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How to Make Your Own Electroscope!

An electroscope is a simple device that you can use to do static electricity experiments. They are easy to make. Would you like to know how to build your own? We'll show you how!

Announcer: Frostbite Theater presents... Cold Cuts! No baloney!

Joanna and Steve: Just science!

Joanna: Hi! I'm Joanna!

Steve: And I'm Steve!

Joanna: An electroscope is a simple device that you can use to do static electricity experiments. Today, Steve and I are going to show you how to make one!

Steve: The electroscope is fairly simple. Ours is just made from a binder clip and two sheets of plastic. The plastic we use is overhead transparency film. So you need one sheet of this film...

Joanna: ...a binder clip and a pair of scissors.

Steve: All you do is you take the scissors and you cut the sheet into strips. Ours are roughly four centimeters across and about twenty centimeters long.

Once you have the strips, shove them in the binder clip.

And then to charge them up, you just swipe your fingers down them.

And you'll notice, it doesn't work!

That's because these sheets are designed to go through a printer and they don't want the sheets sticking together, so they coat them with an anti-static coating.

We need to get rid of the anti-static coating. Having an anti-static coating on the devices you are trying to use to do static electricity experiments, not a good thing. Happily, easy to get rid of. All we need to do is wash it off with soap and water.

So... to the kitchen!

Joanna: To the kitchen!

Steve: Mr. Dave! Still have the fire extinguisher, I see.

They're three general rules to keep in mind when you're doing static electricity experiments.

Rule number one, keep things clean. That includes your hands and the device. If you've just eaten a big ol' bowl of potato chips, and your hands are all greasy, it's not going to work out too well.

Rule number two, keep things dry. That includes the air. Where Jefferson Lab is, in the summertime, it's too humid to do static electricity experiments, so we're filming this in the middle of winter.

Rule number three, don't have anti-static coatings on your devices. And we're taking care of that now by washing it off. So once everything is clean, and everything is dry...

Joanna: Including your hands.

Steve: You can put them back together. And now, it works!

Joanna: Thanks for watching! I hope you'll join us again soon another experiment!

Steve: Candy!

Joanna: Oooh... Skittles!

Steve: And Oreos, too!

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For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.