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OMSI show electrifying in Metolius

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Metolius Elementary kindergartener Madison McCool had a bad hair day after touching the Van de Graff static machine during an OMSI assembly last Wednesday. Students were enlisted to help demonstrate ways to generate electricty.


   Metolius students were shocked by some of the things they learned at the "Electrifying Science" assembly put on at their school by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry last Wednesday.
   OMSI outreach educator Laura Lisensky explained that there are two kinds of electricity -- static electricity and current electricity -- then did a series of demonstrations to show the difference.
   Student volunteers were called up to help with the experiments. Madison McCool's hair went into orbit after she touched the Van de Graff static machine, while Cynthia Zuniga produced electricity by moving magnets around a spool of copper wire.
   Other students showed how power plants use magnets to make electricity. A hair dryer (representing the wind) turned a wind turbine in one case, while water dripped from a bottle (hydropower) turned a spoon-studded wheel. In both cases, the wheels moved the magnets.
   A solar birdhouse generated electricity until Lisensky covered it with a cardboard cloud.
   When power plants can't be used, she said electricity can be obtained from batteries. She and a helper made a simple battery by shaking salt and dripping acid (vinegar) into a plastic box containing water and zinc and copper plates.
   Lisensky said electrons travel from one metal to the other.
   "The way a battery works is to connect one end to the other," she said, lining up 10 kids and having them pass small plastic balls (representing electrons) down the line.
   Students were able to see a 15,000-volt arc of electricity travel between two wires on the "Jacob's Ladder" machine, then Lisensky concluded by playing a ghostly-sounding "Star Spangled Banner" on a Theramic musical instrument which uses magnets and electricity to make sound.