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Perpetual Motion Machine

3.8 based on 13 ratings

Updated on Mar 22, 2010



Grade Level

8 & up





Safety Issues


Material Availability

All materials readily available.

Project Time Frame

4-6 weeks


This project attempts to build a perpetual motion machine.

The goals of this project are:

  • To attempt to invent a perpetual motion device.
  • To explain why such devices don't really work.

Materials and Equipment

  1. Computer with Internet access
  2. Color printer
  3. Digital camera
  4. Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, glue, wood, etc.)
  5. Magnets All materials can be found in your home, at local stores, or on ebay.


Perpetual motion refers to the impossible concept of never-ending motion. Universal laws insist that energy cannot be created from nothing, nor can it be destroyed, but can only be transformed. You only get as much “work” from a device as the energy you put into it. In spite of all this, inventors throughout human history have made various attempts (some more kooky than others), at building perpetual motion devices. In this project you can build your own (apparent) perpetual motion device, only to have to explain to your disappointed listeners why it cannot work forever.

Research Questions

  1. What have been some interesting perpetual motion inventions?
  2. Why have all these attempts ultimately failed?

Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research

  • Laws of Thermodynamics
  • Perpetual motion

Experimental Procedure

  • Read overview of relevant topics (see bibliography below and terms listed above)
  • Address all of the above terms and research questions.
  • Search and print out interesting images of so-called perpetual motion machines.
  • Also, take your own photographs throughout the course of the experiment.
  • Sketch your ideas before beginning to build you device.
  • Find or build a small wooden box, no more than 3 inches on each side.
  • Securely glue magnets to all 4 sides, and one to the bottom, so all the polarities match.
  • Place a clear plastic lid on the top, so you can see into the box (or make it a taller box, so a lid won't be necessary).
  • Cover one pole of a small magnet with clay, or find some other way to block the magnetism of that one side. The exposed side should be the side that is repelled by the magnets attached inside the box.
  • Drop the magnet into the box. If properly constructed, the magnet will jump around, repelled by all the other magnets. If it jumps upward, gravity will bring it down.
  • Carefully record all observations.
  • Analyze your data. Explain why your device can't stay in motion forever.
  • Interpret your findings in a detailed report.
  • Include interesting photos, diagrams and models in your science fair display.


  1. (Wiki topic: Perpetual Motion)
  2. (Wiki topic: Thermodynamic laws)
  3. (Unworkable Inventions)
  4. Internet searches of your choosing. Search words or terms listed here, or make up your own phrases. Click on any results you find interesting. Have fun surfing the net!

Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials. Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.