Nikola Tesla, the Father of Electricity, was known for his pursuit of understanding electricity.  As a tribute, Nationwide Electric presents a few kid-friendly experiments to do this father’s day. Enjoy!

Electric Cornstarch:

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Materials Needed:

  • Cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil
  • Mixing bowl
  • Large spoon
  • Balloon
  • Measuring cup

How to:

  1. Pour 1/4 cup of cornstarch into a mixing bowl
  2. Add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil into the mixing bowl. Stir the mixture until it thickens
  3. Blow up a balloon and tie it off
  4. Statically charge the balloon using your hair, shirt, or rug
  5. Place the charged balloon close to the spoonful of the cornstarch mixture. Once you witness the cornstarch jump towards the balloon, slowly move the balloon away.

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The Electric Pickle:

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Materials Needed:

  • Pickle
  • AC power cord
  • Thick copper wire

What to do:

  1. Cut and strip the power cord.  Wrap together the neutral and ground wires.  Cut the live wire about 6 inches shorter than the neutral/ground.  This will reduce accidental shorts.
  2. Cut 2 pieces of thick copper wire, about 3 inches long 
  3. Stick the wires in the pickle
  4. Connect the AC power cord to the copper wires
  5. Plug the power cord into an electrical outlet
  6. Wait for the pickle to glow.  (10 or so seconds)
  7. Unplug everything. Be safe!

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Ice Tray Battery:

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Materials Needed:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • 5, 5” (13 cm) lengths of copper wire
  • 5 zinc-coated (galvanized) nails, medium sized
  • Plastic ice tray
  • 1 LED light, any color
  • Adult supervision

What to do:

  1. Tightly wrap a piece of copper wire five times around a galvanized nail just under the head of the nail. Leave a tail of wire extending straight out from the nail about 3” (8 cm).
  2. Repeat Step 1 with the remaining four nails and four pieces of copper wire.
  3. Fill six wells of an ice tray with distilled white vinegar.
  4. You’ll create a circuit by placing each nail into one well of vinegar and making sure the copper wire is bent so that it goes into the vinegar in the next well. The wire is an electron bridge from one well into the next. *Make sure the wire from one nail does not touch the nail or wire in any other well. There should be only vinegar between the metals in each well.*
  5. Place one “leg” of the LED into the well with only a copper wire inside it and place the other “leg” into the well with only a nail in it. If the bulb lights up, you nailed it! If the bulb doesn’t light up, just lift the bulb out of the well, rotate it a half-turn to move the legs to the opposite well, and lower it back into the vinegar. It lights up!

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Build a Light Bulb:

Level of Difficulty: Hard

Materials Needed:

  • Eight D-sized batteries
  • Mason jar or other clear glass
  • Electrical tape
  • Pie pan
  • Scissors
  • Toilet paper tube
  • .5 mm mechanical pencil refill
  • Two sets of small alligator clips

What to do:

  1. Using electrical tape, fix eight D-sized batteries together, end-to-end, with the positive ends connected to the negative ends.
  2. Use scissors to cut a toilet paper tube to a height that will fit comfortably inside of a mason jar or other clear glass
  3. Tape one positive and one negative alligator clip to one end of the toilet paper tube. Make sure the clip is facing up, away from the rest of the toilet paper tube.
  4. Tape the tube with the clips attached to a pie pan (or other heat resistant surface) so that it stands upright, with the clips facing up.
  5. Carefully clip a mechanical pencil refill between the two alligator clips. The pencil refill needs to be in one piece, so be gentle.
  6. Place a mason jar or clear glass over the top of the toilet paper tube stand.
  7. Touch the other positive and negative ends of the alligator clips to the ends of your super battery.
  8. Give the circuit a moment to circulate the electricity and… voila!

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