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An Internet WebQuest

MAG LEV TRAINS: FLOATING LOCOMOTIVES

Introduction

Have you ever experimented with a couple of magnets? You probably know that magnets have a north pole and a south pole. When you bring the north pole of one magnet towards the south pole of another magnet, what happens? These opposite poles are attracted to one another and the magnets come together. What happens when you bring the north pole of one magnet towards the north pole of another magnet? This time these like poles repel one another. Did you know that this simple property of magnets is used to propel special trains at speeds up to 300 miles per hour? Such trains are known as magnetic levitation trains, usually shortened to mag lev. In this WebQuest, youíll find out how magnetism, and mag lev trains, may help solve some transportation problems in the 21st century.

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Task

Your job in this WebQuest is to find out how magnetic levitation works and use this information to build a model of a mag lev train. You will have to learn about permanent magnets and electromagnets, about superconductors, and about the different kinds of magnetic levitation. You will have to decide which type of magnetic levitation you will be able to work with, and identify the materials you will need to build a model of a mag lev train. You will have to design the model mag lev train, list the materials needed, and collect those materials. Finally, you will build your model, test it, and refine it as needed.

Once you have refined the design of your mag lev train and retested, you will report your findings to the class. Your report could be a written one with illustrations, an oral one with photographs or transparencies for the overhead projector, or you could videotape a test of your model and show it to your classmates. If you prefer, you could bring your model to school and demonstrate it for your classmates. Whichever type of report you choose to do, be sure to identify which type of magnetic levitation you decided to use, and why. Reports also should include a description of the steps you took to design, build, and test your model.

Objectives

  • Identify types of magnets and describe how they work.

  • Design and build a model magnetic levitation train.

  • Explain how magnetic levitation enables vehicles to move quickly with little need for additional power sources.

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Resources

Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to build a model of a magnetic levitation train and test it.

  • Cool Experiments with Magnets
    Visit this site to find out all about magnetism, what types of magnets there are, and how magnets are used. Scroll down and click on levitating train experiment to see one way to make a model of a mag lev train.

  • How Electromagnets Work
    At this site you can find out the basic idea behind electromagnets, and the differences between electromagnets and permanent magnets. This site shows you how to build electromagnets.

  • Track to the Future
    Go to this site to find out how permanent magnets can be used to provide levitation.

  • A New Approach for Magnetically Levitating Trains and Rockets
    This is a site that describes using special arrays of permanent magnets for levitation. It includes directions for building a mag lev track and vehicle.

  • Simple Maglev Train
    Go to this site for some directions for making your own mag lev train using permanent magnets.

  • Designing and Testing "Maglev" Vehicles and Systems
    Visit this site to find out what kind of research is being done on mag lev trains in the United States.

Time

1 class period for research; 1 class period to make presentations or reports; time at home to build and test model trains.

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Process

After you have completed your research on the Internet, decide on the type of mag lev train model you want to build. Design your model, list the materials needed, then collect the materials and build your train. In order to test your model, you will need to build a track as well. Which type of magnets did you decide to use for your model? What are your reasons for this choice? How easy is it to model a magnetic levitation train? Remember, a model doesnít always work exactly the same way as the real thing, so donít be discouraged if your train doesnít stay on the track. Also, be prepared to provide the initial energy needed to get your model moving down the track. What energy is used to start a real magnetic levitation train moving from a complete stop? Once you have tested your model, prepare your report. The types of reports listed above are not the only ones you can use; be creative!

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Conclusion

In the process of completing this WebQuest, youíve become informed about magnetism, the differences between permanent magnets and electromagnets, and how magnetic levitation trains work in the real world. You have developed critical thinking and problem-solving skills as you designed, built, and tested a mag lev train of your own. Finally, you have explored different ways of reporting your experimental results, and prepared a report on your findings. How did your design work? If you designed a mag lev model again, what would you do differently? How did your model mag lev train compare to a real mag lev train?

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