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Physics First: Electromagnetism and Electromagnets Units

An electromagnet works on the principle that an electric current not only allows electrons to flow in a circuit, but also generates a small magnetic field. When a wire carrying electricity is coiled, the magnetic field becomes even stronger. Iron or steel objects surrounded by this coiled electric wire also become magnetized. This combination of electronic energy, coiled wiring and conductive metal object forms the basis of an electromagnet.

  Teaching About Electromagnetism (1)


This collection of 41 interactive java tutorials would be an excellent choice to connect physics to "real-world" applications.  Designed by well-respected authors, the topics range from simulated magnetic fields and field lines to primers on capacitance, resistance, Ohm's Law, and electromagnetic induction.  Included are simulations on how things work, such as vacuum tube diodes, cathode rays,  capacitors, AC/DC generators, hard drives, pulsed magnets, and speakers.

  Electromagnetic Induction (1)

Student Tutorials:

This tutorial gives beginning students a grounding in the physics underlying generators and motors.  Clear and concise illustrations help students differentiate the components of each device.  The author devotes careful attention to conductor coils and how they are used to cut through lines of force and strengthen a magnetic field.   Simple graphs depict the cycles of both AC and DC current waves.

  Electromagnetic Fields (1)

Lesson Plans:

How do solar panels work to gather energy from the sun and transform it to electrical energy? In this inquiry-based lab, students work in teams to disassemble a calculator, evaluate the design and operation of its component parts, and improve functionality through redesign. The lesson specifically focuses on photovoltaic technology to get kids excited about semiconductor physics. Includes problem set.

Item Type: Lab Activity
Level: Grades 9-12
Duration: Two Class Periods

  Electromagnetic Radiation and the Spectrum (3)

Lesson Plans:

Kids test the limitations of infrared technology using a TV remote control. After gathering data, they devise a plan for adapting infrared to work around a corner or between rooms. Great way to integrate engineering practice into the physical science classroom. Resource includes teacher and student guides, background information, illustrated procedures, and worksheets.

Item Type: Lab Experiment
Level: Grades 6-10
Duration: 2-3 Class Periods

This standards-based experiment promotes deeper understanding of the sun's role in powering our planet. Students build a simple device to measure the amount of solar radiation the Earth receives from the sun. Using data from the experiment, they will then calculate the solar constant -- the amount of incoming solar radiation the earth receives from the sun per square meter per second. Lesson meets numerous national standards for both math and science.

Item Type: Experiment
Level: Grades 9-12
Duration: Two Class Periods


This three-minute NASA video introduces the seven categories of the electromagnetic spectrum in a way that is understandable for middle and high school students.  Requires Quicktime plug-in to operate.