Feel the Force

Summer Camp has begun at LGS, and this week 4-8 students are experimenting with magnets and static electricity. With each, force can be applied to an object from a distance (as opposed to physically touching an object and applying force).

Students first tested magnets on various objects: plastic, wood, glass, paper, metal, etc. Magnets attract some metal objects but not all; magnets attract objects made of iron and steel, for example, but not aluminum, copper, or brass.

All magnets have two sides, a north and a south pole—just like the earth! When you try to put two magnets together, opposite poles attract and come together, while similar poles repel each other.

Whether you are experimenting with multiple magnets or magnets with objects made of iron, steel, and other magnetic metals, note how magnets can apply force to another object without even touching it.

Another way to attract and repel without magnets is through static electricity.

All matter is made up of a balance of positive and negative charged particles: protons and neutrons, respectively. Friction between two objects can cause negatively charged neutrons to move from one object to another, creating an imbalance; one object has an overabundance of positive particles, and the other of negative particles.

To further understand the force of static electricity, students executed and/or observed various experiments using balloons and other materials. Rub an inflated balloon on a piece of wool or even the hair on your head, and then see how it can attract scraps of paper, rolled oats, or even a trickle of water. For an example of how static electricity can cause an object to be repelled, watch this static flyer experiment using an inflated balloon and a strip from a plastic produce bag rubbed with a towel to create friction.

Next, try other objects around the house – foam plates, aluminum cans, pieces of plastic pipe, etc. What materials hold a charge and which materials do not? When held close to other objects, do they attract or repel them? For more ideas watch Six Activities with Static Electricity.

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