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The Man Who Can Make Lightning Sing

An interview with Jay Summet of the Musical Tesla Coil

Musical Tesla Coil

In a garage near Decatur, Georgia, a maker named Jay Summet is hard at work on his latest creation. He’s assembling and customizing the oneTesla MIDI-controlled Tesla coil kit that he’ll be showing off at Maker Faire Atlanta in October. Like most makers, Jay’s garage-turned-workshop is filled with all sorts of tools, spare parts, and various odds and ends that may one day find a new home in some unique project.

If you’ve been to any of the previous Atlnata Mini Maker Faires, you’ve undoubtedly come across Jay and his converted S-10 Electric Pickup Truck which he drives to each Faire. Jay tries to bring something new to show off each year. You may have seen his large Bubble Display or his Rostock-mini Delta 3D printer. This year he’s bringing his one-Tesla musical Tesla coil.

Jay has been a maker for as back as he can remember, “I remember making a remote light controller with one of the original PIC micro-controllers (where you had to erase them with a UV light through a quartz “erase window” ) back in the late 1980’s.” He draws some of his inspiration from seeing things other makers build, but many of his projects come from a necessity that needs to be filled. And when a maker needs something, he makes it himself.

When he’s not making, Jay teaches computer science at Georgia Tech. For his thesis research, he developed a Virtual Rear Projection system that compensates for shadows cast by someone walking in front of the screen. He’s currently working with small, bluetooth-enabled robots to teach students how to program in Python.

Jay was nice enough to let us in on another project he’s currently designing: a 6-foot diameter spherical playhouse for his son constructed from CNC cut plywood. And if he find a way to lug it to the Faire, perhaps we’ll get to see it at next years Maker Faire Atlanta.


501st Legion

501st Legion is a group of talented artists that share a love for all things Star Wars. They aim to create film-accurate costumes to help promote the interest in Star Wars. 501st is a not just a cosplay group for Star Wars fans. 501st Legion aims to help others that wish to get into cosplay and other charities. Not only do they make costumes, they use them to shine a light into lives of others (just because they work for Vader does not mean they aren’t good guys).

I was pleased to have few questions answered by a member of the Legion:

What keeps you driven through a project into crunch time to finish?

When I first joined the 501st, I was asked to come to a couple events and “handle,” meaning watching out for the folks in costume and helping to wrangle the guests wanting photos. Seeing the joy, wonder, and belief – or disbelief – from the crowd upon meeting their favorite Star Wars “bad guys” was enough to motivate me to spend countless hours building my armor.

From looking into 501st I see that everyone in the group strives to have a Screen Accurate costume. What sources do you use to help in the design and creation process and how long would you average planning phase last?

Every approvable costume has a Costume Resource Library (CRL). A CRL is a series of requirements and supporting screenshots from the movies, games, or cartoons showing all details of the costume.

When working on a project, whether it is a new costume or a prop for an event, what tricks do you use to keep yourself of track?

Setting goals and milestones is important. However, costuming can become difficult for those who don’t have experience working with their hands. Our Garrison frequently holds “armor parties” with people who are expert crafters. Many of the folks in our group have massive tool collections and the experience to create great costumes.

501st is the largest cosplay group I have come across, to you as a member what makes the Legion so special to you?

Star Wars is special to millions of people. Experiencing the reaction of people when they meet Vader brings a smile to any Stormtrooper’s frown. Providing people a break from reality, even for just a moment is worth all the sweat, blood, frustration, and money spent on these costumes. Truly though, its the members that make it exceptional. Members are known to help a new member out with projects. We’re a tight-knit group. The Force binds us together.