Fascinated by the inventor Nikola Tesla and his innovation of AC electricity, Asher Suderov decided to build a Tesla coil himself and persuaded his father and grandfather to help him.
Suderow was only an eighth grader at the time, but the invention stuck in his head and he recently had the opportunity to demonstrate it to his chemistry teacher at Oak Forest High School.
The two had been chatting when Suderow casually mentioned that he had made the spool, and after asking his teacher Michael Collins if he wanted it, Collins came out with his own, which he uses for class demonstrations.
They’re neat enough that two people created them independently, because once Tesla coils are connected, “you become the conductor,” Collins said.
Also, “If someone touches you, they get zapped,” he said.
First developed by Tesla in 1891, the coils use very high voltages at low currents and were used in televisions, radios and other electronics.
“He developed this device and the idea was that you would send this high voltage through outlets in homes,” Collins said. “Instead of running through wires, it ran through the air and had receptors in houses. That way you would get power.”
When Suderow brought in his own invention, Collins was impressed.
“We plugged it in and it’s done very professionally,” Collins said. “I was so impressed. … It wasn’t a kit, they had a plan and they worked together.”
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Suderow said he finds the idea exciting.
“Back then I was reading stories about Nikola Tesla and I thought inventions were really cool,” he said. “I wanted to build one and show people how they work.”
Suderow’s grandfather is a retired ComEd employee, so he helped with the wiring. His father is a welder and helped with those skills. The project lasted about a month after school. It was intended for a science fair, but it never materialized due to pandemic cancellations.
Suderow said he enjoyed some of the projects in chemistry class, including an experiment combining calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and phenol red in a plastic bag to see what needed to be added to make the solution change color and temperature.
“That was pretty interesting,” Suderow said.
He said he was toying with the idea of becoming a mechanic after college. 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.