It has been ages since I last posted. I wont get in to the reasons for it right now. Lately I have been working on a project for next years Halloween fun.
A few years ago I built a “Lightning Box” based upon a color organ circuit, and a halogen flood light. The unit works, but is a bit clunky, and relies upon an external CD player boom box unit I bought at the Dollar store for $5. The whole contraption definitely could use some re-working.
The current plan is to make the unit fully self contained (with the exception of the speakers) and solid state. The C player will be replaced with a audio player circuit I located that is based upon the ATTINY85 processor. I also plan to remove the amplifier board from a set of old computer speakers, combine that board with the audio player, and then feed the amplified audio into the color organ as well as the speakers. This entire collection of hardware should be able to be housed in a standard Carlon 4x4x4 PVC watertight junction box. More on that later…
I have attached a picture of the working prototype Audio board.
Pictures are up, you can see them all in my gallery, some of you might recognize a few people… 🙂
Here is one of the more fun shots of the kids all having a conversation with my skeleton puppet. I can see from the pictures, that I do have som
e work to do on rounding out his shoulders, and making his neck look better. Over all most of the interactions were nice, I scared a few kids, had interesting conversations with a few others. Gave educational advice… Really… If you are taking advice on education from a 9 ft skeleton, you might want to see a licensed therapist. 🙂 Sadly, like every year there were one or two interactions that broke bad. The worst of all was the 12-14 year old punk that thought it would be funny to jump on my back. The skeleton puppet is basically an aluminum framework built into a backpack. All told, when clothed, it weighs around 50 pounds. I wear this for nearly 5 hours straight. So a 150 pound kid jumping on my back 3 hours into the night is NOT a welcome addition. Sadly, he did this after sneaking up on me… And as a result I bellowed “GET OFF!!!”, thrashed, and then instinctively donkey kicked him about 2 feet behind me into a tree… “Oh my god! He kicked me! He Actually Kicked me!!!”, he moaned as he limped away. I turned to him, and told him to get off the property, and don’t come back. “…And next time you might want to think before sneaking up on someone and jumping on them!” His friends, of course, started taunting me, to which I went into my full outside voice, (I’m actually amped in the puppet so the voice comes from the head and not from the chest) magnified by the amp, shouted “GET OUT OF HERE!!!!” and charged them at a full run. They screamed, ran and didn’t stop running until the next block. Hopefully they ended up with some laundry to do…
My favorite comment of the night came from two women parked in an SUV across the street enjoying the show, “I’m 82 and shes 56, and we are not to old for Trick-Or-Treating!”
I had a lot of great helpers this year, my usual two co-workers, Zack, and Christopher got here very early, and helped with the setup, which was a godsend. The Gardner family, and also arrived a few hours early to help out with the final setup. All of the reliable help made it possible to actually have everything done, and working with time enough to eat and get dressed before the start of Trick-Or-Treating. The extra help made tear down go lighting fast. It was incredible to have such a great team and I consider myself very lucky.
Thank you again to everyone who helped out, showed up to watch, said kind words, or just stared in awe at the sheer spectacle of the event.
To say thank you, seems such an underpowered statement, but Thank You!!! Christopher, Zack, Laura, Jeremy, Emily, Luke, Steve, Scott, and of course my mother.
I could not have pulled off such a wonderful night without you all! I am eternally grateful for all of your help, professional behavior, and your willingness to put up with some of my more eccentric behaviors and requests.
We had 339 kids, and 5 dogs that made it to the porch this year, shy of last years total by 9 kids. Never the less we put on one incredible show and I could not have done it without all of your help.
What are you all doing next Halloween? 🙂
Laura and her camera were everywhere taking WONDERFUL shots of the action, which I will post soon, Jeremy took video for me which I will look over and post some of that when I get the chance, and Scott also took a bunch of pictures and once I get them I will post them as well.
A few months back I posted a picture of a strange looking box. I also asked people to guess what the box did. There were some good guess, but none that hit it 100%.
The box, contained a programmable micro controller board. It also contained a small circuit to interface with the “Try Me” button for an off the shelf Gargoyle I bought at Walgreens.
The box, combined with the gargoyle, some home brew LED spotlights, a hacked Dance Dance Revolution Mat, a plaster pedestal I painted to look like marble, and a nice alcove in a set of our bushes, creates my latest scene for Halloween.
The visitor walks past a set of bushes, when suddenly the alcove lights up, showing a gargoyle, the gargoyle opens his eyes, and begins to speak. When he is finished, he closes his eyes again, and the lights dim.
Well, I couldn’t stop at just the crow, and the flying ghoul. I found in my bins of stuff a screaming head I got from Target a few years ago. I never did set it out anywhere, but I took a look at it, and found it was indeed quite hackable. I dropped in the receiver board from another of the remote control cars. This time though, I had already used the Forward,and Reverse signals for other props, so had to do a little hacking to the receiver. Fortunately the chip in the car is capable of five separate actions, and the chipset is documented on the net, so I used one of the unused channels and linked it into the head. I then had to build a remote that had buttons for all five signals. I built that, finished the interfacing of the receiver and now have the ability to trigger the head from a remote. Tomorrow morning I’ll build a second transmitter for the Prop-1 to use to transmit.
