“Finding Nemo” Mobile Aquarium With Bubble Volcano & LEDs

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About: Former Director of Information Technology for state and national associations, Jaan quit his job to co-found a tech-heavy real estate investment company, Rushing River, LLC. He is a real estate investor, Mi...

If you are anything like me, you saw a Radio Flyer wagon and immediately thought, “Hey, I should bolt an aquarium to this thing!” Thank goodness for Halloween where we can build crazy stuff.

I wanted to create a family costume that was age appropriate for a toddler who tires of walking after a while. She loves bubbles and pressing buttons, so this was a perfect solution to keep her occupied. To add to the design challenge, the main parts needed to be easily taken apart for transport.

The hollow window panes filled with water bubbling like a real aquarium blew people’s minds. I overheard someone walking behind us comment, “Look there’s a baby in the aquarium! Is that real water??” Her friend replied, “No, there’s no way there’s water in there...it’s fake.” That made my night.

Be forewarned, you will have mobs of kids and their parents surrounding you to “find Nemo” and taking pictures, and cars pulling over to the side of the road to talk to you about this thing. It drew quite a bit of attention - especially at night. Kids chased our bubble trail everywhere we went, like a flock of seagulls following a fishing boat.

It was totally worth the time it took to design and build this thing.

Parts

There are 8 parts, and many steps, to build this family costume:

  1. Build a test window panel (optional)

  2. Build the wagon base frame

  3. Build the aquarium

  4. Build the aquarium top frame

  5. Create the bubble volcano

  6. Decorate the aquarium

  7. Add LED lights (for bonus points)

  8. Create the costumes

Supplies:

Wagon

Aquarium

Metal

Wood

Equipment

  • Tape measure
  • Square ruler
  • Long T-square
  • Triangle roofing square or mitre box
  • Acrylic sheet cutter
  • Large pliers
  • Electrical tape
  • Soldering gun
    • Solder
  • 2 - 100% silicon RTV 10oz
    • caulking gun
  • Metal saw
  • Wood saw
  • Clamps for cutting wood/metal

Bit and Bolts

Bubbles

Decorations

  • Seaweed
    • Long clear baggie ties
  • Diver with treasure chest
  • Small rocks”, aka kid friendly fuzzballs if your kid is old enough to be around them
  • Spray Paint
    I used spray paint, but you can use whatever paint you have
  • Blue, turquoise, green

  • Krazy glue
  • Small goggles - local dollar store
  • Sharpie - local dollar store
  • Pixar characters
    Whomever your kid prefers
  • Ocean themed stickers - local dollar store
  • Volcano kit at least 10” tall
  • 14-Guage galvanized wire

Light Effects

Costumes

Darla

P. Sherman

Nemo

Note: You'll need slightly less Aluminum C-channel and flat bars if you opt not to build the test panel

Total cost was about $400.

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Step 1: Part 1 - Building a Test Window Panel (optional)

If you are in a hurry and just want to get to the main build, skip this section. If you want to build a small test piece to experiment with how much silicon to use, how the pieces will need to fit together and practice how to cut the corner pieces correctly, follow these steps. It will also give you an idea of how much cutting you’re in for.

When fitting the acrylic sheets inside the aluminum C-Channels bars, keep in mind that we need to account for the thickness of the aluminum to fit the acrylic inside the frame. Some aluminum pieces are ⅛” and some are 1/16” thick. Use a mitre box to make the 45° angled cuts if possible for tighter fitting corners.

Goal

Build a 3-sided frame (open top) and mount acrylic panels inside to hold water, without leaking, and test making bubbles flow evenly.

Notes on Building the Test Window Panel

My first idea was to cut 45° angles into the aluminum C-channels, then just bend it into a rectangle for more stability, but it turns out the aluminum was pretty brittle and snapped easily after the initial bend. Siliconing the sides together turned out to provide plenty of strength so it wasn’t a problem.

I also found it was easier to cut the C-channels to lengthwise first, then cut out the 45° notch, rather than cut two 45° notches. They rarely seemed to line up right using the latter method.

I mistakenly tried cutting small holes at the start of the tubing, and larger holes at the end of the tubing. That just resulted in the large holes getting all the air. I’d recommend cutting small holes all the way down the line as they get an even amount of air with a strong enough air bubbler.

