What's new here?

Archive for the ‘Electricity’ Category

Care and Feeding of the Van De Graaff Generator, or how to get the finicky thing to work!

There was a time I used to brag that I could get a Van De Graaff generator running in a rainstorm. This was a bit of hyperbole, of course but I do have to say that I got pretty good at operating a Van De Graaff generator (VDGG from hereout) when I worked for a science museum. However, my experience was not typical for Van De Graaff users – more often that not, most VDGG’s are rolled to out to be used for one day in the Physics class. They are operated in 2-4 classes during that day and then rolled back into storage. My high school physics teacher, not the most comic of science teachers, consdiered the use of the VDGG and raising up a student’s hair to be ‘obligatory’ for the class.

This limited usage, however, may mean that many teachers don’t really get an idea of what can go wrong with their machinery. Especially when the VDGG is being used by a middle school or elementary school teacher who may not have the experience needed to run the VDGG proeprly.

The following is a list of things that can go wrong, how to diagnose them, and how to fix them. It is by no means comprehesive but should get you the opportunity to operate your VDGG successfully.



Making Electricity! Van De Graaff Generators and Tesla Coils.

In the course of science education every student should get the chance to see a Van De Graaff Generatoror Tesla Coil in action. These electrical devices are a fun way to demonstrate properties of electricity. At Spectrum Scientifics we have recently added several new such devices to our offerings. So let’s talk about the Van De Graaffs first!

Van De Graaff Generators: Often referred to as a ‘static generator’ or ‘that thing that makes your hair stand up’ the Van de Graaff emplyes a belt that carries a positive charge to the ball at the top of the generator. This ball gives the generator its classic shape:



New STEM Wind and Solar Generating Kits from Picoturbine

For a couple of years we have been offering various wind gnereating kits such as the Savonius Wind Turbine. These kits do quite well but schools may find they need more to teach energy generation as part of a STEM program. So now Picoturbine offers multiple kits for Wind and Solar energy generation.  There are several designs that depend on the size & design of the windmill (Mini, Standard, and Limitless) as well as the systems ability to generate AC, DC or both.



Artec Science Kits part 2

We continue with more of the great, low-cost products from Artec. First up is the Make your own Litmus Paper

5082With this kit, kids will use the colorful reactions of acids and bases on litmus paper to learn about the pH scale. You can even draw with the colorful reactive litmus papers you make. 5082a Its a great intro in the world of chemistry and fun for kids as yougn as 6 years old.


Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablets

We recently added the Boogie Board, a LCD pad for drawing and writing.


The Boogie Board is an update of the classic ‘Magic Slate’ toy from the 50’s. Here you can use the stylus or even your own finger to draw on the screen. You can make lists, do math, draw pictures, and when you are done just push the button at the top of the Boogie Board and in a flash it wipes the screen clean! The Boogie Board can be wiped clean over 50,000 times on its included battery.


Jr. Scientist Series – The Weird

So in previous posts covering the products in the new Jr. Scientists series we covered their robotic kits, then in part 2 we covered their crystal kits and the telescope kit. But that is the final chapter in this science set series, and let’s just say that the products in this last post are a little – strange. Let’s start off with the very unusual: The Hand Dynamo Helicopter and Flip Flop Turtle.

Yes, you read that correctly.



Salt Water Powered Vehicles

OK, so we’ve already mentioned having a Salt-Powered Robot and that is a fairly new product for us but it seems we have never mentioned some fairly popular Salt-Water Powered vehicles that we have actually carried for a couple of years. We are talking about the Salt Water Fuel Cell Car and its big brother the Salt Water Fuel Cell Monster Truck.



Blog Post of Random New Products: Salt Powered Robot, Static Science, Weather Science, Anti-Gravity Magnetic Levitation

We haven’t really covered the new stuff we got this year from Green Science/4M, so it seems time to cover some of the nifty new items we have from them!

First up Salt-Powered Robot:

4418 (more…)

New Toy: The Energy Stick!

Now, we’ve had a toy like this before. In fact the UFO Ball does a lot of what this new Energy Stick does – work at making a human circuit! The difference is that the Energy Stick does it a lot more dramatically.

The idea is simple. You have an object – in this case a stick, and it has two contact points. When you touch one contact point nothing happens because you have not yet completed the circuit. But touch both of the contact points and the electricity can flow! The electricity in this case is a very low-voltage, high-frequency current that travels over human skin and not through it – so there is no danger. Completing the circuit takes place with a light and sounds show – the current being enough to light up a few LEDS and make a sound disc play.

Now the cool part is that you don’t have to do it on your own! If you touch one of the contact points and have a friend touch the other, and the touch each others other hand -the circuit is completed and the lights light up and the sound plays! You can even add more people by putting them between you and grabbing the hands that you aren’t using to touch the contact points! The circuit will still be complete and the light and sound show kicks in!

The Energy Stick is an excellent way to teach electrical circuits and how they stop working when the circuit is broken. The hands-on nature of this toy makes it an experience for students to remember. It should be part of any science  curriculum that involves current electricity.


ScienceWiz Kits – Now at Spectrum Scientifics

ScienceWiz has had a long tradition of making excellent science kits for kids. All of these kits were designed and authored by Penny Norman, PHD. We’ve been meaning to add parts of this line for some time and now it is in stock!

First up is Electricity:

This kit inlcudes a well-written full-color book plus the parts you need to do 18 different activities like lighting lights, buzzing buzzers, and spinning motors.

Next up is the excellent ScienceWiz Chemistry Kit

This kit stands out not only due to its excellent design, but also because it is good for kids age 5-10. Most chemistry kits have a much higher minimum age.

That said, there is the ScienceWiz Chemistry Plus Kit for older kids (8+)

Awesome experiments like popping hydrogen and flame color tests make this kit stand out!

Also popular in this series (that we have available) is the Energy Kit:

Which involves solar racers, chain reactions, and much more!

Finally we have the very well received ScienceWiz Inventions Kit

Rather that discuss the kit we will simply quote what was said about it by the Women’s Society of the IEEE after using it for camp programs for elementary school students. The IEEE’s review boasted, “The projects actually WORK….even for large groups where individualized attention is not possible.”

These kits are great for kids wanting to get a grasp on a particular subject!