Learn to control this Halloween animatronic device using a Particle Argon

Halloween isn’t for everyone, but it is a fantastic opportunity to find inexpensive animatronic devices that you can modify. In this project, you’ll learn how to select a device that’s ready for modification and use a Particle Argon and Tinker to wirelessly control your fright machine.

For this project, you’ll need an Argon and a few other common electronic parts, but no programming is required. That’s thanks to our use of the Particle Tinker app, which allows for remote control of Particle input and output pins with a few taps on your smartphone.

Parts and Tools

  • Particle Argon — plus the kit’s included accessories listed below
    • 2.4GHz antenna
    • Micro-USB cable
    • Breadboard
  • Spooky animatronic device and batteries
  • 4.7k resistor
  • 1N4001 diode
  • 3.7V LiPo battery — optional, but without it, your project will require proximity to a power outlet

Step 1: Sourcing the right electronic device

Knowing which animatronic device to buy for your spooky hardware modification can be a bit overwhelming. It was for me. There are so many options and though I know my way around a soldering iron, circuits and schematic design aren’t my forte.

Fortunately, Particle Solution Architect Ethan Pierce gave me a few pointers on how to select a winning device. As he told me, “Look for a product with a Try Me button. Most of the time, these buttons are a gateway to your spooktacular modification.”

Thanks to his guidance, we selected a frightful telephone and cracked open the case to learn what was going on behind the plastic. Then we’d know exactly how to swap out the Try Me button for an Argon and a few electronic components.

Step 2: Spooky circuit design

Using an Argon to emulate a button press is not difficult, but with so many differences in animatronic circuit design, it can take a bit of work. You’ll need to analyze your circuit to understand if the button is grounding a signal or pulling it high, or something different altogether. Fortunately, there’s a tool that can help you — your multimeter. Our friends at Adafruit have a fantastic multimeter tutorial to get you going.

Step 3: Build your “button emulation” circuit

<b>Note:</b> your device may differ from the one we modified, and may require a different circuit.
Note: your device may differ from the one we modified, and may require a different circuit.

Once you determine how the circuit works in your animatronic device, you’ll need to build your circuit. Above is the schematic that works to control our spooky telephone. As you can see in our layout below, we’ve spliced the two wires from the Try Me button and wired them to the ground rail on the breadboard and to pin D2 on the Argon. To trigger, just tap the D2 button in your Tinker app to send the pin low, and your animatronic device should spring into action.

Consider using a breadboard while you're prototyping. Above you'll see the circuit layout for our button replacement circuit.
Consider using a breadboard while you’re prototyping. Above you’ll see the circuit layout for our button replacement circuit.

Step 4: Deploy the spookiness

Once your circuit is build and you’ve wired everything up, flash Tinker to your Argon. After the flashing, use a smart phone with Tinker installed and toggle the GPIO pin of your Argon. If everything is wired correctly, you’ll be wirelessly controlling your spooky animatronic device from your phone.

As you plan where to put your spooky creation, be sure to charge up your LiPo battery and grab some fresh double- or triple-A batteries.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge on how to approach toy hacking, we can’t wait to see what you’re building. Add mood lighting and or a spooky smoke machine and you’re ready to impress.

Be sure to share your work in the forum or take a photo .

Author Bio

Sr. Content Manager at Particle. Into OSHWA and EFF and so should you! Linux geeking since 1.2