My love of science stems from my grandfather. Grandpa Lon was an inventor. He used to make scientific equipment for UCLA and had a shop full of everything you could imagine: nuts and bolts, electronic components, plexiglass, plastics, you name it. Sometimes he put things together for fun like the bouncing magnet sculpture pictured below.
This was a fave of all the grand-kids. He placed two donut shaped magnets on a plexiglass dowel with the same polarity so they repel each other and “bounce.” I thought this would make a really cool science project at my son’s preschool, so I created a “kid-friendly” version. So here’s our little experiment:
- Ceramic disc magnets
- Wood dowel
- 6”x6” Wood block
- Wood glue
- Three colors of spray paint (optional)
Since I made (6) of these for school, the images here feature multiple magnet toys. You will be making one.
- When planning this project make sure you purchase wood dowels whose outer diameter is slightly less than the ceramic magnets’ inner diameter. I used 3/8” dowels for the magnets shown here.
- Drill a hole in the middle of the wood block. If you don’t have a drill bit that matches your dowel diameter you can use the largest one you have and rotate the drill in a clockwise direction while drilling to widen the hole.
- Cut a dowel approximately 10 to 12” long
- Put some wood glue in the hole (little hands can help!)
- Place the dowel in the hole and wipe away excess wood glue with a wet paper towel
- Let dry
- Sand off any rough edges on the wood or dowel; we don’t want splinters being the memorable part of the project!
- Paint the ceramic magnets a different color on each side (this makes it easier for the kids to distinguish between the sides of the magnet that repel and the sides that attract.
- While you’re at it, paint the washers a third color (color always make for a more appealing project)
- Once everything is dry the experiment is ready! Pictured below is an interim version before I realized the benefit of the washers.
Give your child the wood base and ask them to thread the magnets on the pole using a washer in between. The magnets are really strong and can pinch little fingers so the washers can help prevent this. Let your child see how putting the same colored sides together makes them “bounce” and putting the opposite colors together will make them stick together. Of course they’ll quickly discover this on their own!
The kids at school loved this project. They were mesmerized by the bouncing!
One word of caution, ceramic magnets are not as sturdy as they seem. I broke a few when trying the experiment out and the edges can be sharp! Make sure you keep an eye on the experiment. None of the magnets broke during our school experiment.