Education
Age Range: 7-11
Duration: 60 or more mins
• D & T
• Science

How to make a magnetic Newton's cradle

Making a cradle using magnets that repel each other

Newton’s cradle uses swinging spheres to show how the conservation of momentum and the conservation of energy works. The device was named after Sir Isaac Newton and designed by French scientist Edme Mariotte. What happens when you replace these spheres with magnets?

This is one of a set of resources developed to support the teaching of the primary national curriculum. They are designed to support the delivery of key topics within science and design and technology. This resource focuses on producing a magnetic Newton’s cradle that uses magnets which repel each other instead of the usual metal spheres.

Activity: How to make a magnetic Newton's cradle

In this activity learners will make a Newton’s cradle using magnets, instead of the usual spherical pieces of metal. They will test their product and observe how it behaves compared to a regular Newton’s cradle. They will learn about how magnets have a north and south pole, and why they attract or repel each other.

This is a great way for students to learn all about magnets and could be used as a one-off activity or as part of a wider unit of work focusing on magnets and magnetism. It can also be used in conjunction with other IET Education resources, developed alongside the School of Engineering at Cardiff University.

Download the free and printable resources below for detailed notes and instructions on how to make a magnetic Newton's cradle.

This activity will take approximately 65-90 minutes.

Tools/resources required

Parts:

• Circular magnets with holes in the middle (with N and S poles)
• 150 mm lengths of dowel
• 75 mm lengths dowel
• 100 – 120 mm long pieces of string (6 per unit being built)

Tools and equipment

• Example of a ‘regular’ Newton’s cradle.
• Scissors
• Hot glue guns, if appropriate

Magnetic forces

Magnets are made from materials such as iron and nickel and they have a north pole and a south pole.

When the north pole of a magnet is placed near the south pole of another magnet, they will attract each other. When two poles that are the same are placed near each other, they will repel each other. For example, north to north and south to south.

The engineering context

Engineers need to know the properties of magnets, which materials are magnetic and which materials are non-magnetic. This knowledge could be used when identifying and creating potential solutions to future engineering problems. For example, when developing green transport solutions.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity students will be able to describe magnets as having two poles – north and south, they will understand that magnets either attract or repel each other and they will be able to make and test a ‘magnetic’ Newton’s cradle.