29 Oct 2014

Resistance is Futile! Borg Halloween Costume

A project that started 3 months ago is finally finished!  After last year's successful Weeping Angel costume, my oldest daughter turned her attention to our other favourite show: Star Trek!  After a viewing of the classic episode Best of Both Worlds she already figured 2014's costume: the fearsome and relentless Borg.

The wheels started turning right away of how to pull it off and make it look great.  I experimented with a few 555 timers and some LEDs and that was pretty cool.  But then I discovered NeoPixels and deeper and deeper I went. The whole thing evolved into something more elaborate that involved Arduino based microcontrollers, namely a Gemma and a Trinket.  We both put a lot of work into it, but great results we had at the end.  Read on for the finished product!

Here she is, fully kitted up.  The light was a little bright so the lighting isn't quite as visible.  On Halloween night we'll do another photo op

A random assortment of knee and arm guards from a thrift shop form the armour pieces. The body armour is a set of hockey pads spray painted black.  The mask is built from a "Phantom of the Opera" type half mask. 

A printer and a couple busted hard drives were harmed in the making of this costume.  We dismantled them and glue-gunned any interesting bits on, along with some random bits of wire and other interesting things.  

They would be spray painted black then dry-brushed with rust looking metallic model paints, then with a steel coloured metallic paint.  It came out with a great looking weathered and worn effect.

Borg love hoses. Lots of hoses.  So I ran all my wiring through corrugated wire conduit.  And it looks perfect.

A closer look at the mask and chest piece:

Borg mask - with laser LED on a servo and NeoPixel ring eyepiece
And in action!
The eyepiece is a NeoPixel ring controlled by a Gemma. It flickers random pixels for random duration, choosing from a set of specific colour (in this case blue, green and purple).

Up top is a micro servo motor driven by a Trinket, with a laser LED attached. Not shown, but I also mounted a super-bright red LED that I can easily connect instead, if the laser is a safety concern.  Looks *almost* as good.  This is based off the Laser Dog Goggles project on Adafruit, but I have made some modifications:  the laser sweeps at a slower rate than the original code allows and I introduced some code that causes the servo to "twitch" randomly.  The laser also flickers at random intervals, every 5-10 seconds.

Chest piece & gauntlet
All lighting is controlled by a Gemma wearable controller mounted on the arm.  The project box mounted on the arm includes toggle switches to power on the Trinket and Gemma. It also contains a lithium-ion battery which will power the whole thing at least 5 hours (that's how long I tested). If it dies we simply plug in a 3xAA battery pack.

Additional pixels, two on chest and one on the arm.  Every few seconds the Gemma selects a pixel at random and sets it to a random colour selected from an array of four colours.

And there we go! We're both thrilled how it turned out.  Easily the most elaborate Halloween costume I've ever put together but most satisfying.

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