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Will 'o the wisps

by the three J's and S

Published on February 2, 2017

These small glowing balls of light based on primitive hologram technology are sound/light triggered making them interactive and almost alive.  Their design is inspired by the Disney movie Brave, with a few added twists for extra fun.  The teqnique used was originally invented by scientist John Henry Pepper.  This is a project by Savannah from the three J's and S.

Duration: 4-6 hours

How To Make It


the wisp pod box Paint the interior black using acrylic paint. Make sure the paint layer is thick because it will be helping to block out light inside the box. Trace a small rectangle on the "roof" of the box, and a larger square at the front of the box for the viewing window. Use the craft knife to cut both of the shapes out. Now find ( or cut) another piece of cardboard approximately the same size as the front of the box. Paint it black as well and cut a large window in the middle of it. Tightly stretch a sheet of plastic food wrap over the piece of cardboard and tape it in place. This will be the reflecting pane. Take it and insert it inside the main box diagonally. You may need to adjust the angles a bit depending on the size of your cardboard materials. Hot glue everything in place so that it won't fall out. Now when light shines through the hole at the top of the box any picture or paper cutout placed in the bottom of the box is reflected onto the plastic sheet.
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the wisp pod circuit Snap a power bit to a sound trigger. Add a wire (or a split) and put two long LEDs at the end. Tape them together for a more concentrated beam of light. Attach the circuit to the top of the box with adhesive shoes or tape. Seal over any gaps of light leaking in with more tape. Paint the outside of the box black carefully avoiding the bits. Place a printed or drawn picture of a will o' the wisp (or whatever you want the hologram to be) in the bottom of the box.
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the other wisps These wisps are simpler than the wisp pod design. Their main purpose is to point out a path (like in the movie Brave when they reveal which way to go) so I did not make them holograms. Make/print four other paper wisps of various sizes. Save these for the circuit. Paint both of the cupcake boxes black
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other wisps circuit Start with a usb power bit. Attach a wireless reciever (not in the picture), wire, bargraph, wire, split/wire, bargraph, split/wire, rgb led, wire, and one more rgb led. Glue the bigger wisp pictures to the front of the boxes and attach the smaller wisps straight on to the rgb leds. Cut small holes in the sides of the boxes and thread the wires through. Now when the transmitter sends a signal the wisps will light up. Hang the wisps from the ceiling, each about a foot apart.
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flashlight sensor This project is designed to be interactive, so this step makes the wisps react to your actions. It's based on the plot line that you are exploring a dark area with a flashlight. Start with a power bit and attach a light sensor and wireless transmitter. Attach it to the wall using adhesive shoes,tape, or tacky putty. Now when you shine the flashlight beam on the light sensor the trasmitter sends a signal, turning on the long string of wisps.
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the end Finally, a fully functioning collection of glowing led will 'o the wisps. They will be elusive, enjoyable, and so unpredictable you'll think they're really alive. And all thanks to the amazing, powerful led!


afterthoughts In this project I didn't have enough wires, so I used splits instead. It looks a little less visually pleasing but works just fine. I wish that I could have found a way to use less tape. Another issue was that this project required a lot of fiddling. It took a while before I was happy with how everything looked. I even had to use tiny metal weights in order to get all the wisps hanging properly. But it was worth it because all the tiny details add up either to make something interesting or unbelievable. Fairly believable anyway. After all, they are electronic wisps.

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