This was a fun prop made for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Caractacus Potts invented a haircut machine to make some money at the fair so he could buy Chitty from the junkman.  The machine is supposed to malfunction and start smoking as it burns off Sid’s hair!

This machine had to be safe for a kid to wear on their head, fairly indestructable, and I had to throw it together on a very short timeline.

This machine is powered by 4 AA batteries, stepped down to to USB outputs which feed the two USB-powered personal ultrasonic misters.  The misters are designed to be set into a bottle for continuous use, so I had to seal up the filter cases to act as self-contained water resevoirs, and I hacked the push button for the misters into a wire I could trigger with an Arduino Nano so that both misters would go off at the same time after a set delay.  The rest of the hat is just spraypaint and spare parts – very very simple prop.


For the Junior Stars’ show Coal, which is about the Elf who is in charge of the Naughty List, I created this beautiful Naughty List Tracker…

The story involves Coal the elf feeling pretty sad about all the kids on the naughty list, and a little bit guilty perhaps that it’s his fault, so he devises a scheme to pitch a 3-strike program to Santa, to give kids a couple chances to do better.

Among the props and constructions for this show, this was the most interesting one, it was running quietly in the background through the second half of the show.  It’s design is based on flip-clocks, which are surprisingly expensive and don’t come in very large sizes.  These flippers were cut from quartered cardstock sheets, with (mostly) random names printed in a script font on them.

Each card had to be split in half and attached with a long wire “hinge” to cardboard tube rollers with small hinge wheels to hold each card like a rolodex.  A small wire catch at the top of each opening keeps one card in place at a time, until the roller drags it down far enough that it flips and the next card is displayed.

The flippers are powered by continuous motion speed-controllable servos and the “strikes” are flipped by 12 individual mini servos, which are controlled by a single PWM controller card and microcontroller.  The program is designed to randomly process multiple name and strike changes based on a simple set of rules.  There is no external control for this peice, though it is powered by an external supply to avoid the weight and short lifespans of alkaline batteries in a motor-heavy application such as this.

If we stage Coal again someday, I will double the size of everything, when I began 11 inches seemed more than big enough for the name cards, and poster-sized foam board too, but the effect would be more spectacular twice as big and no change would be needed to the number of motors or circuitry.

Here’s a closer, if less eventful video.  Most of the time this tracker was supposed to be rather quiet so as not to distract from the performers, I had to take a lot of short clips of nothing happening to get some good action shots.

I just finished some quick test code for my first unit of polyps, so I thought I would share what they look like so far.

The skeleton is made from mini Popsicle sticks riveted together with circuit board eyelets, through which I have threaded narrow gauge wires.  I attached 3/8″ polyethylene tubing with polyp bodies made from silk flowers and googly eyes.  The wires are attached underneath to a heavy gauge wire frame that can be raised and lowered by a mini servo motor.  5mm ws2811s are tucked into each tube and daisy chained.


In the finished product, every connection you see between the popsicle sticks will host one of these light-up polyps, and exterior textured “skin” will be applied between the tubes to mimic the appearance of a surreal coral reef.

Now, the picture above gives a good impression of the construction, but it’s much cooler to see the contraption in action:

In this preview, I simply spray painted black on some tissue paper to create some cover, as stated above the finished product will be a textured sculpture and not tissue.

Also, in this demo I am only showing off the mechanism and lights.  I have infrared LEDs and phototransistors, as well as multiplexer ICs that will allow my circuits to monitor anything suddenly getting closer to the polyps (at 50 different points in the sculpture) and the polyps around the proximity sensor will draw into the reef, while polyps that are not disturbed will remain external.

Each servo/sensor unit will interlock frames with it’s neighbors, so that there will be a gentle “slope” of polyp disturbance between sensors.

Michael created this technical effect prop for the St. Petersburg City Theatre for their production of “A Christmas Carol”, the crown for the ghost of Christmas Present.   Two of this crown were made, one as a backup in case the first one had any technical issues or needed new batteries at an inconvenient time.


The crowns have animated fibers, trimmed so that light appears to emanate from the head of the wearer outward and upward, while a chain of hand-soldered mini WS2811 LEDs on thin enameled wire sloly pulses random warm white lights and flickers an occasional red or green flash.

On a base made from wire wrapped with floral tape, bundles of optical fibers are attached to groups of 4 high-brightness white LEDs, driven by supporting circuitry that can gradually raise and lower the brightness of each.  The fibers are bundled so that there are 4 “sprays” made up of fibers flowing from each of the 4 LEDs, each spray is trimmed to show the emanation affect at different locations as the 4 LEDs are cycled.  There are 3 such branches on each crown.  On top of the light-base and circuitry, pieces trimmed from Christmas floral garlands have been arranged to create a wreathlike appearance that creates pleasing silhouettes against the light show.

Michael created an iron man Cosplay, starting from a plain red shirt and gloves.  the chest part is attached to the shirt magnetically, with threadlike wires going through to allow the glove and chest components to share power and communicate.

There a touch switch built into one of the gloves that causes an animation of the chest lights and light bursts from the hands.  Unfortunately, a video could not be located, so two still photos were put together into an animated GIF to give a hint of the effect.

The  chest piece is made of warm-temperature moldable thermoplastic pressed into a mold, stripped copper wire, clear plastic cut with an X-Acto knife and painted silver with opaque markers.

Beneath the thermoplastic disc and “bowl” there is a WS2812 addressable pixel ring which displays different patterns on a loop.  The gloves have holes cut in them, with clear glass cabochons, wrapped with a popped white balloon skin and snapped into a molded thermoplastic ring painted with gold paint.  under the cabochons 2 more smaller WS2812 rings are mounted.  AAA batteries are mounted behind the chest piece.

Michael Horn crafted these beautiful LED-lit centerpieces for his wedding.   The trunks are made from plastic containers, papier-mâché, and acrylic paints, while the fungi are made from sculpted hot glue and LEDs.  Willow branches with warm white LED strings fill the logs.

These centerpeices are powered by battery packs underneath.

The pictures above were taken after the first “test” centerpiece was just finished, months ahead of the event.  The pictures below were captured by a professional wedding photographer of the centerpieces in action.  You can see that the bark patterns on each are different, and the trunks were placed in a shallow dish with decorative mosses.


wedding centerpiece 3wedding centerpiece 2


10 unique log centerpieces were created in all.