Steven Farmer—an eighth grade science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School for a period of four years ending in 2005—testified about his experiences with the Tesla coil. (Farmer is currently a science teacher at Mount Vernon High School.)
Farmer used the Tesla coil during lessons on gases and electricity.
Using the Tesla coil on students allows them to experience the flow of electrons first hand, Farmer said. One way Farmer used it was for him to touch the device and then have a student touch his hand. The other way was for them to touch it directly. Farmer said that he never used it on anyone’s arm.
If the Tesla coil is grabbed tight it does not hurt, Farmer said. However, he does not think that a person would leave their finger on the device for long. Farmer said that he has only used the device on someone for a second, or a few seconds, at a time.
The first time that Farmer remembers seeing the Tesla coil was when he was a student at the middle school. Farmer said that he had Jeff George as a science teacher but does not remember if George used the device on anyone.
The Mount Vernon News managing editor Samantha Scoles interviewed George for an article they published on April 25, 2008, titled “Experiments typical part of curriculum”: “George said that in his lessons he used Telsa coils and the Vandergraph conductor, a smaller version of a device found at COSI that sends your hair in all directions when touched.”
When Farmer teaches science, he brings in material to supplement what is provided by the school. Most of the outside material is from research done on the internet which Farmer puts into slides he creates in Microsoft’s PowerPoint program, Farmer said.
Kelly Hamilton, John Freshwater’s attorney, asked Farmer if teachers have wide latitude in what they can bring into the classroom. Farmer agreed that they do.
Hamilton asked Farmer if there had been any instructions with the Tesla coil. Farmer was not sure if there were any written instructions—he said that he probably received general instructions on how to use it.
The report by H.R. On Call, Inc. contained the statement, “There was no written instructions that could be located with the device, however operating instructions were available and could be downloaded from the company’s website.” The warning in the downloadable manual is to “Never touch or come in contact with the high voltage output of this device, nor with any device it is energizing.”
Hamilton asked Farmer if he had ever thought to look for instructions on the web about using the device.
Farmer replied that he never searched the web for instructions.
Hamilton reminded Farmer about his statement that he used the web for research when preparing lessons. Hamilton then asked—since Farmer was comfortable with using the internet—why he did not look for that information on the web.
Farmer’s response was that he did not go looking for more information because he already felt comfortable in his ability to use the Tesla coil.
Hamilton brought out the exhibit of the two photos supplied by the Dennis family. Hamilton asked Farmer to look at the photos and tell him if he had ever seen anything, as a result of using the Tesla coil, that looked like what was depicted in the images.
The two photos show someone’s arm, allegedly that of Zach Dennis, with what appears to be burn marks. In one photo the burns appear as the shape of a capital “T.” The second photo the burns form the shape of a lower case “t.” (There are also what appears to be additional red lines running parallel to the trunk of the “T.” The camera angle, and the lighting, is such that these lines are de-emphasized.)
After examining the photos, Farmer said that he has never seen marks like that from his use of the Tesla coil. There has never been any blisters, raised skin or red marks, Farmer said.
Farmer said he has never received any complaints about Freshwater.