As a team of ECE majors we came into this competition wanting to change peoples thoughts on what can be created at hackathons. We wanted to demonstrate the ability for students to focus on hardware to make awesome hacks, and in the process encourage more ECE students to attend hackathons in the future.
For our project, we decided to create a pulse-width modulated plasma speaker. We gathered components from old hardware, primarily an old TV. We used a 555 timer, BJT transistors, and a MOSFET to create a digital audio signal. We amplified this signal to a high voltage with a flyback transformer to create the electric potential necessary to generate plasma. The high-energy plasma rapidly heats the air, creating sound waves.
Although a plasma speaker is not necessarily practical for everyday use, this hack is an exciting and unconventional way of experiencing a common form of entertainment: music. Moreover, it is an excellent way to show what can be accomplished through hardware hacking.
To expand this project, we would have liked to implement a system that would allow users to text songs to a given number that would then be played by the plasma speaker from a raspberry pi to increase user interactivity. Unfortunately, complications with our power supply prevented us from having time to explore this option and many more.