UFO with lights, lasers and smoke effects

For Halloween, I built a UFO that's fully programmable. ~2000 LEDs; ducted fans for smoke; a laser lit ramp; realistic Alien crew.

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I built the UFO ground-up starting around a wooden frame and a custom-made acrylic dome. Inside is an Arduino-based control system that powers close to 2000 neopixels, a hacked smoke machine, 6 PC fans, a laser module, and a linear actuator powered ramp. The Arduino runs a hacky scheduler I coded to run sequences of events and effects. A real local artist was commissioned to make the Alien crew. Oh, and GPT4 designed one of the light effects for me!

See it running here:

In the file section, I have dropped a PDF of my complete build notes, that led to this creation:

If you do read these notes then be aware they are scrappy / hacky. I built this UFO ground up and held most of it in my head as I went along and then documented various parts afterwards. I really did hack this together moment-by-moment - which actually made it super-fun to do. As a result, these aren’t really instructions to follow, but could be a source of ideas and clues and help if you choose to make a similar UFO. 

It started with this request from the family:

Became big and heavy in the middle of its build:

And quite technically complex and wirey towards the end:

The computer above runs this code rather well:

-------- Enjoy --------

You can always message me if you would like to find out how I got from this sketch to a working UFO that runs without glitches.

notes_project_ brown-book.pdf

My scrappy build notes - full of useful photos of how it came together.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 18.53 MB - 11/14/2023 at 22:51



Arduino code that runs the light and smoke effects on the UFO.

ino - 21.52 kB - 11/14/2023 at 21:56


  • 1 × Teensy 4.1 Embedded MCU
  • 6 × BTF-LIGHTING WS2812B ECO LED Strip
  • 2 × 8 Channel I2C Interface Electromagnetic Relay Module
  • 2 × ALITOVE 12V 5A 60W Power Supply
  • 3 × ALITOVE 5V 60A 3000W Power Supply

View all 24 components

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  • 1
    Build summary

    Step 1: commit to building a UFO for Halloween. My neighbourhood just loved it, and likely more than 1000 people stopped by to admire it. One offer to buy it :)

    Step 2: use my notes:

    and software (  ) as much as you like, and ping me for help. 

    notes_project_ brown-book.pdf

    Step 3: Enjoy the build - Note - you will need decent power tools to cut and frame a lot of wood BTW - this is a pretty hefty woodworking effort, but its geometrically and structurally satisfying.

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Duane Degn wrote 02/09/2024 at 21:08 point

Your video was crazy fun to watch. Both my wife and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your project with us.

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Dave Ehnebuske wrote 11/15/2023 at 23:57 point

Most excellent. Thanks for posting this great build!

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frydom.john wrote 11/16/2023 at 00:53 point

Thanks - fun to make. ( also your comment led me to your tide clock - I have something similar in my mind to go build... ) 

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