Batkid Tech #1: Riddler's Device




Introduction: Batkid Tech #1: Riddler's Device

Greetings from the secret lab. We've had some interesting projects recently, and thought it would be fun to share the process. Our intent is to post a short series of these to cover some of the gadgets and technology from The Make-A-Wish #SFBatkid event!

Yep. If you enjoy these (or if you enjoyed the event), then let us know so we can post more, and please consider clicking here to donate time or money to Make-A-Wish. That's what will help kids through life-threatening illnesses.

  • Note: These will be less "how to" and more of the super-quick "how it was done", for your info and entertainment. Being more thorough would take more time, and that would risk not finishing. Better to finish something short.
This first instructable will show how we built the Riddler's Mystery Device, the one which he nastily placed on the cable car tracks with a damsel tied to it.

  • Important Note: Obviously, being called a "damsel" and being beautiful doesn't mean being helpless. You knew that already. This particular damsel actually has multiple engineering degrees, and more shop tools than most people. If Batkid hadn't shown up, she probably would have used a laser built into her jewelry to cut her ropes, then hacked the mystery box to play showtunes while she pinned the Riddler's necktie to the cable car's brake shoe. Lucky thing Batkid was there to lock him up instead.

  • Important Note: This whole event was done by Make-A-Wish with the help of many people and also the police department, which is the only way it was safe, or even possible. They helped in many important ways in the Batkid event, and we owe them our thanks.

Step 1: Before You Do ANYTHING

REALLY super-important and serious note: Before we built this box and placed it on the cable car tracks, we asked the police if they were okay with us doing that. We showed it to them.

  • For your safety and the safety of others, DO NOT build a dangerous-looking box and leave it in a public place, ever.
You already know this. This device looks comical, but it sure doesn't look harmless. Even a suitcase left in public can scare people.

Okay, that's said. Please take it seriously.
On to the good parts!

Step 2: A Trip to the Store!

      This box was built, start to finish, in one day. There was a lot to do build, prepare and rehearse for the Batkid event, so this one had to be done quickly.

      We started out with a pretty vague idea of what we wanted: a ridiculously green, comically sinister device which could be deactivated by a 5-year-old superhero in time to save the city. Simple enough.

      We got pretty much everything we needed in two places. In each place, we told people what we were planning to do, and they said things like "NO WAY!! SWEET! I'll help you make it awesome." That's pretty normal for Make-A-Wish events.

      FIrst, we tried The Container Store in downtown SF, and the damsel posed next to a series of containers until we spotted something called a "Busy Box". When people looked at us strangely, but they do that anytime we're working on a fun project.

        Second, we went to Ace Hardware on Market & Church. and bought:
        six bicycle safety blinkers, and the gentleman behind the counter said "Right on! I'm already signed up to go to Union Square and cheer on the Batkid."

      • Third, we went to Cliff's Variety Store for pretty much everything else:
        • Fluorescent green spray paint
        • Silver spray paint
        • Two super-awesome faux-brass-rimmed atomic-comic-sinister-looking stick-up LED lights ($9 each)
        • Plastic cable sleeves
        • Sandpaper
        • Blue masking tape
        • Green cellophane
        • Brush-on super glue

Step 3: Holy Blinking Lights!

Watch out, this electronics work described here is SO dangerous and complicated, if you do it wrong, you could lose an arm.

Okay, not really. Come on, it's flashlights and rubber bands. Here's what we did to create awesome synchronized strobing effects:

  1. Wrap green cellophane around the six bicycle lights, using rubber bands.
  2. Place them inside the box.
  3. Seriously, that's all.

Step 4: Prep & Paint the Box

Another important note: When you spray-paint, use a mask or a respirator. They're cheap, they look cool, and you'll live much longer, which means you'll be able to build more fun projects. Use a mask.

The box is nice and translucent, and there's no reason to change that. Getting it to conduct light will give it a "brighter than life" comic book feel.

