Non-Contact Force Challenge

Non-Contact Force Challenge


Grade 4 and Grade 8

Learning objective

Students will investigate and experiment with non-contacts forces and speed to challenge themselves to configure the slowest combination of pipes when a magnet is dropped through.


  • Non-contact force
  • Magnetism
  • Rate
  • Speed

Curriculum connections

Grade 4

  • Science learning outcome: Students investigate how forces can act on objects without contact
  • Skills and procedures: Describe how non-contact forces interact with objects
  • Conduct investigations regarding the push and pull of magnetism on objects

Grade 8

  • Math: Develop number sense
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ratio and rate
  • Solve problems that involve rates, ratios, and proportional reasoning


Complete this challenge after using the lab activity to introduce the materials and learning behind non-contact forces. Students will experiment with two non-contact forces: gravity and magnetism. Students will learn about gravity and magnetism as well as magnetic and non-magnetic influences.

How does this connect to electrician apprenticeship? Electricians must understand this principle for a few reasons. Electricians use a voltage testing device called a non-contact voltage testing pen. These pens operate based on the principles of mutual induction. An electrical wire that has current passing through it will create a magnetic field. When the voltage pen is brought into proximity to this magnetic field, a voltage is induced into the windings and a light or sound is produced.


20–30 minutes


  • 1 magnet
  • 3 solid aluminum pipes
  • 2 copper pipes
  • 1 PEX pipe
  • 1 steel pipe
  • Cloth for catching magnet
  • 1 roll of electrical tape



Lay the materials out on a table or desk to ensure all materials are accounted for. Run the task prior to instruction.


  1. Group students into pairs or groups of three. Have as many materials as possible to equally distribute between the groups. Students will need a bit of space to conduct this challenge.
  2. The goal of the challenge is to see which group can produce the slowest time for the magnet to fall through the given pipe combination. All groups will use more than one set of pipes to create their combination.
  3. Length and thickness of material are the variables students can experiment with. Will a long pipe combination be slower than a thick combination?
  4. Students can use the electrical tape to fasten pipes together. To cut the tape, electricians just pull it until it snaps, but students can also use scissors.
  5. To test a combination of pipe, one student will drop the magnet and say drop, one student will start the timer, and the other student will catch the magnet. The timer can be either the dropper or the catcher if students are working in pairs. Make sure the pipes are perpendicular to the ground. Remind students to not let the magnet hit the ground.
  6. Students can write down each magnet fall time they get while testing. Once a time is obtained that the group is happy with, they will conduct the final test in front of the class to showcase their slowest time.
  7. Each group will perform their test one by one, showing the class their pipe combinations and performing their magnet drop time.

Assessment suggestions

Assignment suggestion – grade 4

Drawing and describing: Have Grade 4 students draw a picture of their group’s pipe combination setup and write a short description of their findings. In their description, students should explain which combination they used, what they observed during the experiment, and their thoughts on why their chosen combination resulted in a slower magnet fall time.

Assignment suggestion – grade 8

Data analysis and comparison: Provide Grade 8 students with a table containing the recorded data of each group’s magnet fall times for different pipe combinations. Ask them to analyze the data, calculate the average fall time for each group, and identify any patterns or trends they observe. Then, have students compare the results between different groups and explain any differences or similarities in their findings. This assessment challenges their data analysis skills and their ability to draw conclusions from the experiment’s results.

Web resources

Accompanying Resources


Colton Garner, Mira Vanhala, Mark Iwaasa, Josh Hill, Warren Anderson

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