Dry Lab Activity

Unit D - Chapter 10

Investigating Science 9

Inquiry Activity

The Versorium

Skills Reference 2

Skills you Will Use

  • Using appropriate equipment and tools
  • Drawing conclusions


  • Sharp Objects


In this lab you will be cutting some materials, so take care with scissors not to cut yourself.

William Gilbert was an English physician and philosopher who originated the term "electricity". He is regarded as the father of electrical engineering.

Gilbert studied static electricity using amber and the very first electrical measuring device which he invented, the electroscope. His name for the electroscope was the versorium. Gilbert's design for the versorium was simply a pivoting needle.

In this activity, you will construct your own version of the versorium and investigate how it works.


Why does a versorium turn?

Materials and Equipment

  • foam cup
  • aluminum foil
  • scissors
  • plastic foam plate
  • piece of wool fabric
  • pencil and paper

Dry Lab

A "dry lab" activity includes collected data and/or a video solution for your convenience. You can simply watch the following video and use the provided data, or if you wish to perform this lab for yourself, follow the procedure steps 1 through 10 described in the video. The same steps are included in written form in the documents available for download on the bottom of this page.

Analyzing and Interpreting

  1. A student performing the procedure steps 1 through 10 recorded the following observations (below). What do these results indicate about the difference between using paper and foil in a versorium?

    Type of Versorium

    Unrubbed Foam Plate

    Rubbed Foam Plate

    Rubbed Wool

    Foil tent

    Foil tent did not move

    Foil tent moved toward

    Foil tent moved toward

    Paper tent

    Paper tent did not move

    Paper tent moved toward plate

    Paper tent moved toward wool

Forming Conclusions

  1. Based on the results you collected, and/or the results provided above, what conclusions could you make about electrostatic forces?