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Static Electricity Science Project For Kids: Swinging Cereal
Did you know ordinary cereal can be used to demonstrate the properties of static electricity in an engaging science project? Kids can learn to love science if they are given the opportunity to learn about it within the context of the word around 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.
What you need:
- hard rubber or plastic comb, or a balloon
- small pieces of O-shaped dry cereal, like Cheerios
- hair or wool sweater
Step 1: Cut the thread to be 12 inches long.
Step 2: Tie a piece of cereal to one end of the thread and tape the other end someplace that allows the string to swing freely. A table top works well. You don’t want the cereal to hit anything else as it swings.
Step 3: Wash the comb with warm soapy water to remove any oils. Dry well.
Step 4: Charge the comb with electricity by running it through dry hair several times. If you don’t want to use hair, you can rub the comb on a wool sweater instead.
Step 5: Moving slowly, move the comb near the cereal hanging on the string. As the comb gets closer, the cereal will swing to touch the comb. After a few moments, the charge will dissipate (go away) and the cereal will move away from the comb by itself.
Step 6: Try to touch the comb to the cereal again. It will move away as the comb approaches.
You can also use a balloon instead of a comb for this project.
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 swinging cereal project works best on dry days.
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. Because the cereal is neutral, it is attracted to the negative charge of the comb like a magnet. When they touch, electrons start moving from the comb to the cereal. Once both objects have the same negative charge, the cereal is no longer attracted to the comb.
Other Science Projects:
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.
Making Crystals - Making crystals is a fun project for kids that can be done for a science project or science fair, or just for fun. You will need to use the microwave for this project, so an adult may have to help a very young child.
Image Credit: Phu Son, Flickr
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