August 7, 2019

A million volts and several sweet tunes: Musical Tesla coil debuts at Discovery Place Science

The coil converts 240 volts of electricity into one million volts to produce mesmerizing bolts of electricity

A musical Tesla coil is electrifying audiences at Discovery Place Science with its renditions of approximately two dozen well-known tunes.

A form of induction coil used to produce high frequency alternating electrical currents, the Tesla coil was created by Nikola Tesla in the late 1800s in an attempt to provide wireless electricity to the world. The Museum’s Tesla coil was donated to Discovery Place last year by Richard Mathias and his wife, Mary Ellen, whose Tesla Coil Museum Exhibit Program has given similar equipment to various museums across the country for years.

The coil converts 240 volts of electricity into one million volts to produce bolts of electricity shooting out of its “ears.” The bolts of electricity can arc up to 12 feet.

“Our Tesla coil happens to be musical, so the electricity translates the impulses of pre-programmed music files that we feed it to play music,” said Douglas Coler, manager of shows and floor programs. “It can play about 28 different songs, including everything from the Ghostbusters theme song to the opening tune in Game of Thrones.”

Special programming built around the Tesla coil is now showing. “Tommy Thunder’s Heavy Metal Lightning Show,” written by P.J. Griffith, puts the Tesla coil at center stage as rock-star-turned-meteorologist Tommy Thunder and his straight-laced manager, Karen, explain (in song) electrical concepts, natural phenomena and Nikola Tesla’s legacy, all while Tommy tries to relive his heavy metal glory days.

“This is a great demonstration of how electricity travels and what happens when it is converted like that,” Coler said. “The fact that it plays music is just an added bonus. It’s a million volts and several sweet tunes all in one show.”

Shows take place at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays and at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends. For more information, click here.