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How to Make a 3D Hydrogen Atom Element Project With Styrofoam Balls

The Periodic Table of Elements tells how many electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom.
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A hydrogen atom is the simplest atom and the most abundant element in the universe. There are trillions of hydrogen atoms in just a pinhead of matter. One of these atoms can be represented in a model for a physics or science class to help visualize atomic structure.

Paint two Styrofoam balls each in a color you prefer. One ball may be a different color to represent the one electron orbiting the hydrogen atom's nucleus. For example, a three-dimensional model of the hydrogen atom may include a yellow Styrofoam ball for a nucleus and a green Styrofoam ball for an electron. Allow the balls to dry and set them aside.

Cut a 1-foot piece of wire using a bolt clipper into one 6-inch length. A 12-gauge wire -- which is about the thickness of a coat hanger -- works best. Discard the remaining wire. Because the hydrogen atom has one electron in orbit, this 3D model should have the green electron representation a few inches away from the yellow nucleus, represented by the other Styrofoam ball.

Attach the piece of six-inch 12-gauge wire into the center of the yellow Styrofoam ball that is the nucleus. Make sure not to penetrate the wire through the Styrofoam ball. The 12-gauge wire should be in inserted about halfway into the yellow nucleus ball.

Attach the second green Styrofoam ball, representing the electron, to the exposed 12-gauge wire. Leave a couple of inches in between the two Styrofoam balls. The yellow Styrofoam ball should be placed at the center of your hydrogen atom display.

Things You'll Need:

  • Two Styrofoam balls
  • Yellow paint
  • Green paint
  • 12-gauge wire
  • Bolt clipper
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