Energy and Science Projects
For Students


Getting A Charge Out of the Sky


In a storm cloud, the moving air makes tiny water droplets and ice rub together so they become charged with static electricity. The positive electrical charges float up near the top of the cloud and the larger ones, with negative charges, stay near the bottom. This separation of electrical charges is very unstable and lightning is the way the charges are equalized or become balanced.

What You'll Need

What to Do

  1. Tape a plastic sheet to a table top.
  2. Put on the rubber gloves.
  3. Hold the large iron pot or pan by its insulating handle and rub the pan vigorously to and fro on the plastic sheet
  4. Holding the fork firmly in the other hand, bring its prongs slowly near the rim. When the gap between pot and fork is small, a tiny spark should jump across (It may help to darken the room by drawing the curtains to see the spark more clearly)


It is as though the pan is the thundercloud, the fork is the lightning rod, and you are the Earth's surface.

This Energy Education Project comes from the California Energy Commission
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