Million volt guitar rocks the house…for science!


[Bill Porter] and his friend [Dan Flisek] work together to put on a science-related educational stage show called “Science Brothers”, in which the pair try to convince school children that their field of expertise is the cooler science. While the two are competitive on stage, the main goal of the program is to get kids interested in science, no matter what the specialty.

The pair currently finance the project out of pocket, so they are always looking for ways to make things interesting while also keeping costs in check. With that in mind [Bill] came up with an awesome way to show off the Tesla coil he built a while back. His most recent educational creation is a little something he calls “Tesla Hero”.

Since he already had a solid state Tesla coil hanging around, he dug up a PS2 Guitar Hero controller and got busy getting the two acquainted. The guitar connects to the coil via a fiber optic isolator board, playing one of five notes as he strums along. A series of Arduino-driven LED strips adorn the guitar, flashing various colors while he plays, as you can see in the video below.

It’s quite a cool project, and we’re sure that his audience will be impressed!

Stick around to see a video of  Tesla Hero in action, and if you’re interested in learning more about the Science Brothers, be sure to check them out here.


  1. Hackerspacer says:

    I laughed at “[s]ince he already had a solid state Tesla coil hanging around.”

    Wonder if he could make it play an actual song while he pretended to play it? Would wow the kids – unless he is already quite musically inclined.

  2. Bill says:

    I’m not, and that’s a good idea, even though I feel like it would mean I join the droves of bad artists that fake everything on stage.

    I’d also use the setup to give the controller to kids (at a safe distance) to try out. Can’t fake that.

  3. Bill says:

    “The pair currently finance the project out of pocket,”

    To be clear, it’s not completely from our pocket, just some. It is grant funded, though with the federal budget issues and other red tape hold ups, we have had to use our own money to keep going and buy materials. Each show is ‘on the clock’ but all our prep, practices and new demo constructions are volunteer.

    This demo was built at home on my own time and money.

  4. NonaSuomy says:

    The “Marry had a little lamb” he played there wasn’t good enough for you, what is this world coming to?

  5. wardy says:

    Does it sound better in real life?

  6. rbnz says:

    nice project. a little more action on the guitar would be nice…

    how about smashing your guitar at the end of every set? or rigging it with thermite to explode and eat its way thru the floor?

  7. Hirudinea says:

    Quick, somebody sens this to Gene Simmons!

  8. Bill says:


    It sounds like a Tesla Coil IRL. Not sure if that’s what you mean by ‘better’.


    If only money grew on trees….

  9. grenadier says:

    I’ll be dammed if that’s a million volts

  10. kakureru says:

    Mary had a bitchin lamb, bitchin lamb, bitchin lamb….

  11. Hackerspacer says:

    Mary Had a Little Lamb just doesn’t wow children anymore.

    Might I suggest Dragonforce – Through the Fire & Flames or Juno Reactor – Burly Brawl?

  12. Hackerspacer says:

    Technially, thermite doesn’t really explode so much as just burn with intense heat.

  13. Bill says:


    Breakdown of air is about 3 million Volts per meter, and the coil is capable of about 24″ sparks out 36″ if tunned perfectly, so do the math. The target is purposefully set close to the coil to avoid it striking anything else.

    I think you might be dammed…

  14. Bill says:


    Ha….Ha….. :-/

    I don’t think I ever beat those songs on normal…

  15. wardy says:

    @Bill, well I’ve heard some “Tesla speakers” on HackADay before and the range of tones they can produce is quite a lot wider than appears on this video. So I figured it was just a low quality sound recording on the vid that would explain it.

  16. Bill says:


    This is a DRSSTC which is only capable of reproducing monophonic sounds. Think really early cell phone ring tones, and that’s about all it can do. And the range is only limited to 1-2 octaves before stressing the components and blowing out.

    I’d have to build a much larger SSTC to get better audio response. The ‘Tesla Speakers’ are much lower power then a full blown tesla coil, and have much shorter arcs. Not the best thing for a stage demo.

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