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Science Fair Projects - Talk By Lightning Telegraph

Magnet wire is simply copper wire that has a small diameter (a large gauge) and is coated with a varnish enamel that insulates it so that adjacent turns of wire won’t short together when wound closely into a coil as in an electromagnet. Any teacher who has worked with kids and magnet wire will tell you that there are two problems with magnet wire. Firstly, it’s difficult to remove the varnish so that the ends of the wire may be connected into a circuit. The best way to do this is to use a knife but obviously this is problematic for elementary or younger students, and so sand paper is usually the next alternative. The fact that most magnet wire is coated in a varnish that is the same copper color as the copper wire underneath means that its hard to visually inspect a wire to see that its ends are properly stripped or to notice when other areas of the wire are stripped and might short out if brought into contact with another wire. Secondly, magnet wire’s small diameter makes it hard to wind a nice/clean coil with each turn beside the previous one. I’ve seen a lot of student and even teacher wound coils that were more like a wad of wire than a neat and efficient coil. The wire also kinks very easily and can break once its been kinked or twisted. The result of these two problems is usually more time spent on troubleshooting continuity in a circuit or rewinding a coil than in actually performing an experiment and making observations. (Granted, troubleshooting can be an important part of a science experiment too).

You can make your own telegraph for sending secret messages to a friend


Many of the questions asked in the Electromagnet Projects, can serve as the "Problem to be solved" in a science project. In setting up your project, you would first state the problem, then hypothesis, ( a guess as the answer to your problem), next procedure to check the hypothesis, and finally a conclusion that answers the stated problem based on what you actually observe in your research. In addition you may be interested in proposing your own, specific research that will expand on your conclusion.
Since magnets are visually enticing in themselves as they interact with each other, it would be strongly suggested that your presentation include the apparatus you used in your research.

Science Fair Projects - PURPOSE

If you are a science teacher who has ever taught a physical science class or attended a physical science workshop then you’ve probably done the activity where you wrap a piece of magnet wire around a nail and use it to make a paper clip or another flap of metal move in response to an electrical current flowing in the wire. This experiment is often called “building a telegraph” and its a good way to illustrate electromagnetism. The experiment usually goes over well with students, but from experience I’ve found that this simple activity has a lot of stumbling blocks for younger kids and have always thought that it should be possible to teach MORE with your half hour or less activity time. To that end I’ve created the science kit. This article will explain some of my educational design choices for the kit and give teachers or anyone using the kit for educational purposes a few tips to help them in the classroom.


Many of the questions asked in the Electromagnet Projects, can serve as the "Problem to be solved" in a science project. In setting up your project, you would first state the problem, then hypothesis, ( a guess as the answer to your problem), next procedure to check the hypothesis, and finally a conclusion that answers the stated problem based on what you actually observe in your research. In addition you may be interested in proposing your own, specific research that will expand on your conclusion.
Since magnets are visually enticing in themselves as they interact with each other, it would be strongly suggested that your presentation include the apparatus you used in your research.

My hypothesis is that the steel bar with 100 wraps will pick ..

As with all of my Reinventing Science kits, there is much more to each kit than what comes in the box. I support educational users of the kits with many free resources online, a fan page and community on , and videos on YouTube. Some of the resources available are a bibliography and reading list about telegraphs, electromagnetism, and invention, a list of science standards addressed by the kit, and other tips and tricks for using the kit.

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