Introduction: Ghostbusters Proton Pack With Arduino and LASERS!

Picture of Ghostbusters Proton Pack With Arduino and LASERS!
Last year, I was a Ghostbuster for Halloween. It was pretty cool, but I had some problems with the costume. I decided to do it again, but get it right this time. I picked up a khaki flight suit instead of blue coveralls, built a trap and some ecto goggles, and made some major refinements to proton pack. Here I will share with you how I went about the various improvements to my costume.

***UPDATE 5/4/10: If you make your own ghostbusters proton pack, post some pictures in the comments below, and I'll send you a patch!***

***UPDATE 9/22/11: Check out the October 2011 issue of Popular Science (which is out right now) to see a brief blurb about me and my proton pack!***

Step 1: Make a Ghostbusters Costume

Picture of Make a Ghostbusters Costume

I've seen a bunch of ads this year for a Ghostbusters costume with an inflatable proton pack.  These costumes are crap!  I don't care if you don't want to spend the time and effort on building a good quality costume, if I see anyone dressed up in one of these turds when I go out on Halloween, I swear I will glare at them disapprovingly!  ***Oh, looking off to the right, I see that I'm insulting the sponsors!  I would just like to point out that this paragraph is what is known as HYPERBOLE and should not be taken literally.  I worked my ass off building this thing and it rocks so much harder than those costumes, but I won't really insult anyone wearing one.  I'll just upstage them with my awesomeness. 

There are many resources for building a proton pack out there.  I've got my slideshow from last year, as well as a more detailed instructable on how to make a kid sized Proton Pack, which could easily be scaled up to full size.  I also recommend this instructable, as well as

I picked up the flight suit from ebay member direct-pb.  This company really came through for me.  The suit was good quality and very inexpensive.

Step 2: Wire the Pack for Arduino Control

Picture of Wire the Pack for Arduino Control

This looks more complicated than it is, I swear!

I built a simple Arduino shield that lives in the wand (see pictures). All of the LEDs had a common negative ground, and each positive lead went to either to a digital pin (if it was going to flash) or to the +5v pin if it was going to be on at all times.

I also built an on/off switch into the wand and installed a 9v battery clip to power the Arduino.

Step 3: Program the Arduino

Picture of Program the Arduino

I am very new at this whole microcontroller thing, so I'm sure all of you veterans out there could have written a much more elegant piece of code for this.  My simplistic idea for how to make this work does however have the advantage of being both very easy to understand by the uninitiated and very simple to change if you want to alter the way the lights flash.

The basic concept behind the code is that it runs a loop 6.4 seconds long, broken into 64 100 millisecond "ticks."  At each tick, I can have a light turn on, turn off, dim, brighten, etc.  After it's gone through it all once, it goes right back to the beginning and repeats until the battery runs out.

Step 4: Install the Lasers!

Picture of Install the Lasers!

Lasers are awesome!  I don't even care that if you aren't in a fog or a haze of tobacco smoke the beam isn't visible, it's still super cool!

I got these lasers from a couple of broken pen-style laser pointers.  They stopped working, I took them apart, and then I found out there was just a loose battery connection in both.  I was never able to get everything crammed back in the housings though, so I harvested the electronics for my costume.

I originally wanted to power everything through the Arduino, but I found that the two lasers running along with everything else drained the battery VERY quickly, so I installed them on a separate power source (2 AA batteries) shoved into the handle of the wand.

Step 5: Make More Junk You'll Have to Lug Around With You!

Picture of Make More Junk You'll Have to Lug Around With You!

I also built a trap and a pair of ecto goggles for the costume this year.  These are simply boxes cut to size, painted black, and with a bunch of doodads and widgets glued on.

The trap has a 1/4" plywood base and a 1/4" plywood mounting plate on the belt.  They connect with a wedged shape hunk of sheet metal I cut out with my dremel tool.  The handle of the trap is also wood, but nearly everything else is just cardboard. 

The ecto goggles are made out of a small cardboard box with one side cut out in the shape of my forehead.  The straps were harvested from a broken headlamp.  Everything on them was simply junk from my stuff drawers or screws from my screw jar.

Step 6: Marvel at Your Own Awesomeness!

Picture of Marvel at Your Own Awesomeness!

Look how rad I am, not like a dork who's nearly thirty and playing with toys at all!  All the cool kids are sitting in their darkened shops late into the evening building props from 80's movies that they'll wear for one day and then put into storage!

Step 7: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading!  I hope you enjoyed my little 'ible and found it useful and/or amusing.  I am very tired and feeling quite silly at the moment.

Please take the time to vote for me in the Arduino contest!  Also, please leave me a rating or some feedback.  It's pretty late right now, and I know I wasn't too descriptive in the technical details this time, so if you need some clarification, don't be afraid to ask. 

