you allow the current to keep flowing through the wire, and into the other end of the battery. [13] X Research source
  • A homopolar motor is capable of continuous rotation without the need to reverse the direction of the current. [14] X Research source
  • It does not take long for the screw to start spinning at high speeds. Both the screw and magnet could easily fly off the battery. Exercise caution when working with magnets and electricity. [15] X Research source
  • It is possible for the wire to get warm when conducting this experiment. Don’t hold the wire to the magnet for extended periods of time. [16] X Research source

Making a Freestanding Homopolar Motor

  • You will need the following materials to make your motor: 1 AA battery, 2-3 neodymium magnets, and several inches of copper wire. [17] X Research source
  • You may also need a pair of wire cutters or pliers to help you work the copper wire. [18] X Trustworthy Source Science Buddies Expert-sourced database of science projects, explanations, and educational material Go to source

Place the battery on the magnets. Stack your magnets together to make a stand. Place the flat, or negative, side of the battery on top of the magnets. [19] X Research source

  • You can bend your copper wire into different shapes that will spin when placed on the battery. Symmetrical shapes work best, so that the spinning doesn’t throw the wire off balance. [21] X Research source
  • Try bending your wire into a heart shape. When you form the heart shape, bend each end of copper wire so that they fit around the magnet. The indention at the top of the heart will be the connecting point to the positive end of the battery. [22] X Research source
  • The current in this homopolar motor flows in the presence of a magnetic field. When a current flows in a magnetic field, it will experience something known as the Lorentz force. The Lorentz force is what causes the wire to spin around the battery. [24] X Research source
  • The wire connects to the battery at three points. One point of the wire is on the positive terminal, and the two ends of the wire are near the magnet, on the negative terminal. The current flows out of the positive terminal and down both sides of the wire. The magnetic field pushes the current outwards, causing the wires to rotate. [25] X Research source

Building a Magnetohydrodynamic Propulsion System

  • 1 C-cell battery
  • 1 strong neodymium magnet
  • 2 pieces of thick copper wire
  • A small dish
  • Salt and pepper
  • Adding salt improves the conductivity of the water. Adding pepper allows you to see the propulsion at work. [28] X Research source
easy, electromagnetic, copper, battery
  • When you hold the the copper wire to the battery, the wires should almost make a Y shape. Be careful not to let the ends of the wire touch each other. [30] X Research source

Hold the wires to the battery. Hold one wire against the positive side of the battery, and one end against the negative side of the battery. [31] X Research source

  • The water moves due to the Lorentz force. Each wire carries an electrical current. When you dip the wires into the salt water, you complete the circuit. The current moves horizontally through the water, from one wire to the other. Because the dish of water is sitting on a magnet, there is a magnetic field moving upwards through the water. When the electrical current moves through the magnetic field, the Lorentz force causes the water to spin. [33] X Research source
  • If you turn the battery around, you can reverse the direction of the current, and the water will spin in the opposite direction. [34] X Research source
  • You’re dealing with water and electricity, so exercise caution when performing this experiment. [35] X Research source

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Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

Sure, there are a number of electric and motorized skateboards on the market, as well as video tutorials online for making your own.

Thanks! We’re glad this was helpful. Thank you for your feedback. As a small thank you, we’d like to offer you a 30 gift card (valid at GoNift.com). Use it to try out great new products and services nationwide without paying full price—wine, food delivery, clothing and more. Enjoy! Claim Your Gift If wikiHow has helped you, please consider a small contribution to support us in helping more readers like you. We’re committed to providing the world with free how-to resources, and even 1 helps us in our mission. Support wikiHow

Start Simple with Alkaline AA Batteries

I thought I’d whip up a circuit to run exclusively on solar power. Growing around solar-powered electronics like desktop calculators, I knew it was a solved problem. But after running into obstacles, I have been humbled by the challenges involved and decided to fall back to battery power. A lot of solar power projects have a rechargeable battery somewhere in the mix, and I’m going to follow that precedence in the hopes of simplified energy management.

But as an intermediate stepping stone, I will adapt my circuit to run on batteries without worrying about the charging circuit just yet. I have the components I need on hand: a pile of alkaline AA batteries and a tray for 5AA batteries in series.

A fresh AA alkaline battery has an open-circuit voltage just over 1.5V, and four of those in series would deliver more than 6V. Plenty for an ESP8266, but I’m not using fresh batteries for this project. My fresh AA batteries go into devices with motors or other high drain use. Once those devices complain the batteries were too weak, I move them into purely electronic devices with lower amperage demands. (TV remote controls, Hackaday badges, Xbox wireless controllers, etc.) When they are deemed too weak again, they go into my pile of AA batteries awaiting Joule thief LED duty. Open-circuit voltage for veteran batteries in this pile hover around 1.1V, thus I needed five of them in series instead of just four.

These 5-ish volts are too low to activate my modified MP1584 buck converter, which would no longer activate until input voltage of at least 13V. But that’s not a problem, because the Wemos D1 Mini clone board I’m using could run on 5V USB power. These batteries are pretty close to that voltage level, so I bypassed the MP1584 and connected the battery tray to existing “5V” pin on this module and used its onboard voltage regulator (which I didn’t trust to handle solar power directly) to deliver 3.3V to the ESP8266 and INA219. This worked pretty well.

thoughts on “ Start Simple with Alkaline AA Batteries ”

9V cells are also pretty spiffy for low current demands – if you’re replacing them every spring and fall in your smoke/CO2 detectors (okay, yea, who is actually doing that?) you could have a stockpile of them. Paired with a 9V connector cable and a good compact switchmode regulator, those second purposed 9V cells can power a variety of much lower voltage (and current) devices Like Liked by 1 person

In my home I’ve switched over to smoke detectors with builtin non-replaceable 10 year life batteries. The upside is that I no longer need to remember to replace 9V batteries on a regular basis, the downside is I no longer have a steady source of 9V batteries to repurpose. Like Liked by 1 person

Do the batteries still sustain a usable charge when you combine a bunch of semi dead ones? Or do they all just die right away? I like recharging my dead alkalines for use in remotes or other low value/low power draw devices. There’s risk of spilling, but I’m willing to take that gamble over wasting new batteries in cheap low draw situations Like Liked by 1 person

It all depends on how power is drawn. This specific experiment had relatively high draw (Wi-Fi) but only for a few seconds, followed by several minutes of near-zero draw allowing battery recovery. This pulsed pattern may work better than a constant low draw for certain batteries near end of life. Like Liked by 1 person

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