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In this activity about electricity, learners suspend pieces of tape from a straw to construct an electroscope, a device that detects an electrical charge. Then, learners use a plastic comb to identify whether the pieces of tape are positively or negatively charged.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 4 plastic drinking straws with flexible ends
  • 2 plastic 35 mm film cans
  • Enough modeling clay to fill the film cans halfway
  • A roll of 3-M Scotch Magicâ„¢ Tape, 3/4 inch (2 cm) width. (Don't substitute other brands of tape the first time you try this Snack. Once you know what to expect, you can experiment with other tapes.)
  • A plastic comb and hair or a piece of wool cloth


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, The Exploratorium,

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America


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