Electrostatic Toothpick

Electrostatic Toothpick

How strong is static electricity? Can it move through a cup? Can we actually see it working? We were going to find out!

Ages:
5 - 9
Est. Time:
<30 mins

How we did it:

Materials List

  1. toothpicks
  2. plastic cup / disposable cup
  3. nickel
  4. balloons
  5. freshly washed hair
  1. We love playing with static electricity! This one is fun because it works at somewhat long range.

  2. First we measured our toothpick, and marked the middle point as best we could.

  3. Next, we needed to get a nickle upright.

    Hmmm.... let's see if we can find a flat spot on our table! Roll, chase, giggle.... roll,chase, giggle.... Eventually we were successful, and decided that this table would be a fine one for our investigation.

  4. When our nickel was balanced, we took the toothpick, and laid it crosswise over the top of our coin.

  5. Then we oh-so-carefully put our see-through cup over our coin and toothpick.

  6. Then Maddie picked up the balloon, and rub-da-rub-rubbed it across the back of her freshly washed hair. This negatively charged the balloon....

  7. and we brought our statically charged balloon closer to our cup..... The toothpick moved! The positively centered toothpick is attracted to the negatively charged balloon, which makes the toothpick rotate and swing atop the coin! Maddie played around with charging up her balloon and trying to move the toothpick from different distances.

  8. ...until the toothpick fell down, at which point we started over. Then we started investigating other ways to keep the toothpick balanced and make it move..... Where will your scientific investigations lead you?