Stephen Whitmore

Halloween 2015: Anglerfish

2015-11-03 09:41:51

So, this year I chose to try and build my own costume. Complete with simple electronics!

I dressed up as an Anglerfish, largely of Finding Nemo fame:

The idea for the costume was shamelessly stolen by me from someone I saw in Oakland earlier in October: they had used a black hoodie as a base to attach big eyes and teeth. Brilliant! Let’s copy it and make it even better!

The Setup

I started by rigging up a prototype using tape and safety pins:

The teeth are white felt, and the eyes are a sphere of styrofoam cut in half. The antenna-like attachment is made using black picture frame wire, with the base in a loop that threads through the top of the hoodie. The dangly bit is a punctured table tennis ball, with the branding sanded off.

…I really wanted the antenna-like to glow. Pulsate, even. My electronics skills are fledgling, but I felt that lighting up an LED was within my skillset. I built this simple circuit to start:

This is just an LED with a 220 Ohm resistor, with each end attached to a 4.5 foot long wire that I twisted together to form a single thread.

This was so I could thread the LED wiring through the top of the hoodie, down along the inside, and then through the left pocket, where it’s attached to a potentiometer and a 3V battery pack.

The potentiometer is just a knob, like this fella:

It lets me control how much current goes through the LED, so I could just stick my hands in my pockets and make the dial turn left and right, manually pulsing the glow whenever I wanted to.

Here’s the final result on its mount (an empty water jug is shaped a lot like a human head, it turns out):

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

Cutting and affixing the teeth with plain safety pins turned out to be both quick and easy.

The eyes were attached with hot glue. Again, this worked like a charm and showed no sign of falling off.

My idea to thread the LED circuit down through the interior of the hoodie so I could control it from my pocket mostly worked well. However, it also proved to be another component that could get tangled up when the hoodie was being put on or taken off or transported, if I wasn’t careful.

I didn’t have soldering equipment handy, so I improvised using hot glue and electrical tape. Surprisingly: not bad! I’d twist the wires together, coat them in hot glue, and then wrap electrical tape around them. This mostly worked, but proved unreliable. I had to do several of the connections multiple times, and mid-evening on Halloween night one of the connections to the potentiometer became loose and required manual fiddling to help it maintain contact. In the future I definitely won’t skimp: soldering tools are the way to go.

Draw your circuit diagrams beforehand, folks. I shorted two LEDs and one potentiometer. Turns out green LEDs will glow orange when you put too much current through them. The red ones will just fizzle and die. The potentiometer must emitted a puff of smoke, a brief glow, and died.

It’s Over!

This was a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with more electronics, and building something more elaborate next year!

And, finally, of course: a dark, blurry shot me wearing the darned thing: