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[POTM] Blue Angels F-18 Costume

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This project is a submission for the 2015 Project of the Month Halloween contest.  It came about as a request from my four year old grandson after he had seen the Blue Angels fly over during Seafair in Seattle.


The basic air frame was constructed from two cardboard boxes as shown in the photograph below.


The boxes are attached to each other with brads and hot glue.  Edges are reinforced where I felt necessary by folding extra cardboard over or gluing in reinforcement cardboard.  Also shown in the photograph above are the following:

  • wings, tail, and fins constructed from a corrugated plastic storage box and hot glued in place
  • reflector on the nose constructed from a coffee can bottom which will eventually become the "search light".  There is a similar reflector on the tail which will become the jet exhaust.
  • control panel with various switches and a potentiometer I had in my junk box installed on a wooden paint stirring stick

The visible surfaces were then covered with wrapping paper using Outdoor Mod Podge - a waterbased sealer, glue and finish available in craft stores in the United States.  A second coat was then put on to make it a bit more waterproof.


This is the schematic for the avionics.


A little custom MSP430G2553 board with two AA batteries beside it in the tail controls an Adafruit neopixel ring "jet exhaust" with a toggle switch on the panel to turn it on and off.  Everything else runs off of three AA batteries with the wiring in the front of the aircraft between a cardboard firewall and the nose.  Two latching buttons turn colored LEDs on the panel on and off while a third turns a 3W LED (searchlight) on and off.  There is a potentiometer to control the brightness of the searchlight.  Finally I repurposed the sound board and speaker from an old greeting card that was originally powered by a coin cell.


The WS2812 Adafruit Neopixel ring is controlled by the MSP430G2553. I used the library posted by ILAMtitan at 43oh - so full credit to those who had a hand in developing it.  The library example worked well as is for my purposes and about the only thing I changed was the output pin and the number of pixels being controlled in the code.


Here is a picture of my grandson trying it out. We glued plastic cups over the headlight and jet exhaust and stuck Energia stickers on it.  I may touch it up a bit more if I have time and post a final picture.



Improvement Ideas:  I also made a "candy counter" out of an old scale for his entertainment (and mine).  His immediate reaction was that we should somehow attach the candy counter to the airplane.  Clever, but not practical due to the need for the scale to be level and not banged around by a four year old.  Using a counter where candy is funneled past a beam, like Chicken did with his counter might work though.  My idea is that we add GPS along with thumbs up/down buttons.  Then he could rate offerings and either store the data as a reminder for next year or send it out over the IOT with location so that his buddies know where the good candy is.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Completed project at the local fall festival parade for children...




EDIT: People loved the rotating / blinking / changing lights in the exhaust as well as the fact that it was hand made. If I do something like this again I will probably make the front light flash and add better sound. Strangers were taking pictures of him and asking how it was made.

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