Gustine boy builds Tesla Coil

Science project demonstrated at fair

May 6, 2008 

A science project featured at this year's Merced County Spring Fair attracted a lot of attention and a lot of electricity for its creator, Eddie Morris.

Morris, a 14-year-old Gustine Middle School student, built a 500,000 bolt Tesla Coil for his eighth-grade science project.

Fair organizers thought it was so "cool" that they let him display it inside the exhibit building.

"He's just so cool," Morris said in between demonstrations of his attraction to Tesla. "I like electricity."

The Tesla coil, named after its inventor Nikola Tesla, is a type of resonant transformer. Tesla used the coils to conduct experiments in electrical lighting, fluorescence and X-rays to name a few.

Morris said his goal was simple, to build a small structure that will light up a series of fluorescent tubes and, hopefully, impress a person or two.

His strategy worked.

Although Morris' project is on display only because the fair does not have a science category, it didn't stop curious fairgoers from crowding his small space once the sound of electricity crackling carried through the building.

Morris said he was giving demonstrations of his coil, a project on kinetics and a Jacob's ladder that he had also built every hour after school to people.

By his side was his father, Bruce, to help explain to people the mechanics of the coil while his son lit up a light bulb by just touching it.

"It was Tesla's dream to light a town," Bruce Morris said. "Eddie wanted to build a 14-foot coil, but I said no, it would be too hard to bring it down here and I don't think the fair board would like it."

Bruce was actually the one who encouraged and helped his son build the coil. He had built a similar one when he was Eddie's age. It took statewide honors. Bruce guided his son through the construction project.

"It was actually harder to search the Internet for all the parts we would need than building it," Bruce said.

Now nearing high school age, Eddie has been building things since he was in diapers, his father said. And as the boy has aged, his projects have become more ambitious, bigger and expensive.

His plan for next year's fair is to build a laser that can cut through soda cans. Bruce said if they can come up with the $2,000 worth of parts they will be able to give 2009 fairgoers a treat.

"He's always been like this," Bruce said. "He's not afraid of anything."

Enterprise reporter Minerva Perez can be reached by phone at (209)388-6565 or by e-mail at mperez@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter Minerva Perez can be reached by phone at (209)388-6565 or by e-mail at mperez@losbanosenterprise.com

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