Dr. Hank Hurrass visited Ridgeline Academy to teach summer school students about the Hellcat coil that just became a part of the Guinness Book of World Records. We learned that it took him a year to build the Hellcat coil, and he didn't know whether it would even work. The coil is not a new invention, in fact, it has been around for over a century, one of the many novel creations of inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, who also developed radio and radar waves, fluorescent lights and the AC distribution system used in our homes today.
Hurrass spoke about that first coil. “I got an award at the Orange County Science Fair,” he reminisces. He has been building coils ever since. He and his buddy kept building the coils in a friendly rivalry, and the coils kept growing bigger and bigger, culminating in the famous “Hellcat Coil” in 2015.
Tesla irrevocably changed the field of electronics and our understanding of electricity, Hurrass explains. Tesla’s first big invention–the AC electric polyphase motor, or the inductor motor and generator–brought electricity into everyday use. Intensified by the ardent rivalry between Tesla and George Westinghouse (not to mention Thomas Edison), the introduction of the electric power distribution systems in the late 19th century allowed electric energy to be transmitted on a scale permitting indoor lighting in every home. That historical rivalry would go down in history as the “War of the Currents.”
Hurrass showed us how the currents work. Basically, it is possible to either step down (decrease) or step up (increase) the voltage of a transformer, by manipulating the input to output (or primary to secondary wire turns) ratio. Regardless of the number of turns, he said, the ratio must remain constant. Electric current goes in, to come out as heat; and what goes in, must come out, albeit transformed, as the name of the device prescribes. If electricity is to travel a greater distance, then an increase in voltage in necessary, all the while keeping the input-output ratio constant.
An ideal transformer has a one-to-one ratio, but Hurrass’ Tesla coil has a much higher ratio, with more turns on the secondary and less turns on the primary wire. Pointing to the thick black wire that encircles the outside of the coil six times, he explains, “It’s thick because there’s a lot of current going through it.”
We also got a lesson about thunder and lightning and the best place to be during an electrical storm. He taught us about converting kilometers to miles per hour. After the explanations the class got a two-in-one audio and light show. Hurrass runs his “shop” in Black Canyon City, where he has been living for the past 22 years.
The Hellcat Coil has attracted the interest of people from all over the world. Hurrass mentions three doctors from Romania, a man from Denmark and a kid from Bulgaria as recent visitors. Hurrass enjoys teaching kids about electricity, and showing elementary and junior high students his Tesla coils.
Hurrass shared with us stories around his own sixth-grade field trip and the role it plays in this stage of the game for him now. Today, he hopes to electrify the kids’ intellectual lives as well.