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Thomas J. Wdowiak is an Athena scientist who takes time out of his busy schedule to show kids how to do fun science experiments at home. When he isn't teaching at the University of Alabama at Birmingham or training at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California, he writes for the local newspaper in Birmingham in the "Just for Kids" section. He goes by "Tommy Test Tubes," a nickname given to him when he was a kid. Now "Tommy Test Tubes" contributes his experience and knowledge to the Athena web page with a new column. If you have a question for Tom, click here.

I am ten years old and want to explore space. What can I make at my age that works with electricity?

I suggest that you do what I was doing at your age which was to build, out of ordinary things, scientific instruments you can experiment with.

Try my Tommy Test Tubes experiment called "Build a Real Scientific Instrument that Measures Electric Current"

This experiment will help you learn about electricity and magnetism as well (these go hand-in- hand together). When you finish building the "gadget" you will have a real scientific instrument called a galvanometer that you can do research with after you try out some of the experiments I wrote about

There are other experiments that I show how to do, so look around and do them as well. Above all, don't be afraid to try things that at first seem difficult because that's how you get smart. Also recruit an adult to help you get what you need or do something that might be easier for someone with a little experiance like sawing. Scientists often have helpers called technicians, and I used to have family members like uncles or second cousins as my technicians. Watching them I learned how to do things properly (like sawing).

And above all remember science is not only "fun", it's fascinating!

View the Tommy Test Tube Archive


Tommy Test Tubes!
Tommy Test Tubes!