Grade Level: 4th – 6th; Type: Physics
This science project demonstrates how you can make your own compass using a magnetized needle. It also allows you to compare magnetic north and geographic north.
- How can you make your own compass?
- How far off is magnetic north from geographic north?
Did you know that the earth acts like a giant magnet? It even has a magnetic north and south pole. Nope, the magnetic north pole is not at the geographic North Pole – but they’re close enough to make a compass that works through magnetism.
- Plastic cup
- Cut out a large cardboard circle that is about an inch wider on each side than the mouth of the cup.
- Cut a smaller circle from the center of the large circle. The smaller circle should be just a bit smaller than the mouth of the cup.
- Divide the remaining doughnut into four equal quadrants, and label the quadrants with the letters N, S, E, and W.
- Stroke a needle with a magnet from eye to tip 30 times. Make sure to stroke it in the same direction each time.
- Cut a cork lengthwise down the middle. Lay the cork so that its new flat (cut) surface faces upwards.
- Tape the needle to the flat surface, facing it in the same direction as the cork.
- Fill the cup with water, almost to the rim.
- Place the doughnut cutout over the mouth of the cup, so that the hole is directly over the water.
- Place the cork on the water’s surface so that the needle is pointing from north to south.
- Try out your compass, and compare it with the results of a real compass. Alternatively, look at a map of your area to figure out where you are, and see whether magnetic north and geographic north are very different from each other.
Terms/Concepts: Magnetism ; Geographic and magnetic poles; How does a compass work?; How can you magnetize a needle?
Fascinating Science Projects: Electricity and Magnetism, by Bobbi Searle. Pp. 30-31.