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Roll a Soda Can Using Static Electricity

In & Outdoor Free
Electricity, Science Fair

Activity Overview

If your are looking for a quick and easy science experiment that will mesmerize young scientists without the mess, then try rolling a soda can using static electricity. This kind of experiment is a great way to occupy the kids in a positive way while you are making dinner or when the kids are a bit restless or they claim that they are bored. This mess free and supervision free experiment can be enjoyed by all ages of science enthusiasts. Note that an empty soda can has some sharp spots at the mouth of the can, so use caution when necessary around very young children.

When you rub the balloon against your hair or against the wool sweater, invisible electrons with a negative charge build up on the surface of the balloon. This is called static electricity. The electrons have the power to pull very light objects that are positively charged toward them. In this case the soda can is positively charged and the balloon holds the negative charge on its surface.

Materials Needed

  • An empty soda can
  • An inflated balloon
  • A wool sweater or a head of hair
  • A flat surface

How to Do It

  1. Inflate a balloon and tie off.
  2. Lay an empty soda can on its side on a flat surface.
  3. Rub the balloon vigorously against the top of your hair or against a piece of wool sweater-like fabric.
  4. Lastly, hold the balloon as close to the can as possible without actually touching the can. The can will start to roll towards the balloon without you even touching it. Guide the can around the flat surface in any direction that you please.
  5. If the static electricity wears off, repeat steps 3 and 4 again.

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