Tag Archives: sewing

Real Life Pac Person

Real Life Pac Person debuted yesterday at the Burlington Mini Maker Faire. It must have been a big hit. ūüôā ¬†Rough numbers look like about 900 people played 350 games. A pure guess has them at 97% kids. Not too surprising – as adults we’re at high risk of forgetting how to play.

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The game construction has been covered a little bit already. Three-quarter circle capes were sewn from canvas. LEDs were sewn onto the capes: yellow LEDs on a yellow cape for the Pac Person, and blue LEDs plus either red or green LEDs onto the black capes worn by the ghosts. Ghosts then were equipped with a Raspberry Pi (complete with WiFi stick) for smarts, and a smaller accessory protoboard was made with the aforementioned voltage regulator and a pair of MOSFETs. These MOSFETs were used to turn individual strands of LEDs off and on.

Construction was intentionally crude – I have a covert social science agenda around how people learn about technology artifacts¬†on first exposure and how they manipulate it to their ends. Making it intentionally crude and exposed leads to lots of good questions, and sets up an environment where it’s safe to make suggestions.

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Surprisingly, the rats nest of wiring holds up fine. Leaving the connectors on means there are places to disconnect things and plug in power supplies (to light the lights) or to probe the other side with a voltmeter (to show what the computer and the MOSFETs are doing).

Once you have the technology, you need masking tape. In this case, 180 yards of masking tape. Plus you’ll need a big space – setup was about 24 feet by 40 feet with an extension out to the side. This makes the play area sort of L-shaped. Not exactly faithful to the original game, but I think it makes it more fun. Being able to spread out and run¬†is a good thing. Naturally, using blue painter’s tape makes the play area look a bit more faithful to the original.

Power Pills have been an issue since I started. I wanted to use some tall, skinny cabinets to hold a big battery, a junker laptop, and an easy button. The big problem has been a safety question – for one thing, I don’t someone running full-power into a hard structure in the middle of the game. Secondly, I need a lot of power to run the laptops for a whole day. I’m talking about car battery amounts of power. If that thing gets tipped over, I have a problem.

Solution: pink squares on the floor represent power pills, and when I see someone run over one then I press return on my laptop. The laptop is running a program that sends the network request to the ghosts each time I press return.

“Network request”, you say? Yes. Network protocol is HTTP over TCP/IP. Ghosts run the Apache web server, each network request is a GET request for a cgi program. The cgi program sends a unix signal (signal.h style) to a setuid executable that triggers the Pi’s GPIO pins. Software is a state machine that transitions between ghost states – body color, then blue, then flashing blue, then back to body color. At any point, a new cgi request can send a new signal that sends it back to the “I just turned blue” state and it keeps on chugging. Light timing is read from a configuration file (once per startup to save power-hungry flash accesses). Now that you mention it, yes I did tune game timings on-the-fly.

Some spectators were amused by being able to ssh into a ghost and tweak stuff on the fly. Or for that matter, ssh into a ghost and play Minecraft on there, while the game is running.

I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost

With the Pac Person costume complete, it’s time to crank out some ghosts. Construction is pretty much just like the Pac Person, except there are two strands of lights instead of one. Every ghost gets a blue strand (for when it’s vulnerable) and a body color strand (red or green) for those times¬†when it has an insatiable hunger¬†for bloodPac Person.

Knowing that making Pac Person required¬†about five hours to sew one strand of lights on, I decided¬†I needed a faster approach.¬†I set up the fancy quilting hoop – it’s an embroidery hoop on a stand. I can see the point behind it. ¬†For quilting, where you would have a lot of stitches in one place before you have to move the fabric, it ought to be pretty good. ¬†But for sewing lights on a piece of fabric? ¬†I spent more time taking the fabric in and out of the hoop than I did sewing.

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I needed a solution. Over dinner I mentioned to Susie that what I needed was a quilting frame about five feet in diameter. About the size of the kitchen table. And that’s when she realized that the kitchen table could be a quilting frame. ¬†We pulled the two sides apart, neglected to insert the leaves, and there you have it. ¬†Not quite as good as having a five foot diameter frame, but close enough. ¬†Also – if you try this at home, it’s a really good idea to sew both strands at the same time.

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Waka Waka…

In previous posts, I’ve gotten a sewing machine and I’ve bought wire lights. ¬†I’ve also made allusion to ghosts. ¬†By now it should be obvious…

Real Life Pac Person.

(The console games attempted to promulgate a false gender binary on susceptible young players.)

I managed, before this weekend was out, to sew a Pac Person cape and attach yellow LED wire lights to it. ¬†I did it not because it was easy, but because it was fun. ¬†Making the cape is the easy part. It’s a two-fold cape with one section removed to yield a 3/4 circle cape. ¬†Neck cutout is about a 12″ collar. ¬†Velcro allows it to be taken down to half that, or a velcro extension tab expands the neck to about 21¬†inches. ¬†This should fit anyone from eight year olds to All Pro defensive linebackers.

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LED coverage is stronger on the left side than the front, and I’m debating whether to go back in there with another, shorter strand of lights or whether to just go with it. ¬†All the players are going to know this is Pac Person – it’s yellow, it’s hitting Power Pills, and it’s running like its life depends on it when the blinking stops. ¬†Illumination brightness is more than adequate for indoor play. ¬†I expect it will burn through three sets of batteries in a seven hour installation.

Those LEDs took about five hours of hand sewing.  Oh yeah.

Built Like a Battleship

New addition to the Secret Underground Laboratory:

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A Singer Model 99K. Serial number strongly suggests manufacture in 1946. The 99 family was considered a portable sewing machine – at 31 pounds, you could move it anywhere an ox could drag it, and this model¬†is considered “half size”. The machine positively radiates solidity. Accepts standard, modern needles; I’m not sure yet about bobbins. I tried a “New Singer” bobbin and it was too thick to fit in there. I know they stock two different sizes at the fabric store, so I can try the other size and see if I get any luckier. Otherwise, I have the four bobbins that it came with, so I should be OK.

Edit: Bobbin is a Singer Type 66. These are still fairly common, and fit oodles of modern machines. Should have been obvious: a 99 is a smaller 66.

Obligatory action shot:

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Bose Headphone Repair

I have a pair of Bose Reality-Cancelling Headphones – not too effective against human voices, but they do a good job of cancelling steady noises like air conditioners and computer fans. I like them well enough, but I wouldn’t recommend them anymore.¬† Maybe the Panasonic version?

The problem is that after five years or so, the pads that go over the outside of my ear have started to come apart at a seam, exposing the foam. The solution is simple, of course: sew them back together. The hard part is the lack of room to work. I cut off a sewing needle to roughly 3/8″ and ground it back to a point. Surgical forceps work well to hold the seam back together temporarily, then a pair of long-nose pliers is what it takes to jam the short little needle through. I ending up using a second pair of forceps as an anvil and as as extra set of fingernails to grab the needle when it comes through. I didn’t even attempt any kind of running stitch or fancy lacing/trussing/macrame, I just tied off each stitch as I completed it and moved on to the next one.

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Now, the failure is running around the inside of the cushion – when I repair one section, another one pops loose.¬† Pretty soon I will have sewn all the way around, and shortly after that I suspect the material will simply fail entirely.¬† At that point, I don’t know.¬† I’ve been known to limp stuff along just for fun.

Current score:  Patience vs Rampant Consumerism: 1-0.

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