Science Project: Sparky Viewed: 2844
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Make cool sparks from your electrifying personality. To really see them do it in the dark.

What You Need

  • scissors

  • Styrofoam tray from your supermarket
    (ask at the meat or bakery counter
    for a clean, unused tray)

  • masking tape

  • aluminum pie tin

What To Do:

  1. Cut a piece off one corner of the Styrofoam tray long enough to be a handle. You'll have a long bent piece that looks a little like a hockey stick.

  2. Tape the bent piece to the center of the pie tin. Now you have a handle!

  3. Rub the bottom of the Styrofoam tray on your hair. Rub it all over, really fast.

  4. Put the tray upside down on a table or on the floor.

  5. Use the handle to pick up the pie tin. Hold it about a foot over the Styrofoam tray and drop it.

  6. Now--very slowly--touch the tip of your finger to the pie tin. Wow! What a spark! (Be careful. DON'T touch the Styrofoam tray. If you do, you won't get a spark.)

  7. Use the handle to pick up the pie tin again. Touch the tin with the tip of your finger. Wow! You get another great spark.

  8. Drop the pie tin onto the Styrofoam tray again. Touch the pie tin. Another spark! Use the handle to pick up the pie tin. More sparks!

You can do this over and over for a long time. If the pie tin stops giving you a spark, just rub the Styrofoam tray on your head again, and start over.

Try using your Super Sparker in the dark. Can you see the tiny lightning bolts you make? What color are they?

What Happened?

When you rub Styrofoam on your hair, you pull electrons off your hair and pile them up on the Styrofoam. When you put an aluminum pie tin on the Styrofoam, the electrons on the Styrofoam pull on the electrons. Some of the electrons in metals are free electrons --they can move around inside the metal. These free electrons try to move as far away from the Styrofoam as they can. When you touch the pie tin, those free electrons leap to your hand, making a spark.

After the electrons jump to your hand, the pie tin is short some electrons. When you lift the pie tin away from the Styrofoam plate, you've got a pie tin that attracts any and all nearby electrons. If you hold your finger close to the metal, electrons jump from your finger back to the pie tin, making another spark. When you put the pie tin back on the Styrofoam plate, you start the whole process over again.