I sanded the box a little, just so the paint had something to hang on to. There are a lot of corners which normally slow down the sanding process, but I didn't bother. Remember, we're building this quickly.

I did put tape over some parts to keep them from getting painted, so that the stick-up lights would stick well, and also over the panels we were going to put the lights near.

Step 5: Sinister-looking Cables

Batkid needs to be able to de-fuse the box, and it only makes sense that instead of having the dangerous wires safely inside the box, they'd be sticking out where they're easy to mess with. Sounds comically silly, but it's actually pretty normal in the super-villain world.

Taking these cable-collector tubes and adding a little silver spraypaint gave them just the look we were going for.

Then I used scissors to taper the ends so we could pull them through holes in the box snugly. That way, pulling them out grates the ridges against the box and gives a satisfying "rrrriiiiip" feel.

Step 6: Atomic Power Lights

Here's another dangerous and complex electronics step:
  1. Unscrew the case of the cool-looking LEDs
  2. Put green cellophane over the clear plastic
  3. Screw the case back together and switch it on.
Whew. Good thing I have an EE degree.

I really like this effect, and Batkid liked it too! He actually kept one of these as a trophy, to remember vanquishing the Riddler, and give him something to smile about when he needs it. We could all use some of these, I think.

Step 7: Assemble and Check It Out So Far

I drilled 3/8" holes in the top and side of the box. The wires are much more than 3/8" thick, so I tapered them and pulled them from the inside, which seated them perfectly in place.

At this point, the box looks pretty good, and the way it catches the light really makes it look creepy and sinister.
Now to give it some character!

Step 8: The Mark of a Supervillain

This part could really be done any number of ways. We used a laser cutter to cut a ton of question marks out of some black matte board.

They were stuck to the box using some of my personal favorite modern stuff: brush-on super glue. It's quick and easy. Five minutes, and they're all in place.

Step 9: Finish the Lights, Finish the Device

I placed each light in front of its own clear panel, and taped them all securely in place. Plastic drawers from a parts box were used to elevate them into the middle of the panel vertically.

Once it was all done, the lights get switched on, and KAPOW! The Riddler strikes!
(Check out the video!)

If you like this sort of thing, please donate to Make-A-Wish, so they can keep up the great work!

To be continued...?

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    wow. I wish I could borrow your mind and come up with such cool stuff like this for a few hours every once in a while! Great gadget! Make-A-Wish is sooooo lucky to work with you!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your awesome and kind comments! The day was incredible, and Miles is one amazing super-tough little guy.

    Custom-built stuff is a part of pretty much every wish Make-A-Wish grants, and it's often expensive. If you can use your maker juju to help with wishes like this, I'd recommend it. SO fun. Every project I do with them is my new favorite project.

    I'll be working on #3 soon (that's probably going to be the wrist-mounted bat-projector communicator we used to contact the police chief).

    In the meantime, the very lovely damsel just posted Batkid Tech #2 in the fashion section. Check it out here.

    Also, Evan Atherton posted info on the Gotham Key, here.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Rarely seen such a mass act of solidarity, you guys made me proud!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Heard about this in the UK, what a fantastic thing to be involved in, great work guys!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! What a great way to share your talent and gifts. Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this, and to share your build process to boot! It's good to know that there are still some people who understand what is important in this world. I wasn't there, but the romantic in me wants to believe that you helped give that child the best day of his life. Thank you.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i just want to take a moment and say that you guys did an amasing job putting this together

    Matt Makes
    Matt Makes

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Such a great story, I really admire you guys. Thanks for being great people, and for sharing, it's fun to get a behind the scenes peek, please keep posting.


    7 years ago

    This was spectacular. Such a kind thing to do for a child who has gone through so much. Well done!


    7 years ago

    that's awesome I have read many things on this event. great job


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I am from Germany and read multiple articles in different news paper about Miles. You made a huge impact! Thanks for being so awesome.

    Secret Walrus

    Thank you for being a driving force that helped make Batkid's day one he will remember for the rest of his life.