Creating Your Own Universe Part II: Building a Monopolar Engine
If you’re going to create a universe, you’re going to have to have energy to run it! The world we live in wouldn’t exist in the same way without magnetism, currents, and electricity! One of my favorite things to build with kids is a monopolar engine. It’s simple, quick, inexpensive and really fun. And it only takes 3 items.
You’ll need one AA battery, some copper wire (16 gauge on a spool is great), and a rare earth or neodymium magnet. I got my copper wire for around $5.00 at a large chain hardware store and several of those also carry the rare earth magnets. You can also order them online. The ones I used in this video are ½” in diameter and ¼” thick and perfectly fit the bottom of an AA battery. They come in an 8 pack so you can make up to 8 engines at once.
The video tutorial explains the basics but some helpful hints along the way. Shape the wire and work with it a bit before you put the magnet on the battery. Keeping the copper wire connected to the battery and magnet for too long generates enough heat to get hot. If it’s getting hot you’re not quite doing it right! The wire should be loose and just touching the positive end at the top and the magnet at the bottom! Wrapping it too tight will generate too much heat and the wire won’t move. Be careful with the magnets. The bigger they are, the stronger they are and they can slam into each other with a good deal of force. Once you have a shape, attach your magnet to the negative end of the terminal and put your wire on. You may have to tweak your wire shape several times. This is a great way to see the personality of your kids. I’ve seen kids happily spend 15 minutes getting the perfect shape and others are done in 5 seconds. A perfect shape is just one that stays on the battery and moves in a circular motion! I would love to see any shapes and engines that you create! Please send me pictures or videos!
Discuss what shapes work best and why you think they do. Talk about what you might be able to use this for in the future. Remember, we don’t have a known use for a monopolar engine except to demonstrate current flow but if you and your child invent it, the possibilities are endless!
And last but absolutely not least, I’d like to take a minute to dedicate this post to a really wonderful friend Scott and his lovely new bride Kelly! I met Scott while discussing monopolar engines and engineering so I’d like to take this moment to wish the new Mr. & Mrs. the magic of always being able to generate all the energy, electricity, and magnetism to keep a marriage flowing and moving forward forever. There are four things you must never do: lie, steal, cheat, or drink. But if you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love. If you must steal, steal away from bad company. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away. Congratulations.
Photo credit of Scott & Kelly: Lynn Kennedy Photography