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Hands On! readies for newest exhibition

June 29th, 2014 9:09 pm by David Floyd

Hands On! readies for newest exhibition

The bipolar musical Tesla coil that is set to make its debut at Hands On! Regional Museum. (David Floyd/Johnson City Press)

Hands On! Regional Museum has a reputation for providing fun methods of teaching children about science. Their latest attraction, “The Tesla Experience,” opening Tuesday, provides visitors with the opportunity to see the world’s largest bipolar musical Tesla coil.

Not many people have the expertise to describe what a bipolar musical Tesla coil is or how it works, but Richard Mathias, the founder and president of the Tesla Coil Museum, coordinates a program that builds Tesla coils for museums across the country.

“The exhibit is meant to primarily educate people about Nikola Tesla and his inventions,” Mathias said. “The Tesla coil is one he invented that transmits radio and power into the atmosphere. The one at Hands On! Museum is designed mainly as entertainment and will have music coming from its arcs.”

Nikola Tesla developed many conventionally used technologies — radar, the remote control, the radio — and is recognized today as a prolific inventor, having earned approximately 200 patents in his lifetime.

Mathias commissioned Eric Goodchild, an Arizona engineer, and Christopher Hooper, an audio specialist, to construct the Tesla coil. It took them a total of approximately 2,000 work hours to put it together.

The bipolar Tesla coil will be capable of playing 18 songs. These include the theme from “The Addams Family” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The museum has sent photographs and video of its new exhibit to the Guinness World Records. Mathias believes there’s a good chance that the machine will be recognized as the world’s largest bipolar Tesla coil.

“We’ll know if we make Guinness World Records in about a month,” Mathias said. “But there’s a 99 percent chance that we’ll make it.”

The Hands On! Museum will initially divide the exhibit’s hours into four daily 15-20 minute showtimes, but if the shows are oversold, the museum will increase the number of available showtimes per day.

Andy Marquart, Hands On! Museum’s Executive Director, hopes that this exhibit will further diversify the experience offered to visitors of the museum.

“This is really a preview,” Marquart said. “We’re working on plans for a new facility and this is a preview to the kinds of experiences we want people to have in the future of Hands On!”

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