Introduction: Barbie Doll Electric Chair Science Fair Project

Picture of Barbie Doll Electric Chair Science Fair Project

This is a science fair project that I did in middle school and completely disgusted the entire female staff of Benton Middle. The purpose of this project is to show how the electric chair works and discuss basic electricity - currents and conductivity.

This is perhaps not the most politically correct science fair project, but it definitely gets attention. And although it is more based on presentation than science, most people find it very interesting to learn how an electric chair works. :D

This instructable is quite lengthy, though some parts are optional. You'll probably want to scan each section to find what you're looking for. Have fun and happy building!

Also, please note that I will be linking to for the materials used within this project.

Step 1: First You'll Need to Find a Barbie With Bendable Arms and Legs.

Picture of First You'll Need to Find a Barbie With Bendable Arms and Legs.

I got mine for 27 cents at a Goodwill. Always check thrift stores first - they're cheaper. However, you can also check local stores to see if you can get one on sale.

Don't pay too much, though, as we'll be messing her up quite a bit.

If you'd like, take a mugshot. You can use it in the presentation of the science project. I cut my Barbie's hair and drew circles around her eyes with a pencil, and well as smudging lip gloss around her face. Barbie had a rough night.

I also made an outfit for my Barbie using scrap fabric I had lying around. This is a very simple thing to do that will help your project become more attractive. I've included a quite awful Microsoft paint image to explain it!

Step 2: Start Collecting the Basic Tools for This Project!

Picture of Start Collecting the Basic Tools for This Project!

These are the tools you will need to make the chair:

- a piece of wood, preferably less than 1/2 in. thick. You need the chair to be in proportion to Barbie!
- a saw of some sort suitable for cutting wood. Buy mine on!
- a drill for inserting wires into the epoxy putty.
- notepad and pencil for taking measurements.
- tape measure.
- safety glasses that fit better than mine.
- wood glue.
- a level for better measuring.
- stain of some sort (preferably dark, like this walnut stain.) or instant espresso mixed with water to form a paste. (I started out using stain, but didn't have enough and moved to espresso paste, haha.)
- a small brush for applying stain.
- FastSteel epoxy putty or something comparable.
- 18 gauge electrical wire.
- any small lightbulb - flashlight bulbs will work best. The base needs to be pretty small!
- find something you have around the house to use for straps. I fashioned some out of an old CD binder handle. I just had to burn the ends together and taa-daa!
- a 6 volt battery, like this one.
- plastic wrap or plastic grocery bags for cleanliness!

Step 3: Measure Your Barbie and Assemble the Chair.

Picture of Measure Your Barbie and Assemble the Chair.

You can try to custom fit your Barbie through careful measuring, or you can follow the measurements I made. :D

Basic chair measurements:
Seat of chair = 1 piece at 3 in. long x 3 1/2 in. wide
Back of chair = 1 piece at 6 in. tall x 3 1/2 in. wide
Armrests = 2 pieces at 3 in. long x 1/2 in. wide
Vertical armrest bases = 2 pieces at 1 1/4 in. tall by 1/2 in. wide
Foot rest = 1 piece at 3 1/2 in. long x 1/2 in. wide
Legs = 4 pieces at 3 1/2 in. tall, 1/2 in. wide

Go ahead and cut these out - I assembled the entire chair using only glue. Just take it in stages and you'll be fine! I've included two pictures of the assembled chair for reference. (Also, try not to worry too much about which way you're cutting. If you cut against the grain like I did, it'll just make the chair look more rugged and scary.) :)

Also don't worry about how straight and professional it looks. People will be impressed that you made a chair at all!

The only tip I can give here it to watch out for excess glue - you can end up with weird spots in the stain.

Step 4: Staining, Yay!

Picture of Staining, Yay!

I started out using small packets of gel stain, but ran out too quickly. I ended up mixing some instant espresso powder with water to form a stain and it worked fairly well.

Just be sure to cover your workstation and wear gloves!

And if anyone asks you why the stain looks so terrible, politely explain to them that it's not "terrible", but rather "old" and "badass".

Step 5: Now, Strap Your Barbie Into the Chair.

Picture of Now, Strap Your Barbie Into the Chair.

You'll want to make sure she's dressed and her head has been shaved, as well! We want this to be accurate.

If you have extra bits of leather, cloth, or nylon cord lying around that will work pretty well! You just need to decide how many straps you would like.

Straps are normally in these places:
- across the chest
- around the wrists
- around the ankles
- sometimes a leather "helmet" is worn to reduce movement and the view of the victim's face, as well.

