*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.
You've seen that a magnet's attractive force can cause a small object (like a paper clip) to "jump" to the magnet. So a magnetic field can act through the air, but what about other materials? Here's an experiment you can do to find out. You'll need a strong bar magnet, a stack of books, a paper clip, some thread and tape. Place the bar magnet underneath the top book in your stack, so that it sticks out. Tie a piece of thread (as long as the stack of books is high) to a paper clip. You will tape one end of the thread below the bar magnet, in order to adjust the height of the paper clip so that it hangs in mid-air, below the magnet (without touching the magnet). Now you can try placing various materials in the gap between the magnet and the paper clip to see what effect they have on the magnetic field. For example, you might try a piece of paper, cardboard, the top of a tin can, aluminum foil, a sheet of plastic, etc. Try different thicknesses of materials. What are some similarities between materials that block the magnetic field? Between materials that do not block the magnetic field? Try to make predictions about other materials, and then test your predictions. (Gardner, 2004, 72–73)
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Materials Scientist and Engineer
What makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better.
Electrical & Electronics Engineer
Just as a potter forms clay, or a steel worker molds molten steel, electrical and electronics engineers gather and shape electricity and use it to make products that transmit power or transmit information. Electrical and electronics engineers may specialize in one of the millions of products that make or use electricity, like cell phones, electric motors, microwaves, medical instruments, airline navigation system, or handheld games.
Electrical Engineering Technician
Electrical engineering technicians help design, test, and manufacture electrical and electronic equipment. These people are part of the team of engineers and research scientists that keep our high-tech world going and moving forward.
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