DIY Ideas for Small Electric Motors

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Hobby DC motors can run on low voltages.
Hobby DC motors can run on low voltages. (Image: motor.jpg image by Aussiebloke from Fotolia.com)

Small hobby motors can be used in many different DIY projects. Because many operate on low-voltage electricity, they can be used for building science fair projects or solar energy demonstrations. Solar power modules can supply enough energy to operate DC hobby motors rated up to 3 volts.

Electric motors are often used as part of learning activities for young people. Building simple devices with electrical circuits and motors can aid in learning basic concepts of electricity and electronics.

DIY Robots

Not all robots are complicated and expensive machines that only a scientific genius can build. BEAM robots are simple devices that mimic the behavior of neurons and other natural systems. BEAM is an acronym for biology, electronics, aesthetics and mechanics.

The whole idea is to keep the robot as simple as possible and to use recycled materials and solar energy to build and power the unit. According to STREETtech.com, the small motor used in pagers can be used to make a robot skitter across the floor.

Solar-Powered Toys

Kids love to make things that go. You can combine the fun of building toys with some basic science by building toys with solar cells or batteries and small electric motors to power them.

Challenge the kids to build a model air-boat with recycled materials and solar cells. Plastic pop bottles, tape, tongue depressors and the motor from a handheld fan are all parts you will need to do this one. The solar cell will power the fan to move their boat across the water.

Another fun activity is to have a solar glider race. Use small electric hobby motors and a couple of solar cells to add power to a balsa-wood glider or build a solar-powered car.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recommends using lightweight items like milk cartons or cardboard tubes as body material for the solar car. The small DC motor and solar cell can be bought together, or you can use the cell and a motor from a small solar-powered fan.

Holiday Ideas

Turn a small DC motor into a revolving holiday showpiece. Low-RPM hobby motors are great for making holiday mobiles and centerpiece displays, and small battery-powered turntables are ideal for creating attractive revolving holiday centerpieces.

You can buy a small display turntable in craft or hobby stores that will work on AA batteries. These micro turntables use a low-voltage DC motor that will work for a long time before the batteries are used up. Use some adhesive-backed Velcro to attach an old vinyl record to the top and you have an ideal surface for building a revolving holiday centerpiece.

You can make a rotating outdoor Christmas display with a battery-operated hobby gear motor with a wheel and some stiff wire to hang it with. Glue the motor and battery pack on one side of a CD disc with the motor shaft sticking through the center hole. Drill three equally spaced holes in the disc to suspend the mobile from your porch or a tree limb and attach the wheel onto the protruding motor shaft. Now you can hang a mobile from the wheel to slowly turn and brighten up your holiday decorations.

Small motors can add motion to holiday centerpieces.
Small motors can add motion to holiday centerpieces. (Image: isolated snowman centerpiece image by Scott Slattery from Fotolia.com)

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