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!

  1. Ages: 5 - 11

  2. <30 minutes

  3. A little messy

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    We love playing with static electricity! This one is fun because it works at somewhat long range.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

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

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    Next, we needed to get a nickel 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.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

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

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

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

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Step 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....

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

  • Step 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.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 7

  • Done!

    ...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?

    Photo reference of how to complete step 8

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