Motor Effect

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In this activity about electricity and magnetism, learners examine what happens when a magnet exerts a force on a current-carrying wire. Using a simple device, learners discover that when an electrical current flows through a magnetic field, a force is exerted on the current and this force can be used to make an electric motor. Learners will experiment to find out what happens when they reverse the direction of current flow. They will also discover a mathematical tool called the "right-hand rule."

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 4 to 6 small disk magnets (Radio Shack sells inexpensive 1-inch (2.5 cm) diameter disk magnets.)
  • One or two 1.5 volt flashlight batteries
  • Approximately 2 feet (60 cm) of flexible wire, such as solid or multistranded hookup wire, or magnet wire (available at Radio Shack)
  • Masking tape
  • A wooden board approximately 2 x 4 x 6 inches (5 x 10 x 15 cm)
  • A knife or sandpaper
  • Adult help


  • Mathematics
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields
      • Electric Motors
    • Motion and Forces
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Electronics


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