Step 6: A Mini History + Science Lesson! Yippee!

Picture of A Mini History + Science Lesson! Yippee!

Sadly, information on the electric chair is quite hard to find, especially from reliable sources. Even the wikipedia article on the electric chair either lacks sources or links to websites that look anything but professional.

I will link to sources at the end of this section, however, that I have deemed the most reliable.

History of the Electric Chair

The first electric chair was built by Harold P. Brown, and it came at quite a crucial time - during the War of Currents.

The electric chair was first put to use in New York in 1890. The execution didn't go quite as planned - the subject, a Mr. William Kemmler, withstood two rounds of voltage before he expired. And yet, even with the gruesome display, it was still considered more humane than hanging and therefore spread across the country (used in more than 25 states) and was soon the primary means of execution within the U.S.

Now the electric chair has been phased out for the most part. As of writing this instructable, Nebraska is the only state left that uses the electric chair as its primary means of execution. Other states still offer the chair, but prefer to use lethal injection. This is most likely the result of many botched executions. There have been several cases in which an electric chair has severely burned and bloodied the condemned. Men have withstood the one round of voltage and suffered until they died during the second. The numerous horror stories far overshadow the properly carried out executions!

How an Electric Chair Works

An electric chair is composed of very few parts - a wooden frame, leather straps, and two electrodes (usually made of brass) that form a closed circuit, therefore keeping the electricity within the body. One electrode fits inside a helmet, and another goes around the leg. To help these electrodes to their job, the subject's head and leg will be shaved, and sponges will be used to increase conductivity. The electrodes run on alternating current (AC for short).

In most cases, a hood and a diaper will also be provided.

Voltage has varied from year to year and from state to state and is hard to summarize. In most cases there will be one to three cycles of electricity pumped into a subject, and these will vary in voltage and time administered. This will result in the subject being electrocuted, which will result in a loss of consciousness and eventually lead to death due to damage to internal organs.

Sources in addition to chose linked to above:

Step 7: Now That We Know How an Electric Chair Works, Let's Set Up the Electrodes!

Picture of Now That We Know How an Electric Chair Works, Let's Set Up the Electrodes!

You will need to build three basic forms out of epoxy putty for this step. You can either use a colored one like I have (FastSteel) or paint over it later with silver. It's up to you! Also, if you have metalworking experience, feel free to use your skills here. You will end up with a much better looking product. I chose the epoxy putty because my boyfriend suggested it and it was the easiest solution. It's also not a conductor, which will help keep me from getting shocked! Yay!

In the next step we'll drill small holes in the putty to allow for wire connection.

Tips for working with epoxy putty:
- keep fingers moist, otherwise you'll end up a sticky mess.
- work will small amounts.
- fashion small pieces and build on them to avoid a piece drying in the middle of you molding it!
- check the dry times on your specific product and work fast!
- be careful when pulling the putty and the plastic wrap apart - make sure the epoxy is completely dry!

For the back of the chair, pictured in pictures 1 & 2:
- lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the back of the chair. This will keep the putty from sticking.
- form a flat piece that covers the top and sides.
- from the flat piece you will build a pipe-like piece big enough to fit your lightbulb inside - try to do it as shown in the picture, it makes it easier!
- also keep in mind that you need to make it thick enough that drilling won't break it.

For the helmet, shown in picture 3:
- cover Barbie's head with plastic wrap.
- place a glob of putty at the top of her head and work it down until the helmet is the size that you want.
- make sure to keep it thick enough to drill through!

For the electrode on the leg, shown in picture 4:
- roll a small piece of putty into a snake, and make sure that it goes completely around her leg.
- place on the leg and flatten.
- try to keep the edges as straight as possible and watch out for bumps!
- you don't have to worry about thickness as much on this one because we can drill right into her leg!

Step 8: Drill Holes Into the Epoxy Putty for the Wires!

Picture of Drill Holes Into the Epoxy Putty for the Wires!

I will illustrate this step using pictures and notes as it's the easiest thing to do. :D

For the back of the chair and the helmet, drill holes as described in pictures 1 & 2.

For the leg electrode, drill holes as described in picture 3.

You will need a minimum of four holes on the back of the chair, four holes in the helmet (two on top and two on one side), and two holes side by side on the leg electrode.

Step 9: Cut the Wires and Install Them.

Picture of Cut the Wires and Install Them.

