How Do We Convert Electrical Energy into Mechanical Energy?

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity, learners make an electromagnet motor to demonstrate the most basic method of changing electrical energy into mechanical energy. This experiment relates to Nikola Tesla's work in electrical engineering and his invention of the AC (alternating current) induction motor. To provide learners with background about Tesla, this lesson guide suggests learners watch clips from the film "Tesla: Master of Lightning" and write a report about the challenges Tesla faced as an inventor. Use this activity to help learners explore the Law of Conservation of Energy, motors, and electromagnets.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1-inch iron nail
  • 100' spool small-gauge insulated copper magnet wire (#25)
  • knife switch
  • 4-inch iron nail
  • 6-volt battery
  • small iron staples
  • paper clips or tacks


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields
      • Electric Motors
      • Earth's Magnetic Field
    • Energy
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Hardesty, Jim ; Hardesty, Judy


  • All rights reserved, PBS,

Funding Source: