Extreme Science: Inertia Sticks

What you will need:

  • (2) ¾” diameter PVC pipe approximately 24” in length
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Piece of wool (or one of your dad’s ugly wool sweaters – just ask Mom)
  • Small strip of thin packaging foam approximately 2” x 8”
  • Elmer’s Glue ®
  • Adult supervision


1) Tape the pencil to the end of one of your 24” long pieces of PVC pipe so that it is extended out from the end of the pipe as shown

2) Take your 2” x 8” piece of thin packing foam and make it into a circle as shown. Use a small amount of Elmer’s Glue to hold it together.

3) Use your piece of wool and rub it on your PVC pipe (the one without the pencil) to charge it up.

4) After glue has completely dried, place your fingers inside of the foam circle and gently rub/roll it back and forth on your piece of wool for about 30 seconds to charge it up.

5) Use the pvc pipe with the pencil attached to carefully lift up the charged piece of foam and release it over your outstretched, charged up PVC pipe.

6) If done correctly, your piece of foam should float above your outstretched (charged up) PVC pipe. This may take a little practice. You may also need to charge up the PVC pipe with the pencil attached to keep from discharging your foam piece when touching it with the pencil.

What is going on?

When you rub the piece of foam, and the PVC pipe with the piece of wool, you are actually giving them a negative charge. This is happening because of tiny electrons that are transferring to the foam and the plastic pipe. Since both of these have a negative charge, they will repel each other or push away from each other. You may notice that the piece of foam will be attracted to you and or other objects. Again, this is due to the fact that it has a negative charge and will be attracted to anything with a neutral charge or ground.

Try this:

Try making different shapes and or sizes of foam pieces and see if you can get better results.

Radical Rick

Extreme Science