Nikola Tesla changed the course of science with his work in electricity, which is why he has so many namesakes. Barring the car company, though, none have been as popular as the Tesla coil, which makes electricity sing.
And with the oneTeslaTS DIY Kit, which is available for $399.99, 11% off its usual price, that’s a literal proposition. This kit not only teaches families the basics of electricity, but it also leaves you with a unique musical instrument while doing it.
How Tesla Coils Work
First built by Tesla in 1891, the technical name for a Tesla coil is a resonant transformer circuit. These are very common circuits; you’ve used one if you’ve ever used a radio. As the name implies, it uses a coil of wire—two, in fact.
The first, the primary coil, is connected to a transformer that steps up the voltage. The primary coil has a capacitor that, when it reaches a tipping point, discharges into the secondary coil, the column of the Tesla coil in this case. This capacitor fills and dumps, fills and dumps, sending current back and forth between the primary and secondary coils.
At the top of the secondary coil is a top load capacitor, which, once there’s enough charge, can begin sparking towards conductive surfaces across an air gap, leading to those dramatic sparks we love so much. However, that’s just the start of it.
How Do Tesla Coils Sing?
The key word in the technical name here is “resonant.” That means electrical energy oscillates between the inductor and the capacitor, sticking to the same frequency. Think of this as a base note the coil strikes. That frequency can be changed with an interrupter circuit without stopping the resonant process. Do it often enough, quickly enough, and energetically enough, and you can create different notes when the sparks discharge across an air gap. And, with the right controls, you can modulate how much energy is in the system so the coil sparks at the right time and in the right sequence to make it a musical instrument.
Sweet Music Of The Sparks
Which brings us to the oneTeslaTS. While any Tesla coil can be turned into a musical instrument, this do-it-yourself coil adds some tools to make it easy to play right out of the box.
- First, it’s carefully tuned for music. The primary coil is PCB-etched, the secondary is carefully machine-wound, and everything is precisely tuned so it sings right out of the box.
- Second, there’s a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller built into the coil’s electronics, with a standard DIN5 jack. If you’ve already composed music for MIDI, or have downloaded it already, just plug in a MIDI device and roll the music. Or play it live.
- Third, there’s an SD card and a handheld controller. The LCD screen and menu interface makes jumping between songs as easy as following along with your files.
So, once it’s together, you can play any song you want in MIDI, even rocking out with sparks live. Just make sure everything’s properly grounded and a safe distance away; there’s a reason every kit comes with a high voltage warning.
Tesla coils are a lot of fun; they’re also often the doorway to a much deeper appreciation of electricity and engineering. Whether you want to learn more about electrical engineering as a family, or are planning your next Halloween costume already, this kit will bring hours of fun from building it to playing it. And at $399.99, 11% off the MSRP, it’s a lot cheaper (and quieter) than violin lessons, to boot.
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