Fascinated by inventor Nikola Tesla and his innovation of alternating current electricity, Asher Suderow decided to build a Tesla coil himself, and persuaded his dad and grandfather to help.
Suderow was only an eighth grader at the time, but that invention stayed on his mind and he recently had the chance to show it off to his chemistry teacher at Oak Forest High School.
The two had been talking when Suderow happened to mention he had made the coil and after he asked his teacher, Michael Collins, if he wanted it, Collins brought out his own, which he uses for class demonstrations.
They’re neat enough for two people to have created them independently because, once Tesla coils are plugged in, “you become the conductor,” Collins said.
Plus, “when someone touches you, they get zapped,” he said.
The coils, first developed by Tesla in 1891, use very high voltages at low currents and have been used in televisions, radios and other electronics.
“He developed this apparatus and the idea was you would send this high voltage through receptacles in the houses,” Collins said. “Instead of running through wires, it ran through the air and had receivers in homes. That way you would get electricity.”
When Suderow brought in his own invention, Collins was impressed.
“We plugged it in and it’s very professionally made,” Collins said. “I was so impressed. … It wasn’t a kit, they came up with a plan and worked together.”
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Suderow said he found the idea exciting.
“At the time, I would read stories about Nikola Tesla and I thought inventions were really cool,” he said. “I wanted to build one and show people how they worked.”
Suderow’s grandfather is a retired ComEd worker, so he helped with the wiring. His father is a welder and helped with those skills. The project took about a month of after school work. It was intended for a science fair, but that never happened because of pandemic cancellations.
Suderow said he’s been enjoying some of the projects in chemistry class, including an experiment combining calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and phenol red in a plastic bag in an experiment to discover what needed to be added for the solution to change color and temperature.
“That was pretty interesting,” Suderow said.
He said he is toying with the idea of becoming a mechanic after graduation. His other hobbies include playing the guitar and collecting vintage electronics, such as old film cameras and VHS tapes.
Janice Neumann is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.