Step 2: Part 1a - Cut the Parts for the Test Panel (optional)

Create the Metal Frame

  1. Cut an aluminum C-Channel bar into 3 pieces
    1. One 10-⅛” base & two 2” sides
      Note: We’re cutting the base bar slightly longer than the acrylic sheet so the sheet fits inside
    2. Cut 45° notches out of both ends of the base aluminum C-Channel so the center of the C forms the point.
    3. Cut a 45° notch out of one end of the side aluminum C-Channels so the center of the C forms the point.
  2. Cut an aluminum ½” flat bar into 3 pieces
    1. One 10” piece & two 1-15/16” pieces
    2. Rough up the flat bar with a file to help the silicon grip it. Clean it well to get any powder, dust or metal shavings off.
    3. Cut a 45° notch out of one end of the two shorter side pieces
    4. Cut a 45° notch out of both ends of the longer bottom piece

Create the Window Panels

  1. Cut two 2” x 10” acrylic sheets

Create the Tubes

  1. Cut one piece of 4mm silicon tube about 20”
  2. Silicon one end shut (squirt about a ¼” silicon up one end). Let it dry for at least 30 min.

Step 3: Part 1b - Put the Test Window Panel Together (optional)

Sandwich the Aluminum Flat Bars Between Two Acrylic Sheets.

  1. Lay down the acrylic sheet on a flat, clean surface
  2. Silicon the surface of the acrylic, where the bars will lay in the shape of a “U”.
  3. Lay the aluminum flat bars on the silicon
    1. Press down firmly on the bar, going inch by inch all the way around. Make sure you don’t see any gaps or bubbles.
      Slide the entire acrylic sheet slightly off the edge of your work surface if you want to peek underneath. If you lift or bend it, the bars may slide around.
  4. Squirt a nice fat bead of silicon all along the bar where the next acrylic panel will lay.
  5. Lay the next acrylic sheet on the flat bars.
    1. Press down firmly along the bar, inch by inch. Make sure you don’t see any gaps or bubbles.
  6. Slide a flat bar or two in between the acrylic sheets to keep the acrylic from bowing inwards, and possibly detaching from the silicon, while it dries.
  7. Let it dry for 24h
    Or whatever your brand recommends

Create the Bubble Tubing

  1. Cut small holes about 2” apart into the silicon tube. I used an exacto blade to make crosswise slits.
    Make the holes all in a straight line, facing upwards. The walls of the acrylic sheets will compress the tube slightly making them open up.
  2. Feed the silicon tube into the space between the acrylic sheets.
    Make sure to keep a nice curve along the bottom corners to prevent kinking the tube.
  3. Using a funnel, pour water between the window panes.
    1. Check for leaks before proceeding.
  4. Attach your bubble maker to the tube, turn it on (plug into the UPS), and observe how the air flows from the holes. Are they even? Do some holes need to be bigger?
    1. Cut larger holes if you need to.
    2. Patch any holes, which are too large, with silicon and let it dry before trying again

Step 4: Part 2 - Building the Base Wooden Frame for the Wagon

The pseudo aquarium needs to sit on something solid & flat. The thin walls of the wagon are slightly curved, so we’ll build a wide wooden frame on top of the wagon and secure it in place. The Radio Flyer wagon top comes with slots for attaching a canopy, which we will use to attach the frame.

This setup survived going over small curbs and up grassy inclines with a kid loving the bumpy ride all the way.

Goal

Build a solid, flat wooden frame that holds the aquarium securely in place, and can be easily removed for transport.

Notes on Building the Base Wooden Frame for the Wagon

We need to fit the aquarium in between the wagon handle being raised and the edge of the front 19” frame. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room so take care when measuring this part.

A nice way to make sure the front frame holes line up is to take a piece of paper, lay it on the wagon front edge, and poke holes through it using a pencil. Then use that as a stencil to line up the holes on the front piece of wood.

Step 5: Part 2a - Cut and Assemble the Base Wood Frame

Cut the frame wood

  1. Cut a 2”x 4” into 6 pieces
    1. Two 34” pieces (length of wagon)
    2. Two 19” pieces (width of wagon)
    3. Two 2” pieces (braces for back of wagon)

Create the mounting holes

  1. Drill two 5/16” holes in the front 19” piece, into the 4” wide side, for bolting the frame to the wagon
    1. Holes are 12-⅞” apart
    2. Each hole is 2” from the width-wise edge

Create the back frame piece

  1. Place the two 2” blocks against the 4” side of the back 19” piece, spaced evenly about 4” from the center. The 2” pieces rest on the back of the wagon to support the back of the frame.The tops of the 19” & the 2” pieces should be flush.
    The back piece of the frame is supported by the 2” blocks due to a) the curve of the wagon’s back b) the wagon seat, when upright, is angled past the back of the wagon.
  2. Pre-drill four holes through the 19” back piece, into the 4” wide side, an inch into the 2” pieces.
    1. Attach 2” pieces to the 19” back piece using the 2 ½” construction screws
  3. Drill a ¼” hole through the center of the 19” back piece.
    We will bolt the frame to the back axle using this hole later.

