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Static Electricity Science Project For Kids: Use a Balloon to Light a Light Bulb

Updated on March 31, 2009

In this fun and easy science project, kids learn to use a balloon to light a light bulb. Kids can learn to love science if they are given the opportunity to learn about it within the context of the word aroud them. Whether home on a break or just bored on the weekend, there are plenty of easy-to-do science projects kids can do at home. Fun science experiments can spur an interest in children who may or may not already be excited about science. This project demonstrates the properties of static electricity.

Be Safe! This Project Needs a Grown Up!
It’s important to have adult supervision with the experiment because of the electricity as well as the glass in the light bulb. Do not use electricity from the wall. Be careful with the light bulb so it doesn’t break. If adults would like to do this project with very small children, the light bulbs can be wrapped in transparent tape, which will minimize the chance of injury if the light bulb breaks.

What You Need:

  • hard rubber comb or balloon
  • a dark room
  • fluorescent light bulb (not an incandescent bulb)

Step 1: Take the light bulb and comb or balloon into the dark room.

Step 2: Charge the comb with electricity by running it through dry hair several times. If you’re using a balloon, rub it against your hair. If you don’t want to use hair, you can rub the comb on a wool sweater instead.

Step 3: Touch the charged part of the comb or balloon to the light bulb. You should notice small sparks. Try touching different parts of the bulb with the comb and observe the results.

Why Does This Happen?
When you comb your hair or rub the comb (or balloon) against the wool sweater, electrons move from your hair or the sweater to the comb. The comb then has a negative static charge. When the charged comb touches the light bulb, electrons move from the comb to the bulb. This causes the small sparks. When the light bulb is in a lamp, for example, that is plugged into the wall, many electrons fill the bulb to light it bulb. These come from the electrical power lines through the wire, into the light fixture, and into the light bulb.

Tips for Success:
This project works best when you use the part of the charged object (comb or balloon) that has the biggest charge. This will be the part that was rubbed against the hair or sweater.

The light bulb project works best on dry days.

Fingerprint Project - Learning about fingerprints and taking them is a fun experiment that also gives instant results. This project appeals to a wide variety of ages too. For little kids, you can emphasize playing with the ink, and for older kids you can put a ‘Junior CSI' spin on the experiment.

Swinging Cereal Static Electricity Project – Use ordinary cereal and a comb to demonstrate the properties of static electricity.

Use Static Electricity to Bend Water - This project demonstrates the power of static electricity by manipulating the shape of water with a static charged comb.

Image Credit: Im Not Quite Jack, Flickr

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  • Kris Heeter profile image

    Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

    Thanks for sharing this - it's these kinds of at home or at school science projects that really get kids interested in science. That's how I ended up pursuing science as a career - doing lots of cool thing like this as a kid!

  • iverhunt04 profile image

    iverhunt04 6 years ago from USA

    Wow, I am going to have to try this one out! I have a son who LOVES science. Thanks for this fun and educational idea. Any other tricks up your sleeve? Take care!

  • profile image

    becca 6 years ago

    this is cool although i tried this experiment and nothing happened but i later found out i needed a special kind of lightbulb i forgot what kind but you need one to conduct this experiment

  • profile image

    Spelling Games 7 years ago

    Interesting hub, I didn't know this electricity is enough to actually light a lightbulb. Thanks!

  • profile image

    yessenia 7 years ago

    awspme great cool fantastic suprising