Student wins gold for lightning maker

Budding scientist Etienne Dreyer has built a Tesla coil to create lightning. It won a gold medal at the Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair.

Budding scientist Etienne Dreyer has built a Tesla coil to create lightning. It won a gold medal at the Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair.

Before he turns on the Tesla coil in his living room, Etienne Dreyer draws the drapes closed and puts the cat outdoors.

“You won’t want to be here for this,” he tells the grey tabby.

Then, standing a safe distance away, Dreyer fires up the chest-high tower of coiled wire.

A loud crackling fills the darkened room and blue bolts of lightning leap from the top of the coil to a nearby lightning rod.

Thousands of volts are dancing in mid-air.

The home-built artificial lightning machine created by Dreyer has won the Grade 11 home schooled student a gold at the annual Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair and a trip to the National Science Fair in Toronto to represent B.C.

Tesla coils take their name from Nikola Tesla, the genius who invented the modern-day power distribution system, remote control, radio, and the alternating current motor.

Dreyer spent months building his own Tesla coil after he saw one in action on television.

He kept running tests in his bedroom, which is how he burned a hole in his bed.

“I forgot that a bed has a metal frame inside,” Dreyer said.

“It broke through my blanket, my covers, my mattress, and it connected to the metal frame.”

After he shut the Tesla coil off, Dreyer could see smoke and embers from the charred hole in his bed.

Building his own scientific experiment is not unusual behaviour for Dreyer, who intends to become a scientist one day.

“It’s always been my passion,” he said.

“I always do these kinds of weird science experiments.”

Behind him, his proud mother Ronel nods her agreement.

The annual Fraser Valley Regional Science Fair occurs every March, and features projects from Langley, Abbotsford, Mission and Surrey.

Six to eight winners from this fair, as well as others from all over B.C., will take part in the Canada National Science Fair.

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