Not only do potatoes make a delicious side dish, they conduct electricity. Potato batteries generate readings on electricity meters, make light bulbs glow and even power clocks. Potato clocks keep time just like any other clock and are an original way to help show your students how electrical circuits work. The students get to experiment and socialise while learning how electricity travels. This could also be a lesson in telling time for younger children.
Simple Potato Clock
This potato clock is the easiest of its kind. The teacher splits the students into groups of three or four. Each group gets a single potato, a copper rod, an iron nail, two steel alligator clip wires and a small battery-powered digital clock. The students push the copper rod and the iron nail into opposite sides of the potato. They then clip one end of an alligator clip wire to the copper rod and place the other against one end of the clock's empty battery terminal and tape it in place with electrical tape. The other alligator clip wire goes from the steel nail to the opposite end of the battery terminal. The clock should light up and be ready to tell time. Students can modify the experiment by using a cooked potato or soaking the potato in water or cola and recording the results.
Two Potato Clock
This potato clock produces a slightly more powerful electrical circuit capable of powering a slightly larger clock. A battery powered digital or conventional alarm clock should work for a while on potato power. Students split into groups of three or four. Each group gets two copper rods, two steel paper clips, three copper wires with stripped ends and a clock. Students drive a copper rod and straightened paper clip into opposite ends of each potato. They then connect the potatoes by wrapping a wire around the paper clip in one potato and the copper rod in the other. A second wire connects the copper rod in one potato to the positive end of the clock's battery terminal and a third connects the paper clip in the other potato to the negative end. The clock should begin to tick or light up. Students can modify the experiment by combining one potato with a lemon or tomato.
Potato Clock Face
This experiment produces a working clock with a pre-made clock movement and a potato. Each student may want to make one of these clocks to take home as a school project. Students each need a small potato, a copper penny, a steel paper clip, two alligator clip wires and a battery-powered clock movement complete with hands. Students push the penny and straightened paper clip into the top of the potato about an inch apart. They then clip the end of an alligator clip to each object and wrap the excess wire around the potato. The free alligator clips should sit on top of the potato with enough slack so that students can clip them to the positive and negative ends of the clock movement's battery terminals. The hands should start to move.
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