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Understanding and Building a Tesla Coil: A Matthews Fund Grant

By Domenic (Dom) Mongillo and Aditya Mynampaty, VI Form

Understanding and Building a Tesla Coil: A Matthews Fund Grant

The Matthews Fund provides grants to students of any form who are good citizens and solid students.  Awards are based on merit and need as determined by a faculty committee. Grants are made for special needs such as tutoring assistance, special instruction, seminars, academic experiences of a national or international nature, and personal growth and advancement opportunities.  

Last year, we applied for and were fortunate to receive the Matthews Grant. Our hope was to use the resources given to us from the fund to further our understanding of electronics by building Tesla coils. We expanded upon this idea by using our Fifth Form Lion Term as an opportunity to build these coils while studying the complicated electronics inside of them with the help of resources from the school. We then continued to work on the coils throughout the summer and into this academic year. From this experience, we have learned an incredible amount about electronics and about the work and determination that goes into a complicated engineering feat.

In addition to funds for purchasing Tesla coil kits, spare parts, and equipment needed to construct the coils, our grant also enabled us to take a trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. The museum featured an exhibit called Lightning! that included a variety of machines that demonstrated electronic principles like the world’s largest Van de Graaff Generator, plasma balls, and, of course, several very large Tesla coils. We visited this exhibit and studied the coils, and we were able to go onstage after the presentation to talk with one of the people who worked to build the coils used in the demonstrations.


Dreaming Big: Robotics and Circuits Class

By Chris Roche, STEM Faculty

The Circuit Engineering Stair Master

The students in my spring “Robotics and Circuits Engineering with Physical Computing” class did it. They pulled it off!! We now have the “Stair Master” currently installed and running in the stairwell off the first floor of the St. Mark’s STEM building. Students and faculty like the installation, and we are looking forward to a phase two expansion that has music!

The “Stair Master” is an installation that allows a flight of stairs to be interactive with the people walking on them. Here are videos showing the Stair Master in action:
Video 1: Click Here
Video 2: Click Here
Video 3: Click Here

When you step on one of the steps in the “Stair Master”, LED light strips light on the stair you are on. The system uses sensors to know which stair you are on, triggering the appropriate lights. There are versions of interactive stairs already existing, such as the musical staircase at the Museum of Science in Boston. However, the “Stair Master” at St. Mark’s was designed and prototyped exclusively by the “Robots and Circuits” class, using class-built knowhow and our prototyping process. (more…)

Competing in the FIRST Robotics Challenge

By Kate Sotir, VI Form

Competing in the FIRST Robotics Challenge


Working in the basement level of the STEM building, using lots of power tools, and occasionally throwing out words like “kickoff,” “drivetrain,” or “STEAMworks,” we are FIRST team 3566, also known as Gone Fishin’.

Gone Fishin’ competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The robotics competition, open to any high school student, was created in order to promote the STEM fields and offer a competitive yet collaborative atmosphere for robotics. In the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), teams are given a challenge, in the form of a game, and then have six weeks to build a 120 pound, $10,000 robot to meet this challenge. After those six weeks are up, teams compete in various regional events. The ultimate goal is to go to the world championship, held in St. Louis, where around 800 teams gather to play the game. (more…)