November 1, 2012

Muh-ha-ha-ha (Part II)

Muh-ha-ha-ha, It's Alive
A week ago I was feverishly working on my Toastmasters Club offering for the District 15 Conference.  Usually the clubs donate baskets for a silent auction, but this time they opened things up and asked for decorated pumpkins that could be used as decorations.  This was an either/or thing for the conference, but some clubs donated both a basket and a pumpkin.

I volunteered to make out club's pumpkin.  I wasn't given any direction other than that "they" would give me a pumpkin.  By the day before the conference I hadn't seen a pumpkin, so I just forged ahead.


A few days before I had what I thought was a "wicked" idea for a pumpkin: a "snowman" style setup where the pumpkin-man is eating a trick or treater.  I thought it would be cool to have half the kid being stuffed into the creature's mouth and you could see the rest of the kid inside the belly.  When I got out and started shopping for my raw materials I discovered a door-knocker "thing" that moved a small hand back and forth, lit up, and had a voice module.

My raw matrerialsIt struck me that I might be able to hack that device to make it look like the kid stuffed in the belly of the pumpkin beast was moving.

This is the parts of stuff I started out with.  I had one extra fake pumpkin that was way too big and expensive, so I took it back to the store where I got it.

My starting parts list was;
2x 9" fake pumpkins
1x 5" lit fake pumpkin
1x Door Knocker
1 Cheap Skeleton
1 Child's Doll
1 Platter
1 LED light set

Door Knocker Wiring
More wiringThe first thing I did was take apart the door knocker to see what I had to work with.  I took some pictures of the insides in case I needed to reference the wiring, which I did need to do so several times.

What I didn't notice at first was that the knocker had two modes, one that required a button press (for demonstration purposes) and a motion center setting.  I hadn't counted on being able to use a motion sensor, so I changed my design on the fly.  I cut the appropriate pumpkins up, removed the lights from the small pumpkin, and hot glued the lights to the inside of the bottom pumpkin.  The motion sensor pokes down into the bottom pumpkin and when a person sticks in their hand they trip the sensor and activate the hacked-apart knocker.  The lights from the knocker were clipped off and I replaced the two small red LED lights with a larger & brighter white LED.

Middle pumpkin
The doll was essentially quartered, with the legs sewn shut and stuffed into the mouth of the smallest pumpkin.  The hands were popped off and glued to the ends of the metal bar that moves up and down when the knicker was activated.  Last but not least I glued the doll's head to the knocker (which was cut down to it's minimum size and all the wiring sealed with tape and hot glue).  The battery packs sit inside the middle pumpkin and I cut an access hatch in the backside.

Finished Result
All of the extra wiring I needed to make I used a trick someone showed me once.  Instead of buying some thick gauge wire, I used an extra 44 Pin IDE hard drive cable I had.  The wires were easy to separate and were as small and thin as the wires I was working with.  That worked out real well for me.  In testing things out before assembly, and I made sure to test everything at each stage of the build process, the light did a good job of illuminating the doll's head when activated.  Unfortunately, once everything was put together the light was too close and the head outline too diffuse.

The last touches were to pop the arms off the cheap skeleton decoration, fasten it to the sides, and zip-tie the pumpkins together and to the platter for added strength and stability.

The end result worked.  You barely can see the doll's hands in the pumpkin-man's stomach.  When you reach into the bottom for a piece of candy the hands move up and down and the stomach lights up.

If I was to do this again I think I'd go with my original plan and put an appropriate-sized flashlight in the doll's hand and make it shine on the doll's face.

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