The Charging Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.

This Interactive includes two modes - Practice mode and Play mode. Practice mode is designed so that the learner can understand how objects become charged and grounded. In Practice mode, a negatively charged balloon is used to charge two conducting blocks by induction. The two blocks and the balloon can be dragged around the screen and the learner can explore how the arrangement of the two blocks influences the manner in which they become charged. Once charged, the blocks can be grounded or touched to one another. As learners begin to understand the "rules" that govern charging and grounding, they can enter Play mode. In Play mode, learners are presented with the challenge of charging each of the blocks with a specific amount and type of charge. There are three different challenges. The challenges are timed and the learner's cumulative time is compared to the lowest time to complete all three challenges by all users of the Interactive.

Learners may find that the grounding of a charged block is quite tricky. If one brings the block towards the ground wire, then upon contact there is a flow of electrons between the ground and the charged block but the charge displayed on the rod does not update until the mouse button is released or (on a touch screen) the finger is released. As such, it is a lot better to drag the ground wire to the charged object in order to view the display of the amount of charge while grounding is occurring.



Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive is intended for use near the early to middle stages of a learning cycle on charge, charge interactions, and charging methods. The Interactive targets the concepts associated with the charged objects vs. uncharged objects, charging by induction, charging by conduction (contact), polarization, and grounding. The electrostatic environment is perfect for allowing students to explore and learn. The visibility of actual charges and the ability to view electrons moving onto and off of objects is a feature that can't be seen in a demonstration or lab activity.

A teacher may want to simply challenge students with the goal of "learning the rules" by which the simulation operates. That is, determine the answers to the questions ...
  • How is a charged object different than an uncharged object?
  • How is a positively-charged object different than a negatively-charged object?
  • Which way do electrons within a rectangular rod move when a negatively-charged balloon is brought near a positively-charged rod?
  • Which way do electrons within a rectangular rod move when a negatively-charged balloon is brought near a negatively-charged rod?
  • Which way do electrons within the rectangular rods move when a positively-charged rod is brought near a negatively-charged rod?
  • Which way do electrons within the rectangular rods move when a positively-charged rod is brought near a positively-charged rod?
  • Which way do electrons within the rectangular rods move when a negatively-charged rod is brought near a negatively-charged rod?
  • How does the rectangular rod become charged negatively?
  • How does the rectangular rod become charged positively?
  • What is happening when a negatively-charged rod becomes grounded?
  • What is happening when a positively-charged rod becomes grounded?
  • What happens when a positively-charged rod is touched to a negatively-charged rod?

 Understanding these questions is the main idea of this Interactive. And being able to view the actual charges moving is the power of the Interactive.

Teachers are encouraged to allow students to explore the environment in Practice mode. And once students are confident of the answers to the above questions, the Play mode is the natural next step. The Play mode is very engaging and the timing feature gives it a clear game-like feel.

The Physics Classroom has prepared a classroom-ready activity for use with this Interactive. The activity focuses on the induction charging process and the grounding proccess. View Classroom Activity.

Our Charging simulation is now available with a Concept Checker. Do the simulation. Then follow it up with the Concept Checker.


Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Charging Interactive. These include:
  • Reading:
    Lessons 1 and 2 of the Static Electricity Chapter of the Tutorial is a perfect accompaniment to this Interactive. The following pages will be particularly useful in the early stages of a learning cycle on Charge, Charge Interactions, and Charging Methods:

    Charge Interactions


    Charging by Induction

    Charging by Conduction

    Grouding - the Removal of a Charge

  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments SE2, SE4, SE5, SE6, and SE7 of the Static Electricity module provide great complements to this Interactive. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Charge Interactions
    Insulators, Conductors and Polarization
    Charging by Conduction and Grounding
    Charging by Induction
Visit the Curriculum Corner.

  • Labwork: 
    Simulations should always support (never supplant) hands-on learning. The Laboratory section of The Physics Classroom website includes several hands-on ideas that complement this Interactive. Three notable lab ideas include ...

    Action-at-a-Distance Lab
    Pop Can Induction Lab
    Charging by Induction Lab

    Visit The Laboratory.

  • Science Reasoning Activities:
    Science classrooms should be filled with reasoning activities. There are two related activites in the Static Electricity section of the Science Reasoning Center that will challenge students to employ close reading, data analysis, and logical reasoning. The activites are named ...

    Charge Interactions
    Sticky Tape Experiments

    Visit the Science Reasoning Center.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Charging into an instructional unit on electrostatics can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.


The Physics Classroom would like to extend a special thanks to Nerd Island Studios for the creation of this HTML5 Interactive. Visit their website ( to see more great stuff by Nerd Island Studios.