Experiments

Aquaman / Water bending

Equipment:

  • A balloon
  • A cup full of water
  • A container to pour the water into

Description:

One of Aquaman’s powers is control over water.  This one is great experiment to get a volunteer.  Take a balloon and have a kid rub it against their head to build up a static charge.  Tell them not to touch the balloon against anything but their head.  Tell kids you are creating the same energy that shocks them when they touch a door handle.  Explain that this is low power electricity.   After the child has rubbed the balloon against their head for about thirty seconds pick up a cup full of water and tell the kids you are going to poor it into a container.  When you poor the water do it is slowly so there is an even, thin stream of water.  Then have the child move the balloon close to the water but warn them not to touch the two together.   The water will begin to bend towards the balloon because water is attracted to an electrical charge.  The stronger the charge the more water can be moved and the farther the water can be moved.  If Aquaman’s body generates a low level charge then this might be how he is able to bend water.

Superman / Heat vision

Equipment:

  • High power lamp (halogen works well) / sunlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • 1 ice cube (2 ice cubes if you are doing this indoors

Description:

There are two ways to run the experiment and demonstrate Superman’s heat vision.  On a sunny day it can be done outside, if not it can still be done inside.  The experiment is conducted the same way that ants can be burned with a magnifying glass.  If you are outside find a clear spot where you can get the light to converge into a point using the magnifying glass.  Then put the ice cube under the point of light and watch it melt.  I melted an ice cube because I didn’t want any one to be able to say that I taught their child how to start a fire.  If you do this inside then it helps to have another person helping you because depending on the strength of your light the ice cube may not melt as fast.  Have them begin to melt the ice cube a few minutes before the program starts.  This way it should have begun to melt by the time you get to it.  To be safe I also had an ice cube out that was not under the light.  I brought this out to compare to the one under the light for the kids to compare and asked them which one was more melted.

The explanation of the this experiment needs to be started before you explain the ice cube.  First use the magnifying glass to show the kids where the light converges into a point and ask them if it looks a bit like a laser.  Then show them that the magnifying glass is curved and tell them that it can bend the light into a point because of the curve.  Tell them it focuses the light into that small point they see.  After that, point out that the human eye ball is also round and that the eye does something similar with light that lets us see.  This isn’t the entire story but it is close enough.  At this point it is safe to show them the melted ice cube.  The theory is that Superman’s eyes are able to focus the light into a similar beam of light.  Thus creating heat vision.

Storm / Flying & levitating using wind

Equipment:

  • Hairdryer
  • Ping pong ball

Description:

Storm uses air to lift herself off the ground and fly.  This experiment really has more to do with gravity than flying.  First show the kids the ping pong ball and ask them what happens to it if you let it go.  They’ll say it will fall.  Let it go, and lo and behold, the ball falls.  Then ask them why it fell.  Eventually someone should say gravity.  When I asked the kids how gravity made the ball fall none could tell me why.  Explain that gravity is an invisible force that pulls things down and keeps them on the ground.  Let the kids know you are now going to show them how the X-man Storm flies.  Then point the hairdryer toward the sky and turn it on.  Place the ping pong ball in the middle of the air and it floats.  Tell the kids that the air is pushing it up.    Really the ball isn’t flying so much as its levitating.  I told my group that the spot where it levitated was were the push of the air up and the pull of gravity down on the ball were the same strength.  Storm is able to do something similar when she controls the air around her to push her up.  If you get really could with the hairdryer you can angle it and make the ping pong ball fly around the room.

Magneto / Magnetism

Equipment:

  • 4 moderately powerful kitchen magnets (color code the sides of the magnets so that both north ends are the same color and both south ends are same color)
  • A smooth surface
  • 2 strips of tape to act as a start and finish line

Description:

Magneto is able to draw metal objects to himself and push them away.  This experiment works best if you set it up as a race.  Bring out your four magnets.  Explain that each magnet has a north side and a south side (or a positive and a negative side whichever names you prefer) that contain opposite forces.  These forces are attracted to each other and want to move together.  If your magnets are strong enough place one north end by a south end without having them touch and lets the kids see that the magnets will move by themselves to be together.  Then tell them that like sides are repelled.  if you can have one kid come up and try to push two magnets with the same force together.  They should feel the resistance as the like polarities try to push apart.  This is how Magneto moves things around.

Now for the experiment.  Place two magnets on the smooth surface; the smoother the better.  Ask for two volunteers.  Show them how you can move a magnet across the surface by putting the positive side of a magnet near the magnet on the table that is positive side up.  The magnet on the table will move to get away from the one in your hand.  Then have the kids race!

Havok / Plasma

Equipment:

  • Plasma ball (you can buy one of these from Amazon for about $25)

Description:

Havok creates an energy sphere that he fires at opponents.  The comics claim it is made of plasma.  This is the one experiment where you have to buy something really specialized.  But the plasma ball has the biggest wow factor and is worth it.  Because of this I saved it for the end.  Before you bring out the plasma ball you need to explain what an atom is.  Tell them that an atom is the smallest part of an object.  It is so small that it would take a magnifying glass a thousand times stronger than the one we used earlier to see an atom.  Every atom is made up of three parts: neutrons, protons, and the smallest parts are electrons.  Now time to run the experiment.  To do this bring out the plasma ball, turn it on, and touch it.  Then begin to explain what plasma is.  Plasma is creates when the atoms in a glass are excited to the point that there electrons come loose and leave the atom.  When the electrons do this they take alot of energy with them.  This energy is what we see as a bolt of light.  The electrons wander about in the gas looking for a way to escape and do something with the energy they have.  Because electrons have a negative charge they are attracted to things with a positive charge.  This is why the light all goes to the spot where a hand is touching the plastic covering of the plasma ball.  The plasma is attracted to the charge of the hand.  Now wow the kids by telling them that lightning in made up of plasma as are stars.  Warning:  the plasma ball uses a strong voltage and should never have metal touching it when it is on.  It must be supervised at all times.

If your plasma ball is strong enough there is another fun experiment you can do.  Stand on a plastic or wooden stool while holding a fluorescent light in your hand.  Then touch the plasma ball.  The light will light up!  My plasma ball was not strong enough to do this but I’ve seen it done before.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Su Ikin  |  August 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    What a great fun way to introduce science – nothing like school.

    Reply
  • 2. Kathy S  |  August 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Sounds like a fun program!

    Reply

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