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In the Electric Field Mapping Demonstration for physical science and physics, demonstrate the abstract concept of electric fields. Map and draw electric field lines.

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The concept of electric fields may seem abstract to many students. This demonstration is the perfect way to take this concept from a diagram and equations in a textbook to reality. Using a conductive pen, simply draw any type of charge configuration onto conductive paper. By measuring the voltage at different locations between the charges, you can determine lines of equal potential and then draw in or “map” the electric field lines as well. Amazing! Find the field between a dipole, charged plates or a quadrupole, or even measure the charge of an electric field during a thunderstorm!

Concepts: Electric fields, electric potential, equipotential lines, Coulomb’s law.
Time Required: 25 minutes
Materials Provided: Conductive paper, conductive silver ink pen, corks, electric field plotting map, aluminum push pins.
Note: A power supply or 6-V battery, voltmeter and connector cords are required but not included. For demonstration purposes, a projection voltmeter is recommended to project the measurements for the whole class to see.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Developing and using models
Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS2.B: Types of Interactions
MS-PS3.A: Definitions of Energy
MS-PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces
HS-PS2.B: Types of Interactions
HS-PS3.C: Relationship between Energy and Forces

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns
Energy and matter
Systems and system models

Performance Expectations

MS-PS2-5. Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact
MS-PS3-2. Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.
HS-PS2-4. Use mathematical representations of Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects.
HS-PS3-5. Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction.