Electric motors are used in a variety of home appliances, including blenders, mixers, sewing machines and fans. Exploring how they work and how they are used makes an interesting science fair project or a rewarding activity for a hobbyist. There are thousands of ways to use a motor, and by experimenting with small toy motors, you will add to your knowledge of how motors work. As with all science experiments, always think safety first and ask an adult to help you out with these experiments.
Obtain a solar cell, either out of an old calculator or purchased from a supplier, and attach a small toy motor, with two wire leads to the cell. The motor should start to spin. This demonstrates how light is turned into electricity by a solar cell. If you wish, you can mount the motor on a wooden platform or stand and attach a model airplane propeller on the motor. Then build and attach a safety cage around the propeller made out of aluminum window screening, and you've just built a solar-powered fan.
Take a small electric motor out of a toy car. Tightly attach an old CD to the motor shaft. Make (or have a shop make) a wooden bushing to reduce the middle hole to the size of the motor shaft, and glue the wooden bushing (using epoxy) to the CD. Build a wooden stand to support the assembly, so the CD spins freely. Start the motor spinning (Warning: Do no spin at a high rate of speed. Just use one D-cell battery on your toy motor). When the CD is spinning, hold a strong magnet near it. The motor should slow down and "drag" to a stop. The CD spins the magnetic field around, and this bucks the original field of the magnet. Magnetic brakes are based on this concept.
Make Your Own Motor
You can even make your own motor out of a small piece of wire, a D cell, a small magnet, and a small nail or screw. Attach the magnet to the head of the nail and then stick the pointed end on the positive side of the D cell. Touch the small wire to the negative side and to the magnet. The nail will start to spin. If it starts to spin too fast, remove the wire. Wear safety glasses, since the nail may come off.
- Photo Credit vintage fan image by Michael Drager from Fotolia.com
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