Step 6: Part 2b - Create the Volcano Platform

Cut the volcano platform wood

    1. Cut the .25"x2'x4' thin board into a 12”x 18-¾” rectangle

Attach platform mounts

We’ll want the platform to be flush with the top of the outer wood frame. Placement isn’t critical

  1. Screw in two mounting brackets to the inside, lengthwise (34”) sides of the frame pieces.
    1. Mount about 10” from the front
  2. Screw in two mounting brackets to the inside, width-wise (19”) side of the back frame piece.
    1. Mount about 6” in from sides
  3. Drill ⅛” holes through the mounting platform for each mounting bracket so they align with one of the mounting bracket holes.
    We will be fastening the platform to the mounting brackets using one paper clip per corner. This holds it securely enough and provides for quick disassembly.

Create the back brace

We're going to attach the back of the wagon axle to the base wooden frame

  1. Cut a ⅛” thick aluminum flat bar 16”
  2. Bend one end of the bar into a “C” shape to hook around the back axle using pliers
    1. Hook that end around the back axle
  3. Press the aluminum bar up along the back of the wagon so it molds to the shape of the wagon
    I just used my foot to shape the bar. Aluminum bends easily.
    1. The top of the bar will now be against the center hole we drilled in the 19” back frame
  4. Using the center hole we drilled in the back wood base frame in Part 2A, as a guide, drill a ¼” hole through the aluminum bar

Step 7: Part 2c - Put the Base Wood Frame and Platform Together

    We're going to make sure everything fits together in this step

    1. Attach the front to the long sides using 3” corner braces.
      Make sure the lengthwise pieces are on the outside of the width-wise pieces
    2. Mount the frame onto the wagon
    3. Drop two 5/16th bolts through the front holes
    4. Slide one ¼” bolt into the back, center hole
      1. Bolt head should be facing the inside of the wagon
      2. Secure it in place with a ¼” wing nut
    5. Place the platform on the 1" brackets

    Step 8: Part 2d - Paint the Frame and Platform

    1. Take the volcano platform off the base wood frame

    2. Take the base wood frame off the wagon

    3. In a well ventilated place paint the wood frame a light gray
      or whatever matches your wagon color

    4. Paint the platform with an undersea swirl of colors
      I chose blue, turquoise & green
    5. Let it dry overnight

    Step 9: Part 3 - Building the Aquarium

    Some of these steps require a day in between to allow for the silicon to bond and dry properly. If you took the time to build the test panel (above) many of these steps will be the same. Feel free to skip the part about building clamps if you already own some.

    Goal

    In this stage we’re going to create the 4 hollow-paned windows from acrylic glass, build clamps to hold them together as they dry, then mount them onto the metal base frame.

    Notes on Building the Aquarium

    I made the window pieces on different days so I marked, with sticky notes, what day/time each piece was created (so I wouldn’t accidentally pick up a still-drying piece and then have to donate to our swear jar).

    I decided on sitting the lengthwise pieces on the outside of the widthwise pieces because most kids would come up and lean on and bang on the long pieces of glass. This way I gave those sides more strength. The widthwise pieces had a kid in a seat in front of it on one end, and me holding the handle on the other end so no one would disturb those sides.

    In case you’re wondering why put the metal frame together on the floor - it was to minimize the distance a window panel could fall before drying. The last thing I would have wanted was a window panel cracking from falling off the wagon.

    The reason we haven’t inserted the tubes yet is that we need to feed them through the holes in the aquarium top. We’ll build the top next.

    I also lobotomized a bubble-spouting whale while figuring out what kind of bubble machine would work. RIP, happy little whale. Your interesting organs will be used in some future project.

    Step 10: Part 3a - Cut the Base Metal Frame Parts

    This part involves quite a bit of cutting. May the Force be with you.