Also, if you post some pictures of your own home made proton pack, post 'em in the comments below.  I'll send you a DIY patch!


JustinL152 (author)2016-10-12

Love these tutorials cant wait till my budget allows for a better build I just made this this week out of foam core and some odds and ends

depotdevoid (author)JustinL1522016-10-18

Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

Ninjacat1 (author)2016-07-12

how exactly did u make the lasers?

depotdevoid (author)Ninjacat12016-07-12

Oh I just bought laser pointers and pulled all the electronics out of them!

Ninjacat1 (author)depotdevoid2016-07-12

alright thx man!

TaelorE (author)2015-10-05

I very much appreciate your tutorial and dedication to detail! I have a 4 and 6 year old going as ghostbusters this year and am having to make their costumes (in addition to the proton pack, ecto goggles etc) because there's no way in hell I'd let them dress in that bagged costume with inflatable pack.

depotdevoid (author)TaelorE2015-10-30

Awesome, I'd love to see the results!

BENJI666BROZ (author)2014-11-15

Would u sell by chance ?

BENJI666BROZ (author)2014-11-15

Would u sell by chance ?

billygreen1973 (author)2014-10-26

my first proton pack build. enjoyed your instruct able. thanks

szaffarano1 (author)2014-08-03

Another idea might be to use a small cooler, like an insulated lunch box or can. Cut out an area in the back and attach a small fan, like from a computer, and seal it up in the rear. Drop some dry ice in (internet search on where to buy this stuff but be careful! it's very COLD!) turn on the fan, and viola!! Mini FOG dispenser! Not sure how feasable this is, but I use alot of fog for my halloween projects (elaborate garage set-up each year!) and the machines so far don't really give me the effect I want. I'm considering using dry ice this year for the egyptian tomb, complete with a mummy that sits up and animatronic Horus Guard from the Stargate movie (work in-progress!) You're a true Ghost Buster fan with your current setup!! Love it!

szaffarano1 (author)2014-08-03

I didn't read the entire instructable, but loved the idea of the lasers...and thought you could carry around smoke bombs to set off and 'attract' a ghost, then activate the laser to capture it. Just a weird thought from a sci-fi fan!

depotdevoid (author)szaffarano12014-08-03

Thanks! I was considering building some sort of fog machine/fan combination into the pack, and the expel it from the wand at the same time I turned on the laser, but couldn't come up with a way to test it on the cheap.

AARENAARON (author)2014-05-20

goin with my Halloween costume :P

hammerhead5000 (author)2013-10-07

here is my proton pack! i made it with pink foam sheets, and pumpkin lights from the dollar store. cant wait to add some lasers!

Nice pack, and well done on the full costume! Patch is on the way, and I'll throw in a 3-month pro membership. Thanks for sharing!

andrewha (author)2012-12-02

wow wow wow

Cyberscann54 (author)2012-02-10

by the sound from the video you have some back EMF coming off the proton pack some capacitors or some shielding would help on the goggles it is quite easy to rip apart a digital camera with display and make it into an inferred camera slash night vision camera then the goggles can do something

now the pack and accessories are awesome to look at.
I want to make one too

urtlesquirt (author)2012-01-18


ilpug (author)2011-10-19

Amazing! Unfortunately, im not going to have time to make a costume this year :/

maybe just a suit and a creepy mask.

depotdevoid (author)ilpug2011-10-19

Yeah, I was going to build a Dalek this time around, but I've since had to scale back. Life keeps getting in the way!

ilpug (author)depotdevoid2011-10-19

Same here. Senior year and all really ruins my maker-productivity.

b20schill (author)2010-10-28

you said to post pictures of our actual proton pack
unfortunately i couldnt find any decent pics of the pack but i did make this costume and i thought id share. (it was a grand total of 25 dollars...10 of those went to the ghost busters patch)
i had the specs and the ghost trap  as well as elbow pads (fellow laxers should think of using volleybal kneepads for elbow pads ...way cheaper and they were legal for international play)
this costume won the costume contest for best over all

samwhiteUK (author)b20schill2011-09-29

From those photos it looks like the only photo...

b20schill (author)samwhiteUK2011-10-04

not sure what that means but ok.

samwhiteUK (author)b20schill2011-10-06

Hahaha, just realised I put photo instead of costume. You said it was the best costume, but it looks like no-one else is dressed up, 'tis all, lol

b20schill (author)samwhiteUK2011-10-06

oh yeah..hahaha. only seniors were allowed to dress up...wonder if that says anything about my academic career.

dolejniczak (author)2011-09-30

Great Job with the costume guy. I would like a proton pack like that for myself. Just curious, about how much is the total cost for everything that is needed to build one?

depotdevoid (author)dolejniczak2011-09-30

Thank you! It's a lot of fun, I recommend you try building one, if you're handy. I'm selling this bad boy over on ebay right now, if you'd rather just get it premade.

