Makers Series 2 Session 4 – Simple Motors

For our last session of Winter Makers we built simple, electro-magnetic motors. Since we explored batteries and how they work in our last series with the Lemon Battery Project, it seemed like a great next step for the kids to take.


Our motors were a essentially built from these instructions from Make Magazine (I love those guys!) but with a few small changes. Rather than masking tape, we used electrical tape. I’ve been trying to instill some basic generalities when dealing with electrical things, even if they don’t matter for a particular project. For example, when we made Brush Bots, you don’t really have to connect black to black and red to red, but we did so that they got into the habit. We’ve used electrical tape for our projects in the past, so we went with that this time. Also we used D batteries instead of AA, easier for little hands to wrap the wire around bigger batteries. And finally, instead of trying to bend paperclips, we used large safety pins, when taped to the battery openable side down, the small loops at the top make a great base for the wire to rest in.


per child you will need:

1 magnet

1 battery (D cell)

8 inch piece of electrical tape

Copper wire


2 safety pins

Wrap the wire several times around the battery. It helps to have some three foot lengths pre-cut for the kids. Carefully slip the coil off the battery and wrap the tails around it to hold it together. The tails should extend out about an inch and should be directly across from one another so that they balance well. Sand one tail lightly all the way around, then sand the other tail just on the top side, this creates the on/off that makes the coil spin.

Tape the safety pins to either side of the battery, openable ends down, using the electrical tape. Suspend the coil on the pins by threading the tails through the holes in the safety pins.

Finally, place the magnet on the center of the battery, just under the coil, and give the coil a spin. Test different spots on the battery for the magnet, and different angles for the coil, to see what works best. If it’s all balanced correctly, it should spin for a good while before slowing down.

A word of caution, once assembled, these things can get hot so it’s worth it to tape the battery to the table to help avoid burned finger tips. It’s hard to get the coil of wire perfectly balanced so it doesn’t spin indefinitely, but it will go for a ways and you can see it trying to keep going once it looses steam, which is pretty cool in itself. It’s a great opportunity to explain why the motor works and the force of magnetic fields.


How it went: This was an Ok project. I’ll do it again, but it would be better with maybe a slightly more experienced group. These guys didn’t quite have the hand eye coordination to pull off wrapping the wire, removing it and securing it without help. I had them work in pairs to get this accomplished, but some needed several steps done for them.


Makers Series 2 Session 2 – The Marshmallow Battle

Apparently, the pull of marshmallows is so strong that it can keep even the most die-hard ski kids off the slopes on a half day, because even with a foot of new snow and a short school day, I had a full house for our epic marshmallow battle. This was a serious hit with the Makers and they are already asking for round two, and bonus, it’s probably one of the cheapest maker activities I’ve done at the library.

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Large Marshmallows (buy more than you think you’ll need, we used two full bags for 14 kids)

Skewers (figure 8-10 per kid)

Mini marshmallows (these are for ammunition, so one bag should do)

Plastic spoons

Masking tape

Rubber bands (the thin kind that come wrapped around newspapers)

I got the basic instructions here but this being Makers, I wanted the kids to explore possibilities on their own. We talked about tension and force and I modeled the basic set up then let them go with building. Once everyone had a catapult built we lined them up on one side of the room and the competition began.

First we tested for distance, three rounds of one shot per person to see who could shoot the furthest. They needed a little time between rounds to adjust and repair their systems and a few collapsed so I encouraged them to join up with another person to keep the competition going.

Secondly we tested for accuracy, with the kids choosing between trying to aim for a friends mouth or aiming for a rectangle on the floor, this was particularly hilarious and almost no one made the target, but it was a lot of fun.

Finally we just flung marshmallows everywhere with the catapults. I paid the kids in marshmallows to get them to clean up (which worked brilliantly, who knew they’d pick up 25 marshmallows each and wipe smooshed ones off the floor for a few minis to eat?)

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Hands down my favorite Makers so far.

Makers Series 2 Session 1

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Our winter Maker Series kicked off this week with the introduction of a new toy here at the library – a pair of Makey Makeys! I’ve been wanting to add these to the library for a while since they are so much fun and are just the sort of thing I know my Makers will love. This year we are putting together 12 Maker Kits, introducing¬† a new one each month, for kids and adults to check out, so as a bonus, now that we’ve introduced the Makeys in MakerWednesday, they’ll be available to check out soon as one of our kits!

I brought up two of the library’s laptops plus my own laptop (and my own Makey Makey) and split the kids into three teams of four to explore how they work. I also put a bowl on the table full of fruit and veggies and pulled out paper, pencils, playdough and some art supplies like pipe cleaners and scissors and, after a short introduction, let the kids have at it. For programs to try out we used the list at the bottom of the How To page for Makey Makey, tetris, was the clear favorite!

How it went:

The Makey’s themselves were great and the kids loved them, one of the computers, however, had a hard time interfacing with the Makey and we ended up absorbing one team between the other two. Next time I’ll do a trial run with each computer to make sure things are working well.