Exploratorium Field Trip Pathways

Electricity, Motors, and Meters

When you bring an electric current and a magnet together, interesting things can happen. At each exhibit on this Pathway, try to find the permanent magnets, the path of the electric circuits, and the forces created by them.

Can't find an exhibit or have a question? Ask an Explainer.

Circles of Magnetism I

Describe the pattern the innermost circle of compass needles makes when the current is running and when it is not.




What happens to the compasses as you get further from the wire?




Motor Effect

Try to push the wire down.

  1. From which direction does it feel like there's a force acting on the wire?

  2. What can you see here that might be creating a force on the wire?




Daisy Dyno
  1. Touch the tip of the wire to the metal disk in various places. Where is the wire touching the disk when the disk spins?

  2. Try to find the path of the electric current, and make a simple diagram of this path.

  3. What similarities can you find between this exhibit and Motor Effect?


Stripped-Down Motor
  1. Start with the power source and follow the wires to see how the electricity travels through this motor. Sketch the path of the electricity in the box below.

  2. If you could, how could you reverse the direction of this motor's spin?


Magnetic Suction
  1. When the light goes off, is there any magnetic force between the rod and the coil on the left? Why?

  2. How are the doorbell and the pinball flipper like the rod and coil?

Generator Effect

How does the brightness of the light change if you pull the handle slowly or quickly?