Introduction: Magnetic Levitating Pencil

Magnetic levitation or MAGLEV is a method by which an object is suspended in air with the support of magnetic field.The two primary issues involved in magnetic levitation are lifting forces: providing an upward force sufficient to counteract gravity, and stability: ensuring that the system does not spontaneously slide or flip into a configuration where the lift is neutralized.

Grade level: 4 -6

Time: 40 minutes

Objective: In this science project you'll discover how to place magnets so they either attract or repel one another and then use that information to levitate a pencil.

Basic Information:

1. Magnets have two poles - North pole and South pole

2. When two magnets are placed together, LIKE poles repel and UNLIKE poles attract.

3. An invisible magnet field surrounds a magnet.

4. The north pole of a magnet points closely towards the Earth's north pole and the South pole points towards the Earth's south pole, this is because the Earth itself has enough magnetic materials in it to be considered one enormous magnet.

5. You can turn an unmagnetized piece of iron into a magnet by simply running a magnetised object over a few times, this process is called magnetization.

Lesson procedure:

Ask the students the following questions:

1. What is force?

---> A force is a push or pull.

2. What are some different types of forces?

---> Gravity, Air resistance, friction, magnetism etc.

Show the image of levitating pencil and ask:

3. How is it possible that this pencil is floating?

---> Students may respond: magic, string, illusion , magnetism

4.What do you think what are the forces involved to create this levitation?

---> Gravity, Friction, attractive and repulsive forces of magnets

5. Do you think you will be able to levitate the pencil?


Divide the students in 2 or 3 person per group and give the following materials to position the magnets in such a way that it levitates the pencil.


Materials needed:

1. Styrofoam sheet

2. Pencil (1)

3. Ring magnets (10)

4. Double sided tape

5. Popsicle stick (half)

IMPORTANT: Ring magnets are easily available in stationary stores and amazon. Approx dimension of ring magnet: 0.7 inch outer diameter, 0.3 inch inner diameter and 0.12 inch thickness

Step 1: Making the Base

  1. Take a styrofoam rectangular sheet slightly bigger than the size of pencil.
  2. Draw the layout as shown in the image
  3. Mark equidistant points from both the ends.
  4. Take a small piece of styrofoam and apply a double sided tape on any two sides of the piece.
  5. Stick the piece on the base sheet at the marked point.
  6. Again take another piece of styrofoam and apply double sided tape on two sides.
  7. Stick the piece on the base as shown in the image.

Step 2: Fix Magnets

Total ring magnets required: 10

NOMINAL DIMENSION OF FERRITE RING MAGNET: 0.689 inch outer diameter, 0.296 inch inner diameter and 0.118 inch thickness.

IMPORTANT: The inner diameter should be such that it fits the pencil or pen.

  1. Take two ring magnets (attached together due to attractive force) and place on front part of the base sheet.
  2. Take another pair of ring magnet and place in the neighbourhood such that it repels the first pair of magnets.
  3. Repeat the process for the back magnets.
  4. Place half of the popsicle at the marked layout as shown in the image.

Step 3: Levitating the Pencil

  1. Take one of ring magnet and insert at the bottom of pencil such that it should repel the back magnets on the base. The magnet should be in phase with the base magnets.
  2. Take other ring magnet and insert on the top of pencil such that it should attract the front magnets on the base. The magnet should be slightly back from the base magnets.
  3. Balance the pencil and try to rotate it freely. It will spin for a long time.

Step 4: Science Behind Levitating Pencil

In the configuration used in my project

Lifting force is provided due to repulsion between back magnets

Stability is due to attraction between front magnets and frictional force at the tip of the pencil.

Hence, the following forces are involved in levitation

1. Gravitational force of the pencil and magnets

2. Frictional force at the tip of pencil

3. Attractive force of magnets on the front part of pencil

4. Repulsive force between the back magnets.

Step 5:

Classroom Science Contest

Second Prize in the
Classroom Science Contest