Category: SPARKmakers – Phase 1

Making Motors!

General Topics: Electromagnetic Energy, Electronics, Physics, Simple Machines
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored the process of how electromagnetism works and how electromagnetism is used to create motors! The exercise had the students learning how to make a very basic motor using a copper wire, magnets, and a battery passing current through the device. The students had to find the best height above the magnets to allow for wire movement!

Each student was first given the copper wire to coil up themselves. Once in a coil, the students used sandpaper to remove the coating on the wire (as it was galvanized).

The students were then given their cups, paper clips, and magnets and asked to assemble the body of their motors. The students were then given the alligator clips and battery to hook up their circuit. The paper clips were initially placed in a semi arbitrary distance from the magnet, but the actual distance of the paper clip from the magnet would vary and the students worked to find the ideal distance! Students worked to find what distance worked best to get their motors going. Once completed, their copper coils went spinning!

This class we learned:

  • What a magnetic field is
  • What an electromagnetic field is
  • How current running through a wire creates an electromagnetic field
  • How motors work
  • How magnets work

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Students had a bit of trouble coiling the wires. For this age group we may want to pre-coil them
  • Future designs of the paper cup motor should allow for easier movement of the paperclips to change the distance from the magnet


Making a Lens Camera!

General Topics: Optics, Physics, Visual Perception
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored the process of building a lens camera. This exercise was used to teach how lenses work, from a camera to our own eyes. The students were given the materials to assemble and asked to explain various observations they made with their lens cameras.

Students were able to decorate their lens camera any way they liked at the end!

The students were given all pieces of the camera to work on. The first challenge was to assemble the walls and base of the camera. The arrangement of the pieces to form a square is the beginnings of being able to visualize and design in 3D space!

The next piece was completing the front which holds the magnifying lens. Two rubber bands crossing each other were used to hold the magnifying lens so that it may be removed to be used for any science explorations outside of this specific project! This was then attached to the rest of the camera.

The final piece was placing the tissue paper onto the sliding component. This would act as the screen to have the light (and thus images) projected on. This component can slide closer and further away from the magnifying lens in order to focus the image. Afterwards the students were able to learn about how light density, combined with distance of the sliding component, affected the ability to view images!

This class we learned:

  • How lenses work
  • How our eyes work
  • How light comes into lenses
  • What light is and how it allows us to see

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Some students had trouble tying the rubber bands together, we should have longer rubber band pieces in the future
  • Adding an extension which corrects the orientation of the image being projected so students understand how cameras and other lenses correct for this would be a great additional lesson



Making a Wooden Box!

General Topics: Building, Energy Transfer, Physics
Grade Level: 2-3

In this activity we explored the process of building a wooden box with a lid, held together with a fabric hinge. This exercise was used to teach the fundamentals and begin an easy introduction to building and creating. Students were then allowed to get creative and decorate their boxes with markers and tissue paper.

Each student was given all 4 walls and the bottom of the box to start with. The students then assembled the pieces and glued them together. After the glue dried, they were given nails and a hammer to secure the pieces together by nailing them together. It was a loud and fun time!

With the walls and bottom nailed and completed, the students nailed the fabric to their lid and to the back wall of their box, allowing them to make a hinge. This step complete, the students got creative and decorated their boxes!

This class we learned: 

  • How to use a hammer and how to use nails
  • The transfer of energy from your arm, through the hammer to the nail into the box
  • The basics of creating a new object

Things to keep in mind for future activities: 

  • Because of the age of the students, hammering was a lengthy process that needed a good amount of assistance
  • Next time perhaps drilling small holes part way through the wood for the nails to rest in may be easier for students to hammer in
  • Having the same amount of assistance (about 1 person for two students) was very helpful