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How to Make a Simple Electric Motor

If projects like the potato-powered digital clock are a bit old school, up your game with a simple electric motor to wow the judges at your next science fair.


  • Step 1: Coil the wire around the battery Coil the wire around the D-cell battery several times. Remove the coil and wrap the ends around two sides of the coil to hold it in place. Leave 3 inches of wire lead on each end.
  • Step 2: Strip and coat the wire ends Strip both ends of the wire coil leads. Hold the coil vertically and coat one half of one lead with a permanent marker. Apply a second coat of ink.
  • TIP: The ink coating is very important as it allows a break in the magnetic field to keep the coil spinning.
  • Step 3: Place the magnets Turn a plastic cup upside down and place one disk magnet on top while putting the other inside the cup, against the roof, to hold both magnets in place.
  • TIP: A clear cup works best to display your work and to prove there are no other mechanisms.
  • Step 4: Straighten the paper clips Straighten the outside ends of both paper clips to form a "P." Attach the paper clips to the cup using 2 large rubber bands to build a cradle for the wire coil.
  • Step 5: Balance the coil in the paper clips Balance the coil inside the paper clip cradle loop. Adjust the height so the coil just misses the magnets when it spins. Attach an alligator cable clip to each paper clip just above the rubber band.
  • Step 6: Connect the battery Connect the D-cell battery to the coil using the other two alligator clips. Be sure one end is connected to the positive side and the other the negative side of the battery. Give the coil a gentle spin.
  • Step 7: Adjust the motor Adjust the balance of the coil and the distance between each paper clip cradle. Experiment with the configuration until you have a working motor.
  • FACT: In 1899, Thomas Edison believed electricity would run the cars of the future. He spent a decade trying to perfect an electric car battery but was ultimately defeated by gasoline power.

You Will Need

  • 3-ft. insulated 22- or 24-gauge wire
  • 1 D-cell battery
  • Wire strippers
  • Permanent marker
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 2 disk magnets
  • 2 large paper clips
  • 2 large rubber bands
  • 4 alligator cable clips

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