Thursday, June 4, 2009

30 Second Science - Experiments With Static Electricity

If your looking for a way to squeeze a little science into to a busy day, or add some zing to a dull day, try a few of these simple experiments with static electricity. They don't require a lot in the way of time or materials, but they offer up a pretty good "wow" factor.

Start by making the cereal dance at breakfast. This can be done a couple of different ways. The simplest, is to toss few Rice Krispies onto the table, and then pass a statically charged balloon over them (charge the balloon by rubbing it in one of the kid's hair).

The slightly more complicated version goes like this:
  • Lay two boxes of cereal down flat on the table, leaving two or three inches between them.

  • Pour a thin layer of Rice Krispies into the gap between the boxes.

  • Place a piece of Plexiglas (like from an inexpensive picture frame) on top of the boxes, over the cereal.

  • Rub the top of the Plexiglas with a piece of wool. We used one of the felt balls the kids made earlier this week.

  • Move one of the cereal boxes aside, so that one side of the Plexiglas falls to the table, and watch the cereal dance!

This experiment deals with opposite charges attracting each other. If you want to demonstrate like charges repelling each other, try rubbing the wool on a piece of plastic grocery bag. Then, set it on top of the Plexiglas (you might want to give it another good rub with the wool). The piece of plastic will try to jump off of the Plexiglas.

Don't worry if you don't have any Plexiglas, there are a number of fun experiments that can be done with a balloon (if you don't keep a bag of balloons hidden around somewhere, you need to. They are great boredom busters, and cost very little - just keep them out of reach of little ones who might choke on them).

  • Bend water by rubbing a balloon on your child's head, and then holding it next to a running faucet.

  • Move an empty pop can across the counter by moving a charged balloon along in front of it.

  • Light a fluorescent light bulb, or tube with a charged balloon. Unscrew the bulb from your lamp first though, and be careful, these bulbs shatter when they break! But, they do light up when you touch them with a balloon that has been rubbed on someones head.

We tried the light trick with both a tube and a coily bulb (like what the power companies keep sending out free coupons for). The bulb was impressive, it kind of snapped and flickered when the balloon touched it. We had more fun with the tube, though. The light follows the balloon as it is moved back and forth, underneath the tube.

Check out for a really easy to understand explanation of the science behind these experiments.

It's great to be a homeschooler!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

neat expirement!