Fun with Magnets - Science Camp Experiments

The other thing that kept me really busy in the past few weeks is science camp! We attended a science camp for home-schoolers a few weekends ago. There were about 12-15 families that went (meaning LOTS of kids) for a weekend. We rented a big building at some sort of scout camp (with dorms and a large common room).

Each family was tasked with bringing one or two experiments for a specific age group. The theme this year was magnets.

So I laser-cut a couple of linear magnetic accelerator (Gauss gun). It’s basically a set of rails to hold a a series of metal balls, and magnets in a particular way. I cut some holders to hold magnets along the rails. When you push a ball along the rail, it gets accelerated by the first magnet, and transfers its energy to the next ball along the path. This keeps happening all the way down the rail.

Here are a few pictures:

Here are the magnet holders. You sandwich a large magnet between 2 smaller magnets, and that way they don’t move then a ball hits them.

I cut them so that the kids could place the holders anywhere along the rails. I made 2 sets and cut some extra rails to extend the initial ones. That why they could experiment with how closely to put them to each other, how many balls to put after each magnet, etc. We did end up making a really long one (4 rails long), but the loss of energy along the line did not make it go significantly faster than one that was 2 rails long.

Here’s a video of it in action.

It was a very simple project, but it proved to be very popular. All the kids (even the older ones and some of the adults) ended up playing with it at some point during the weekend.

The other project we made had nothing to do with laser-cutting, but it was also a lot of fun. We made a magnetic train with a battery, magnets and a copper coil. Here’s a small video:

It was a really fun weekend, but it was also exhausting!


oh man, those look like so much fun! nice job!
And to top it off, it’s educational!!!


Wow! Wow! Wow!

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That’s really cool!

Fantastic…really like the rails.

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Yeah, 25ish kids is a lot. Way more kids than I would want to deal with.

Oh. Oh, no. My mistake. Like, 50 kids, minimum. Lol.

My sister homeschools and just had her 5th baby. And all of her homeschool friends are… similarly productive.


Yeah, the average among our home-schooling friends is about 4 kids per family. There are a few 5-6 kids families, and a few 1-2 families. But 4 seems like the “magic target number” in our circle.


Cross between a magnetic accelerator and a linear Newton’s cradle… :sunglasses:
Great idea!

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I can’t take credit for the idea. My wife found a similar thing on YouTube. They were using just a ruler with a groove in it and tape to hold the magnets. I ramped it up using the laser-cut design, to make it easier to experiment with.


Is there a link to make this? :grimacing:

I’ll share the project in the GF store once it’s online.