Demonstrating the Right Hand Rule in Magnetism




Introduction: Demonstrating the Right Hand Rule in Magnetism


I am a Physics teacher who works at the Schwartz/Reisman Science Education Center, and as part of my work here I teamed up with Dr. Shani Guttman (Physics teacher who also took the photos) and Hanoch Bar-Nitzan (Industrial Designer) to build a demonstration of the Right Hand Rule which helps determine the directions of the magnetic forces acting on a current-carrying wire in a magnetic field.

Oddly enough, we used magnets in order to explain a magnetic phenomenon.

The tools we used:

  • 3D printer
  • Hammer
  • File
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Scrap wood
  • Craft knife
  • Vinyl plotter (optional)


  • 3D printer PLA filament (red and green)
  • Four 20mm*20mm square profile tubes - 20 cm long 2mm thickness

  • Four 3.5*13/13 wood screws

  • Four Neodymium magnets 2 cm in diameter 2.7 mm thick

  • Flexible magnetic strip
  • Blue and White vinyl sheets

Step 1: Building the Frame

Quick note - for the prototype I cut up discarded IKEA furniture, but for future models I bought the metal pipes.

For the design, I consulted Hanoch Bar-Nitzan and he designed the L-connectors for the frames.

I 3D printed four copies of the STL file, but the supports were in the way so I filed them in order to have a snug fit.

I then hammer the L-connectors using the scrap wood as shown, so they wouldn't break.

(to be fair, I did break one or two)

I attached the L-connectors to opposing sides in order to avoid deforming the right angles during the build.

Step 2: Current Vectors

For representing the current vectors, I cut eight strips of flexible magnet tape and using a vinyl plotter cut arrows with the symbol I.

If you do not have access to vinyl cutter, you can just cut the magnetic strip with a craft knife and stick the vinyl sticker.

You will need eight arrows in order to visualize the current direction on both sides of the frame.

Step 3: Force Vectors

The last bit is fairly easy.

3D print four copies pf the STL file.

The arrows have a circular indent in which the neodymium magnets fit snug.

Then you screw the magnets in place, the STL file has a small hole for the wood screws to burrow in.

Step 4: Putting It All Together and Teaching

Now you have a cool science demonstration for your classroom!

How to use it:

Lets assume there is a uniform magnetic field rising upwards from the floor. If the frame is positioned perpendicular to the field, what is the direction of the forces acting on each side of the frame?

The students are asked to find in what orientation should the red force vectors be attached to each side of the frame - and of course they need to use the right hand rule.

The demonstration continues with the frame set parallel to the floor and also by changing the current direction (simply rotating the current vectors by 180 degrees).

This project was built in the Gelfand Fab Lab, located in the Schwartz/Reisman Center.

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    Josehf Murchison
    Josehf Murchison

    2 years ago

    I just do this.
    red arrows current blue arrows magnetic flow.

    Electromagnet 7.bmpElectromagnet 5.bmpElectromagnet 4.bmpElectromagnet 6.bmp

    Reply 2 years ago

    OK, I'll bite. What is 'the right hand rule?

    Josehf Murchison
    Josehf Murchison

    Reply 2 years ago

    I am still trying to figure out which right hand rule you are demonstrating with the model.
    The right hand rule is:
    First you use your right hand.
    Second your hand gesture thumb up index out (Gun Gesture) middle finger 90 degrees from index finger.
    Three-dimensional space, thumb = a x b, index = a, middle finger = b. (X,Y,Z,If you like)
    Right hand rule charged particle in a magnetic field, same hand gesture.
    thumb = Force, index = Velocity, middle finger = Magnetic Field.
    Right hand rule in a curve same as right hand rule in a conductor. Which I posted above.
    When a current, (Red Arrow) is applied to a conductor it creates a magnetic field around the conductor. (Blue Arrows) To predict the direction of the of the magnetic fields flow around the conductor, use the right hand rule. Place your hand on the conductor with your thumb pointing in the direction of the current and your fingers will point in the direction of the magnetic fields flow.
    Right hand rule in a coil I posted above.
    To predict which end is North or South pole in a coil, again you use the right hand rule. Only this time with your right hand on the coil, point your fingers in the direction of the current flow in the coiled conductor. (Red Arrows) With your right thumb pointing strait along the coil, it should point to the north end of the magnet.


    Reply 2 years ago

    From conversations I've had with several teachers, I came to realize that there are variations in the right-hand rule. This model can works by demonstrating the different orthogonal directions of the vectors.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Of course there are various versions to the right-hand-rule. I use the frame in order practice it in class.


    Question 2 years ago

    "Four 20 cm long 20mm*20mm square profile iron bars - 2mm thick"
    I think you mean "Four 20 cm long 20mm*20mm square profile iron tubes - 2mm thick wall"


    Answer 2 years ago

    Fixed! thanks!