Magnets Experiment #3515

This is a discussion for the Magnets Experiment. Feel free to connect with the Learning Team here, or to discuss experiment tips, ask questions, leave comments or suggest experiment variations here.

Magnets with the Draper Dragons at Draper Elementary School.

This is a great lab for one, practicing data and graphing skills, something that I see is always good at practicing. Two, this is good for inferring and testing results. We can then relate this to real life and ask how magnets are useful in our day to day activities and test different types of magnet strength and ask why we would want to use different types of magnets for different activities.

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Having trouble with Step 4.

I keep getting this error message: Seems like we are not receiving any data from the Arduino. Please check connection settings, baud rate and whether you are running the correct sketch and try again.

I have tried a few things to fix it, but really don’t know what I am doing- any suggestions? This is all new to me.

Magnets have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I have yet to meet a student who isn’t fascinated by them as well. This year I facilitated an engineering unit with my 4th graders on transportation engineering. Throughout the unit, students engaged in a variety of activities to give them an understanding of the properties of magnets. The culminating project involved the students working in groups to design and create a small maglev train that can levitate, move down the track and support weight. I can see incorporating this BL activity into my engineering unit as a way for students to get a graphical sense of what is actually happening within the magnetic field and compare the properties of different magnets (in this unit, students explore a variety of different types of magnets to see which would work best). The activity on the worksheet is very similar to one that I do in my unit although in mine, students use rulers to measure distance. I really like the idea of them using a magnetometer to get actual values for the magnetic field.

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Hello Kim,
Here are a few steps that you can follow or skip if you have already tried:

  1. Install the serial driver and chrome app:
  2. When you program do you get a 'Successfully Loaded Program" message? This confirms that you have loaded a new program that is sending magnetometer data. If you have not seen this message please flash the program (“Run on Arduino”) .
  3. Resetting the USB (sometimes a computers USB Serial port gets in a corrupted state)
    A) Reload the lesson page
    B) Unplug and replug in the USB cable
    C) Restart Computer

Please let me know if this helps, I am happy to jump on a video call and troubleshoot further if you still are having issues.
Thanks Kevin


This lesson is a great fit for my science curriculum. I think I would look at using this as I have student groups using magnets to trace magnetic field lines. I think they would enjoy seeing the data as they realize the impact distance has on the field lines and the strength.

My students might need support in understanding the relationship between magnets/distance and the addition of magnets and the correlation between them.

I would be asking students about their observations and looking for conversations to be happening between students as they sort through what they are observing. Success would be letting the students figure it out and have more questions that would drive them to want to find the answers.

My favorite role for students is engagement. If they are engaged they have a higher desire to think through tough concepts like magnetism.

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I love the tie-in to Mag-lev trains. This topic also leads to so many real world applications and career connections.

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@angela.ashley @ArdusatExplorer-2338 @DHSSTEM @ArdusatExplorer-2432 @ArdusatExplorer-1870 @ArdusatExplorer-2420 @Mary.Gregory @ArdusatExplorer-2302 @Rhonda.Howard @jjones @ArdusatExplorer-2328 @ArdusatExplorer-2306 @mom0sarah @ArdusatExplorer-2391 @ArdusatExplorer-2298 @lori.reich @ArdusatExplorer-2130 @ArdusatExplorer-2300 @johnteuscher @ArdusatExplorer-2309 @ArdusatExplorer-2429 @JWeaver

Good morning! I created a sketch that allows you to use the OLED and the sensor board to take the magnetometer readings. I thought I’d share it with the entire group–this makes the sensor board completely portable if you use the 9V battery and the battery clip. The sketch can be found here and includes x, y, and z-axes magnetometer readings as well as the magnitude of the magnetic field. You can find the experiment here: Because Learning Here is a picture of what to expect on your OLED when you run the sketch in the experiment linked above:


Thank you! This worked much better for me.

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Again, I like the basic lesson to show what can be done and how this all works. I think kids need to “tinker” to learn about things, as someone else mentioned. This lesson could be adapted to fit in with our weather and climate units, especially if we could utilize satellite data w/ the CODAP program. If I could get 6th graders doing that, I would be thrilled! Such a cool way to manipulate data!

I feel that they would need extra support in setting things up and making sure everything is functioning properly, and that their readings make sense. I always spend a lot of time guiding students to make sure they keep their variables controlled in experiments.

