For Halloween this year I actually completed a long-term idea of mine: an epic illuminated acrylic staff.
You can see the full costume to the right, or check out the entire Halloween Flickr Set. I partied on the Jubilee Queen, a medium sized cruise boat (held perhaps 150 people?), there were lots of people with excellent costumes on board. Much to my surprise, I actually won the “best male costume” award, which consisted of an enormous beer stein and a coupon for a free cruise with the same company at any time in the next year. Awesome! I’ve only ever won something once before, so this was pretty novel for me! Anyway, my favorite other costumes of the night: Devil Dude, the Egyptian couple, my co-winner the Bride of Frankenstein, the fifth-element girl (in body suit), Red Riding Hood, Shrek (though he missed the horns!), and of course the requisite french maid outfit :-).
Details on my staff: I bought the 1 1/4″ solid acrylic 6′ rod at Plastic World, I got a $25 deal since the staff was slightly messed up. I also bought some 1/4″ red acrylic scrap ($6). I laser cut the red acrylic along with some black acrylic of which there is lots here at the lab, and made the staff crown by epoxying the layers together. I then bought a glass ball with air-bubbles trapped inside to form the peak of the staff. To illuminate the staff I bought 2 1-watt white LEDs and 2 super-bright RGBs (common anode). I also had a red laser diode on hand. I wired all this up to an older North Paw board, putting the LEDs on the ribbon cable where the motors would normally be. I also wired in an accelerometer, a mercury tilt switch, and a polar heart-rate receiver chip.
All this electronic fits into the crown along with 2 LiPo batteries. I programmed three modes: color cycle (switch through the 6 possible colors + white at once / second), accelerometer (make the color change according to how tilted the staff is), and heart-beat (make the whole staff flash in time with my heart). In the first two modes I also caused the laser to flash into the glass ball, so no matter what the mode is my heart-beat is visible. You switch between modes by rapidly moving the staff up and down, which triggers the mercury tilt switch. The staff then flashes three times to indicate mode-change, and the next mode takes over. I had to learn quite a bit of new arduino stuff to make it all go.
The overall effect of the staff is epic – in a darker room the whole length glows almost supernaturally! Tons and tons of people told me how cool it was, and they were mostly astonished to learn that I had made it, not bought it. Honestly I’ve never seen anything like it for sale anywhere, so I don’t know where you would buy it! I hadn’t considered commercializing it, but it wouldn’t be too hard to offer a small circuit which would allow easy illumination of acrylic staffs.
I completed the costume with my burning man “wizard jacket” (it has purple leopard-print fur) and a pair of blue-sparkle wrap pants that my old housemate gave to me. Someone actually told me that I should call myself a “pimp wizard”. Lots of people asked me what I was supposed to be, but understood my wizard answer immediately – still, I think if I use the staff again I’d go with a greatcoat and white beard, that’s much more wizard-like.