A magnetic field is the area in which a magnet is powerful.

Magnet Experiments for Teenagers

by Amy M. Armstrong

Magnets and their power are a bigger part of your teenager's life than he probably realizes. Magnets power the production of electricity -- a major element affecting the lives of today's plugged-in teenager. Many of the electronic gadgets teenagers use such as televisions, the hard drives of video game consoles and computer discs use magnets. Conducting a few experiments with magnets can open your teenager's eyes to everyday applications of magnetic power.

1. Make a Compass

Making a compass might seem a bit elementary at your kitchen table, but it's an excellent way to teach your teenager how to make a compass from a needle should he ever find himself in an outdoor survival emergency. You'll need a sewing needle, a magnet, a bowl of water and a piece of paper to conduct this experiment, which will will show you where true north is from your home. Magnetize the needle by rubbing its dull end across the magnet at least 60 times. Put the piece of paper in a bowl of water. Place the magnetized needle on the paper and move the paper gently so it begins to spin so it can register with the Earth's magnetic properties and point to true north. This kitchen-table experiment translates well in outdoor survival emergencies, according to information at the Outdoor Life website. Most first aid kits contain a needle. The needle can be suspended in water by floating it on a leaf.

2. Test Iron Levels In Cereal

This experiment helps your teenager discover just how much iron is in his favorite cereal, according to instructions at the Magnet Lab of Florida State University website. Pour some of the cereal in a plastic zip-type bag sealing the bag with as little air possible. Let the cereal sit in the bag for at least an hour allowing it to settle. Pour the cereal in a plastic cup. Place the magnet against the side of the cup. Observe as the iron particles in the cereal are attracted to the side of the cup.

3. Conduct a Scavenger Hunt

This experiment gives your teenager hands-on experience with the various types of metal that are attracted to magnets. Send your teenager on a scavenger hunt armed with a list of metals to find. Suggested types of metal include iron and steel in nails and screws, stainless steel in sinks, forks and spoons, brass in door kick plates, copper in old pennies and zinc in battery cases, according to a list of metals and their sources at the Cool Magnet Man website.

4. Collect Meteorites

Tiny specks of meteorites known scientifically as micrometeorites fall to the Earth every day without being noticed by the human eye, according to Home Science Tools. Your teenager can discover these micrometeorites for himself by conducting this experiment. Have him lay a large piece of white paper -- butcher paper is an excellent choice -- on the ground in an area with open sky overhead on a day with little chance of precipitation. Leave the paper there for four to eight hours. Place a heavy object such as a rock in the middle to keep the paper in place and to force any micrometeorites landing there toward the middle. Run a magnet under the paper to attract the collected micrometeorites and use a magnifying glass to view them.

5. Test Magnet Strength

Your teenager can find out the effect temperature has on the strength of magnets with this experiment. Determine a variety of temperatures that you will heat or cool the magnets -- permanent magnets only; not electromagnets -- in order to test their attraction power. Fill a bowl with paper clips and use tongs to transfer the heated and cooled magnets to the bowl. Leave the magnet in the bowl for the same period of time for each temperature it is heated or cooled to. Transfer the magnet to a sheet of paper. Remove the paper clips when the temperature of the magnet is appropriate for bare fingers to touch. Count the number of paper clips that attached to the magnet at each temperature to determine whether changes in temperature affect a magnet's strength.

About the Author

Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.

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