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Static Electricity Relay

In this activity, students use static charge to stick a balloon to themselves as they race around an obstacle course.

When a balloon is rubbed against some materials, it readily captures electrons from the material. The negatively charged balloon will "stick" to a neutral object (see the explanation in "Imaginary Shelf"). Eventually, the electrons will disperse and the balloon will fall off.

Objectives

  • Describe the movement of electrons from one material to another.

  • Determine the resulting charge of two materials rubbing together.

Materials

  • Per Student:
    2 balloons (plus extras in case some pop!)

  • Per Class:
    a balloon pump (optional)
    obstacle course supplies: hula hoops, cones, desks, chairs, etc. (enough to make two identical courses if racing)

Key Questions

  • Where did you stick the balloon?
  • Why Did you stick the balloon to you in the location you chose?
  • Where did the winning team stick their balloon?
  • Why did the balloons fall off?
  • Why do you think some balloons fell off faster or slower than others?

What To Do

Set up

  1. Prepare two identical obstacle courses.

Game

  1. Divide the class into 2 teams.
  2. The first person in each team must use static charge to stick a balloon to his or herself.
  3. They must then run the course with the balloon stuck to them. If the balloon falls off, they must return to the place where it fell off and re-stick it.
  4. Once they have completed the course, the student passes the balloon to the next team member who sticks it to herself and runs the course.
  5. The first team to have all their members complete the course with the balloon wins.

Extensions

  • Do some kinds of clothing “stick” to balloons better than others?
  • Do some shapes of balloons work better for this game than others? Why or Why not?