Students design and construct electromagnets that must pick up 10 staples. They begin with only minimal guidance, and after the basic concept is understood, are informed of the properties that affect the strength of that magnet. They conclude by designing their own electromagnets to complete the challenge of separating scrap steel from scrap aluminum for recycling, and share it with the class.
Students use the same method as in the activity from lesson 2 of this unit to explore the magnetism due to electric current instead of a permanent magnet. Students use a compass and circuit to trace the magnetic field lines induced by the electric current moving through the wire. Students develop an understanding of the effect of the electrical current on the compass needle through the induced magnetic field and understand the complexity of a three dimensional field system.
Students are challenged to design a method for separating steel from aluminum based on magnetic properties as is frequently done in recycling operations. To complicate the challenge, the magnet used to separate the steel must be able to be switched off to allow for the recollection of the steel. Students must ultimately design, test, and present an effective electromagnet.
Students use a compass and a permanent magnet to trace the magnetic field lines produced by the magnet. By positioning the compass in enough spots around the magnet, the overall magnet field will be evident from the collection of arrows representing the direction of the compass needle. In activities 3 and 4 of this unit, students will use this information to design a way to solve the grand challenge of separating metal for a recycling company.
The grand challenge for this legacy cycle unit is for students to design a way to help a recycler separate aluminum from steel scrap metal. In previous lessons, they have looked at how magnetism might be utilized. In this lesson, students think about how they might use magnets and how they might confront the problem of turning the magnetic field off. Through the accompanying activity students explore the nature of an electrically induced magnetic field and its applicability to the needed magnet.
In this activity, the students will complete the grand challenge and design an electromagnet to separate steel from aluminum for the recycler. In order to do this, students compare the induced magnetic field of an electric current with the magnetic field of a permanent magnet and must make the former look like the latter. They discover that looping the current produces the desired effect and find ways to further strengthen the magnetic field.
Students visualize the magnetic field of a strong permanent magnet using a compass. The lesson begins with an analogy to the effect of the Earth's magnetic field on a compass. Students see the connection that the compass simply responds to the Earth's magnetic field since it is the closest, strongest field, and thus the compass responds to the field of the permanent magnets, allowing them the ability to map the field of that magnet in the activity. This information will be important in designing a solution to the grand challenge in activity 4 of the unit.
Students begin working on the grand challenge of the unit by thinking about the nature of metals and quick, cost-effective means of separating different metals, especially steel. They arrive at the idea, with the help of input from relevant sources, to use magnets, but first they must determine if the magnets can indeed isolate only the steel.
Students explore the basic magnetic properties of different substances, particularly aluminum and steel. There is a common misconception that magnets attract all metals, largely due to the ubiquity of steel in metal products. The activity provides students the chance to predict, whether or not a magnet will attract specific items and then test their predictions. Ultimately, students should arrive at the conclusion that iron (and nickel if available) is the only magnetic metal.