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Magnetic Train Science

DIY maglev train science project puts kids on track for creative summer science learning.

Magic Bullet Train   Maglev train experiment -- paint the train for a custom, creative experience!
Above: part of the fun with the maglev train science project is decorating the train. Kids can paint the wooden train however they like. Stickers, googly eyes, permanent markers—a magic train deserves special attention from the creative kid department!

Engineers of all ages love a great wooden train! With the Build a Floating Maglev Train project, young engineers get hands-on with the science of magnetism. This "magic bullet train" STEM exploration is a fun way to give kids a science learning experience that also doubles as a craft activity and even a playtime toy. This is a perfect activity for summer break!

Creative Engineering

The train for the experiment is made from a block of wood that kids can turn into their own unique, customized train. How they sand, shape, and paint or decorate their train is completely up to them and their own imagination! Stars? Stripes? Favorite colors or lucky numbers? The Hogwarts Express? Creating and customizing the wooden Magic Bullet Train is a wonderful, free-form, and creative part of this science activity. (Note: sanding and shaping the train takes sand paper and some elbow grease. Students can spend as much or as little time as they want decorating the train before moving on to constructing the track and testing the science behind the levitation and movement of a maglev train.)

The Magic of Maglev

Maglev trains are fascinating because they seem to defy logic—they levitate! A maglev train appears to float or hover above a track rather than roll across it. These trains look similar to monorail trains, but a maglev train specifically levitates and is powered by electromagnetic forces. Plus, a maglev train doesn't have wheels!

It may look like magic, but a maglev train's levitation can be explained by science. A maglev train is lifted by the way magnetic fields can be positioned to repel one another. As the fields push away from each other, the train lifts off of the track and floats above the rail. Because it floats, when the train moves, there is no friction created by train wheels rolling over train tracks, so a maglev train glides and can move faster than a traditional train that rolls on wheels.

After making the train and assembling the railway, students can experiment to find out what might slow a maglev down. The Stop the Train! Magnetic Brakes for a Maglev Train project guides kids in an experiment to see how increasing amounts of weight being carried by the train affects a maglev train's ability to hover.

See also: Magic Train Puts Kids on Track with Physics of Magnetism and From Wooden Train to the Magic of Maglev.

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