Picture of Arduino animatronics- make your awesome costumes more awesome!
Here's how to add lights, sound and action to your favorite Halloween project using the open source Arduino microcontroller. Arduino is easy to learn to use and it opens up a whole new world for costume builders and creature creators. If you want to learn how to connect wires, servos, LEDs and use sound effects to add that something special to your latest project then this is for you.

p { } I'll show you how to make a neat little compact Arduino servo controller board with built in servo connectors that is perfect for costuming and haunted house applications. There are multiple code examples, wiring diagrams and I'll show you how to connect sensors and even how to connect two controllers using wireless radios.

Here's a little movie clip of what is easily possible- an animatronic Predator cannon with laser sight, cannon firing sound and head tracking motion control.

Here's an Iron Man hand repulsor with servo to open the forearm missile compartment. Follow along and find out how to make your awesome costumes more awesome...

Update: My instructable for showing how to make an animatronic Stargate helmet is here-

I've also created an animatronics forum where people can go to get help with their costume and prop projects. I get so many messages for specific project help from people that I decided to create a dedicated forum where everyone can get help and share ideas!

Note- While this instructable is written for the beginner, this tutorial assumes you know how to use a soldering iron and other assorted tools like wire strippers and wire cutters. Please be sure to take proper safety precautions, wear safety glasses when using cutting tools and have adequate ventilation when soldering. If you aren't yet comfortable soldering small surface mount components don't fret- I've posted links in the reference section that will help you become a soldering champ in no time.

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hello honus , is it possible to have the plan and component name for the hand repulsor , please , thanks my mail , leeloan@hotmail.com

Honus (author)  jennesleeloan.1 month ago
I'm not sure I understand. Everything you need is shown in the instructable.

hello honus , is it possible to have full plan and component for build the hand repulsor ? as i'm not expert electronic but will try to buy and build it myself , my mail leeloan@hotmail.com

Dave5541 month ago
Hi man. That canon is awesome. Would you be able to make the basic assembly as shown in the 15 steps. I will build into medi pack and add the canon onto the white bracketing
I have a suit and would love this accessory
Honus (author)  Dave5541 month ago
Thanks- glad you like it! I'm sorry but I can't take on any more work right now.
Dave5541 month ago
My suit
Dave5541 month ago
My suit
Dave5541 month ago
And we'll paid for your time. No rush at all for finished article
webzter306 months ago
Awesome stuff. Can't believe I haven't discovered your stuff sooner. Do you have a email contact?
What is the best way to get your some of your pcb boards made? servo, transistor, led boards.
Oh and just with the servo and the blinking LEDs, nothing else
Honus (author)  TheKingCrafter8 months ago
You mean like in Step 7? You can add another servo to any digital output pin and then just copy the code for the existing servo and change the output pin number.
Ah ok cheers
I like this a lot thanks for posting! Can someone tell me how I could add another servo to it, on the same breadboard?
thegovernor0811 months ago

HI, you mentioned possibly building and assembling an Arduino animatronics board at a price. I'm not sure if this is something i could successfully build on my own, but I would be interested in building an adruino board with an Xbee chip that would power my repulsors and Unibeam with sound, helmet opening/closing with eyes lit up flickering when closed, and mini gun movement (spinning and movement tracking for my War Machine costume, I would be really interested in getting some pricing on what it would cost to build. If that is something you may have time or be interested in building, please let me know. Sincerely, ~greg my email is thegovernor08@yahoo.com

And thanks again for all of the helpful information.


Absolutely amazing work and I want to thank you very much for all the effort that has gone into this as well as taking and answering questions and comments!
I am just getting started with arduino and hope you can help me if at all possible. I'm planning a project for Halloween that includes a "Nullifier Ray" attached to the ceiling. I would like to have the body of the ray drop (tilt) down from level with the ceiling, and swing (pan) to the right to point at an object on a table. Then, I'd like the barrel to begin to spin and ultimately activate several super bright LEDs to simulate a "blast" from the ray. Sound would be great but isn't necessary.
Does this sound possible for a beginner such as myself and if so, would it be possible for you to help me work parts of your code to make it happen?
Thank you for any advice or help you can provide. I'm overwhelmed by all the information in this instructable!
Thanks! Of course your project is possible to do and I'm happy to help. Just work up a drawing or schematic with the specifics of what you want it to do and message me. The important things you need to figure out is the range of movement you need, how heavy it will be and how you want to power and activate it.
Partybot1 year ago

Thank you for all the time you out into this, especially the purchase links. I'll be sure to share projects that result from the info.

TryChick1 year ago


I'm wondering if I need a voltage regulator with the Pro Mini. Reading on the Arduino website, it says:

"The Arduino Pro Mini can be powered with an FTDI cable or breakout board
connected to its six pin header, or with a regulated 3.3V or 5V supply
(depending on the model) on the Vcc pin. There is a voltage regulator on
board so it can accept voltage up to 12VDC. If you're supplying
unregulated power to the board, be sure to connect to the "RAW" pin on
not VCC."

