July 16th, 2019

Praxis: Charge up an ice tray

By Medicine Hat News on January 12, 2019.

What a busy week it has been with getting back into the routine of school. I have been visiting schools preparing many students for their science fairs, which are fast approaching. What a great opportunity for these bright young minds to showcase their interests and talents. It is a time for students to choose something that interests them! I get goose bumps just thinking about all of the great projects I am going to see! This week, I thought I would share a little activity to start your thinking about a great science fair project. It is a bit of a twist on a project I have seen at many fairs. Let’s get started!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


– white vinegar

– copper wire

– five galvanized nails

– ice cube tray (plastic)

– wire cutters

– ruler

– LED light bulb (small bulbs you can purchase at the hardware store)


1. Have an adult assist you in cutting the copper wire. Measure 10 centimetres and cut. Repeat so you have five wires total.

2. Take one of the nails, and starting just under the head, wrap the wire tightly around the nail. Once you are at the end, allow a small piece to hang down.

3. Repeat until all of the five nails are covered in copper wire.

4. Carefully pour white vinegar into six of the ice cube wells.

5. Place one nail in the well of the ice cube tray.

6. You are going to create a circuit now. Pull the end of the copper wire from the nail into the next well. Make sure it is in the vinegar. Place a new nail in this ice cube well.

7. Repeat until all of the nails are used up.

8. Place one “leg” of the LED lightbulb into the well with only a copper wire inside it and place the other LED “leg” into the well with only a nail in it.

9. If the bulb lights up, you “nailed” it! If the bulb does not light up try again by flipping the legs around.

What is going on?

In order to make the battery, you had two different metals (copper wire and zinc nails) suspended in the acidic solution (vinegar). The two metals you used are just like the electrodes in a battery. The electrical current enters and leaves through here. The current flows through the wire, into the nail and it is all passed through the acidic solution in the ice cube tray. You created a complete circuit once you place the LED lightbulb into the tray!

Do not forget, science fair season is just around the corner. If you are looking for assistance in the classroom do not forget to call and book it as soon as possible.

Patty Rooks is senior scientific consultant at PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at praxis@praxismh.ca, http://www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.

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