    Cut base metal frame parts

    This will allow us to fit the base pieces together to make a rectangle

    1. Cut two 22 ¼” 1”x1” aluminum angled bars
      1. Cut a 45° notch out of one bottom inner edge on both ends
    2. Cut two 34 3/16” 1”x1” aluminum angled bars
      1. Cut a 45° notch out of one bottom inner edge on both ends

    Step 11: Part 3b - Cut the Window Frame Metal Parts

    Cuts using the mitre box came out much, much better than not using it

    Cut the C-channel bars

    We’ll fit these together to make upwards facing U shapes

    1. Cut eight 12” pieces
      These form the walls of the U
      1. Cut a 45° notch out of one end of the side aluminum C-channel so the center of the C forms a point.
    2. Cut two 34-1/16” pieces and two 21” pieces
      These form the bases of U’s
      1. Cut 45° notches out of both ends of the base aluminum C-channel so the centers of the C’s form points.

    Cut the 1”x1” angled bars

    These stand upwards to reinforce the C channel bars and hold them together

    1. Cut four 12” pieces

    Cut the ½” flat bars

    These will fit inside the C channel bars to help hold the acrylic sheets in place and prevent leaking

    1. Cut eight 12” pieces
      1. Cut a 45° notch out of one end
    2. Cut two 33-15/16” pieces and two 20-⅞” pieces
      The inner windows fit between the outer windows, so we subtract 1” from the length needed
      1. Cut a 45° notch out of both ends
    3. Rough up the flat bars with a file wherever silicon will touch to help the silicon grip it. Clean it well to get any powder, dust or metal shavings off.

    Step 12: Part 3c - Create the Windows

    Cut the acrylic sheets

    We’re creating the illusion of water being in the tank so we need to create watertight, hollow windows. Wait until you see people's faces when they realize there's really water inside.

    1. Cut four 20-⅞” x 12” panes
    2. Cut four 33-15/16” x 12” panes

    Create the windows

    We’re going to sandwich the aluminum flat bars between two acrylic sheets. If you followed the optional Creating a Test Window Panel section, these steps are the same.

    1. Lay down the acrylic sheet on a flat, clean surface.
    2. Silicon the surface of the acrylic, where the bars will lay in the shape of a “U”.
    3. Lay the aluminum flat bars on the silicon
      1. Press down firmly on the bar, going inch by inch all the way around. Make sure you don’t see any gaps or bubbles.
        Slide the entire acrylic sheet slightly off the edge of your work surface if you want to peek underneath. If you lift or bend it, the bars may slide around.
    4. Squirt a nice fat bead of silicon all along the bar where the next acrylic panel will lay.
    5. Lay the next acrylic sheet on the flat bars.
      1. Press down firmly along the bar, inch by inch. Make sure you don’t see any gaps or bubbles.
    6. Slide a flat bar or two in between the acrylic sheets to keep the acrylic from bowing inwards, and possibly detaching from the silicon, while it dries.

    Let it dry for 24h

    Or whatever your brand recommends

    Step 13: Part 3d - Create Clamps to Hold the Windows Upright While Drying (optional)

    You can skip the part of making the upper clamps if you own long clamps, but you may still want to make a base for the windows to stand up while drying. I used some of spare pieces of wood for this along with the 1”x3” pieces.

    Cut base clamps

    They’ll be about 2” longer on each side than the base of each window

    1. Cut four 1”x3” wood pieces to about 38”
    2. Cut four 1”x3” wood pieces to about 26

    Cut upper clamps

    1. Cut sixteen 1”x3” small wood pieces about 6”

    Drill holes

    1. Drill ¼” holes about 1” from the ends of all pieces

    Cut the ¼” threaded rod

    1. Cut it long long enough to run between all the clamp parts and attach a wing nut on the outsides

    Create clamps

    1. Screw the bottom (longer parts) clamps together
      1. Feed a ¼” threaded rod through both ends of each pair of clamps
      2. Put a ¼” wingnut on the outside end of each rod
      3. Leave them loosely screwed together in preparation for the next step.

    Step 14: Part 3e - Form Window Braces Using C-Channel Bars

    We’re going to fit the C-channel pieces in the shape of a “U” around the window panes. These are the same steps as from making the optional Test Window Panels in Part 1

    Make the short windows

    1. Silicon the bottom (20-⅞”) piece
      1. Starting with the bottom piece (has two 45° notches), lay a bead of silicon all through the inside of the C-channel along all 3 sides
      2. Sit the short window on the bottom piece
      3. Fill the gaps in between the C-channel and the window with silicon. Be generous.
    2. Silicon the sides pieces
      1. Lay a silicon bead through the inside of the C-channel along all 3 sides of the 12" side pieces
      2. Press it up against the window. Hold it in place for a few minutes before letting go.
      3. Fill in the outer gaps between the 45° cuts.
      4. Smooth the gap between the aluminum and the acrylic so there are no holes.
      5. Do the same for the other side piece
    3. Stand the window frame upright using the wooden clamps
      1. Clamp the vertical two sides of the “U” together
      2. Use the ¼” threaded rod, 1”x3” wood pieces and 1⁄4” wingnuts .
        (optional - the sides seemed held together pretty well without clamps too)
    4. Let it dry 24h
      or whatever your silicon brand recommends

