Kids can have fun while learning about the varied and important uses of magnets in the world around them. Common uses of magnets include the compass, vending machines, refrigerator magnets and electric motors. Some types of trains even levitate above magnetized rails! Without magnets, the world would be a very different place.
A compass uses a magnet to direct its needle to the north pole. This is why magnets are said to have a north and south pole. The side that is attracted and points to the north is called the north pole, while the other end is the south pole. Children can easily learn about magnets in a compass by crafting one with a needle, cork and a bowl of water. Magnetize the needle by rubbing it with a strong magnet. Then, place the needle on top of a cork floating in water. It will point to the north.
Magnetically levitated trains, known as mag-lev trains, use magnets under the cars to float above the magnetic tracks because the magnets are repelling each other. These types of trains use superconducting magnets and can travel up to 300 miles per hour. Mag-lev trains are used in countries such as Japan. The United States government is working on bringing the technology to America.
Coins are separated and sorted inside vending machines with magnets. These magnets sort out metal disks or slugs from the real coin money. Also, paper money and checks have magnetic dust in their ink. Vending machines and currency counters check the money for its magnetism to insure the money is genuine.
One of the most common uses of magnets is to hold things together. Paper shopping lists and your book report can be held up on refrigerator doors with fridge magnets. The magnets stick the paper to the door with its attraction to the metal in the door. Also, the actual refrigerator doors stay closed because of magnets in the door frames.
Magnets are responsible for making electric motors and generators work. Moving a metal wire near a magnet produces electricity. Electric generators use steam, flowing water or another source of energy to spin wires through a magnetic field and create electricity. Every time you turn on a light or watch television, you can thanks magnets for helping produce electricity.