cart Shopping Cart cart(0)

Make a simple motor

You will need:

  • One D cell battery
  • Enameled copper wire (thin gauge)
  • Insulation tape and wire side cutters.
  • Two paperclips and three rubber bands
  • Sandpaper square and wooden dowel (approximately 3cm in diameter). We used a cricket stump!
  • Neodymium magnet (button magnets may not be strong enough for you)
  • Optional: play dough to help stand the magnet motor

    Materials for magnet motor
    Materials for the magnet motor



Simple motor out of a battery, paperclips, magnet and coiled copper wire
The motor is ready to spin!


  1. Using the sidecutters, cut a 60cm length of enameled copper wire 
  2. Leaving a least 5cm of wire free, begin to tightly wrap the enameled wire around the wooden dowl as shown. You'll use the 5cm of wire to tie the coil tight later on.

    Beginning the wire coil for the motor
    Beginning the wire coil for the motor 
  3. Keep wrapping the wire into a tight coil as shown, again leaving around 5 cm of wire at the end of the coil for tying the coil together.

    Wrapped coiled wire for simple motor
    Wrapping the enameled wire around the wooden dowel.
  4. Gently pull the coil off the wooden dowel stick. Wrap the 5cm ends of wire around opposite ends of the coil so that the free ends of wire protrude off the wire coil evenly as shown.

    One side of the coil wrapped up
    One side of the coil wrapped up 

    Finished coil of wire for simple motor
    Finished coil of wire for the simple motor 
  5. Using the sandpaper, gently sand off the enamel off the top and one side of each of the protruding wires on your coil. It is critical that you sand off the same side of wire on both ends (i.e. sand both wires on the left side and both on the top... leaving both wires with shiny metal exposed in the same spots). This is often the source of issues from students... make sure that there is still enameled wire present on the underside of the wire and to one side of the wire on both side of the coil. Basically, the wire that has no enamel will act as your 'on switch' and the wire with enamel still on it will act as your 'off switch'. Both ends of wire need to work together in unison so it is critical that you get this right.

    Sanding the enamel wire for the simple motor
    Rubbing enamel off the coiled wire
  6. Tie the 3 rubber bands onto the batter as shown in the picture below. The idea is that the rubber bands will help secure your paperclips later in the procedure. You can use the optional play dough on the base to help keep the D cell battery from moving.

    D cell battery ready to be made into a motor
    D cell battery ready to be made into a motor 
  7. Bend the two paper clips as shown.

    Bent paperclip for simple motor
    Bent paperclip for simple motor 
  8. Secure the paper clips to either side of the D cell battery using the rubber bands. You can also use the insulation tape at this point to make the paper clips more secure.

    paperclips on the D cell battery for a simple motor construction
    Paperclips on the D cell battery for a simple motor construction 
  9. Gently place the coiled enameled wire you prepared earlier into the paper clip holders and then put a neodymium magnet (or strong button magnet) on top of the D cell battery so that it sits directly underneath the middle of the coiled wire. If you have set it up correctly the coiled wire will spin. Voila!

    Tip: move the paperclips to get the coil to be well balanced. You might need to adjust the coil a few times to get it to balance as well.

    Simple motor
    Simple motor spinning

    Careful: the coiled wire will get warm if you run it for a long time. Adult supervision please!

You have just demonstrated magnetic induction.

A magnetic field occurs when electricity passes through a wire. This magnetic field surrounds the wire. Wrapping the wire in a tight coil concentrates the magnetic field in the center of the coil. As the enameled wire had alternate off/on positions from the sanding, you were able to get the circuit to turn on and off as it spins. Every time the current flowed you would get a small magnetic field which would then react against the neodymium magnet you placed on the D cell. The polarity of the magnetic field in the coil wire would have been determined by the direction you wound the wire (the coil would have been either attracted or repelled by the magnet). As the coil would have turned off when the enamel touched the paperclips, the magnetic field within the wire would have also turned off thereby not causing the coiled wire to have a field (the off position). Momentum from the moving coiled wire allowed the wire to move past the 'off position'. The motor will continue to spin as long as there is charge within the D cell battery.

Be Amazing Book Front Cover; Ben Newsome, teacher & founder of Fizzics Education. Be Amazing -how to teach science the way primary kids love
Be Amazing!
How to teach science, the way primary kids love

Read more about Be Amazing
Want more ideas for teaching science?

Subscribe to the FizzicsEd Podcast!

Listen to FizzicsEd on Apple Podcasts

FizzicsEd podcast available on Stitcher

Join our newsletter for more science teaching thoughts & ideas

Join the Fizzics newsletter

Back to Electricity & Magnetism experiments

>100 Free Science Experiments on this site!

Coloured shadows
  • Experiments to colour your class!
  • Easy & fun
read more
skeleton and student
  • Make fake blood & more!
  • Biology made simple
read more
electricity experiments
  • Circuit science for kids
  • Cheap materials found easily
read more
Vortex rings made with fog
  • Experiments using Newton's Laws
  • Step by step science
read more

School Science Visits: 

Call 1300 856 828 or use this form to discuss or make a show booking for your school!

Love Science?

Signup to our fortnightly email! Learn more

Contact us

1300 856 828

Unit 10/55 Fourth Ave
Blacktown, NSW 2148, Australia
facebook-icon Apple Podcast Icon  twitter-icon
linkedin-icon youtube-icon   pinterest-icon