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Make a Homemade Compass

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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
10-20 minutes
Key Concepts
magnetism, navigation, magnetic poles, physics, forces
Picture of a cork and needle floating in a cup of water.

Introduction

Have you ever used a compass to help you figure out what direction to go? What about while on a camping trip — have you ever needed a compass to help you navigate your way through a forest? Magnetic compasses work based on Earth's magnetic field. In this science activity, you will get to make your own magnetic compass out of a sewing needle, piece of cork, and cup of water. How well do you think it will work? Get ready to find out!

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • A cork
  • Scissors for cutting the cork
  • A cup, drinking glass, or bowl
  • Water
  • A magnet. It can be a flat refrigerator magnet or a more powerful magnet, such as a neodymium magnet. A stronger magnet will work better.
  • A pair of pliers
  • Metal sewing needle
    Materials for doing the magnetic compass activity.

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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
10-20 minutes
Key Concepts
magnetism, navigation, magnetic poles, physics, forces