By: Sarah Trocolli
Father of electricity Nikola Tesla was known for being brilliant, quirky and driven in his pursuits to understand electricity, and after many experiments, Tesla eventually laid the ground work for the modern day Alternating Current electric supply system. As a tribute to Tesla and all the dads around the world, Mr. Electric® presents a few kid-friendly experiments exploring the basics of electricity for a fun Father’s Day activity. The kids can explore electrons, static electricity, voltaic batteries and other simple components of electricity – all under the safe supervision of their dads.
Charging a Light Bulb
Level of difficulty: Easy
What you need: A dark room, fluorescent light bulb and a comb or woolen scarf.
What to do: Run the comb through your hair or through the wool scarf at least 20 times to let the electrons build on the comb. Then turn out the lights and hold the comb to the bottom of your florescent light bulb and watch the electrons charge the bulb. This is great for learning about electrons, and it can be a fun magic trick! For further explanation, click here.
Level of difficulty: Easy
What you need: Cornstarch, vegetable oil, mixing bowl, large spoon, balloon, and a measuring cup.
What to do: Blow up the balloon, tie it and then rub it on your hair. Mix a fourth cup of cornstarch and a fourth cup of vegetable oil into a mixing bowl, and then put the mixture on a spoon. Hold the spoon with the mixture on it near the balloon and watch the mixture gravitate towards the balloon. This experiment looks like a gooey monster stretching to touch the balloon, and it is a fun way to learn about static electricity! For further explanation, click here.
Ice Tray Battery
Level of difficulty: Moderate
What you need: Distilled white vinegar, five pieces of copper wire, five galvanized nails, ice tray and one LED light
What to do: Wrap five nails with five pieces of copper wire and place them separately in the ice cube tray filled with vinegar. Create a circuit by placing the end of the copper wire not wrapped around the nail into the ice cube tray next to it until each section has one nail and one copper wire in it, and then place the LED light in the tray. You have just created a Voltaic battery! For further explanation, click here.
Build a Light Bulb
Level of difficulty: Challenging
What you need: Eight D-sized batteries, mason jar or other clear glass, electrical tape, pie pan, scissors, toilet paper tube, mechanical pencil refills and two sets of small alligator clips.
What to do: Connect the batteries positive to negative to create train of batteries. Place the toilet paper tube in the center of the pie pan and using electrical tape, attach the alligator clips and mechanical pencil refills to the tube. Place the mason jar/glass over the tube and connect the other end of the clips to the batteries. After the batteries have a few minutes to charge the circuit the mechanical refills will begin to glow and you will have a DIY light bulb. This is a great way to show that household items can be used in an innovative way. Exercise caution, as this experiment exerts heat and can cause the glass to become very warm. For further instruction, click here.
We hope these electrical experiments provide an enjoyable experience for dads and kids to spend quality time together while learning lots and having fun. Thank you to all the fathers who enlighten children and empower the thinkers of tomorrow. Happy Father’s Day from everyone at Mr. Electric!