Building a Miniature Maglev Train

Building a Miniature Maglev Train

For FedEx Day 2015, Elizabeth, Mark, Jeremy and I designed a self-propelled Maglev train. Maglev trains are currently in use in Shanghai, Japan, and South Korea, and are essentially trains suspended in the air using magnetic levitation. The trains travel along a guideway of magnets and can reach extremely high speeds due to the lack of friction.

We made a miniature Maglev train by creating ‘rails’ of magnets on a long wooden board and gluing magnets to the bottom of a tiny cardboard train car. The magnets on the rail and the car were placed so the north poles of the rail magnets were facing the north poles of the car magnets, creating an opposing force that kept the car afloat. Our final design is really exciting because we used Plexiglas to construct the walls, so the floating train is visible as it moves on the track. We've also had a lot of fun testing out different prototypes for custom 3D-printed train cars to replace the cardboard car.

We also experimented with creating a self-propelling system that would be able to sense the position of the car on the track and turn electromagnets on and off to either repel or attract the car. While we were able to program the Arduino and get our IR sensors to sense the position of the train through the track walls, we were unable to make a strong enough magnetic field with the materials we had on hand. In the future, we might try and experiment with using fans as a more reliable method of propelling the train.

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