Get Started with Electronics by Creating this Dinosaur Costume
With Halloween coming up and the launch of our new Cosplay Design Contest, it was time to make a costume. Today we’ll be doing a tutorial on how to realize your dream of becoming a full-fledged robotic dinosaur. This will serve as a sort of introduction to the Arduino platform. We’ll be doing lots of printing, a bit of wiring and programming, and a small bit of sewing for the well-rounded makers.
Let’s start with a material list. Grab all of the design and text files for this project here.
You’ll also need:
- Adafruit Flora
- 12mm LED pixel strand
- External battery pack
- A sacrificial shirt or sweatshirt
- White or clear flexible filament (we used eLastic from eSun)
- Hard resin or filament of your choice
- Soldering and sewing equipment
Each of the spikes is 100mm in length. 5 spikes was enough for a male medium sweatshirt but taller or shorter makers might use 1 more or 1 less. Print out the spikes in a flexible filament and print out an equal number of the “spike interfaces” in a harder material. We used the new Tough V3 material on the Form 2.
While everything is printing, it’s time to get soldering. Check out our picture below for reference. My initial attempts at soldering were a bit janky so I had one of our electrical engineers teach me how to do it correctly. Twist your wires and insert them through the holes. You can hook them around if you’d like. Hold the soldering iron on the gold soldering pads and then press your solder against the iron. This will deposit a bead solder on the pads and hold your wires in place. I made the mistake of collecting a glob of solder on the iron and then bringing it to the board. This tends to make for a weaker connection. For reference; yellow wire to #10, green wire to #9, blue wire to GND, red wire to VBATT.
Now we need to program the Flora board. Download and install the Arduino IDE. An IDE is an “Integrated Development Environment” and gives you everything you need to program your Flora board and runs on the C programming language. You’ll also need to install the WS2801 library and you can find a download link from Adafruit here. To install the library select “sketch” from the Arduino IDE then “include library” -> “Add .ZIP library” and select the downloaded WS2801 Zip. Now copy the code from that came with the spike and spike interface into your Arduino sketch.
Before uploading, you’ll need to make sure the correct board and port is selected. Go to the tools menu and make sure “Adafruit Flora” is selected under the “Board” sub-menu. Make sure the correct port is selected under the “Port” sub-menu. The correct port should say “Adafruit Flora” next to its name. With all of that done, you’re ready to hit the upload button! The Flora should flash and the result should be a string of LEDs that fading between different colors.
It’s time to start assembling. Feed the LED wires through the spike interfaces and press the LEDs on top. You can check the above picture for reference. With all of LEDs wiring inserted, stretch the spikes over the spike interfaces. We’re using the elasticity of the flexible filament to hold the spikes in place. Your spikes should be securely held atop the LEDs and we’re ready to start sewing.
We cut slits in the sweatshirt just large enough for the spikes to fit through and then inserted them from the inside. We then used fishing line to hold the spikes in place. Sewing is far from my strong suit so there may be a better way to do this but we found that this made the spikes stand straight and secure.
Our Robotic Dinosaur Costume is fully constructed! I found that the Flora board and external battery fit nicely in my back pocket. Plug in your Flora with the external battery pack and light up the night!
If this is too easy for you and you’re looking for another electronics design challenge, check out this tutorial on creating your own DIY Open Source MP3 Player.