    Make the long windows

    1. Repeat the "Make the Short Windows" instructions above, but using the longer, 33-15/16 base pieces

    Step 15: Part 3f - Mount the Windows

    Attach the four windows

    1. Put the four parts to the rectangular base metal frame on the floor together. Lay thick silicon bead along the inner bottom and sides
      1. Put some silicon in between the 45° cuts of the base frame where the pieces touch.
        The metal frame will be screwed down onto the wood frame later
    2. Seat the windows in the base frame
      The lengthwise pieces will sit outside the widthwise pieces
    3. Silicon the outer edges of the C-channels where they will touch together.
      1. Hold them together for a few minutes
    4. Repeat these steps for the other 2 sides.

    Reinforce the windows

    1. Silicon the inside of the 12”, 1”x1” aluminum angle bars
    2. Press them up against the vertical corners, so that the L bar sits on top of the bottom frame
    3. Clamp the corners together

    Let it dry for 24h

    or whatever your brand of silicon recommends

    Step 16: Part 3g - Mount the Aquarium

    The image show the top already on, but in hindsight, I should have drilled & mounted the holes before risking bumping the aquarium off the wagon. Do as I say, not as I did..

    Move the Aquarium

    1. Slide thin aluminum flat rods under the aquarium
      So you can easily move it with the sides evenly supported.
    2. Place the now-dried aquarium onto the wooden base frame

    Mark the holes

    Make sure they are evenly spaced out, along the inner aluminum angle frame

    1. Mark two holes per long side
    2. Mark three holes per short side
      You can drill more, but it doesn’t take much to hold it in place

    Drill baby, Drill!

    1. Pre-drill ⅛” holes through the 1”x1” aluminum angled frame through to the wood frame
    2. Screw the metal frame to the wood frame
      1. Use ¾” x 1” wood screws

    Now you can move the entire thing around without disturbing the windows

    Step 17: Part 4 - Building the Aquarium Top

    We’re not trying to make the top water or air tight, it’s just to add structural support and help keep the water from sloshing out when riding over big bumps. We’ll need to cut holes to feed the tubing from tank to tank.

    Goal

    Create a lid for the top of the aquarium and fit the tubes in place.

    Notes on Building the Aquarium Top

    I ended up drilling a lot of holes in experimentation of what worked best to feed the tubes. I noticed that I needed about 8” of extra tubing to pass from one tank to another in order to not kink the tube. So every 45° bend needs about 4” of tubing.

    If your acrylic sheet cutting isn’t perfect (mine wasn’t) you can use extra bolts, when connecting the corners, to raise or lower each corner a bit to make them align. See pictures for example of all the holes I ended up drilling until some corners looked like Swiss cheese. Learn from my mistakes.

    Step 18: Part 4a - Cut and Assemble the Top

    Cut the C-channels

    The corners don't need to touch together

      1. Cut two 20pieces
      2. Cut two 32pieces

    Drill the holes

      1. Drill ¼” holes about 1” & 2” inwards from the ends of each piece on the base of the C-channel
      2. Fit a 3" heavy duty angle bracket over each corner
      3. Mark a hole on the angle bracket through the C-channel hole
        We’re using the C-channel holes as a stencil for accuracy
      4. Drill ¼” holes through the angle bracket
        We’ll bolt the pieces together using these holes
      5. Drill a 5/16” additional hold in the C-channel about 1” from the end of the angle bracket
        We’ll feed tubes through there
      6. Drill a 5/16” hole in the center of the heavy duty corner brace (has a triangle in it)

    Put it together

      1. Bolt the C-channels and angle brackets together
      2. Rest the top loosely on the aquarium

    Step 19: Part 4b - Create the Bubbles

    Prepare the Tube

    1. Cut small holes about 2” apart into the silicon tube. I used an exacto blade to make crosswise slits.
      1. Make the holes all in a straight line, facing upwards.
        The walls of the acrylic sheets will compress the tube slightly making them open up.
    2. Feed the silicon tube into the channel between the acrylic sheets.
    3. Cut larger holes if you need to.
    4. Patch any holes which are too long with silicon and let it dry before trying again.
    5. Cover the UPS with a plastic bag to protect it from drips/leaks.
    6. Make sure to keep a nice curve along the bottom corners to prevent kinking the tube.

