Engineering Outreach @Berkeley

Electricity, Magnetism, and The Wall Socket

Why does a light turn on when we plug it into the wall? Electricity practically defines our life from charging our iPhones to washing our clothes, but where does it come from? This module explores the link between electricity and magnetism by answering that question through a series of activities:

  • Students in small groups will first build a motor using a wire coil, a magnet, and a battery

  • Students then try to understand the workings of how common generators (like those in hand-cranked flashlights) work. This activity includes a hand-cranked generator attached to a standard “wall socket” that can be used to power low-power devices such as a standard CFL lightbulb.

  • Next, students then make electromagnets from coiled wire and a battery.

The main theme of the Electricity, Magnetism, and The Wall Socket module is to draw connections between motion, electricity, and magnetism and the activities illustrate how power and energy, critically important parts of our everyday experience, are linked to what they're learning right now.


A description of the materials required for this module is below. The lesson plan used for this module is available below:

Community in the Classroom Lesson Plan

Making a Motor

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We provide the setup to make your very own motor.See the motor in action!

Making a Generator

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Shake and Squeeze flashlights demonstrate how motion makes electricity.A multimeter measures electricity stored in batteries and generated by hand-cranked generators.
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Simple motors can also be used as generators.We compare the voltage of a standard battery to that produced by handheld generators.
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Our generator demo can power a standard CFL......or a nightlight.

Making Electromagnets

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A little wire, a piece of iron, and a battery is all it takes to make a magnet.Electromagnets can pick up small metal objects or spin compasses.
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Toy phosphorous disks demonstrate electricity in motion.