Driving Question

How does something invisible cause something else to move?


In this three week storyline unit, students investigate a maglev train and the electromagnetic forces that cause a maglev train to levitate and provide the source of propulsion for the train. The students use models and micro:bit sensors to investigate magnetic fields created by simple magnets, electrical circuits, and elecgtromagnets to gather evidence to explain how a maglev train functions. Students utilize computational thinking and the engineering design process to apply the concepts to the design an efficient, fully functional scale model maglev train.

What Students Figure Out

By the end of the unit, students develop ideas about forces at a distance (e.g.. magnetism and electromagnetism) and related ideas about energy including:

  • Magnetic and electromagnetic forces can attract or repel things.
  • ​If objects are farther apart it takes more force to attract or repel.
  • The strength of the attraction or repulsion depends on how the strength of the positive or negative charges.
  • Electric and magnetic forces act at distance through force fields that extend through space.
  • When an object or a system of objects are magnetic a field is created that contains and stores energy.
  • Information about these fields (e.g.. strength, shape) can be discovered by examining how it interacts with a test object.
  • Moving the magnetic objects in the defined system closer to each other increases the amount of energy stored in the existing field(s).
  • Moving the magnetic objects farther away from each other decreases the amount of energy stored in the existing field(s).
  • Changing the orientation of magnetic objects in the defined system in relation to each other changes the shape of the field and the amount of energy stored in the field(s).
  • Pushing two magnets that are repelling each other closer together increases the potential energy of the system.
  • If the magnets are released potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy and causes the magnets to spring apart.

Targeted NGSS Performance Expectations

  • MS-PS2-3: Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.
  • MS-PS2-5: Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.

Maglev Storyline Summary
Curriculum Driving Question: How can something invisible cause something to move? Unit Driving Questions: How do things float? How do magnets work? How does the Maglev train float?

A graphic image of the Maglev Storyline Summary is available: contact schoolwidelabes@colorado.edu