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Home / Science projects / Build a Simple Motor + Video
  • Build a Simple Motor + Video

    Build a Simple Motor + Video

    See for yourself how the forces of electricity and magnetism can work together by building a motor using simple materials! Electricity and magnetism are both forces caused by the movement of tiny charged particles that make up atoms, the building blocks of all matter.  When a wire is hooked up to a battery, negatively charged electrons flow away from the negative terminal of the battery toward the positive end, because opposite charges attract each other, while like (similar) charges repel each other. This flow of electrons through wire is electric current, and it produces a magnetic force.

    In a magnet, atoms are lined up so that the negatively charged electrons are all spinning in the same direction. Like electric current, the movement of the electrons creates magnetic force.  The area around the magnet where the force is active is called a magnetic field.  Metal objects and other magnets that enter this field will be pulled toward the magnet.

    The way the atoms are lined up creates two different poles in the magnet, a north pole and a south pole. As with electrical charges, opposite poles attract each other, while like poles repel each other.  Learn about electromagnetism and its many uses here.

    Now let's watch it work as we build a motor. (Note: This project requires adult supervision.)

    >> Check out the project video to see the motor in action!

    What You Need:

    What You Do:

    the armature should look like this

    • To make a bundle, wrap each end of wire several times around the loops to hold them in place. Position the ends so they are directly across from each other and extending out in a straight line on either side of the bundle, to form an axle.  What you just made is called the armature.
    • Hold the wire bundle you have made so that it would be flat against a wall, rather than a table, and color the top side of each wire end using the marker.  Leave the bottom side of each wire bare.
    • Carefully bend each paperclip, forming a small loop by wrapping one end around a small object such as a pencil or pen.  Thick wire and pliers may be used instead of a paper clip if you want.  Be sure to use caution when using the pliers.
    • If you are using a battery holder, attach a paper clip to either side, and insert the battery.  If you don't have a battery holder, wrap the rubber band tightly around the length of the battery.  Insert the paperclips so each one is touching one of the terminals, and they are securely held by the rubber band.  Attach the curved side of the battery firmly to a table or other flat surface using the clay or sticky tack. 
    • Set one neodymium magnet on top of the battery, in the center.  Position the armature in the paper clip loops, with the shiny, uncolored side touching the paperclips. Make sure it doesn't touch the magnet.
    • If your motor doesn't start immediately, try giving it a start by spinning the wire bundle.  Since the motor will only spin in one direction, try spinning it both ways. 
    • If your motor still is not working, make sure that the paperclips are securely attached to the battery terminals.  You may also need to adjust the insulated wire so both ends are straight, and the bundle you have made is neat, with the wire ends directly opposite of each other.
    • With the motor spinning, hold up the other magnet, above the armature.  As you move it closer, what happens? Turn the magnet over and try again to see what happens.

    What Happened:

    The armature is a temporary magnet, getting its force from the electrical current in the battery.  The neodymium magnet is permanent, meaning that it will always have two poles, and cannot lose its force.  These two forces - electricity and magnetism - work together to spin the motor. The poles of the permanent magnet repel the poles of the temporary magnet, causing the armature to rotate one-half turn. After a half-turn, the insulated side of the wire (the part you colored with permanent marker) contacts the paperclips, stopping the electric current. The force of gravity finishes the turn of the armature until the bare side is touching again and the process starts over. 

    The motor you created uses direct current, or DC, to rotate the armature.  The magnetic force is only able to flow in one direction, so the motor spins in only one direction. AC, or alternating current, uses the same principle of electron flow, but the pole is rotating rather than in one place.  AC motors are often more complex than DC motors, like the simple one you were able to make.  Unlike a fixed DC motor, AC motors can switch the direction of rotation. (The DC motor you made is only able to spin in one direction because its direction is determined by the poles of the permanent magnet.  If you turn the magnet over, so the other pole is facing up, it will change the direction the motor spins.)

    When you held the second magnet over the top of the armature, it either stopped or made the motor rotate more rapidly.  If it stopped, it's because the pole was in the opposite direction of the first magnet, in a sense canceling out the rotation of the armature.  If it moves faster, the same poles of the first and second magnets, which repel each other, work to spin the armature more quickly than with only one magnet.

    Building Bigger, Faster Motors

    Experiment with batteries of higher voltage, as well as more powerful magnets.  You can also try using ceramic magnets.  One design we found worked well was to set the armature over 4 ceramic ring magnets and connect the supporting paperclips to a 6V battery. You can also try increasing the size of the armature, and how many coils there are, to make a stronger electromagnet.  When using batteries of higher voltage, and bare wires, be very careful.  The circuit can emit enough heat to cause a burn if the wire is held too long.

    Science Project Video - Build a Simple Motor


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By: imran
Date: Mar 20, 2015

interesting project for kids

By: Rahul chawla
Date: Mar 07, 2015

Nice easy project

By: goku
Date: Mar 01, 2015

good project, with minor difficulties

By: akilan
Date: Feb 25, 2015

wow it’s useful to all the students

By: Hannah Marie
Date: Feb 07, 2015

Very superb & smart . I did this for my chemisty proffesser & got an A on my exam project , thanks !

By: oby ben
Date: Jan 20, 2015

excellent….i have tried to do so but i have failed it would be better if you could use the aid of diagram

By: butter scotch
Date: Jan 09, 2015

this is an awesome website. I should go here more often. Thanks!

By: joydeep chakraborty
Date: Nov 03, 2014

It is fantastic. So please demonstrate how 2 make an induction coil

By: vivekmaddheshia
Date: Oct 27, 2014

i like this way to prepare a dc working model of motor

By: ntende joel
Date: Oct 19, 2014

thank you for this experiment actually , i wanted to demonstrate it to my mates at university , but the wires could burn red hot with serious sparking , i was using a 12v rechargeable battery, what could be the cause of the problem?
does the shape of magnet matter when performing this experiment ?
thank you it has been nice experience here;)
Regards Joel from Uganda