We made a motor!

by threegirlpileup

Many, many months ago, I picked up this kit on a clearance table somewhere. On a recent afternoon when the girls were getting squirrelly, I pulled it out to see if we could have some electricity fun.

One thing I realized while working on this: while I am very much a science geek, I’m really a biology-and-chemistry geek much more than a physics geek. I don’t know much about physics and electricity, and it’s not very intuitive for me. I suspect that it is generally harder to grasp because it’s more abstract than the life sciences, but perhaps that’s just my own bias. At any rate, this was an interesting process for me, because I was really out of my comfort zone in terms of expertise. In some ways, this was a little frustrating, as I had fewer resources to fall back on when we had trouble; at the same time, it was great to find myself in the role of learner alongside the girls.

The first project in the book was to make an electromagnetic motor. This involved wrapping wire and sanding and bending paper clips–all very satisfying. Then we hooked it up to the battery, and….nothing. Tweaked it here and there, and still nothing. Put it aside for several hours and came back to it, looking over the instructions once again. I was about ready to give up for the time being, when
Anna suggested that we try another battery. Figuring it was worth one last shot, I substituted the battery, and shazam! our little coil was spinning. We all cheered out loud.

The only other project in the kit we’ve tried so far was a little generator, which was less satisfying–the burst of power was very short, and the kids couldn’t really get it to work themselves. I’m thinking about trying Snap Circuits, which seem to be well designed for learning about and having fun with electricity without requiring so much fine motor finesse.

Maggie and I are looking forward to making some of the other things in the kit, though, including a radio and a telegraph. I’m not sure how much she’s understanding about how these inventions work, but the satisfaction of putting them together and watching them flash or click or spin is plenty of thrill for both of us.

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