Dr Lucy Rogers is more than just a human LED. She’s also an incredibly imaginative digital maker, ready and willing to void warranties in her quest to take things apart and put them back together again, better than before. With her recipe for legal, digital indoor fireworks, she does exactly that, leaving an electronic cigarette in a battered state as it produces the smoke effects for this awesome build.
In her IBM blog post, Lucy offers a basic rundown of the build. While it may not be a complete how-to for building the firecrackers, the provided GitHub link and commentary should be enough for the seasoned maker to attempt their own version. If you feel less confident about producing the complete build yourself, there are more than enough resources available online to help you create something flashy and bangy without the added smoke show.
For the physical build itself, Lucy used a plastic soft drink bottle, a paper plate, and plastic tubing. Once painted, they provided the body for her firecrackers, and the support needed to keep the LED NeoPixels in place. She also drilled holes into the main plastic tube that ran up the centre of the firecracker, allowing smoke to billow out at random points. More of that to come.
The cracking, banging sounds play via a USB audio adapter due to complications between the NeoPixels and the audio jack. Lucy explains:
The audio settings need to be set in the Raspberry Pi’s configuration settings (raspi-config). I also used the Linux program ‘alsamixer’ to set the volume. The firecrackers sound file was made by Phil Andrew. I found that using the Node-RED ‘exec node’ calling the ‘mpg123’ program worked best.
Lucy states that the hacking of the e-cigarette was the hardest part of the build. For the smoke show itself, she reversed its recommended usage as follows:
On an electronic cigarette, if you blow down the air-intake hole (not the outlet hole from which you would normally inhale), smoke comes out of the outlet hole. I attached an aquarium pump to the air-intake hole and the firecracker pipe to the outlet, to make smoke on demand.
For the power, she gingerly hacked at the body with a pipe cutter before replacing the inner LiPo battery with a 30W isolated DC-DC converter, allowing for a safer power flow throughout the build (for “safer flow”, read “less likely to blow up the Raspberry Pi”).
The project was partly inspired by Lucy’s work with Robin Hill Country Park. A how-to of that build can be seen below:
Although I won’t challenge you all to dismantle electric cigarettes, nor do I expect you to spend money on strobe lights, sensors, and other such peripherals, it would be great to see some other attempts at digital home fireworks. If you build, or have built, anything flashy and noisy, please share it in the comments below.
Photo credit: Lucy Rogers/IBM.