Build a Battery

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Learners make a simple battery out of "sandwiches" of aluminum foil, pennies, and a salt water-soaked paper towel. They detect the electricity the battery makes by listening to it on a pair of headphones. The lesson plan includes basic information on the chemistry of how a battery works, and the history of its invention by Alessandro Volta. Extensions include changing the number of "sandwiches," and trying different types of coils and liquids. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • wire
  • tape
  • pennies
  • aluminum foil
  • headphones
  • salt water
  • paper towels
  • batteries


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation ESI, 0206403