Monday, January 27, 2014

Experiment Fail Into Experiment Success

What do you do when your science experiment doesn't work?  Typically, I try to test out our experiments prior to calling the boys over to the counter.  I like to know something is going to work.  Sadly, I did not heed my own advice when working on this week's science project.  Oops.

What We Tried to Do

We were attempting to make a wet cell battery.  I'm sure for someone somewhere, this experiment has worked.  However, despite our SEVERAL attempts, each time changing something to hopefully produce results, we did not get it to work.  

Essentially, you soak strips of paper towels in lemon juice and layer copper coins (pennies) and non-copper coins (not pennies) in between them.  For example, it would be penny, lemon-soaked paper towel, dime, lemon-soaked paper towel, penny, lemon-soaked paper towel, and so forth.  You end up with a stack of ten coins, layered with the soaked squares.  Then, you wet your fingers with the juice, pick up the stack between your index fingers and it's supposed to give you a little zap!  

We tried strips of paper towels that were 1" by 2" (per the instructions), lemon juice, five pennies, and five nickels.  Nothing.

I did some research on the internet and tried smaller squares (one site said the paper towel pieces shouldn't touch) and replaced the lemon juice with vinegar.  Nothing.

I tried even smaller squares and back to the lemon juice.  Nope.

It was a dud.  I have about a dozen photos of everything we tried but since it didn't work, I didn't think there was any point in sharing them.  

What We Did Instead

I had to think of something cool to bring them back to the science side.   They were doubtful at this point.  Lost interest, wandering away from our "lab."  I had to pull them back in, make them excited about cool science stuff again.  I pulled out my phone and googled away.  I found it.

Lighting a light bulb with just two things, a comb and some hair.  

I gathered our supplies:
A comb and a light bulb on our handy science tray.

My incredibly goofy son and his crazy hair!

We gathered around in the dark bathroom and set to work.  You are to run a comb through your hair 30 times to build up enough static electricity.  Then, in the dark, you touch the comb to the bottom of the light bulb.  It doesn't light up the room, but you can see the light flicker.  In a dark room with less than a second to take the picture, there was no way I could capture the flicker.

So began our discussion of electrical and power energy.  I'm really ready to move on from electricity, but I believe we have one more experiment to go.  This time, however, we're busting out our Snap Circuits set and making all sorts of different things.  Plus, it's a box of no-fail fun!

This week, we have a lot of cool learning in store for the boys.  Unfortunately, I planned a big project for the middle of the week when I forgot I had a day long visit to the clinic.  We'll see if we can work around that.  The good news is, the babysitter is in college earning a degree in education.  Score! :)

Also, if you've made a wet cell battery before...what did I do wrong??

1 comment:

  1. Pennies became 97% zinc with a copper coating in 1982...maybe try using pennies from 1981 and earlier to see if it makes a difference. They were 95% copper. Just a guess!


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