Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 1 – Static Electricity

By Brooke Drake, October 6, 2015, Events & Fun

Welcome to our new series – Fun with Less Kilowatts. Each week, we’ll provide a different fun and educational activity for kids to teach them about energy. Each exercise is easy, entertaining, fun, and educational. We hope this series helps gets kids interested in energy so they can learn the importance of energy and how to become energy efficient.

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 1 - Static Electricity

Static electricity – More than just a bad hair day.

First up in the series is static electricity. Explaining static electricity is a simple way to demonstrate energy. The first thing that probably comes to mind when kids think of static electricity is rubbing a blown up balloon on their head and watching their hair stick up.

What they probably don’t know is that static electricity can also be used to power a light bulb! Though it’s not a strong enough energy current to power the bulb completely and for minutes on end, it’s enough to get it started, which tends to peak their curiosity.

Let’s learn how to power a fluorescent bulb with just static electricity from a comb!

Materials:

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 1 - Static Electricity

Light Bulb + Comb = Science Made Simple!

You’ll need to a small fluorescent bulb and a comb. Luckily I had these laying around the house.

Setting:

It’s best to conduct this experiment in a dark room in order to see the flashes of light.

Directions:

1) Tell your child to brush his hair with the comb. After a couple of brushes he will notice that static electricity starts to build up in his hair just like if he were to rub his hair with a blown up balloon. This static electricity then actually transfers to the comb.

2) Once static electricity is visible, meaning hair is starting to stick up, immediately touch the comb to the bottom of the light bulb, and you’ll begin to see dim flashes of light.

 

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 1 - Static Electricity

Yes, really – once you’ve charged the comb with static energy, place the light bulb on it.

The Science:

Static electricity is caused by rubbing two things together. With this experiment, static electricity was created by rubbing the comb in his hair. This makes the two objects act like the opposite sides of two magnets, and makes them stick to each other. Then once there was enough of an electric charge built up from combing his hair, the electric charge was able to light (shock) the fluorescent bulb.

To discuss further, ask your child if he can think of any other ways static electricity can be made. Some ideas are: going down a slide and his hair stands straight up or rubbing his socks on the carpet then touching something metal resulting in getting “shocked.”

Interesting fact:

Static electricity is also the cause of lightning. Lightning is produced by the friction between the rain clouds rubbing against the surrounding air. Once the charge is great enough, then boom – lightning!

Stay tuned for future installments of Fun with Less Kilowatts!

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