Chemistry Summer Camp - Day 4: Exploring Voltaic and Electrolytic Cells

A few weeks ago I posted some updates from the chemistry summer camp I hosted in my district in June. I’ve been away renovating a bedroom in my house and turning it into our daughter’s nursery. She is due in mid-August. Renovating a room in a house is no easy task when it means more than a coat of paint. If you watched HGTV’s Beach Flip last night, you saw the contestants renovating a guest room in 3 days. Some teams didn’t finish.


Anyway, back to chemistry! The summer camp had some logistical challenges, like items being shipped arriving late. So while I was hoping to start the Electrochemistry projects on Wednesday, we had to push it back to Thursday, move Rockets up to Wednesday and then launch the rockets on Friday since there was a chance of rain on Thursday.


In today’s post I’ll share some background on the Electrochemistry activities.


I ordered the “Exploring Voltaic and Electrolytic Cells” Inquiries in Science kit from Carolina Biological Supply Company. During this set of activities, students were provided a series of learning goals.


  1. Students used a guided-inquiry approach to discover how metals can vary in terms of chemical activity (activity series).


  2. Students used their activity series to test various combinations of metals to produce voltaic cells.

  3. The voltaic cell with the highest voltage was used to light up an LED bulb.


  4. The students placed their voltaic cell of choice in series with one another to power an alarm clock on a battery-backup setting.


  5. Lastly, students used their optimal voltaic cell to power an electrolytic cell for extracting elements and plating metals (electroplating).


Overall, this set of lab activities went very well. Students enjoyed the practical, everyday applications of electrochemistry. One of the issues I encountered with this project was that the kit from Carolina was on backorder multiple times and did not arrive until half way through the camp. Come to find out, Carolina was waiting on Zinc strips to place in the kit, thus, putting the entire kit on backorder. Had I known this sooner, I would have asked them to ship it anyway; I already had Zn strips in our chemistry stockroom.


In my next blog post, I will share my experiences with the Rocket Lab developed by Steve Sogo at Laguna Beach High School. Steve will be presenting on this lab activity at ChemEd this week in Georgia.