Happy Halloween – DIY Style!

It’s the week before Halloween. You haven’t even thought about your costume. Don’t sweat it. With a little bit of creativity and a few simple parts from RadioShack, there’s no need to panic. Leave that to those in your office who don’t have costumes nearly as awesome as yours.

When you think RadioShack, you think of the latest phones and tablets, cool electric gadgets and tons of parts and pieces for making things move, buzz, glow and sing. And thanks to the endless amount of information online, finding an instruction manual (yes, one that is in English) is simple.

For example, what’s one of the most timeless toys you ever owned? For most of us, it was some form of a robot. So, we dug up a few parts to put together the coolest robot head of 2011.

What we built:

A robot mask with music coming out of the ears and eyes that pulse to the beat of the music. This robot is definitely one costume to wear with pride.


What we dug up:

  • A sturdy cardboard box – Lots of things are going to be added to this box, so you want to make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold up through all the dancing. Make sure it fits completely over your head with plenty of space up top for some wiring.
  • Black mounting board – If you can’t find a thick black mounting board, more cardboard will work. This will be used to hold the LEDs and give the eyes a cool inset look.
  • Old, small speakers – Since we play our music through a fancy new docking station, we found a old pair of small desk speakers sitting in a box. (Yes – the same box we used for the head, since you asked) If you don’t have a pair, you can find an inexpensive set on the stands by the checkout stations at a retail or drug store.
  • Filling – This can be anything to help fill the head and support it on yours. We used foam blocks covered in fabric from an old T-shirt, and some people even suggested using an old bike helmet to keep it completely fastened. Be creative.
  • Spray paint – We actually just picked this up from the store, any color will work.

A few things from RadioShack:

  • TIP31 NPN Transistor – This transistor is the key to converting one channel of audio into light for the LEDs. We bought two of them to sync the lights to the right and left audio channels.
  • Resistors – Resistors limit the flow of electrical current to your LEDs so that they receive the amount of voltage they need and don’t burn out from receiving an excessive amount of electricity. If you know Ohms law, then you’re set to find the right resistor for your schematic. If not, here’s a handy calculator.
  • LEDs – Any size, any color. We went with red, four in each eye.
  • Wire - Nothing special, just standard 22-gauge hookup wire.
  • Y-Adapter – You’ll need this to plug in your LED audio connection and to plug in your speakers.
  • Pair of headphones – You’ll take these apart, so don’t ask someone if you can “borrow” theirs, and don’t go all-out if you buy some.
  • Breadboard – This is just to test the setup before you make it permanent.
  • Soldering iron/solder – This is to make everything permanent. You can use a strong epoxy, too.
  • 9V Battery and Snap Connectors

Setting up the robot head:


  1. Determine where you want the eyes, mouth, ears, nose, etc. We went with a giant rectangle mouth and big round eyes. For the ears, we cut out a small circle with slits extending an inch on the side to insert the headphones.
  2. No robot is “cardboard” colored, so pick your favorite color spray paint and go to town. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area with something covering the ground or walls.
  3. While your robot is drying, prepare the mount for the eyes. Whether you are using cardboard or mounting board, cut out two circles larger than the eyes. In the center of your cutouts, trace the actual eyehole and with a craft knife, carefully cut the circle halfway down into the board.
  4. You’ll now have a circle in the center that will fit in the eye socket. Remove the outside ring by cutting small sections around the top of the circle and carefully “sawing” the side of the board until you have a large circle with a smaller circle on top. The outside of the circle will be used to glue the eye into place.
  5. Determine where you want the LEDs, and punch small holes in their place. Widen them with a pen, nail, or tip of a cold soldering iron until the LED fits snug. If using cardboard, paint it whatever color you want.
  6. Insert the small headphones into holes on the side and glue into place.


Preparing the LEDs

  1. Prepare your audio connection by snipping off the earbuds of your headphones. You will see two wires in each. The copper is
    the ground and the colored in each is the audio.
  2. Determine the positive and negative leads of your LED. The positive is the longer lead and the negative is the shorter. Set up four of the lights in either a series or parallel, whichever you find easier. We’re testing in a series. Set up your LEDs negative to positive on a breadboard.
  3. Insert your TIP31 to the side of your first LED. There are three pins on this transistor. With the writing side facing you, the left pin connects to your right or left audio, the middle pin connects a resistor to the first LED negative lead, and the right pin connects the audio ground and the ground of your battery.
  4. Once these are connected, attach a jumper wire from the last LED positive lead to the positive on your battery.
  5. Plug your updated audio connection into the top of a Y-Adapter and the headphones into the other. Plug it in to your music device, turn the music up and your lights will start to dance.
  6. Duplicate this with your second TIP31 to have your lights move in stereo, or add more LEDs and resistors to the same audio connection to have them all move together.
  7. Once your testing is complete, solder your connections and insert the LEDs into the eyes and glue the eyes into place. Glue or tape the headphone wires to the side along with the speaker wire. Affix the battery.
  8. To finish the mouth, cover it with a few layers of a screen-door mesh or other see-through material. We added just enough layers so that we can see out of the mouth, but nobody can see in.
  9. Slip on your Mr. or Miss Electronica helmet, plug the adaptor into your music device and blow the crowds away with your music and lightshow of a costume.

When it comes to DIY, there are thousands of things you can do with basic parts from RadioShack. All it takes is a little bit of research, a little bit of time, and a lot of imagination. There are many ways you can take this and make it your own. If you make one of your own or have any other great Halloween projects you’re proud to share, let us know in the comments.

Happy Halloween!


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1 Comment

  • Ryan Rivkin

    it would be best to do this in series, where every negative connects to a positive leg with the LED’s. the principals of electronics state that electrons will take the path of least resistance, well with that they’ll flow through the closest LED first, the furthest LED in the parallel sting will be dimmer. unless you want that effect, stick to series with a resistor before the string.