The compass boat

by Steve, February 22nd, 2012

A lesson on electromagnetism turned into a toy boat building activity. It always points to magnetic north, unless a big magnet comes and leads it astray.

To make a compass at home, you’ll need: a magnet, a sewing needle, a slice of wine cork and a pan of water. A compass for reference wouldn’t hurt, either.

  1. Magnetize the sewing needle by rubbing with the magnet, always in the same direction and with the same pole of the magnet.
  2. Carefully push the needle through the slice of cork.
  3. Float it on a pan of water.

If your needle doesn’t swing to the north (or south, depending on which end is which pole), check to make sure there are no metallic objects or magnets nearby. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to spend more time magnetizing your needle.

When you get tired of watching the needle swing to the north, decorate your little boat, and use your magnet to pull it around its little pond.

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