Ghostbusters Proton Pack by Réal O’Neil

My name’s Réal O’Neil. I’m a trans Acadian from Clare who’s currently working in IT when I’m not toying with making game peripherals or costume props, or playing with VR and videogames. I also co-host a weekly Monday night competitive Street Fighter gathering at the Last Game Store on Lacewood.

I’m on Twitter at @realyst2k, but parental discretion is advised since my language and ranting can get salty. I also have a blog I haven’t touched in too long with some unfinished writeups located at http://www.cartridgeclub.org/makings-of-a-madman. I have an instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/realyst mainly with nature pics, food pics, cat pics and some project pics.


Why did you choose a Ghostbusters costume/props?
I love making costume props that run on batteries and have lights in them. I had done a Proton Pack before years ago but was never fully satisfied with it and all it did was blink lights and trigger a Wal-Mart MP3 player to make noises/music. It was also heavy as sin and looked like more of a vacuum cleaner than a ghost busting tool (insert Luigi’s Mansion joke here). Those who remember the first couple Hal-Con parades, the dingus in the Ghostbuster suit was me 😉
 
Also, I always enjoyed the Ghostbusters growing up and my favourite prop/costume builds are those that allow me to find and craft all sorts of garbage into something that looks decent. Proton Pack was the ultimate candidate.
 
Finally, I had an unused Arduino for a few years now begging to be used for something. This was as good an excuse as any to get proper sound and special effects going.
What are the main pieces and what are they made from?
 Well, discounting electronics:

Most of the pack is actually EVA foam (those puzzle piece shaped floor coverings popular with cosplayers). The rest are basically random bits of scrap and garbage salvaged from thrift, my closet and even the ditch. The base is an old (as in made-of-wood old) hiking backpack I had picked up from a salvage yard (the canvas had completely rotted off). This base was also the base of the original proton pack I had made.
 
The Neutron Wand(the ‘gun’ bit) was a squirt gun, a hose spray head, some random junk and some craft plywood for its body.
Electronics include an Arduino, some basic LED chasing circuitry I assembled based on directions online, a colour changing pumpkin light, a fairly beefy powered portabled speaker I salvaged from the previous pack, an Arduino Wave Shield (to make the noises) and a cheesy portable speaker I bought for $5 clearance at The Source.
The rest is metric tons of glue, primer and paint with some screws here and there.
How long did it take?  What were your biggest challenges?
Tricky to answer since I didn’t keep really good track of total time investment.  I’d estimate probably 20+ hours total, but that was spread out over many many days and weeks as I procrastinated or researched how stuff worked. Also, much of it depended on found stuff to repurpose so I’d put things on hold until I found something at Princess Auto, Dollarama, thrift, etc…. that struck my fancy.
 
The biggest challenge was a combination of a few things.  The neutron wand was tricky since I attempted to find pieces for the body but kept failing. I eventually settled on craft plywood from Michaels which I’d Dremel into shape before glueing it like crazy with wood glue. But there was definitely a lot of wasted time trying to find something pre-made that was good enough.  Secondly was the audio and wiring within the wand. I knew I wanted to have some noise come out from it and not have it completely localized in the backpack. Eventually, I settled on a cheap 5V amplifier from adafruit I had ordered a while back and a cheesy portable speaker from The Source.  
 
Finally, the biggest issue was getting the WaveShield to behave. The library was a little finicky and I had to deal with things such as the fact it could only ever play one sound at a time and had to play it to completion before it’d read any switch states. The pack had a variety of sound states I had to individually create such as “pack turning on”, “pack turning off”, “pack idling”, “pack idling with neutron wand starting”, “pack idling with neutron wand firing”, and tweak the lengths so that it didn’t keep making noise for like 10 seconds after letting go of a button.
 
For those who want the sound clips, you can find them here:
 
Here’s the pack in action:
Prototyping the LED chaser circuit:
Prototyping the sound board:
Dollar store PKE meter:
Pack starting up, firing, shutting down:
https://twitter.com/realyst2k/status/657320775066607616
How the cut EVA foam is layered together to make the base.
What I had managed to document on the blog about the project before life got in the way:
How do people react to the costume?
I had a lot of fun walking around Hal-Con with it. People liked the look, but were blown away when I’d switch it on and they’d hear the spooling of the cyclotron and the lights spinning around. And blown further away when I could shoot with the wand and they’d see a coloured LED accenting the effect accompanied by the noise come from the gun. The whistle of it turning off was also a favourite (it kind of spins down with a high pitched wine like in the movies, which is where the audio was ripped).
 
Got a lot of questions about how I did it. Got a couple people who wanted to hire me(I politely declined). 
  
I understand you’re co-hosting a panel at Hal-Con this year.  What can people expect you to cover?
I’ll deal very generally with using electronics(including programmable stuff like Arduinos) and batteries in costumes. Some of the thought process that went into the pack. Safety and portability considerations. Using optocouplers. Where to get parts. Good tools to have. Covering up sins.
 
Also, probably gonna touch a bit on how to source or re-purpose found things and the beauty of the dollar store. I’ll have a small, animated and noise producing PKE meter I made almost exclusively out of stuff from two aisles at Dollarama. Basically, try to get people to see stores and thrift like a fancy Lego piece repository.
 
I’ll may also just briefly cover framing/structure considerations for safe oversized weapon creation (one of my quasi-traditions is walking around the con with a 6′ sword for people to take picture of themselves with). But this is all dependent on how much time we have left.