The Magnetic Electricity Generator

I’ve been alluding to the infamous “science fair project” in my recent blog postings, promising to recount all of the sordid details that went into the production of this 4th grade scientific masterpiece. Here goes.



Once upon a time, a very loving Papa, who happened to have a Masters degree in electronic engineering, committed to assisting his darling eldest daughter, Chloe, with her annual science fair project.  They searched and searched for the perfect experiment, and finally settled on an electricity generator that would use magnets and wire to light a bulb.

Papa and Chloe went shopping.  To the local hardware store, the local Home Depot and the local Radio Shack.  They bought the supplies:  powerful magnets that were not allowed near our computers, a long nail, lots and lots of wire, and lightbulbs.  Chloe and her little sister, Sophie, dropped a few of the magnets and they broke.  Sigh.

About two weeks before the fair, they bought more magnets and studiously prepared the first cardboard generator.  They huffed and they puffed and sadly, there was no light.  They added more light bulbs and tried using more wire, but it still didn’t work.  Papa wisely took a break for the weekend, confident that they would eventually prevail.

Spring Break arrived, and devoted Papa took a couple of days off to help Chloe make a generator that generates.  They made a couple of more generators.  They paid a second visit to Radio Shack for more supplies, and after two days of obsessive attempts, still nothing.  Papa’s wife arrived home that night to chaos and frustration.

But Chloe and Papa would not give up, nor lose hope. Papa reread the instructions and realized that they had been using the wrong wire and the wrong lightbulbs.  The following day, less than a week before the fair, Chloe’s mother made a third visit to Radio Shack and bought more supplies.

Chloe and Papa embarked on one final attempt.  The cardboard generator was ready.  The magnets were in place.  The proper wire was wrapped tightly around the cardboard.  And the proper lightbulb was waiting to be energized.  Papa turned the crank (i.e., the nail).  Drumroll, please.  Hallelujah!  It worked.

But then Chloe tried the crank.  And it didn’t work.  They scratched their heads.  And thought and thought.  And wrapped more wire around the cardboard to generate more electricity and make it easier for smaller, slower hands to turn the crank.  Drumroll, please.  Hallelujah!  It worked again.  Let there be light!

Chloe made an accompanying poster that not only described how the generator worked and materials to use, but also contained a section she appropriately baptized “To Don’ts,” which summarized all of the pitfalls she and Papa encountered during their long, arduous road to success.

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