    Add Water

    1. Using a funnel, pour water into the windows.
      I used about ¾ of a gallon each time we hit the road
    2. Check for leaks before proceeding.
    3. Attach your bubble maker to the tube, turn it on (plug in the UPS), and observe how the air flows from the holes.
      1. Are they even?
      2. Do some holes need to be bigger?

    Step 20: Part 5 - Build the Bubble Volcano

    Now we're getting to the fun part. Make sure whatever brand of bubble gun you purchase, it can continuously produce bubbles (e.g. battery powered) and requires an external sealed canister for the soap. There won’t be much room inside the volcano for large items.

    The wagon has drink holders so it's perfect for holding soap canisters and the large coffee mug you'll need after staying up so many late nights to build this thing.

    Goal

    Build a remotely triggered bubble emitting volcano.

    Notes

    I reused the power button from an old computer for the trigger. Inside old printers, toys and computers you can find all kinds of useful buttons, lights, wires, etc.. for projects like this.

    Make sure the wire you solder to the trigger is long enough to run under the volcano, out of sight, and reaches at least to the handle of the wagon (to operate while pulling the wagon).

    The volcano tended to slide around until I stuck some nails into the platform and pressed the styrofoam onto it.

    The soap bottle needs to be airtight. If air gets in you’ll see bubbles traveling up the soap tube and the volcano will not work well. If the tube you use is too large not all soap is converted to bubbles and soap dribbles out.

    If you find a bubble gun with a built in LED, you can see the bubble at night and it looks really cool :) If not, just wire up an LED to your trigger facing upwards from the top of the volcano.There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube on how to do something like this. Take a look through these right here on Instructables.com for getting started with LED's and buttons.

    Step 21: Part 5a - Paint and Prepare the Volcano

    AKA Mt. Wannahockaloogie

      1. Paint the volcano
        You can build your own out of paper mache but keep in mind it’s going to get very soapy and wet from all the bubbles - and possibly fall apart. I chose styrofoam for durability.

      2. Put some thin 1" trim nails into the platform and press the volcano down onto them.
        This holds the volcano in place. It tends to slide around after soap gets everywhere

    Step 22: Part 5b - Add a Bubble Machine

    Test whether the bubble gun works BEFORE you take it apart. This rules out one potential problem

    Take apart the bubble gun

    Take care not to rip out any wires. Try to unscrew it before attacking it with a hammer & saw..

    1. Unscrew/pry apart the bubble gun
    2. Find the trigger button for turning on the bubbles
    3. Find the battery pack
    4. Determine which tube pulls soap into the bubbler, and which provides air
      1. Label them
    5. After moving the critical components out of the way, cut away any plastic that won’t fit under the volcano.
      Try to make the cut so that the bottom can sit flat on the platform with the bubble emitting end facing upwards.

    Wire a trigger to the bubble button

    A great source for extra wires is Cat5 cable (networking cable). They come with most WiFi routers/switches you’ve purchased. Speaker wire is handy too.

    1. Cut two wires about 4’ long
    2. Cut the wires to the bubble gun’s mini button
    3. Solder your larger trigger in place of the mini button.
      Optionally use small wire nuts.
    4. Solder the other end of your wire to the trigger
      Don’t worry reversing them
    5. Protect the connections with electrical tape

    Step 23: Part 5c - Connect the Tubes

    Connect the tubes

    1. Cut tubes about 2’ or 3’ long
      You’ll just want some slack so you can swap out soap bottles without hunching over the edge of the aquarium
    2. Drill 2 holes through the lid of your soap bottle.
    3. Feed two tubes through the holes
      I used the cat5 cable housing and it fit perfectly around the soap intake nozzle
      1. The soap tube should reach the bottom of the bottle.
      2. The air tube should only poke through an inch or so
    4. Krazy glue the tubes in place
      I tried silicon and it just came loose as soon after it got very soapy
    5. Let them dry
    6. Strengthen with electrical tape inside and outside

    Make Bubbles!

    1. Depending on the width & length of the tube you use, and strength of the bubble gun, it could take a minute for the liquid to reach the bubble gun.
    2. Does it work?
      1. If it works, tape the bubble gun to the platform using the electrical tape.
        If you prefer duct tape, I won't hold it against you
      2. If not, check your wiring, batteries and tube connections.