I'm trying to figure out how to connect a G4 LED light which is rated to 9-15V DC to the Pro Mini to use in my IM gloves with a flex sensor to turn them on and off. I'm testing with my mega 2560 and have the flex sensor figured out but am trying to figure out how I am supposed to connect the light and the flex sensor and the battery to the pro mini. It sounds like I should be able to use an E23A battery which is 12 volts, but I don't want to fry the board, and have no idea how to wire all of these together as I'm just getting started with the electronics stuff. Any hints?

Honus (author)  TryChick1 year ago
There's a few different ways you can do this. You could use a 7805 voltage regulator to drop the voltage from your battery to 5V to power the ProMini and connect it to the VCC pin ( assuming you have the 5V version ProMini ) if you're worried about frying it. Some batteries are rated at maybe 12V but at full charge they can overshoot this by a fair amount.

Then you can also connect your 12V battery to your LED light using a transistor to turn it on and off- the ProMini will not be able to provide enough current to drive it so it cannot be directly connected to an output pin. You can use something like a TIP120 transistor to turn the LED on and off.

Just let me know if you need a wiring diagram! It's pretty simple to do. :)
TryChick Honus1 year ago

Hmm. Well, I bought 4 of the 3.3 volt Pro Minis to use in various parts of the suit, but may be able to return them to SparkFun as they haven't been opened. I got them because I figured fewer batteries to power the boards would save space. Would you recommend doing that or is there a workaround? And a diagram would be awesome! Can't tell you how many times I've poured over your tutorial and am just amazed at what you've done.

Honus (author)  TryChick1 year ago

You can still use the 3.3V ProMinis- just connect the power out from the regulator to the RAW input. I do this all the time since I run servos with a ProMini from single power source. I'll get you a wiring diagram asap.

TryChick Honus1 year ago

Cool. Thanks Honus.

Honus (author)  TryChick1 year ago

Here you go. Just let me know if this doesn't make sense!

TryChick Honus1 year ago

Thanks Honus. You are awesome! It totally makes sense.

Thanks to you I got the sensor, G4 light, and pro mini all working off that little 12V A23 battery. Thank you! Thank you! I had issues with the board not wanting to talk to my laptop to upload my sketch, and realized it was the cable of all things. The first 2 I tried wouldn't allow an upload, the third and 4th ones did. Did my first through-hole soldering to get wires hooked up.

Honus (author)  TryChick1 year ago

Awesome! So happy you got it to work! :)

Stefan-Xp1 year ago

Wow awesome Instructable! very nice Project!

Do you have a Video of it working in final state? :-)

vlg Stefan

Honus (author)  Stefan-Xp1 year ago

Thanks- glad you like it!

Video of what in it's final state?

I meant the Predator Gun and Helmet with painting and Costume ;)

Honus (author)  Stefan-Xp1 year ago

Cool! Thank you!

bitbyte691 year ago
Wondering if there is another place to buy your PCB?
Honus (author)  bitbyte691 year ago
You can upload the board files to several different PCB manufacturers and have them made. I haven't made any more of them as I'm going to make a simpler version of the board- I've found I rarely use the rechargeable LiPo and I'd like it to be a bit smaller to make it easier to fit in my projects.
TryChick Honus1 year ago
If you aren't using the LiPos any more, what are you using?
Honus (author)  TryChick1 year ago
I've been using NiMh cells to power everything. Much more durable inside costumes. The biggest problem with using LiPo cells (especially when using multiple cells, like 2s packs) is regulating them in regards to low voltage cutoff since RC packs don't usually have any type of protection circuitry. There are also severe shipping restrictions on LiPo packs so if you have to ship a costume somewhere it's a real pain.

Unless you have a specific application where you need the energy density of LiPo cells due to weight and/or space restrictions they're just not worth the hassle in my opinion.
Raphango1 year ago
StrangeDos1 year ago
Thanks for this great instructable!

I'm planning a very similar thing as the Predator shoulder cannon and have one question:

I'm not much of a Wii gamer so I don't know exactly how a nunchuck behaves. But wouldn't the motion sensor still also be triggered when you move and walk around and not only when you turn your head? How did you make the cannon only follow your heads movement no matter where your whole body moves and turns to?
Honus (author)  StrangeDos1 year ago
Thanks- glad you like it!

The sensor from the nunchuck is an accelerometer and it's mounted in the helmet so it only senses when the helmet moves (with respect to gravity.) It only senses when the helmet tilts ( X and Y axis ) so you can walk around all you want without it being affecting. Also have a look at the FAQ section- I explain a bit more there.
I looked at the FAQ first, but didn't understand it all. My first idea before reading your instructable was actually using two gyros (one on the head and one in the cannons base) like you described but that seemed very complicated to me. I think I'll try it with your method and experiment a bit :).

I don't want to use a Nunchuk since there are some affordable accelerometer modules out there like this one:

Or would it be advisable to get one with a gyro like this?
Honus (author)  StrangeDos1 year ago
Pretty much any of the Analog Devices ADXL accelerometers would work. I really don't see the need for a gyro in this application but if you want to incorporate one to try and improve the rotation performance then I say go for it! :)
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