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Month: October 2021

Frankenstein’s Battery: La-BOO-ratory Manual

Frankenstein’s Battery La-BOO-ratory Manual

It’s alive, it’s allliiiiiiiiive!!! Your enthusiasm for electrochemistry that is. The La-BOO-ratory Manual, Frankenstein’s Battery, combines creativity with the principles of electrochemistry in a Halloween-themed way. Sounds like a lot, right? But this fun and simple experiment engages students to express themselves while exploring the wonderful world of science. 

The premise of the experiment is to use pieces of produce (i.e. potatoes, lemons, etc.) to construct a monster head and then turn that monster head into an electrochemical cell. Students use markers to draw Frankenstein faces on their produce and then, with PASCO’s Wireless Voltage Sensor, detect the voltage once they insert copper wire and a galvanized nail into their monster head. The data is graphed in SPARKvue to let students visualize the voltage readings and witness science in action. Students can also continue to combine electrochemical cells and make a battery to witness how a series connection affects voltage readings. 

This experiment ensures to spark students’ interests and scare them straight to a thorough understanding of electricity principles.

The way the Frankenstein Battery works is actually focused on the copper wire and galvanized nail, rather than the produce itself. The electricity comes from the electrodes made of the copper wire and the zinc-coated nail. The produce simply conducts the ions between the electrodes, so it can be called an ionic conductor. Attaching the wires completes the electrical circuit and the positive and negative ions will be conducted through the produce. The difference in electrical potential energy is what the Wireless Voltage Sensor measures and records in SPARKvue. 

Produce that is high in potassium, sodium, and acidity make good Frankenstein Batteries due to the high amount of superconductive ions. This means the positive/negative ions that must be conducted through the produce will do so at a more efficient rate in produce that’s higher in sodium than produce that’s lower in sodium. Good Frankenstein Batteries must also have a strong internal structure for efficient conduction. This is why potatoes make such awesome Frankenstein Batteries while produce like tomatoes won’t be as great due to their messy internal structure. 

Electrochemistry may seem like a monster of a topic, but engaging experiments like Frankenstein’s Battery will surely produce positive results with students. 

This experiment is one of the many ways to use science to express creativity. Enabling students to create monsters and be engaged with a Halloween theme will further the combination of art into science exploration. Science is a wonder-filled world that provokes curiosity, and art is a form of unique self-expression that promotes creativity. In addition to the principles of electricity, this experiment teaches students that they don’t have to choose between creativity and curiosity. 

Back in the Saddle

Life has been very interesting for the past 18 months. Did I say interesting? I meant challenging. With a global pandemic in force, how does education adapt? In my area, students had several months of online only learning, followed by online four days a week, then 3 days a week. Some students had full-time school, but they did only 2 classes a day. One class for the entire morning and one in the afternoon. New classes roughly every 10 weeks. How do you teach under these conditions? How do you teach science under these conditions? How do students learn under these conditions?

This blog won’t focus on that though. We are back at full time regular school (albeit with masks) for the first time since March of 2019. The focus is how do we reengage students? How do we bring back that sense of wonder and amazement of the world around them? For me, the answer is almost always the same; do hands on work. Experimentation is science and that is where the magic happens.

Once the dust settled of courses being filled, I knew I need students doing lab work. I couldn’t wait too long. It didn’t need to be anything complicated or deep, I just needed them to be hooked. Enter my PASCO Spark, the MatchGraph app and some Smart Carts.

Just bringing out the equipment got the students excited. “What are those?” I heard more than once. “Do we get to use them?” We did a quick run through and started on the first graph. The energy in the room was off the charts. There was so much buzz; arguments on who could do it better, what were they doing right, what were they doing wrong. This is what a classroom should be and such a simple way to get it.

Soon students were mastering the first linear graph and were looking very proud of themselves. I then told them there were more graphs. Deflation, curiosity and excited sped across their faces (at least their eyes) and they quickly started trying them. Carts were flying across the tabletops. 45 minutes passed in a blink and when I told them class was coming to an end and the equipment needed to be put away there were actual groans. They wanted to keep going! More than one student asked if we were going to use the equipment again. My answer was simple: tomorrow.

The students are hooked. They are excited to be learning. All it took was a little bit of learning play with my Smart carts and PASCO MatchGraph.

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