Van de Graaff generator


The Van de Graaff generator is a way to create static electricity which causes peoples hair to stand on end and allows them to shock others.


  1. Have the participant stand on an insulated surface (a Rubbermaid container top works well). It is critical for the person to be insulated from ground.
  2. Have the participant place both his/her hands on the large sphere and instruct them not to remove them. Turn on the Van de Graaff generator and keep the wand in contact with the large sphere.
  3. Once the generator is at full speed you can pull the wand away and the participant will begin to “charge-up”. This charge will continue as long as they are in contact with the metal sphere. There hair should begin to rise (if they don’t have hairspray in. They also can shock someone by touching them with one hand while the other hand remain on the large sphere
  4. When they’re done, have them step down from the stand. All of the “charge” flows into the ground.
  5. Touch the wand to the large sphere to neutralize it and ask the next participant to stand on the bucket and put their hands on the sphere.

10-Second Explanation:

The large metal sphere is isolated from ground and other electrical devices by the plastic tube that holds it off the base of the generator. The rubber band on the inside carries electric charge from the bottom of the generator up to the top, much like you build up charge by rubbing your feet on the carpet to build up charge on a dry winter day. By standing on an insulated stand and touching the sphere this charge is shared by you and can shock others. Your hair strands rise because they are repelling each other due to the like-charge buildup on each strand. The wand is connected to ground and can discharge the large sphere or the participant (albeit with a shock).