Electromagnet Crane Activity


Single SKU: 1824-71

10 Pack SKU: 1824-61

Your Mission: Design and build a crane that can best sort magnetic materials for recycling. Start by making and experimenting with an electromagnet, then create a crane to move it. Test the crane using the scientific method. Evolve the crane through the engineering design process. How many magnetic items can you sort in two minutes? Compete against other cranes, or challenge yourself in the Super Sort Engineering and Design Challenge.

Use found (recycling bin) materials to enhance your crane design or as sorting material for the Engineering & Design Challenge. Each activity provides plenty of extra parts to try different designs and continue to tinker. This activity is a real “pick me up.”

Electromagnet Crane Educational Goals

  • Utilize the design and engineering process
  • Encourage creativity, critical thinking and problem solving
  • Learn about electromagnetism, magnetic fields, and simple machines
  • Apply the scientific method
  • Innovate (design, build and evolve your own unique Crane design)

Electromagnet Activity Document Downloads

A quick overview document guides you through this electrifying and magnetic STEM activity and how to incorporate the supporting Lab documents, Build Guides, and Engineering Challenges.

Make It Your Own: The documents for this activity are available in PDF and Microsoft Word format. If you wish to edit a document, simply download the Microsoft Word format.

Out of the Classroom

Electromagnet For Fun Build Guide

Download the Out of the Classroom Document

This document has everything you need to do the Electromagnet Crane Activity. Starting with the Magnet Build and the Crane Build, this document then goes straight into the Design & Engineering Challenges.

Looking for something with a little more classroom clout? Check out the "In the Classroom section below for classroom-ready document downloads.

Electromagnet Crane All-in-One - PDF
Electromagnet Crane All-in-One - Editable Word Document

In the Classroom

Electromagnet Overview Thumbnail

Download the Overview

Brief overview about the TeacherGeek Electromagnet documents, activity procedure, concepts, vocabulary, background information, and supplementary resources.

Electromagnet Overview - PDF
Electromagnet Overview - Editable Word Document



During this step you will begin starting the build of your electromagnet (the part with the metal, battery, and wire). Once the electromagnet is started, students learn how more “wraps” of electrical wire around a screw, when powered by the battery, improves a magnetic field in the lab. Students will test magnetic and non-magnetic materials with their electromagnet and record their findings.

Electromagnet Build Guide with a Lab - PDF
Electromagnet Build Guide with a Lab - Editable Word Document


Now that the electromagnet is built, during this guide you will create the example crane body and attach your electromagnet to it. The example crane works, but not very well. Building the example will give the understanding required to turn it in to your own unique design (a better design). Redesign the crane to solve engineering challenges.

Looking to just build and go? 
Check out the "Out of the Classroom" section above to get started

Crane Build for an Electromagnet - PDF
Crane Build for Electromagnet - Editable Word Document



Electromagnet 'In the Bucket' Challenge Thumbnail

Download the "In The Bucket" Challenge

Get as many paper clips into a cup as you can.

"In The Bucket" Challenge - PDF
"In The Bucket" Challenge - Editable Word Document




Electromagnet 'Clip Hanger' Challenge Thumbnail

Download the "Clip Hanger" Challenge

Hang as many paper clips as you can.

"Clip Hanger" Challenge - PDF
"Clip Hanger" Challenge - Editable Word Document




Electromagnet Engineering Challenge Thumbnail

Download the "Super Sort" Challenge

Sort as much magnetic and non-magnetic materials as you can in the "Super Sort" arena. Printable arenas available for Single Player or go head-to-head in the Two Player Arena.

"Super Sort" Challenge - PDF
"Super Sort" Challenge - Editable Word Document

"Super Sort" Arena - Single Player - PDF
"Super Sort" Arena - Two Player - PDF


Electromagnet For Fun Build Guide

Download the Challenge Scorecard

Use this simple scorecard to keep track of student progress and Points for Electromagnet Competitions.

Challenge Scorecard - PDF




Electromagnet For Fun Build Guide

Download the TeacherGeek Engineering Notebook

Available at two different learning levels, the TeacherGeek Engineering Notebook is designed to help students cycle thru the Design & Engineering Process and help them innovate and invent new designs. Use an Engineering Notebook page for each iteration of design. It is recommended that extra pages are printed and on-hand during activities.

Simple Engineering Notebook - PDF
Engineering Notebook - PDF



Other Useful Resources:

Youtube Videos:

TeacherGeek Tools You'll Need

What tools will you need to do this activity?


Process Description

Recommended Tool 

Alternate Tool


Cutting dowels, strips, recycling bin items, etc.


Saw, Pruning Shears


Change splined holes in components from press fit (dowels press and stay) to loose fit (dowels are able to slide and rotate).


#3 Drill Bit and Drill


Tighten and loosen screws



Holding and Pulling

Hold nuts, pull apart components



Wire Stripping Strip (remove) wire insulation

Wire Stripper


Sets of tools can be found here.

Additional Supplies Needed to Build an Electromagnet Crane: This activity requires AA batteries, tape, scissors, magnetic and non-magnetic materials (paperclips, binder clips, erasers, etc.).

Make your Electromagnet Crane even better by incorporating recycling bin material.

Electromagnet Crane Components

What's in the Electromagnet Crane Activity?

Component: 10pk Quantity: Single Quantity:
Hole Plate(s) 10 1
Perpendicular Blocks 40 4
1" Screws 60 6
2" Screw(s) 10 1
Hex Nuts 40 4
Dowels 20 2
Connector Strips 40 4
3in Slide Stop 10 1
Wire Roll 10 1
#6 1/4in Screws 20 2
Battery Holder (2 AA)
w/ Switch & Leads
10 1

This is an educational product and not a toy. It is intended for use by ages 9 and above with adult supervision.

Science, Math & Engineering Standards

TeacherGeek products fit proposals, grants or lesson plans with ease! Explore more resources below:

Next Generation Science Standards
NGSS Standards Download - PDF
NGSS Standards Spreadsheet - Editable /Searchable Excel Sheet

International Technology & Engineering Educators' Association Standards
ITEEA Standards Download - PDF
ITEEA Standards Spreadsheet - Editable/Searchable Excel Sheet