Our school show needed a time traveling elevator. The perfect prop was an Arduino driven prop with WS2811 LED lights and a servo.

Each spring for the last 20 years, our grammar school puts on a show called Kapers. The show is a series of songs performed by the 3rd-5th graders, the faculty, and the parents. The songs are connected by short segments of dialog to create a story. In 2018, the show was titled “Back to the Present,” as the flux capacitor somehow connected to the school elevator moving the entire school through time!

The elevator frame was a simple frame of 2x4s and a sheet of plywood hinged into a bi-fold door, all spray painted metallic silver.. The top of the elevator was the fun part containing the electronics. It had a servo with a gold cardboard hand which moved to point at each floor. Most of the effect came from a string of WS2811 leds arranged in 2 patterns. One pattern formed an arc over the floor and the other was arranged in a “Y” shape to mimic the flux capacitor from “Back to The Future”. Finally, it has a relay to close the switch on a fog machine to generate “smoke”! These components were all driven by an Ardunio controller.

As with any show, timing of the effects was key to success. The arduino board needed to be driven from the sound and lighting booth in sync with the show sound effects. Since a reliable network wasn’t available, I simply put a wifi router on the back of the prop and had my own dedicated network to connect to. As you can find in the code, I ran a simple web server on the arduino board. The back of the prop is shown here.”