Homopolar Motor Sculptures at Maker Faire


Maker Faire was a great opportunity to prototypehomopolar motors, an activity we discovered earlier this year for the Tinkering Studio after a visit by Tim Hunkin.
Since visitors had so many things to try at the Exploratorium Booth , I wanted to set up a simple activity that doesn't require a lot of time but can turn into something more involved for those who can stay longer.

The basic pieces to make a motor are a battery, a washer, a magnet and a piece of wire. Adding other materials, the simple set-up can become anything from a fast spinning motor to a kinetic sculpture. I was happy to see that visitors set their own goals for their creations which resulted in a lot of variety throughout the day.

Homopolar MotorsHomopolar MotorsHomopolar Motors

It was also nice to see some designs propagate from one visitor to others. For example folks learned from each other how to balance their sculptures by adding small and large weights at the bottom.

We are going to prototype this activity further with our Explainers and summer camp kids this week and next. Our focus will be to try new materials, especially things that attach easily to the basic wire shape and allow to be adjusted. We are also working on a small stage where the motor sculptures can be presented next to each other and perform together as a group of electromagnetic dancers! We will share photos of the performance in the next blog post.

This is a great improvement over trying to hold the whole thing together in the air with a hex screw! How are you dimpling the positive button on the batteries?

Hi Gordon. Glad you like the design! We are using a countersunk finishing washer on the battery to create a dimple. A #8 washer has just the right hole size to fit the positive button of an AA battery.

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