Cost to build something like this is very determinate on your own circumstances. I was able to build this relatively cheaply, as I had a lot of the parts and pieces already lying around the shop. If you had to go out and buy absolutely everything, you'd be looking at maybe $150-200, mainly on electronics, the backpack frame, tape, glue, epoxy, paint, plywood, et cetera.

That's not a lot, if you consider how much people are willing to spend on the totally movie accurate reproductions (literally thousands). The real cost is in the labor time, I probably logged a hundred hours or more building this thing. Fortunately, that's what I love to do so it wasn't onerous, but if you don't already like shutting yourself in the shop for hours and hours you probably shouldn't undertake such a project.

If you do, please post some pictures of the results, I love to see it when someone builds something based on one of my instructables!

barriboy (author)2011-09-21

How did you rig the lasers up to the switch? Are they constantly on but the switch makes or breaks the circuit?

depotdevoid (author)barriboy2011-09-21

That's exactly right, laser pointers normally have a momentary (you have to hold them down) switch that completes the circuit, I just replaced them with toggle switches.

scion (author)2011-05-16

While a little more expensive, a pair of the cheap flip up welding goggles with a coat of paint and some stuff stuck on may be easier and more comfortable then shaping a box for your head. It also has the advantage of having the headband and all that included and mounted already.

Just a thought, can't wait to try this though. good instructions.

depotdevoid (author)scion2011-05-16

This is true, and I did price welding goggles when I was building this. However, I am a cheapskate and decided to build them all out of stuff I had on hand.

Post some pictures if you do try this, I'd love to see the result!

iceng (author)2011-04-28

Let me know if ever you want to make an RC trap that opens twirls a light and closes with a hiss sound.
I could help?
Great ible.

b20schill (author)2010-10-28

you said to post pictures of our actual proton pack

unfortunately i couldnt find any decent pics of the pack but i did make this costume and i thought id share. (it was a grand total of 25 dollars...10 of those went to the ghost busters patch)

i had the specs and the ghost trap  as well as elbow pads (fellow laxers should think of using volleybal kneepads for elbow pads ...way cheaper and they were legal for international play)

this costume won the costume contest for best over all

jrme421 (author)2010-10-02

i have to say its the best ghosbuster costume but cant you give detailed info as well as schematics on how to build it. im building the ark reactor this year for halloween cause there are very detailed plans on how to. but next year i would like to spend it to build your costume.

please share your knowledge

depotdevoid (author)jrme4212010-10-02

I really didn't save too much detail from the actual build process. If you take a look at step one, you'll see a bunch of links, and I was serious about them!  Especially check the link to gbfans, that's where I found schematics, and the link to my kid sized proton pack, as I used the same techniques to build that as I used for the full size one, only I took a lot more process pictures.

I hope that helps!  If  you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to answer and help in any way I can.

superhubbardman (author)2010-01-17


now, for next year, you gotta add a sound system so you get that cool turn on noise when you "power up'. there are battery powered devices that will let you store & trigger sound effects. you could also add the "stream" sound effect when you turn your lasers on too.

nice attention to detail on your costume. ghostbusters is the funnest movie ever made!

Oi its not Funny ITs AWSOME!

depotdevoid (author)zeroemission2010-01-20

Thanks zeromission!  I've already added some sound--put an mp3 player in the trap so I can blast the ghostbusters theme.  I've been trying to figure out how to add sound, do you have a recommendation for one of those battery powered devices?

zeroemission (author)depotdevoid2010-01-21

the only one i've seen is this teeshirt

hey... the guy in the video even has ghostbuster infrared goggles!

i'm not sure, but i think i've seen a handheld version too.

but i'm sure you can find a cheaper solution somewhere else. if hallmark is making books & christmas cards you can record messages to, i'm sure there are little devices about you could find too. i've never really looked for them, but i bet there are devices out there that let you record and trigger sounds for various reasons.

i found results right away looking for "digital memo" units and i bet if you try enough keyword searches. i found one variation called "audio repeaters"  doing a keyword search for "triggered audio" quickly. those are a bit expensive, but i'm sure you can find cheaper toy grade units & DIY modules elsewhere.

after looking around some trying various keywords like "sampler" & "sound effects toy", i found this link for "noise toys".

i bet you could get better sound out of one of those than the teeshirt & the recording is permanently burned onto a chip so you'll never lose it.