    Step 24: Part 6 - Decorate the Aquarium

    I used references from the movie Finding Nemo to buy some tall artificial plants and decorations. The tall plants need some help standing up. The diver should look like he’s floating so thin wire helps complete the illusion. Shorter plants would be easier to work with, but it looked much better when they were about the same size as the volcano.

    Goal

    Decorate the aquarium with decorations, artificial plants and secure them in place.

    Notes on Decorating the Aquarium

    If I’d had more time I would have drilled holes through the bases of the decorations and bolted them to the platform. After soap got everywhere a few of them came loose. Krazy glue fixed them in a pinch. I first used some old airplane glue which took a long time to dry and soap loosened easily.

    My kid found the fuzzballs irresistible so they only lasted a few minutes before they were flying everywhere. Fuzzballs sacrificed to the volcano turned into soapy, gooey slimeballs.

    Step 25: Part 6a - Attaching the Decorations

    Attach the diver

    1. Drill a ⅛” hole in the platform where you want to place the diver
    2. Run some 14-Gauge metal wire through the hole
    3. Twist the wire around a bolt to keep it in place and seal the hole
    4. (Optional) Paint the bolt to blend in with the seafloor

    Attach the treasure chest

    1. Glue the bottom of the chest to the platform
    2. Prop the lid open with a piece of wire

    Attach the plants

    Baggie ties are not that strong so they'll sway like underwater plants as the wagon moves.

    1. Run some long, clear baggie ties through the center of the plants.
    2. Stand the plants up using the baggie ties
      1. Twist the bottom of the ties around the base of the plants
      2. Prop up very tall plants with 14-Gauge wire to help them stay upright as they dry
    3. Glue the base of the plants to the platform

    Attach the extra decorations

    1. Write the address of the dentist office with sharpie on the goggles strap
      42 Wallaby Way, Sydney
    2. Using a paperclip, attach the goggles to the outside of the aquarium
    3. Using a paperclip, attach Peach (the starfish) to the inside of the aquarium
      She sticks to the aquarium walls in the movie
    4. Place “rocks”, the soft fuzzballs around the base of the volcano.
      This gives the bottom some depth and looks great.

    Step 26: Part 6b - Making the License Plate

    License plate alternatives:

    • 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney
      We put it on P. Sherman's shirt instead
    • Mt. Wannahockaloogie
      Hard to read
    • Fish are friends
      not as funny
    • OU812
      Oh wait, that was Van Halen
    • He touched the butt
      This is only funny and not weird if you've seen the movie. We decided not to go with this one.
    • Forgot to Brush
      Bonus points if you spotted this in the movie

    Steps

    1. Cut the platform wood 11.5” x 5”

    2. Use a marker to write “Just Keep Swimming

    3. Decorate with stickers

    4. Put the license plate on the end of the long ¼” bolt on the back of the wagon
      1. Secure in place with ¼” wing nut

    Step 27: Part 7 - Add LED Lighting Effects

    Aquariums tend to have a calming blue hue so we’ll set up lights to illuminate the water. The LED’s create a neat effect that reflects through water and make the bubbles look even cooler. I found that with NeoPixels I could adjust the strip to the desired shade of blue and brightness that I liked.

    Goal

    Prepare the LED's, program the Arduino, wire it all together.

    Notes

    The reason I only covered the front half of the aquarium with LED’s was that I was afraid of my little one grabbing it and pulling it off the window. If I’d had more time I could have siliconed them nice and securely to the acrylic all the way around the tank, but at 2am the night before our town’s Halloween parade, I just taped them on and went to bed.

    The batteries for the LED & Arduino lasted through 6 hours of events and haven’t needed replacing yet. Less items plugged into the UPS meant more power for the AC powered bubbler and less items to be accidentally unplugged.

    There are several ways to power the Arduino & lights. I just happened to have a 4AA pack handy and they provide enough power to light up the LED’s. You may also plug them into the UPS, but again, less items plugged in means more power for the bubbler. The arduino likes a steady power supply so I used a USB portable power pack.

    The bubbler lasted just under 2hrs with my small, old UPS.

