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A coil of wire with electric current flowing through it. Current flowing through the coil produces a magnetic field.

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Let's Play Pinball

Let's Play Pinball


Credit: Richfife
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:High_Speed_Playfield.JPG
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Do you like to play pinball? You have to have quick reflexes to be a pinball champ. All those flippers, bumpers, and other moving devices shoot the ball around the table at very high speeds. How do they do it? Solenoids are the answer.

The Back Story

  • A solenoid is a very simple device, but it really packs a punch. It consists of a coil of wire that turns into a magnet when electric current runs through it.
  • Solenoids have been around for a long time and are found in an amazing variety of devices, from door latches to car starters.
  • Credit: Jessica Paterson
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/1094659864/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    An old device used to call servants that uses solenoids [Figure2]

  • How are solenoids used in pinball machines? Watch this short video to find out: 


Can You Apply It?

Learn more about solenoids at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. Solenoids make use of electromagnetism. What is electromagnetism?
  2. Explain how a solenoid works.
  3. How does a solenoid convert energy from one form to another?
  4. Identify the three types of solenoids. Which type is most common? Which type is used in pinball machines?
  5. Explain one way that solenoids are used in pinball machines.
  6. What are some other real-world applications of solenoids?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Richfife; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:High_Speed_Playfield.JPG; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Jessica Paterson; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/1094659864/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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