Using the V5 Electromagnet with the V5 Workcell

The V5 Electromagnet is a manipulator included with the V5 Workcell, which will allow the arm of the Workcell to pick up, hold, and drop off items that are attracted to a magnetic field. These types of items are called ferromagnetic.


Note: a manipulator is a robot’s device or assembly which can move and manipulate objects.

Description of the V5 Electromagnet

The V5 Electromagnet has a permanent magnet within the manipulator to hold items. It also has an electromagnet to lift up items, or to drop items, depending on the electromagnet’s polarity.


The housing of the V5 Electromagnet has two mounting tabs with slotted holes to provide ease when mounting the manipulator to the arm of the V5 Workcell.


The V5 Electromagnet is added to the end of arm tooling as part of the Lab 7 build.


In order for the Electromagnet to be functional with the V5 Robot Brain, the V5 Electromagnet’s Smart Port and a V5 Brain’s Smart Port need to be connected with a V5 Smart Cable. The Electromagnet will work with any of the 21 Smart Ports on the V5 Brain. The V5 Workcell uses Smart Port 5 for the Electromagnet according to the Build Instructions for Lab 7. When connecting a V5 Smart Cable to the ports, ensure the cable’s connector is fully inserted into the port and the connector’s locking tab is fully engaged. The Electromagnet’s Smart Port will be illuminated red when connected to a powered V5 Brain.

How the V5 Electromagnet Works

The V5 Electromagnet functions by having an electrical current flow through a coil of wire called a solenoid. When an electrical current is flowing through the solenoid a magnetic field will be produced. If the direction of the electric current is changed then the polarity of the magnetic field will also switch. This will allow the V5 Electromagnet to:

  • Pick up light objects that are attracted to a magnetic field. These objects will be picked up when the electromagnet is turned on and added to its permanent magnet. The V5 Workcell’s colored Disks have a metal core that is attracted to the magnetic field.
  • Hold the object using the magnetic field of the permanent magnet.
    • Note: Additional holding power can be added by leaving the electromagnet on for a short period of time (up to 1 second).
  • Drop the object when the electromagnetic field and the magnetic field of the permanent magnet are balanced.

Whenever electricity is flowing through an electrical solenoid heat is produced. Thermal management has been used in designing the V5 Electromagnet to avoid overheating. For example, if the electromagnet has been energized for one second, it will not accept another energize command until it has been de-energized for at least 1 second.


The Electromagnet needs to be paired with the VEXcode V5 programming language to create a user program for the V5 Brain to control the manipulator.

For more on this, refer to the Play section of Lab 7.

Viewing the V5 Electromagnet’s Dashboard

It is helpful to use the Device Info screen on the V5 Brain to view the V5 Electromagnet’s Dashboard.

Note: ensure the V5 Brain has the latest version of firmware before viewing the Dashboard.


To view the Dashboard, remove the V5 Brain Magnetic Screen Protector, turn on the Brain, and select ‘Devices.’


Select the Electromagnet icon on the Device Info screen.


The display will show the percent power, the current being used by the electromagnet, and the temperature of the electromagnet.


Selecting the screen in the ‘Drop’ area will have the electromagnet drop any item the magnet is holding.

If the magnet is overheated the electromagnet icon will change to the color red.

For more information, help, and tips, check out the many resources at VEX Professional Development Plus

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