I still feel that I would be a facilitator, asking questions about what they are noticing and guiding them to make adjustments.

The students role is actively evaluating the process of what they are doing. Is it working? Do adjustments or changes need to be made? Student success looks like the student figuring out how to get the readings and change them by changing variables, and making connections about why they see changes.

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I like the idea of tracing the magnetic field lines. That would help with a more visual understanding of what is going on. I’d like to see that!

I agree that there needs to be lots of conversation around what they see (the relationships between the variables) AND why that is happening

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@JWeaver @ArdusatExplorer-2429

Our lesson titled Sea Turtles and Magnetic Fields is a nice extension of the Magnets lesson. Students make a hidden magnetic maze and then use the magnetometer to try and locate the magnets based on the reading of the magnetometer. I also found that using iron filings at the end to reveal the placement of the hidden magnets was a nice way for the students to visualize the magnetic field. Check out the experiment here: Because Learning

Here is a picture of the iron filings (available on amazon) revealing the hidden magnets:


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Hi everyone,

This is an excellent activity and applicable to numerous areas of Science. I see this working in Physics as a tool to explore the nature of electromagnetic interactions. Also, in Biology to look at the applications of magnetic forces in the field of medicine. In Earth Science to explore the role of Earth’s magnetic fields, etc.

I love using magnets and I believe that electromagnetism is key to solving global energy issues. When students understand how magnetic forces work, they are given opportunities to seek and develop technological applications to meet the needs of our global society.


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I specifically like that this lesson takes the investigation of magnets past the basic concept of polarity. The experimentation helps to develop data collection skills and reinforce the benefit of larger sample sizes. It also provides experience in using and analyzing patterns in graphs.

While I did not do the turtle experiment, I did read it over. It allows students to experiment with magnetic fields in modeling a practical situation. When we do this, he helps to answer the dreadful question “why do I need to learn this.”

The lab may be challenging for some students and as such they would require more hand holding. I have magnets that are too strong for the experiment. If the magnets are too strong and too close to the sensor, they cause the device to freeze up (as I experienced). In fact. I had to adjust the worksheet part of the experiment so that the magnets started at the two inch mark.

Lastly, I did encounter problems with activating the data collection tool. It took multiple attempts f disconnecting the unit and shutting down the computer in order to get it to work. I’m not sure that my students are all that patient. Perhaps the additional lesson is tenacity.

I do wonder if the sensor kit works on chromebooks. If so, is there something different to the set-up?

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I agree with you about the graphing part. I find that it is an analytical tool and skill that my Middle Schoolers don’t truly get the hang of and complain every time I ask them to graph something (which is basically every activity we do that involves numerical data). Pattern recognition is a valuable tool. It is nice to see this in these activities.

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Hi Eric, thank you so much for this feedback! There were some issues with using a lap or desktop and the magnetometer and so I created a sketch that allows you to use the OLED and the sensor board to take the magnetometer readings. This makes the sensor board completely portable if you use the 9V battery and the battery clip. The sketch can be found here and includes x, y, and z-axes magnetometer readings as well as the magnitude of the magnetic field. You can find the experiment here:

Our sensor kit is specifically designed for use with chrome books—we have a set at the office that we test everything on before we publish. There are however differences among brands of chrome books and I have noticed issues with taking long data set readings (long meaning more than 10 mins)—this is why I have started creating the option to take data with the OLED and the sensor board!

Thank you so much for the feedback!

Dear Lindsey,
Who doesn’t like to play with magnets and this can be used to demonstrate magnetic fields around planets and the presence of the magnetosphere. Collecting and graphing data works on all levels and is awesome. This kit is so very useful for any number of experiments. I am not able to access the programming necessary on my faculty laptop but it works like a charm on my personal computer at home. I too got the error message but have not had any issues since I changed computers.

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This was a fun activity. I am not familiar enough with the science of magnets to be comfortable teaching this, but a short refresher will do the trick. I think I used the wrong magnets. Mine were an inch in diameter and so it was tough to use the worksheet. I also pinched my fingers more than once, so I can see really close supervision required for this one. I am very excited to use this with the sea turtle lesson during ocean week in summer school this year.

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I hadn’t thought of magnets being used to solve energy issues. That is an awesome tie-in to real-life lessons. Our science classes do make batteries from magnets, so the extension should be easy to relate.

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