Tesla coil shown off at USU physics demonstration

The Coburn family has been hosting a November physics demonstration at Utah State for almost a decade. Each year they present a different focus of demonstrations to the community. This year’s topic was electricity and magnetics. James Coburn used a series of Tesla coils to show the electromagnetic force and the effects it has on different metals and objects.

In one particular demonstration he invited a former student, Jacob Dansie, to come up and demonstrate a “can crusher” that he had made during his senior year. Dansie placed an aluminum soda can on a coil with a paper in between.

Dansie explained, “The capacitor dumps the power into the coil setting up a strong magnetic field for only a second. The rise in the magnetic field causes an electrical current to circulate around the can in the aluminum itself. That current creates its own magnetic field, and the two fields repulse each other, fighting, and you can guess which one is going to win: the stronger conductor. Having the paper in between is what makes the can shoot up.”

Dansie is also responsible for working on the Tesla coil with Morgan Hawks, created especially for this event. They used the coil in several demonstrations, all of which were definite crowd pleasers. They ended the show by shooting electricity from the Tesla coil through four light poles and exploding a hydrogen-filled balloon.

Coburn said, “this is a family event, a lot of families come. Right from the first year, my family helped out. They’ve grown up doing this.”

Next year they plan on presenting demonstrations in mechanics such as Newtonian mechanics.

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