Four of the wires will be non-functioning and just to show the idea of a closed circuit. The two wires on the back of the chair are the most important and will supply power to the light bulb, so let's cover those first. You will need six pieces of wire for this part, so cut carefully. :)

Wiring the back of the chair as shown in pictures 1 &2:
- insert a wire into the top hole. This will wrap around the light bulb.
- curve it so that it fits the hole and around the light bulb.
- insert a second wire in the lower hole, this will make contact with the bottom of the light bulb.
- insert light bulb when both wires are in place.
- these wires will connect to the battery, so make sure they're long enough!

Wire the helmet to the back of the chair as shown in picture 3:
- these wires are just for show, and are only a couple of inches long.

Wire the side of the helmet to the leg electrode as shown in picture 4:
- yet again, these wires are just for show.
- make sure they're long enough to arc out away from the chair and Barbie's body.

Picture 5 shows the length of the "just for show" wires, for reference.

Step 10: Connect Barbie to the Battery and Burn, Baby, Burn!

Picture of Connect Barbie to the Battery and Burn, Baby, Burn!

Well, not really. Sadly Barbie is not a good conductor (and because she's jointed, it makes it almost impossible to fill her with something conductive. Blah!) and there's not much to see here. For this reason, we are using the light bulb for interest and to show the current.

I suppose you could always let people connect the light bulb wires to the battery and scream when the light bulb turns on. That would be a show of sorts. And you might succeed in creeping them out even more. The possibilites are endless - you could use it as a night light, a finger warmer, a reading light, or just to make your house guests worry about your mental health!

So go ahead and turn on your light bulb and bask in the glow of your very disturbing science fair project. :D


JB95 (author)2016-10-04

Great idea! But if I'm not completely wrong it must be the left leg.

bottom-dragger made it! (author)2016-01-01

cell phone vibrators are not enough, they just buzz. barbie has a motor with a large eccentric under her seat to get her to move.

stephenmack (author)2015-10-22

If one were to cover her in water before activation, would she explode or burn from the electricity?

Simran Sharma (author)2015-10-15

I love this instructable

Simran Sharma (author)2015-10-15

I love it

saumipan (author)2015-09-21

Well, I think it's very politically correct. Barbie offends women and girls with her unrealistic giraffe neck. This is great.

BrashannaL made it! (author)2015-08-23

It's so fun to electric barbie doll

Book Girl (author)2015-07-06

Cool. I wonder what would happen if I showed my friend this...

stephenmack (author)2015-04-23

Awesome! Pour melted aluminum over Barbie and watch her freak people out more! You could pour tan wax over that, and since the aluminum conducts, the wax would slough off and look like she is a melting robot! AWESOME!

rschack (author)2015-01-04

Love this! :) And I can't get enough of Barbie's mug shot.

grannyjones (author)2014-11-09

I never did like that broad--like how could she afford all that swag?

emtsevilla (author)2014-06-03

i cracked up at that picture of barbie looking BUSTED AS HELL. haha jesus christ i'm so mature

kevenr17 (author)2014-03-13


AndyGadget (author)2013-06-17

This is just so wrong for so many reasons - I love it !

(If Mattel come out with an 'Execution Methods Through The Ages' Barbie accessories range, you should get royalties #;¬)

HammE (author)AndyGadget2014-03-11

Yes! Mattel would e awesome if they did that!

Ramming (author)AndyGadget2013-07-28

Quote: This is just so wrong for so many reasons - I love it !

Agreed. I found my self giggling then I saw this.

HammE (author)2014-03-11

Hello! first, awesome instructable! Second, I'm just unsure what made you think a barbie doll would conduct, for the reason that she is plastic to my knowlage. anyway, I'm guessing you got the photo from Wikipedia? I just recognized it from he millions of times I've been on the page. It was the chair used in the Sing sing prison in New York (before they stopped using the death penalty) nick named Old Sparky like other ones in the US. I hoped you learned something ( I have Asperger's Syndrome, excuse me for all the knowledge that I have about for such a weird topic.) and if you get a chance, a response would be nice!


xilenaid (author)2013-10-20

Hi, I was thinking doing this proyect for my science fair. But I need help xD I f I do it, what will the problem be? and the purpose or hypothesis, any help ? ( sorry for my bad english, I speak spanish) ( not mush english!

xilenaid (author)xilenaid2013-10-20

please if you see this reply *

L.A.Woman (author)2013-05-22

My future, not yet conceived child will be needing one of these.

infernisdiem (author)2012-07-24

I would have added one of those vibrating motors, like the ones that you can find in game controllers to add a little bit more fun, because, come on, who stands still while being electrocuted?

craftsmith (author)2012-07-07

this will probably crash instructables eventually.....all these
but i'm gonna add one more anyway, this is epic, the most iconic image of a barbie doll i have ever seen. you deserve an award of some kind for this.
barbies crime was presenting young girls with a body type that few if any could ever live up to, its about time she paid the price.

