Use a DIY Pressure Plate Switch to Automate Your Haunted House

Picture of Use a DIY Pressure Plate Switch to Automate Your Haunted House

When running a large haunted house, you want most of the special effects to be automated. But for this to be effective, you need to get the timing right. The best way to do this is to use sensors to detect where your guests are.

In this project, I am going to show you how to make a simple DIY pressure plate switch. This is just a pressure sensitive switch that is activated when someone steps on it. A sensor like this is really useful for effects that require someone to be in a specific location.  I also give several examples of ways that you can use it to activate special effects in a haunted house. 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Here are the materials and tools that you will need to make your DIY pressure plate switch:

3 Large Sheets of Cardboard
Aluminum Foil
Several Feet of Insulated Wire 

Wire Strippers
A Sharp Knife

Step 2: Attach Foil to Two of the Cardboard Sheets

Picture of Attach Foil to Two of the Cardboard Sheets
Tear off a piece of aluminum foil that is at least as big as the cardboard sheets. Lay it centered on the cardboard. If the foil hangs over the edge of the cardboard wrap it around to the back side. Tape one side of the foil to the cardboard. Then stretch the foil tightly and tape the opposite side. Do this for all four sides of the foil. 

Repeat this process with a second sheet of cardboard and foil.

Step 3: Attach Wires to the Foil with Tape

Picture of Attach Wires to the Foil with Tape
Take one wire and strip about one inch of insulation off of the end. Then lay it on the first sheet of cardboard so the the bare end of the wire is touching the aluminum. Apply a piece tape on top of the wire to hold it in contact with the foil. Repeat this with the second wire and the second sheet of cardboard. This isn't the most secure way of attaching the wires but it should hold together for Halloween. 
gwfong4 months ago

simple, cheap and functional. i love it. definitely one to bookmark for future projects.

kaylah3346 months ago

Can you please explain exactly how to connect the wires to the battery pack and light bulb? thanks

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  kaylah3346 months ago

Take a 12V battery or power adapter. Connect one wire to the coil of a relay and the other wire to the pressure plate. Then connect the other wire on the pressure plate to the other terminal to the coil on the relay. Now when the pressure plate is stepped on, the relay will activate. You should hear a clicking sound.

Then take an extension cord and cut it in half. Separate the wires for a few inches and strip the insulation off the ends. Connect the two wires from the male end of the power cord to the common terminals on the relay. Then connect the two wires from the female end to either the normally closed or normally open terminals on the relay depending on whether you want the light to turn on or off. Then just plug your light into the female end of the power cord.

I put one of these together last year. Normally, a string of jack-o-lanterns is on, but when you step on the switch the jack-o-laterns turn off and a ghost turns on. spooky, right? is there a way to extend the amount of time the ghost is illuminated after the switch is released?

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  korylewis5 months ago

There are time delay relays. Or you could make a time delay relay circuit with a capacitor and a could of transistors. You can search for examples online. Or you could use a relay latching circuit.

ok, I think I got it, thanks!

I like it . It's so simple but also extremely awesome

Just from watching the youtube video my mind is flooded with all kinds of projects I wanna experiment with now! lol Its beautifully simplistic which makes me want to try it immediately!

nbfox1 year ago
I most definitely was shorting 5V to ground. Sometimes I have to do stupid things and ask stupid questions to get things done the right way. Thanks for your help. Should be a cool little project.
nbfox1 year ago
So I have wired the switch up to the microcontroller. I wired 5V from the microcontroller to one end of the switch, and ground to the other, along with the pull up resistor. However, every time I close the switch my Arduino actually powers off.... Anyone else have this problem? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  nbfox1 year ago
Check how you have it wired up. If you are shorting the 5V to ground, you would overload the board.
Kzummo1 year ago
Who said it had to be for halloween only?
foobear1 year ago
Seems like with extended use the cardboard would start to sag together in the middle and be constantly touching together... How long before this happens?
DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)  foobear1 year ago
It all depends on how hard you are on it. It could probably hold up to a night a 10-year-olds occasionally stepping on it. But if you want to use it for a longer time with larger adults, then you probably want to use the wood paneling and sheet metal that I mentioned in the last step.
DaBlakus1 year ago
You can omit the pullup resistor and use the internal pullup resistor by setting the input pin "HIGH". Just use the digitalWrite "digitalWrite(buttonPin,HIGH)" instruction and set the input pin high in the setup list.
djkraz1 year ago
Very nice instructable! I have created several similar for our haunted house however I use aluminum duct tape in strips on cardboard like yours but then use thin double sided foam insulation (for insulating windows & doors etc.) to separate the 2. It works great and you can make it much bigger without having to worry about the middle becoming bowed and giving a constant short. Picture a tic tac toe board with a border as the strips of foam insulation.
carlos66ba1 year ago
Nice instructable. If you use arduinos, another option is to use ultrasonic sensors to detect people. They can be had on ebay for as little as $1 a piece! (amazing, isn't it?)
But then you need an Arduino which is more than $1.
naw going old school is way better. plus when yr done u can recycle the aluminum 4 money as well.
Awesome this will help so much!