    Step 28: Part 7a - Prepare the LED's

    Prepare the LED’s

    1. Cut the LED strip down to 50”
      See my note for this step below why it is shorter than the tank
    2. Count the number of LED’s on the strip

    Connect the wires

    See attached wiring diagram

    1. Adafruit has great documentation on working with NeoPixels

    Program the Arduino

    See attached code, "neopixel-simple.ino"

    1. Make sure to enter the correct number of LED’s in to the source code.
    2. Test if the LED’s work before stuffing all the components into a box
    3. Find a box to house the components and protect exposed parts from rain, leaks & bubbles
      I used an old Radio Shack (remember them?) “LED cube” project box which sealed pretty well

    Connect it all together

    See attached diagram

    1. Connect the batteries and wires to the breadboard
    2. Attach the LED strip to the window using electrical tape
      Blue could look better than the black tape I had handy. From the outside, no one noticed the color
    3. Place rechargeable LED light behind the child seat to provide light for the license plate & rear visibility (safely)

    Component List

    See attached component list as it relates to the attached diagram

    Component

    • Arduino Uno R3
    • LED1
    • NeoPixel Strip 8
    • 4 batteries, AAA
    • Portable USB battery
    • 1000 uF, 25 V Polarized Capacitor
    • 470 Ω Resistor

    Step 29: Part 8 - Create the Costumes

    Nemo is the star of the show, but we can't forget to give mom & dad supporting roles too.

    We referenced the Finding Nemo movies until we were walking around the house singing, “Just keep swimming.. “ over and over. I decided to order the Nemo costume instead of attempting to make it so I could finish this project before next Halloween.

    Goal

    Design the supporting character costumes for Darla, P. Sherman and add props.

    Notes

    A sharpie works just fine for putting freckles on Darla, but makeup is better for the skin.

    Step 30: Part 8a - Create the Iron-on Patches

    Iron-on Patches

    1. Download and print the iron-on patches
      See attached file, "Iron-On-Sherman-Dental.pdf"
      Visit this Etsy store for a Darla patch. This saved us from having to design one
    2. Place a pillow case over the ironing board

    3. Place a patch in place

    4. Iron on P. Sherman’s name on the front of the scrubs
    5. Iron on P. Sherman’s business info & tooth design on the back of the scrubs
    6. Iron on Darla’s “Rock n Roll”graphic to the front of the sweatshirt
    7. Download and print your favorite picture of Darla
    8. Slip her charming picture into P. Sherman’s front pocket so it sticks out just a bit.
      1. I ended up taping the back of the picture to the inside of the pocket to keep it in place

    Step 31: Part 8b - Create Darla's Headgear

    1. Cut a piece of the 14-gauge wire about 24”
      Wire length will depend on the wearer’s head size
    2. Bend it using pliers until it can hook behind the wearer’s ear, and float down front of their face
    3. Cover the tips of the wire with electrical tape so you don’t pieces your ears
      Watch out - the ends are sharp!
    4. Create freckles
      1. Use a brown sharpie, or makeup, put put some freckles on Darla’s cheeks

    Step 32: Part 8c - Create the "Chuckles" Prop

    1. Wrap clear fishing wire around Chuckles
    2. Put poor Chuckles into the artificial aquarium plant bag so he dangles upside down
    3. Loosely seal the bag shut with it the baggie tie
    4. Blow air into the bag
      1. Make sure Chuckles dangles in mid air
    5. Seal the bag
      I'll leave step 6 of explaining to your kid why the fish is upside down to you

    Step 33: Go Trick-or-Treating!

    The aquarium can be taken apart for transport. We were surrounded wherever we went!

    There are a lot of steps to this project so please let me know if I need to further clarify something that the pictures can’t explain. I rebuilt many parts of this project twice (I had to experiment a lot) so your expenses should be less than mine. Let me know if you build or improve on it!

    Happy Halloween!

    Halloween Contest 2019

    Runner Up in the
    Halloween Contest 2019

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      7 Discussions

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      Anna-Grace

      21 days ago

      I love this! Great job! This is awesome for little guys that can't walk very far with getting tired. Awesome!

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      BlueFreckles

      23 days ago

      This is too great! Love this idea. It could totally be adapted for someone who uses a wheelchair.

      1 reply
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      JaanT1BlueFreckles

      Reply 23 days ago

      Thank you! You're right, that's a good idea!!

      0
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      JaanT1Penolopy Bulnick

      Reply 24 days ago

      Thanks so much! It was a lot of fun to make. With Nemo's sibling on the way, next year's costume should be another interesting challenge :D

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      audreyobscura

      24 days ago

      This is bonkers! You should enter this into the Halloween Contest!

      1 reply
      0
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      JaanT1audreyobscura

      Reply 24 days ago

      Thank you, and good idea! I've entered it now. I'm really impressed by all the creative costumes.