you can get nice sounding 10w+ class D amps that can run off for around $20. if you're on ebay, you could get a nice aluminum cased lepai amp with blue illuminated volume controls you could even integrate into your costume or if you wanted to go stealth, you could get a tiny dayton module (guts from a sonic impact amp) from parts express if you don't mind a bit of soldering.

while i'm adding this reply, here's a neat little gizmo that would REALLY add bling to your unit
plasma belt buckles which come in various colors. they'd really make your proton pack look like it's powered up.

a pocket morpher like this

or even some raw RGB LEDs that similarly  morph colors like these

could add some interest to your rig. if you really wanted to stray from the original design, EL wire always looks cool 7 high tech and comes in a rainbow of colors.

oh yeah, one last item that could really trick your rig out cheaply is digital  keychain picture frames! as shown in this "lady gaga glasses" instructable
you could custom program your own display graphics like "power indicator" & "status" with a little bit of "photo editing" with text. i know i'm getting at least one of those units for my street party bike myself. i'll likely be displaying art but the possibilities are whatever you can picture.

hope SOMETHING here helps or inspires you

an idea for keychain picture frames would be a slideshow with pictures of slimer etc. with stats eg. "class 3 roaming vapor" etc. like you have a "smart proton pack 2.0"

depotdevoid (author)zeroemission2010-01-21

Ha!  It's funny you say that, and I just noticed I never mentioned it in my write up, but if you look at the picture of the trap, you'll see a kind of silver and red thing on the end opposite the handle.  That is one of those scrolling LED name tags.  When it's on it says "Class 4 Free Floating Apparition."

zeroemission (author)depotdevoid2010-01-28

while it's not high tech like your costume, check out this SICK transformers costume!


instead of doing daleks, why not use your creativity and design your OWN robot from scratch? if you're not confined to such a big design like a dalek, you could make a modular costume you could break apart in sections when confronted with stairs & still use a knee destroying trike (unless it's an adult sized one like this)

it would seem easier to just get a 12v battery & an electric motor though and put a seat over that for any rolling design. it would be heavy, but would have a low stable center of gravity and could fit in a smaller space. you could probably even hack an electric scooter to run foreward & reverse with a 2 position switch. & use skateboard wheels. if you wanted to do a dalek costume, that could be done lighter than a trike if you remove the battery. you could sit on the motorized rear wheel and make a T shaped front axle with wheels out to the sides like a backwards trike and just steer with your feet pushing the axle and you could put your feet down as brakes for emergency quick stops.

heck, why even use a trike when you could just walk directly on the ground from the seated position just about as fast as you could pedal a trike anyways? you could do something like a modified "baby walker" using off the shelf caster wheels or a variation with skateboard or rollerblade wheels that you could steer and control better.

depotdevoid (author)zeroemission2010-01-22

Wow, thanks for all the ideas!  I actually won a bunch of EL wire in the Halloween contest, maybe I'll trick out the proton pack with it, and man that plasma belt buckle is totally sweet.

I'm thinking of trying to sell the pack I made for my daughter this year, if she wants to be something else for Halloween.  If I do, I could definitely invest some of the profits into some of these gizmos.

Again, thanks a lot, I really appreciate the suggestions!

depotdevoid (author)zeroemission2010-01-21

Oh man, that tshirt is awesome!  I may have to do something like that next year, I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to do.  Thanks for the advice zeroemission!

zeroemission (author)depotdevoid2010-01-22

no prob. that's what instructables is for, right? the sharing of information and ideas.

one thing about that shirt, i wouldn't expect it to have quite the fidelity it does in the demo video, maybe it does, but i wouldn't be surprised if it was recorded "line in" before the "speaker" (probably an audio exciter).

the scrolled LEDs make much more sense on the trap than the proton pack. that was a good use of a message scroller.

i've just found that people are fascinated by blinking lights & shiny objects. that's how i've come across all of those lighting effects. i'm always looking for gadets few have seen to add to my street party bikes. just today i found a PERFECT "audio visualizer" on the cheap. i got a battery powered string of 30 RGB christams LEDs that flash various colors (but the strings just blink red on low batteries) and can be arranged to project nice random patterns on translucent materials. i've tried a plastic lid and a grey teeshirt so far.

i'll order a bunch of them if dealextreme sends me several missing items from my order. for $7, i can get more or less the same effect as i could from the discontinued $40 homedics light therapy cubes i wanted, but with 9 more lights and faster patterns.

BTW once i get my street party "disco bike system" rolling, i'll have larger blue plasma lights like the belt buckles in the amps on the front & back of my trailer & that flash to the beat. plasma lights aren't just for star trek anymore! LOL

About This Instructable




Bio: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lose your train of thought and you're waiting ... More »
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