Become a Waterbender with Electricity
Hosted by: UT Austin Physics Circus
Watch our show on "Shocking Properties of Electricity" and then explore the experiment below at home.
Recommended Grades: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
The Challenge: Supercharge a balloon using only your hair and try to push away a stream of running water with the static electricity that you generate. Blow up a medium-sized balloon and rub it quickly on your head to supercharge it. Turn on the tap water in your kitchen or bathroom. Bring the balloon close to the stream of running water and watch what happens! Note that humidity in the air may affect the outcome of this experiment. The drier the better.
- Medium-sized blown up balloon
- Running tap water
How does this presentation connect to STEM and today's Girl Day theme of Designing for Communities, People and Animals? Electricity is all around us all the time. It works because of moving charges zipping through wires, telephone poles, and even tiny circuits in your phones and computers. We as a civilization used science to harness the power of electricity and control the movement of charges in order to bring to life all of the appliances and electronics that are common to us.
When you rub a balloon on your head, it builds up charges, which are particles that make up electricity, that interact with charges around it. If the charges in the tap water are the same kind as the charges on the balloon, the water will repel from the balloon because like charges repel. However, if you take your balloon around the house and it sticks to a surface, then you know that surface must have the opposite charge because opposite charges attract.
Follow along with us as we use static electricity to push away a stream of water!
About the UT Austin Physics Circus
In normal times, we are a traveling physics show that brings exciting and educational science demonstrations to the classroom. In covid times, we host a live broadcast of our demonstrations that you can follow along with at home. Our mission is to make science a fun and interactive experience for all, regardless of economic background, race, or gender. This is why we offer the show at no cost to the school. Our program is proudly driven by the enthusiasm of physics graduate students at UT who are passionate about science outreach to the Austin community.
Please visit our website if you'd like to read more about the Physics Circus, view our promotional video, or inquire about shows.