Monday, August 18, 2014

STEM in the Classroom: Make a Lightbulb

If you are looking for a fun science project or science related activity, this one will definitely please a crowd.

This project just takes a few minutes to create and can be done as a classroom activity or as a fun science project.  Most of these materials are easy to find.  The pencil lead is the same type that is used in mechanical pencils.  This can be found in most stores that sell pencils and school supplies.  The alligator clips can be found at electric supply stores.

Step 1:  Tape two different ends of alligator clips to the sides of a paper towel roll using the electrical tape.

Step 2:  Tape the positive and negative (top and bottom) ends of the batteries together.

Step 3:  Attach the pencil lead.

Step 4:  Cover your light bulb with a glass or jar.  Then attach the loose ends of the alligator clips to the battery.

Did you see what happened at the end of the activity?  It is so much fun.  Wait for the alligator clips to cool off because they become very hot.  Then, replace the mechanical pencil lead to do the activity again.

Explanation of the Project:  
The electrons are flowing through the wires and batteries.  Since the electrons are not able to pass through at the same time, the electrons collide to create friction. All of the friction causes heat to form.  This is the light bulb begins to glow.  

In traditional light bulbs, there is a thin filament inside of the bulb.  The electrons collide as they attempt to pass through this filament and produce heat.  Irons, curling irons, and coffee pots work this same way. Thomas Edison experimented tirelessly with different wires and with filaments that were of different thicknesses in order to create the first light bulb.  In our activity, the pencil lead works as the filament.

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