For the final event of the year, STEM Sorority members participated in a hair-raising Van de Graaff generator demo. With safety in mind, members were given a crash course in electricity and charge as well as how a Van de Graaff generator works before the commencement of the event.
The first demonstration involved a dazzling lightning show. The dome was allowed to charge for some time then grounded in milliseconds using a grounding rod held several centimetres away from it. With the lights off, members could see a stream of electrons travelling between the rod and the dome, creating a blue fluorescent glow.
Then, members were given the chance to let their bodies interact with the Van de Graaff generator. One by one, they stood on an insulating styrofoam block and let the generator charge them, their hair slowly rising up and forming a frizzy mess. Members watched in awe as they saw properties of like and opposite charges in action. They questioned whether or not the same thing would happen when two members, both on insulating blocks and one touching the Van de Graaff generator, held hands. Sure enough, both members could feel the charges rush into them as their hair rose up. After slowly getting grounded with a wooden meter stick, the members commented on how they had formed electrifying bonds of friendship through the activity.
As the hosts moved on to the bubbles demonstration, they realized that there was an issue with the bubble blaster! Jenny frantically looked for a way to fix the blaster while Judy continued on with the next activity.
To further observe the properties of like and opposite charges, a rice krispies demonstration was prepared. A small plastic container full of rice krispies was placed on the charging Van de Graaff generator. After a short period of time, the rice krispies flew out of the container like fireworks due to how light they are and their sensitivity to such little force. Judy also ended up spilling the entire rice krispies container. Ms. Chan sighed as she saw the mess being made in the classroom.
As members cleaned up the classroom, Jenny returned with a working bubble blaster. Out of breath, she explained how separation of charge works and why neutral things are attracted to charged things. In the dying minutes of lunchtime, members watched the final demonstration of the meeting involving bubbles rebounding off the Van de Graaff generator.
Overall, this activity helped members find their spark in school again, both figuratively and literally!