Notts Gaussfest – What is a Gaussfest ?

          What is a Gaussfest ?

Nottingham Gaussfest is a yearly meeting of a loose group of friends sharing a common interest in high voltage equipment and Tesla coils.In the USA these meetings are always referred to as Teslathons, a reference to Nicola Tesla who’s tesla coils always feature prominently at these events. We decided, being European, we would adopt Carl Friedrich Gauss as the scientist, due to all the devices also required a high magnetic field and we wanted to differentiate ourselves. Hence the term Gaussfest.

The equipment that appears at the Gaussfest is entirely dependent on the Exhibitors present, and their current interests. Usually there will be a collection of various types of Tesla coils, and a collection of static electricity generators like Van-De Graff machines and Wimshurst machines. But each year someone surprises me with something different, or new.

Tesla coils are the most common high voltage device we get, are essentially a large transformer. Near the bottom of the tesla coil is a radio frequency generator either electronic or mechanical, driving a primary winding with a small number of turns. The Secondary coil (the tall one) has a much larger number of turns of around 800-2000 turns typically. And at the top if this, a topload where the high voltage comes out. We get tesla coils of all sizes from a 50mm high, to over 2M tall at the Gaussfest.

The Static generating machines our exhibitors bring are even more are varied. The common ones are a Van de Graaff machine, uses a belt to transfer charge up to the top dome where it is stored, and the Wimshurst machine uses a pair of contra-rotating disks to multiply charge and store it into a pair of capacitors. Again the sizes of these machines vary from 200mm tall to 1.5MAlthough the electrical discharges from these machines look dangerous, they are entirely safe if viewed from a distance, and our exhibitors are very experienced with the operation of their machines.

Or Exhibitors are happy to talk about how their machines work and the problems with their construction, although if they are preparing them for a demonstration, or have problems please give them “thinking room” as their safety, and the safety of their equipment is paramount. All our exhibitors are all amateurs and make and demonstrate high voltage equipment for fun. The Gaussfest is their opportunity to display what they have been working on.

Commercial high voltage engineering is expensive, due to this many of the exhibits on display will have been made totally or partially from household items, surplus, and any available electronic equipment, often with items multiplied up to deal with the high voltages/currents that are required. To keep the cost down, the equipment is usually run at the very maximum of its tolerances. These devices are rarely engineered for their longevity, so failures are quite common, and this trade-off is very much part of the hobby. Due to this, we do not have planned schedules for the demonstrations, as equipment WILL FAIL (and be repaired) during the day, although we will endeavour to have something always happening.

When the Gaussfest moved to Papplewick in 2017, we were very conscious that for us to do our activities, Papplewick pumping station must get something back, So Papplewick allow us to meet, and we let the public see what we do and give demonstrations to give back to the Pumping station. As much of what we do can be dangerous, this trade-off is some restrictions in access to the station to ensure your safety.  

Nottingham Gaussfest

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