Magnetic Suction

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In this activity about electricity and magnetism, learners discover how a doorbell works. A coil of wire with current flowing through it forms an electromagnet that acts similar to a bar magnet. The coil will magnetize an iron nail and attract it in a remarkably vigorous way.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 40 feet (12 m) of insulated bell wire
  • A plastic or cardboard tube 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long and about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter
  • A large battery, 6 volts or more (An ordinary 1.5-volt D battery will work, but may go dead very quickly and will require more coils to get the same effect.)
  • The largest iron nail that will fit in the tube loosely
  • Adult help


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America