Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Have you ever amazed your kids by demonstrating how a balloon rubbed against a wall or a carpet can attract tissue paper or make their hair stand on its end? Take static electricity experiments a bit further and learn more about it with this hands-on science unit for middle school.
Static Electricity Hands-On Experiments for Upper Elementary and Middle School

How Does Static Electricity Work?

Have you been "zapped" by a jolt of electricity touching a car door or perhaps another person? Have you seen a bolt of lightning streaking the clouds during a thunderstorm? Strangely, both these events are manifestation of static electricity at work. This video has a great explanation of how static electricity works and even explains how to build a simple Leiden jar.

Make Your Own Electroscope

Electroscope is a device that is used to measure the presence of electric charge. Scientific American has a great article on how to build a simple electroscope.

Make Your Own Van de Graaf Generator

Now, this is not really a project for beginner electricians, but Smarty was lucky to build Van de Graaf generator last Sunday during Electrostatics seminar organized by our local organization for gifted kids Lyceum. The instructor was quite optimistic opening this seminar to students grades 4 and up - even older students found it quite challenging and required a lot of help. This version of static electricity generator used a small motor and some PVC pipes. A similar version is explained in this instructional video:
You can find more powerful electricity generators on YouTube, but I would not recommend them as a middle school project. Kids certainly had a lot of fun trying to shock each other with their generators, and not everyone enjoys electric shocks, even mild. I was kind of glad that Smarty's generator stopped working even before she delivered it home. My husband, an electrical engineer, offered to show her how to fix it, but so far she was not interested in it. Instead she went on rubbing balloons on the woolen blanket :)

Simpler Static Electricity Experiments?

  • Make those useless plastic "pillows" from Amazon stick to walls - Mama Smiles
  • Make cupids (or ghosts) fly - Science Kiddo
  • Make "lightning" - Learn Play Imagine

Your Turn

Hands-On Static Electricity Investigations for Middle School: a Leyden jar, an electroscope, a static electricity generator

More Electricity for Kids:

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Those are some great science experiments!

Ticia said...

Ha ha ha ha "useless plastic pillows," I don't know why that was so funny, but it amused me.