Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Lauren was making a TARDIS dress. It obviously wouldn't be complete without a hat that lit up and made VWORP VWORP noises. If that doesn't sound like a job for Attoparsec, then I haven't been branding hard enough!

The idea was pretty simple. Laser cut a lightweight plywood frame. Paint blue and insert a plastic diffuser. Add LEDs. Connect to a control package which can make them fade in and out while playing an audio file. Add a switch so that it can be easily and subtly triggered as part of a costume. So that's what we did.

First we prototyped in cardboard, just to get the overall size and aspect ratio down. Using that, I drew up the design in Inkscape. A quick stop by the local makerspace and it was done.

Along with some 1/8" dowel and a fancy little finial knob, that was the frame of the hat. Stained it blue, added the LEDs, sewed on a combination head band and elastic comb pair to keep it tightly (but not uncomfortably!) in place, and it was done.

The electronics were pretty simple. An Arduino with WaveShield to control the lights and play the music.

I used an old Radio Shack mini amplifier to play the sound file. All this was hidden in the dress, with just a thin section of 2-lead ribbon cable leading up to the hat itself. Sharpied black and tucked into the hair, it was invisible to all but the closest of inspections.

The end result was quite pleasing, if I do say so myself. Have I mentioned I love laser cutting as a construction technique? I really love it.

Here's a quick demo video of the hardware:

Some friends also put together a ... slighty more fanciful demonstration video.

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