Irving—The West Irving Library hosted a presentation by the Fort Worth Science and History Museum in honor of Static Electricity Day on Saturday, Jan. 8.
The event, which was open to children in grades Pre-K to 8th grade, included a lesson about atoms and how protons, neutrons and electrons were affected by each other, along with a demonstration of a Van de Graaff generator that provided some hair-raising fun.
The presenter was Trudy Wells with the Museum’s Discovery on Wheels program.
“With this program, we can travel out to libraries, schools and learning centers and do presentations all over,” Wells said. “Today, we are working with a Van de Graaff generator, which produces static electricity. The kids will see the real effects of the movement of particles from the generator through their bodies and out of the hair, which should raise up and get all wonky.”
The Van de Graaff generator, named after its inventor, American physicist Robert Van de Graaff, consists of a hollow metal sphere on top of a hollow column,containing materials that build up static charges. Wells’ generator used a moving belt made of silk.
As the children and their parents filed into the room, Wells was discharging static from the Van de Graaff generator with a hollow metal ball on a stick. The generator made a popping sound whenever this happened, and Wells would sometimes jump.
“Don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt,” Wells said. “The noise just startles me sometimes.”
During the presentation, Wells placed aluminum pie pans on top of the generator, turned it on and watched as the pans popped off one-by-one and flew into the air. She also used a crepe paper spider and the long hair of a doll to demonstrate the power of static electricity.
“If you invent something, you can name it whatever you want to,” Wells said. “You can even name it after yourself.”
Wells invited the audience to come up one-by-one and touch the Van de Graaff generator. She provided a rubber stool as an insulator for the kids to stand on to prevent shocks.
As each child kept his or her hand on the generator, Wells slowly turned up the voltage until the child’s hair began to lift and stand on end. Wells provided a mirror so the volunteer could see what was happening.
“Getting to do this stuff is nice,” Gonzalez said. “The last [event] that I did [involved] Legos. That was interesting because there’s different types they have that I had no idea about.”
Irving resident Hoang Nguyen brought his two children to the event.
“We love the library and try to keep up with special things here,” Nguyen said. “Both kids loved touching the ball and seeing their hair stand up. They said it was a strange feeling.”
Ben Gosling, age 11, volunteered to touch the generator.
“It was so cool,” Ben said. “Even though my hair is short, I saw all the little hairs stand up. The ball was cold. I was afraid it would be hot.”
“My hair went crazy,” McKenzie Thomas, age 9, said. “I looked like a troll for a minute. You know, the kind with the hair standing up.”
The Museum provided a parting gift for the audience that contained static electricity activities for kids to try at home.