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Quantum Explorers

Learning about Electricity & Magnetism

Did you know that most electricity in the world is generated by moving magnetic fields near conductive copper wires? Moving magnetic flux creates movement in the electrons within the copper wire, generating electrical current that people use everyday. This process is called magnetic induction electricity generation. 

Ready for some magnetic induction electricity exploration? Check out these fun resources and activities for continued learning:

Activity #1: Learn more about Benjamin Franklin's Kite Experiment

As a precursor to learning about magnetic induction, the Electricity class discussed Benjamin Franklin's famous kite experiment. Find out more details of how the Franklin's kite experiment was designed in this video:

Activity #2: Build a Shake Light

A shake light is a common assignment for introductory electrical engineering course at the college level. It requires these supplies:

- A roll of magnet wire (magnet wire is copper wire covered with a thin layer of insulation, to avoid a short circuit)

- A cylindrical magnet

- LEDs

This video shows step-by-step instructions:

Activity #3: Build a bicycle-powered generator

If you have a spare bicycle and some time, you can build your own bicycle-powered generator! This video shows step-by-step instructions using a few re-purposed car parts: 



Learning about Magnetism

Magnetism is a result of the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe. Magnets are also one of the most tangible ways to explore the quantum nature of our world, since the push-and-pull of magnetism can be obviously felt. Looking for some magnetism exploration ideas? Check out these fun activities below!

Activity #1: Students will enjoy watching the this video of Google Science Fair winner Fionn Ferreira explaining the development of his technique for using magnetic ferrofluid to clean up ocean microplastics:

Inspired by this inventor? Start keeping a journal of ideas and observations that could be developed into a new invention! 

Materials that can be turned into magnets, and also respond to magnets, are called ferromagnetic. The most common ferromagnetic materials are Iron, Nickel, Cobalt and Neodymium. Steel has Iron in it, so Steel is also attracted to magnets. 

Activity #2: Find out all the things in your house that respond to magnets. Using a magnet, try attaching it to different objects in your house. Which objects respond to the magnet, and which objects don't? The ones that respond to the magnet contain ferromagnetic materials. Gather as many of these ferromagnetic items as you can. 

Here's a short video that reviews how to test if things are ferromagnetic:

Activity #3: Build a magnetic sculpture. Using the ferromagnetic items you found in Activity #1, use your magnets as a base and build the largest magnetic sculpture that you can. As you add each piece, those objects then become magnetized and you can connect even more items to them (within a limit). Isn't that cool? 

It's fun to watch these amazing magnetic sculptures being formed and broken apart:

Activity #4: See if you can control the smaller ferromagnetic items (found in Activity #2) from a short distance using your magnets. Try pulling and pushing these small objects through a plastic cup filled with water, or through a thin flat piece of plastic, wood or cardboard. Magnetic fields extend through objects and water, but ferromagnetic objects need to be within close range for them to respond.

Here's a video that illustrates this concept:  

If you have a thin tabletop that can be used, you can even setup a magnetic race! See how who can reach the finish line first using magnets to push or pull small ferromagnetic objects.  

Activity #5: Brainstorm ideas for using magnets in different ways. Grab a notebook and turn it into your Idea Journal. What are some ways that magnets could be used? Jot down your thoughts and drawings. Let your imagination run wild! 

Here's an example of a new idea for using magnetism to make a self-healing electrical fabric:

12 Super-Fun STEM & STEAM Learning Ideas for Kids of All Ages

12 Super-Fun STEM & STEAM Learning Ideas for Kids of All Ages

I'm always on the look-out for super-fun STEM & STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities. You know, the ones that really engage kids and inspire them to learn?  

Here's 12 super-fun STEM learning resources that I've discovered recently, for kids from preschool to high school. This list includes learning games, informational apps, building kits, print books and online courses (for the older age group): 

1. Squishy Circuits | Ages 5+ (Building Kit)

Learning about electricity and circuits has never been so easy! Kids love this hands-on activity making electrified clay creations. Order the Lite Kit ($15) to get the battery pack and LEDs that can be re-used over and over. 

2. Tynker | Ages 6+ (Web & Mobile App)

Cartoon graphics guide students in coding adventures. Free signup allows users to play up to 9 coding games for free each day. Also: create a free multiplayer Minecraft server and modify unlimited Minecraft resources to customize the game. Upper level curriculum includes Javascript, Python and HTML/CSS.

3. Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding | Ages 5-8 (Digital & Printed Book)

An incredibly thoughtful and well-written book, 392 pages full of activities and explanations, for only $5 (PDF instant download). This is the most comprehensive science curriculum for beginning learners that you will find anywhere. 41 lesson plans cover all major areas of science. Lessons are laid out as stepping stones that build knowledge and understanding logically and systematically. Child-centered, hands-on activities at the core of all lessons bring children to observe, think, and reason. Skills of inquiry become habits of mind as they are used throughout. Printed book version also available ($22).  

4. StarWalk Kids & StarWalk 2 | Ages 5+ (Mobile App)


These top-rated astronomy apps brilliantly utilize geolocation and gyroscope features of mobile devices. As you hold your phone/tablet up and point it towards the sky, StarWalk Kids (with cartoon graphics) and StarWalk 2 (with realistic graphics) follows your motion using the built-in gyroscope to match the visuals on your screen to the stars seen from your location. Packed with engaging astronomy science content ($3-6).

5. Google Earth | Ages 5+ (Web & Mobile App)

Google Earth

Explorers young and old will enjoy zooming around the planet with this free web and mobile app. Explore other planets and the sun too. National Geographic has teamed up with Google Earth to develop innovative lessons plans on topics including geography, natural sciences, environmental sciences and cultural studies. Use the “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature to learn about surprise locations around the world.

6. Build a Bridge | Ages 7+ (Nintendo Switch; other platforms coming soon)

Build a Bridge

Both entertaining and educational, Build a Bridge is an award-winning physics-based puzzle game. It combines realistic physics simulations with carefully staged challenges to guide anyone into becoming a master bridge builder. Teaches engineering concepts in a visual, interactive and truly fun manner.

7. The Elements | Ages 9+ (iPad App & Book)

The Elements by Theodore Gray

“The Elements” by Theodore Gray is a stunning publication that illustrates and describes all the known elements in the universe. Written in a conversational, easy-to-read style, the author weaves in stories and personal observations to make the elements come to life. Available in both iPad app ($9) and printed book ($16, 240 pages) form. The iPad version allows users to interactively rotate the elements. Follow-up books Molecules and Reactions are also beautifully written and photographed.

8. Tinkercad |  Ages 8+ (Web-based App)


Tinkercad is a free, easy to use app for 3D design, electronics, and coding. It is a free online collection of software tools that help people “think, create and make.” Tinkercad is an ideal introduction to Autodesk, the leader in professional 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.

Note: All Autodesk software programs are available for free educational download by K-12 students and college students. These programs are used by industry professionals worldwide. Recommended professional apps include Maya (3D modeling & animation), AutoCAD (3D product design & architecture) and Inventor (product prototyping). For an easy introduction to Maya, take the free online Kadenze course Introduction to 3D Modeling & Animation in Maya.

For Teens (and Adults) - for this age group, super-useful equals super-fun. Here's some resources to help teens and young adults attain their dreams:

9. Kadenze | Ages 12+ (Web Learning Portal)


Kadenze brings together the world’s leading colleges, universities and industry partners to provide best-of-breed online courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Design, Music and Math. Free membership includes access to most courses. Premium membership ($20/month) includes grading services and certificates. Geared  towards high school and college students, younger students will require support to complete these video-based courses. Recommended courses: Introduction to 3D Modeling & Animation in Maya, Motion Design Animated GIFs and Ableton Live.

10. Blender 3D | Ages 10+ (Software App, Mac & PC)


Blender is a completely free, open source 3D animation software and game engine. It can be used for both educational and commercial purposes. Some of the most popular animated videos have been created with Blender, including a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which has been viewed over a billion times. To get kids started on Blender, try this introductory tutorial.

11. MIT Open Courseware Highlights for High School | Ages 14+

MIT Open Courseware

MIT Open Courseware Highlights for High School website offers free high school curriculum and exam prep for a variety of STEM areas, including Engineering, Biology and Chemistry. The website offers an abundance of resources that cover not only science, engineering and math but also humanities and social sciences. In addition, the college-level MIT Open Courseware educational resources are free and available to all. 

12. Stanford Online | Ages 14+ (Web Learning Portal)

Stanford Online

Aiming to promote life-long learning and share knowledge with the general public, Stanford University has put extensive efforts into providing free online courses to anyone, anywhere. Stanford Online offers over 160 free courses for the community. Over 10 million learners have enrolled in these courses. In addition, Stanford University offers a range of research internships for high school students.