How to make a potato clock: a fun science experiment for kids

How to make a potato clock: a fun science experiment for kids

In keeping with our doing a new science experiment once a week, today we made a potato clock. I kind of felt like MacGyver with the exception that most of the items needed came in a kit given to Lilia for her birthday.

The kit we used came with the following:

  • digital clock with wires
  • transparent tape
  • connecting wire
  • (2) copper and (2) zinc strips



Here's how we did it:

1. Connect a pair of copper and zinc plates by threading the connection wire through each plate.

2. Cover each connection site with transparent tape.

3. Connect black (negative) wire from the clock to one of the zinc plates.

4. Connect red (positive) wire from the clock to the remaining copper plate.

5. Insert copper and zinc plates into the two potatoes, ensuring the metal plates do not touch each other.*

Voila! You have yourself a potato clock.

*That last part made me a little nervous. Yes, it's a science experiment for kids and yes, I have an irrational fear of getting electrocuted. If I even see someone using jumper cables, I want to run and take cover. If I crossed the plates, what would happen? I didn't want to find out.

Maybe this is what caused my fear? Thanks a lot Ghostbusters.

How it works

The metal strips and potatoes make a simple battery that creates the electricity to operate the clock. It converts the chemical energy stored in the metal strips into electrical energy. In an electrochemical cell, such as the potato battery, the copper wire makes the electrons move in the potato, causing energy to move into the clock.

What else can I use?

Try this experiment with soda or fruit juice placed into plastic cups with the plates organized in the same manner. You can also try tomatoes, oranges, lemons or other fruits.

If you don't have a kit like we did, you can read more about making your own potato clock by clicking here. 
Happy experimenting!
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Filed under: kids, science

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