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Build your own singing Tesla coil

TinyTesla allows anyone to build a Tesla coil that shoots arcs of electricity and plays simple MIDI music files.


When it comes to science toys, few have the cachet of cool of the singing Tesla coil: a tower of copper wiring topped by a hollow metal toroid that fires out bolts of electricity in time to music. Building one, however, is a little on the complicated side for anyone who doesn't have the tools and the know-how; and buying one pre-made can get expensive.

Enter tinyTesla, currently seeking Kickstarter backing, a small, affordable singing Tesla coil that comes with all parts and build instructions necessary included in one handy kit, created by a team of MIT students who created oneTesla, a company to provide hands-on engineering education in the form of kits.

"TinyTesla is a little Tesla coil that shoots sparks, plays MIDI tracks, and exercises your soldering skills," the team wrote. "This coil kit is designed to be easy to build and assemble for anyone with basic soldering skills. Shooting lightning and playing music using electricity itself is an exciting way to learn about physics and electronics!"

The tinyTesla stands about six inches (around 15 centimetres) tall, and can be hooked up to a PC via a fibre optic USB cable in order to convert MIDI files to pulses of light that gate the coil at the audio frequency. It can be used with the tinyTesla software and MIDI playback software, or a MIDI instrument using a USB to MIDI adapter and oneTesla software.

The tinyTesla -- and the larger oneTeslaTS coil being offered on the Kickstarter -- can't play overly complex tracks, but they can play two notes at once, which is perfect for retro gaming tracks and simple compositions of your own.

It's also important to note that the kit doesn't include everything you need to build a Tesla coil. You'll also need a soldering iron and solder, a multimeter, and a selection of tools including needlenose pliers, wirecutters and a screwdriver.

You can view the full list of equipment, as well as everything included in the kit (and very important safety instructions) in the Kickstarter FAQ. The tinyTesla is being offered for a minimum pledge of US$149 at time of writing, and the oneTeslaTS kit for US$349; visit the tinyTesla project page to reserve your own.