A few years ago, when I got my first Prop-1 controller form EFX-TEK I set it up to control my popup jumper, and my squawking crow. Initially, the only way I could come up with a way to set off the crow was to insert a relay inline with the “try me” button on its bottom. This worked fine, except that it had the distinct disadvantage of requiring a cable leading from the crow to the controller. Later After I had that all working, I purchased a ghoul that “flew” down a rope and back. It too had a poor activation method, that I wanted to bypass. This time, due to the nature of the prop, I could NOT use any wired connection. This meant wireless. I looked online for some wireless transmitters and receivers, and found them to be cost prohibitive. This annoyed me greatly, until I was browsing the clearance isle at Wal-Mart and found a radio controlled car for $1. At that, an idea was born. I quickly snatched up the car, and dismantled it in the parking lot. I looked over the circuits to find they looked very simple, and easily modifiable. So I drove to radio shack, picked up a few parts and when I got home wired a buzzer up in place of one of the motors, and glued the receiver, and a separate power pack under the gouls cloak, and sure enough, when i pressed a button on the remote, the ghoul would hear the buzzer and start moving. I wasn’t thinking then, as I shoudl have went back and picked up 4 more of the RC cars to allow me to control up to 5 items (forward, reverse, left, right, turbo) from the one controller.
Flash forward to today, I recently went to the dollar store and picked up 5 cheap RC cars, all to my luck, having very tiny receiver boards. This morning, I sat down with the receiver board, and using my limited knowledge of electronics, wired it directly into my crows control circuitry. Now, the crow still functions as it did out of the box, but also sports a fully internal radio receiver. With the press of a button on the remote, or once I’m done, a signal from the micro-controller running the show, the crow will activate. Best part, there are NO wires, I can put the crow anywhere within a 15 ft radius of the transmitter and still have him work just fine. This should, in theory, also allow me to carry a controller with me where I can trigger him, and other props at will. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH
It is said, a friend will help you kill someone, but a real friend will help you bury the body.
Well, qualifies as a real friend. (Not that that was ever in doubt) Ok so there wasn’t actually a body, but I know very few people that would drive out here to help me dig a two foot deep trench, (26 to 28 inches in some places) to help me bury conduit to repair my yard light.
Eighteen years ago while planting a rose bush for my mother, I accidentally cut through the direct burial cable that ran to our yard light. This of course sucked badly, fortunately I was extremely lucky and was not harmed. So, with nothing more than a shoestring budget, I set out to repair the light. I made quite a few mistakes, but the end result had the wiring in conduit, and a little safer. It lasted for quite a few years. The past two years I started having trouble with it tripping the ground fault interrupter a lot, and I decided that I would need to replace it all again. Now that I have a full time job, and have paid off all my credit card debt, I could afford to do it right.
Today, at around 11:00, Karl arrived to find me digging the beginnings of the new trench for the conduit. After a few shovel fulls of dirt the larger shovel split its handle out, so we ran to go buy some better shovels for the job. After returning we trenched, by hand, a 30 foot long trench that ranged from 26″ to 28″ inches deep and ran from my house to the yard light. It took us a while, but we did it, and I am glad that the conduit is now the recommended dept. Previously when I did it myself at age 14, I was a lazy bum and the “trench” was no more than 6 inches below ground… I knew that was too shallow, but at 14, I didn’t care. Once the trench was dug, we set about laying the conduit. As we did I discovered, the outdoor outlet post I had purchased had an added surprise. It could be configured, through the use of an insert into a dual purpose, high and low voltage post. I couldn’t resist this opportunity so while I set about cleaning up the underground knock out hole in the lamp post Karl headed off to get more conduit so I could have a separate run of conduit for low voltage items, such as speaker wire, video, or data. Just imagine the possibilities if what I could do if my yard is wired for sound… MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA be afraid, be very afraid…
By the time Karl returned, I had ran the wire for the lamp post to the outlet post, and while he assembled the low voltage conduit run, I ran the wire from the outlet post back to the house. Once that was done, and all of the connections were made, we tested the circuit, and everything checked out. It’s important to note, that Karl changed the blown light bulb for me, the real reason the light was not working the past month… (Ok, simplest solution, I know….)
Now though, I feel 100% safe in the knowledge that the wiring to the yard, that I rely on heavily for Halloween, and Christmas displays is now safe, and water tight. Thank you Karl, Thank you Ladies at Ace Hardware who must have thought we were nuts… Oh, and thank you neighbors, who stopped to ask if I was working on my Halloween display… MUAHAHAHAH… Ya know… I should have ran a 3rd conduit while we were at it… one for Pneumatics… 🙂 Oh well, next time… 🙂 Hey Karl, what are you doing tomorrow? 😉
Tonight I spent the night cramming wires, a circuit board, and other components into and on top of a little black box. In theory once I go through one other step and then attach a few wires I should have something really cool. At least that’s the hypothesis anyway. I’ll post a picture tomorrow and let people guess what it is. 🙂 Muahahaha!