uniicorn (author)2012-03-12

this is so frickin funny!

monsterlego (author)2011-10-13

Its so evil! BWA HA HA!! >:)

damianzuch (author)2011-09-08

I was trying to think of something fun to use a stripped disposable camera for and searched about to see if anyone had made an electric chair for troll dolls.... that's how I happened upon your Instructable. This is so much more than great! And such a fantastic job on Ms. Barbra Millicent Robert's make up and furniture set! I haven't skimmed the posts yet but I'm sure people have suggested adding motors and smoke devices and the like (I would love to see further mods to this project). Anyway, just wanted to thank you for a great Instructable!

memiley (author)2011-09-08

How do you keep your stove top looking so nice? I clean mine like a maniac but it's not as pristine as yours. I need answers.

nmoraga (author)2011-09-08

lol this is freakin awesome. you should do some more prequel about tyrant electronic items with the special participation of BARBIE the sinner XD .. how about an electric bed? .

bd5 (author)2011-05-12

Oh God. This is soooooo funny! I would have given anything to see the reaction of your teacher's faces. Thanks for the laugh. Most unpolitically correct, eh? I bet!!! Wow. Great job... Can't stop laughing. A suggestion, try getting this doll/theme passed through Barbie.

yanksguy (author)2011-03-06

As a middle school science teacher, I would have given you an A+ on this project and used it as an example for future classes. Clearly you worked very hard on it, not only building the model but in researching "the chair" itself and its operation, and importantly, thought "outside of the box" on this one. I dream of having students like you. Great job!

kelseymh (author)2011-01-11

With thanks to Kiteman for linking to this -- you've achieved politically incorrect awesomeness! I am just slightly (only slightly!) disappointed that you didn't paint Barbie with conductive paint and hook up a real, live circuit to fry the murderous demon spawn...but I digress.

Woo hoo!

gghay (author)2011-01-10

It looks like it's trying to get out.cuz One foot is on top of anothern haha

gghay (author)2011-01-10

I love this when i showed my friends they were just laughing

gghay (author)2011-01-09

THIS IS AWESOME . I LOOOOOOOVE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;D

JCoffey (author)2009-01-25

I LOVE IT! Have you thought about adding a tiny pager motor so that when she gets the juice it makes her shake violently?

macman808 (author)JCoffey2010-10-15

also put in a piezo buzzer to sound like a scream.

Or put nichrome wire inside her so she melts.

mwa ha ha ha haaaaaa I am an evil genius and i am going to conquer the world >:)

radar pandar (author)2010-01-21


Thanks! And I kinda just peeled it off once the putty dried. :)

MissPennyFarthing (author)2010-07-03

I just love the 5th picture of the last step - with half her face in shadow like that, Barbie looks totally insane! Great instructable! :-) Really appeals to my ghoulish sense of humour! Thanks for posting it!

RelientOwl (author)2010-06-24

Funniest thing I've ever seen on instructables, 5 Stars!!!

EricS (author)2010-06-03

This is really good-Barbie as a criminal-really funny!!!!

08techgrad (author)2010-02-06

I remember seeing "Bag Lady Barbie" and "Wino Ken" in Mad Magazine sometime during the 80's and 90's.

radar pandar (author)2010-01-21


elson (author)2010-01-21

you would have poured some water on her so she explodes lol

elson (author)2010-01-19

Who ever made this is a genius you are so smart hmm i gotta i got nothin compared to thi nice.

Zaphod Beeblebrox (author)2010-01-18

look what came up on the first page of google imiges when i searched "electric chair"

hellinabox (author)2009-11-10

Lmao, I like your choice in science fair projects. Would've worked better with a car battery though.

stephenniall (author)hellinabox2010-01-08

I think we should have barbie like this then action man with aligator clips on his nipples ! and a car battery

tomboy97 (author)2009-12-09

fill her with steel i did my science fair project this year like yours but i didnt put steel inside you should try it

RavingMadStudios (author)2009-12-03

This is sick, twisted and disturbing. I love it.
Diggin' the previous suggestions about making her shake and smoke. I wonder if it would be practical to also add a little baking soda & vinegar device so that she foams at the mouth.... Just a little loose baking soda and a thimble full of vinegar inside her head, and an invisible razor slit for a mouth opening. The shaking makes the thimble fall over, and voila!

FunkyBass95 (author)2009-11-03

Is the stain just for look or does it help electrocute the barbie?

About This Instructable




Bio: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working ... More »
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