Magnetic Session Today

I love working with teens as each one is unique and responds in his or her own way, causing me to become more creative in my approach. Tutoring high school kids can be challenging depending upon the subject. They can tune out in a second and never return. They are off in some kind of personal fantasyland most of the time.  It is a trick to capture their attention and keep it. I sometimes wonder what is on their minds. I don’t think it is school! Hence there need for me so I am not complaining. As a grad student, they keep me in text books and supplies. I just have to wrack my brain sometimes. Recently I had to explain electromagnetic fields and the student was not getting it at all. I thought that show and tell would work better than droning on and on. I borrowed a metal detector from a friend so that she would have a visual aid of how a magnetic field works in real life. It was pretty effective if I don’t say so myself.

The science of electromagnetism can be easily explained with this device. While there are various types of metal detectors, I kept it simple and talked about the basic design: a wire coil (the transmitter) wrapped around the head. A magnetic field is created when electricity flows through it. She heard me but still hand blank eyes, especially when I explained that the metal detection process alters the movement of the tiny electrons that move around the atoms inside the metal. I could visualize it, but I had to make a drawing. I said, “picture yourself hold the device over a metal object.” I went on to talk about electric currents. In short, the detector creates electrical activity (induction) in the metal at hand. This creates magnetism as well or a “magnetic field.” The detector picks it up due to the coil of wire (receiver) and a part called a loudspeaker, a circuit to which it is connected, is triggered. Eureka! Finding something is what it is all about. People often use these gadgets just for fun such as in a park or along the sand at the beach.

I find it fascinating how electricity flows through a magnetic field. I am sure my student wasn’t that taken with it. I had hoped to pique her interest and create some curiosity about physics. I made sounds like a loudspeaker click or beep to make my point since there wasn’t any metal in the tutoring room. She did laugh at that. I told her that the closer the detector is moved to the metal object, the louder the sound. I finally got through to her and we could move on to other topics she was having trouble with. It gladdens my heart when I can make a connection to a student like the process of electricity. I want to create a flash in her brain.