Kids attracted to science project like magnet | NevadaAppeal.com

Kids attracted to science project like magnet

Maggie O'Neill

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal One of three groups in Terry Parent's eighth-grade science class turn an extension cord while other students record information during a science project at Carson Middle School Thursday morning.

Eighth-graders spinning long cords in jump-rope-like fashion Thursday on the Carson Middle School football field learned not about physical education but the disruptive effects of solar storms on computers, cell phones and other electronics.

The project is one that science teacher Terry Parent does every year to show students the relationship between magnetism and electricity.

“This to me is kind of an introduction to magnetism,” Parent said. “I want them to feel the magnetic field.”

The spinning ropes in Thursday’s projects were actually long orange electrical cords, like ones commonly found in garages. The ends of the cords circled back and were hooked by alligator clips and wires to a black box, a galvanometer, which measures electrical current.

“I think science projects are pretty fun,” said Michael Rupert, 13. “We get to actually get out of class and do something.”

Students spun the electrical cords at different speeds and in different directions, while taking measurements from the galvanometer. Electrical activity varied by speed and direction.

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“I think it was a pretty cool lab,” said 14-year-old Tatum Boehnke. “And I’m glad we did it. I like hands-on activities.”

“I learned that the magnetic field is different depending on which direction you are,” she said. “I didn’t realize that before.”

The students are studying magnetism as part of their involvement with a NASA project that examines the interaction of solar storms and the Earth’s magnetosphere.

In 2006, NASA will launch five satellites into specific areas of the earth’s magnetic field. Information will be sent back to 10 magnetometers, which track the intensity and direction of magnetic fields. The magnetometers are located in the Northern Hemisphere, with one at Western Nevada Community College.

Carson Middle School participates in the project through a segment called Geomagnetic Event Observation Network by Students, or GEONS. Carson High School is also participating in GEONS.

Parent told his students that in 1989, a solar storm that was part of an 11-year cycle, caused a power outage in Canada. He said another storm series projected for 2000 did not have the same results, but he asked students to think about the effects.

“All the cell phones would die,” said 12-year-old Zeke Hayes.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.