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Home / Science projects / Energy Science Projects
  • Energy Science Projects

    Energy Science Projects

    Super-charged Balloon

    Make a balloon stick to the ceiling and make your hair stick up on its ends as you learn about electrical charges.

    What You Need:

    • Large balloon
    • Wool scarf or sweater

    What You Do:

    1. Blow up the balloon and tie the end, so no air can escape. Rub the balloon several times with the wool.
    2. Bring the balloon close to your bare arm to watch the small hairs stand on end. You can also bring the balloon close to a friend's head and watch his or her hair stick out in all directions!
    3. Bring the balloon towards your arm once more, this time letting it touch your skin. After it has touched your arm, will the balloon still raise your hair?
    4. Rub the balloon with the wool again, then hold it next to a wall, moving it gently back and forth for a few seconds before letting go. With an adult's help, you can also try sticking the balloon to the ceiling.

    What Happened:

    Have you ever gone down a slide at the playground, and felt your hair sticking up? The slide and your hair rub against each other and create static electricity, which can stick to any surface, unlike other types of electricity that only flow through wires. When you rub the balloon and wool object together, it gives the balloon an electric charge, meaning it is full of static electricity. This charge makes the balloon move towards the wall and stick there even after you move your hand. It also pulls the hair on your arm towards the balloon, even though your arm is not touching it. When the balloon does touch your arm, it loses its electric charge. The static electricity is transferred to your arm and then to the floor, where it spreads out until it has disappeared. Now if you move the balloon up to your hair, it won't stand up, since there is no longer any static electricity in the balloon. Rubbing the balloon again with the wool will create more static electricity and you can do it all over again.

    Bend in the Stream

    Bend a stream of water using a comb to see how static electricity can pull or push things!

    What You Need:

    • Kitchen or bathroom sink
    • Hard rubber or plastic comb
    • Wool scarf or sweater

    What You Do:

    1. Turn the faucet on so a small, steady stream is flowing. The stream should be no thicker than your pinky finger.
    2. Rub the comb over the wool sweater or through clean, dry hair several times.
    3. Hold the teeth of the comb close to the stream of water, but don't put the comb into the water.

    What Happened:

    Did you see the stream of water bend towards the comb? The water was pulled towards the comb through static electricity. Rubbing the comb and sweater together created static electricity, which gave the comb an electrical charge. The electrical charge is what drew the water towards the comb. Water is neutral, meaning it cannot have an electrical charge, but it can be pushed away (repelled by) or pulled towards (attracted to) something with an electric force, like the comb that was full of static electricity.

    Solar Hot Air Balloon

    Use a trash bag to make a hot air balloon that gets its power from the sun! You will need to do this experiment on a warm, sunny day without wind.

    What You Need:

    • 1 black trash bag
    • Twist tie
    • String or yarn (about 8 feet long)
    • Hairdryer (optional)

    What You Do:

    1. Take the twist tie, string, and trash bag outside to a cool, shady spot. Open up the trash bag and swing it around, filling it with cool air.
    2. When the trash bag is full of air, close it up tightly using a twist tie.
    3. Tie the piece of yarn or string around the bag near the twist tie, then take it out into the sun. Tie the other end of the string to a picnic table or chair in a sunny spot, away from trees. Watch to see if anything happens in the next few minutes. Come back later (it may take an hour or more) to see the results of your experiment. If you don't have time to wait, use the hairdryer to warm the air inside the trash bag, then quickly bring it outside and hold onto the string. Watch what happens.

    What Happened:

    You should have eventually seen the trash bag slowly start to float up in the air. The sun not only gives light, it also gives heat. The color black absorbs a lot of heat, so the air inside of the black trash bag was warmer than the air outside it. As air heats up, it expands (spreads out), becoming lighter. Since warm air is lighter, it always rises above cool air. The black trash bag started to rise up as the air inside it got warmer. If you used a hairdryer to heat the air inside the bag, the same thing happened, you just used electrical power to heat the air instead of solar (sun) power! The fact that hot air rises is part of the reason why the lower level (or the basement) of a house feels cooler than the upstairs levels.

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