Hidden Power

This program developed by The Franklin Institute, in partnership with Penn State MRSEC, through funding by the National Science Foundation and Penn State University, is a set of eight eight cart-based, hands-on activities that highlight concepts of energy, electricity generation, and efficiency. Demonstrations of real phenomena will appeal to visitors of all ages, while interactive macro-scale models foster a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms at the atomic scale. These activities raise awareness of energy materials and their applications and build understanding of the invisible forces at work.

Solar Panels


Visitors will understand how solar cells function through a molecular model and a small-scale demonstration.


  • 6-in-1 Solar Kit, set up as rotating plane
  • 1 quarter
  • Lamp with 100 watt incandescent bulb
  • Extension cord
  • "Pinball” model
  • Metal ball
  • 9V battery




Change the shape of a piezoelectric material, and you can create electricity. In this activity, test this phenomenon by shaking a polymer strip or tapping a ceramic transducer to light up a small bulb.


Batteries are essential for powering all of the portable electronic devices we rely on, but what actually happens when you charge your cell phone? In this activity, hook up a simple electrochemical cell to a voltmeter to see how chemical energy can be converted to electricity.


Most of the electricity in the United States is produced by steam turbines. In this activity, use a hair dryer, representing steam, to spin a fan and generate electricity.

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