An electromagnet is a magnet that requires an electrical current to create magnetism. This is useful technology because an operator can control the strength of the electromagnet through the level of the electric current. One application of this is with an electromagnetic crane. A variety of science project ideas on the electromagnetic crane are available for students ages 12 and older.
Because some adolescents and teenagers may not know the difference between a standard magnet and an electromagnet, a project to illustrate the difference would be beneficial. The student could display how a standard magnet works, and then show how an electromagnet requires an electric current to produce magnetism. This project could use a video of an electromagnetic crane to demonstrate a real-world application of electromagnetism. The history of the electromagnetic crane and its uses should also be presented.
Building a Simple Electromagnetic Crane
For a more complex project, build a simple electromagnetic crane. With standard electrical wire, a 6-volt battery, a lead core and paper clips, a student could display a basic example of how an electromagnetic crane works. By running the electrical wire to the positive and negative leads on the 6-volt battery and creating a closed electrical circuit that wraps around the lead core, the student could produce electromagnetism and pick up small metal objects, such as the paper clips.
By taking multiple 6-volt batteries, electrical wire, a lead core and a metal object, such as many paper clips, the student could display the increasing power of an electromagnetic. Start by connecting a single 6-volt battery to the iron core using a closed circuit via the electrical wire. Record a paper clip's weight. See the maximum amount of paper clips a single 6-volt battery can lift. Connect two, three and four 6-volt batteries and repeat the process for each number of batteries to show how much the electromagnet's power increases.
Electromagnet and Pulley Comparison
After building an electromagnet, the student could assemble a pulley system with some rope and two or more wheels. The student could then hypothesize about which has better lifting capability. Try lifting different metal objects. Record the weights of these objects and describe how many batteries it took to equal the lifting power of a single wheel of a pulley system. Using basic physics equations with force, mass, distance and work, the student could show the work potential of each lifting system.