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An Internet WebQuest

MAG LEV TRAINS: FLOATING LOCOMOTIVES

Introduction

In this WebQuest, students do some Internet research on magnetic levitation and design, build, and test models of magnetic levitation trains. They learn about magnetism, permanent magnets, electromagnets, and superconductors, and discover how the property of magnetism can be used to propel vehicles along a track very quickly with little or no friction. Students also explore different types of magnetic levitation. After researching designs of model mag lev trains on the Internet, students choose one type for the design of their model mag lev trains, and then design, build, and test their model trains. Finally, students prepare a report of some kind to communicate the results of their tests.

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Task

Once students have completed their Internet research, they will design, build, and test model magnetic levitation trains. Students will prepare reports on their findings and share their results with their classmates. Reports may be in the form of written reports, oral reports, videotapes of a test run of a model, an actual test performed in the classroom, or any other creative form devised by the students and approved by the teacher.

You may decide to have students work in small groups for this activity. Be sure that students in small groups assign specific tasks to each group member.

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Resources

Students will use Internet links given to find out how magnetic levitation is used in transportation today. They will find out about magnetism, how permanent magnets and electromagnets differ, and why superconductors are needed in certain kinds of mag lev train systems. They will identify the two main types of mag lev systems in use at present – electromagnetic suspension (EMS) and electrodynamic suspension (EDS). The EDS system is presently in use in Japan. The EMS system is soon to be in use in Germany. Whatever mag lev system is used, the result is an extremely fast, smooth ride because the train literally floats above the track.

All mag lev systems use the principles of magnetism and polarity to push and pull trains along their tracks. Students may need to provide the initial "push" to start their trains during testing. This "push" may be in the form of an electrical push, students physically pushing the model, or students pulling it along the track in some fashion.

Students will also need to collect materials needed to build their models. You may decide to provide materials such as strong magnets, copper wire, batteries, large nails, magnetic strips, polystyrene blocks (the vehicles), duct tape, and glue.

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Time

1 class period for Internet research; 1 class period for presentations; additional time at home to build and test models and prepare reports.

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Process

As students progress through the list of web sites, you may help them to focus on what they need to know in order to design and build a model mag lev train. Many of the Internet links listed have directions for building such vehicles, or ask questions of the students to help them come up with their own plans. Allow students to explore these sites and any others they find in the course of their research. Most students will decide to build a mag lev model based on permanent magnets. If any students wish to make and use electromagnets, you may provide additional classroom resources for this purpose.

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Evaluation

Because students have been given the option of preparing different types of reports, your evaluation will be open-ended as well. You may want to use the following rubric to evaluate students’ reports on the testing of their model mag lev trains.

Mag Lev Trains: Floating Locomotives

Presentation
Rubric
Possible
Points*

Self-
Assessment

Teacher
Assessment
Topic was covered in depth 10    

Presentation was well planned and coherent

10    

Explanations and reasons were given for conclusions

10    

Communication aids were clear and useful

10    

Test shown was successful/clear explanation was given if test was unsuccessful

10    
Total Possible Points 50    

*Rate each category according to the following scale: Excellent – 9-10 points; Very Good – 7-8 points; Good – 5-6 points; Satisfactory – 3-4 points; Poor – 1-2 points; and Unsatisfactory – 0 points.

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Conclusion

Using information gathered from the Internet and materials they collect (or you provide), students should be able to design, build, and test models of mag lev trains. In the testing process, students should be able to identify the deficiencies of their models. Students should make conclusions as to whether magnetic levitation is a viable option for transportation needs in the future.

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