Stripped-down Motor

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In this activity, you'll make an electric motor--a simple version of the electric motors found in toys, tools, and appliances everywhere. The activity includes three short online videos: Introduction, Step-by-Step Instructions, and What's Going On. Also available: a concept map and a "Going Further" document that suggests variations on this activity.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • aluminum foil
  • paper clips (larger is better)
  • paper, plastic, or foam cup
  • masking tape
  • magnets (two or more, available at Radio Shack)
  • scissors (students can share)
  • copper wire (bare or coated)
  • sandpaper
  • battery (D or C cell)
  • permanent marker (any color is fine; students can share)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields
      • Electric Motors
      • Electric Circuits

Informal Categories

  • Electronics
  • Toys


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:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, The Exploratorium, 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation