It’s that time of year again in the United States, and the skies will soon be alight with pyrotechnic displays, both professional and amateur. Amazing fireworks are freely available, sometimes legally, sometimes not. For the enthusiasts that put on homebrew displays, though, the choice between watching your handiwork or paying attention to what you’re doing while running the show is a tough one. This Raspberry Pi fireworks show controller aims to fix that problem.
[netmagi] claims his yearly display is a modest affair, but this controller can address 24 channels, which would be a pretty big show in any neighborhood. Living inside an old wine box is a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and three 8-channel relay boards. Half of the relays are connected directly to breakouts on the end of a long wire that connect to the electric matches used to trigger the fireworks, while the rest of the contacts are connected to a wireless controller. The front panel sports a key switch for safety and a retro analog meter for keeping tabs on the sealed lead-acid battery that powers everything. [netmagi] even set the Pi up with WiFi so he can trigger the show from his phone, letting him watch the wonder unfold overhead. A few test shots are shown in the video below.
As much as we appreciate the DIY spirit, it goes without saying that some things are best left to the pros, and pyrotechnics is probably one of those things. Ever wonder how said pros pull it off? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look.
Continue reading “Launching Fireworks with Raspberry Pi this Fourth of July”
[visualkev]’s friend was putting on his own fireworks show by lighting each one in turn, then running away. It occurred to [visualkev] that his friend wasn’t really enjoying the show himself because he was ducking for cover instead of watching the fun. Plus, it was kind of dangerous. Accordingly, he applied his hacker skills to the challenge by creating a custom fireworks sequencer.
He used a custom PCB from OSH Park with an ATMega328P controlling eight TPIC6C595 8-bit shift registers, which in turn trip the 64 relays connecting to the fireworks. A 5V regulator supplies the project from 5 5AA batteries, and he kept the wires neat with 8-wire ribbon cables.
Starting the sequence is a generic wireless remote — a cheapie from Walmart — allowing [visualkev]’s friend can launch the fireworks with one hand while working the barbecue tongs with the other.
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a big fireworks show? Last year [Kenneth] was asked to help manually ignite a fireworks show, and this consisted of him running down a row of shells with a road flare, lighting each one in turn. He apparently did so well that this year worked another show, this one with a more complicated setup.
The show [Kenneth] helped run consisted of 950 three-inch shells, wired in series into small groups, plus another 150 in 25-shell clusters used for the finale. The fireworks were organized in racks consisting of five three-inch diameter tubes of HDPE secured together by 2x4s. Each tube held a shell, and each shell came pre-wired with both a match fuse and electrically-triggered squib. Each squib or series of squibs connects to 45-channel breakouts, which connect to a control board.
Even after the show was completed, [Kenneth] had work to do, walking around and looking in each tube to see if there are any unfired shells. The dual wiring is so the shell can be fired with a flare if the squib is a dud. In this show they found six shells, and [Kenneth] was tasked with setting off those last shells with a road flare—otherwise they’d have to use a licensed and placarded vehicle just to transport a few shells.
For more fireworks goodness checkout this beautiful Arduino fireworks controller and this network-controlled fireworks launcher.
Continue reading “Behind the Scenes at a Professional Fireworks Show”
In the summer of 1987, the Atari magazine ST-Log caried a piece entitled “Atari Sets Off Fireworks!”, a profile of the use of Atari computers in professional firework displays by Astro Pyrotechnics, a now-defunct California company. Antic podcast host [Kevin Savetz] tracked down the fireworks expert interviewed in 1987, [Robert Veline], and secured not only an interview, but a priceless trove of photographs and software. These he has put online, allowing us a fascinating glimpse into the formative years of computerized pyrotechnics.
The system uses not one, but two Ataris. An ST has all the display data and scheduling set up in the Zoomracks card file software, this is then exported to an 800XL which does the work of running the display. We’re told the code for the 800XL is loaded on a ROM cartridge for reliability. The 800XL is mounted in an aluminium briefcase with a small CRT monitor and battery, and a custom interface board stuffed with TO220 power transistors to fire the pyrotechnics themselves.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be breaking out a vintage Atari yourselves to fun a firework show three decades later, but the opportunity to examine in detail a real-world contemporary commercial use of a now-vintage computer doesn’t come along too often. You can read the original article on the Internet Archive, and listen to the [Veline] interview on the podcast episode.
This is the first Atari firework controller we’ve brought you, but we’ve shown you plenty of others like this beautifuly-executed Arduino build. And if you wonder how to trigger the fireworks themselves, how about destroying a resistor?
[Nicomedia] (a team of two) built a payload for their drone with two distinct purposes: to allow it to drop things like rose petals and to fire off fireworks. Honestly, while it is a cool idea, we are a little worried that dropping things from a height might not be a good idea (although rose petals are probably OK) and lighting off fireworks from a drone didn’t seem like a good idea at all. If you want to reproduce this, you probably need to make sure either of these things are legal in your part of the planet.
In the video below, you can see the effect. A servo tied to the drone’s controller opens the box to release the payload. In this case, the team didn’t have a spare channel so they used a separate controller, but if you had a spare channel on the flight controller, that would probably be better.
Continue reading “Party Drone Comes up Roses”
A lot of designers have the luxury of creating things that aren’t supposed to explode. That’s usually easy. The trick is designing things that are supposed to explode and then making absolutely sure they explode at the right time (and only the right time). [JonBush] recently did a beautiful build of an Arduino-based fireworks controller. Seriously, it looks like a movie prop from a summer blockbuster where [Bruce Willis] is trying to decide what wire to cut.
[Jon] used a mega 2560 because he wanted to do the I/O directly from the device. His code only takes about 8K of the total program storage, so with some I/O expansion (like shift registers) a smaller chip would do the job. The device can control up to 8 sets of fireworks, uses a physical arm key, and has a handheld remote. It is even smart enough to sense igniter failures.
The front panel is a work of art and includes a seven-segment display made from Neopixel LEDs. The whole thing is in a waterproof case and uses optical isolation in several key areas.
Continue reading “Beautiful Arduino Fireworks Controller”
[Sande24] needed a gift for his father’s birthday. He decided that rather than simply give his father the gifts, he would present his father with a unique challenge. The gifts are locked inside of a multi-stage puzzle box. This isn’t your average puzzle box though. This one is rigged to blow.
The puzzle box was designed to test his father’s reflexes, mind, and luck. The finished product looks sort of like a wooden crate made from particle board. The box contains three levels, each with its own gift and its own task to be completed.
With the lid opened, the first compartment and puzzle is revealed. Inside of the compartment were a new pair of gloves, meant to protect the father’s hands when working on the puzzles. The first puzzle is built into a sheet of wood with several custom-made levers. The levers must be moved into position in order to remove the wooden sheet and reveal the next level.
The first lever triggers a home-made detonator that eventually lights a series of fireworks placed around the box. You need to solve the puzzle box fast enough to prevent the fireworks from destroying the gifts that lay inside. [Sande24] was unable to legally purchase fuses where he lived, so he had to make his own.
The second level held a gas mask, also meant to protect the father from the booby traps of this mysterious box. This level, also made from a sheet of wood, has nine squares drawn on it. Each square is labeled with a different number which goes into solving a mathematical function (x^5-25x^4+233x^3-995x^2+1866x-1080 = 0). The solution to the function would reveal the safe path to be used to cut the wooden platform in half. Unfortunately [Sande24’s] father cut the wrong squares and released a huge amount of vinegar into the box. Oops.
The bottom level contained the final puzzle and the locked treasure compartment locked with an ordinary padlock. To find the key, another puzzle had to be solved based on a series of wooden levers labeled with different shapes. The shapes provided clues to the order in which the levers should be pulled. Once the levers were moved into position, two compartments were unlocked. One of them contained the key to the treasure box. The other contained another booby trap which would set off more fireworks, destroying the final gift of four cans of Kuld beer. That’s a lot of work to get a a few cans of frothy beverage!