Exclamation Point Totem

September 1, 2016 - Glen Chiacchieri

At Burning Man, it's really dark at night! It's basically a requirement to wear some kind of light so people don't run into you. For my second year at Burning Man, I decided to get ambitious and design a light to wear around. Here's what I ended up with:

The exclamation point totem suspended above my head at Burning Man.

It's an exclamation point! I thought it would look cool to have an exclamation point floating above my head, both to convey my excitement and because it's a reference to a video game thing:

Guard alerting in Metal Gear Solid

I laser cut the housing out of 1/4"-thick diffused acrylic that I got at Tap Plastics in San Francisco. I used a press-fit design so that it could be hand assembled and disassembled for easy maintenance. I designed the housing using Combscript, a cool little scripting language for digital fabrication. Here are combscript files for the main body and the point of the exclamation point. I exported the combscript files to two SVG files (body, point), and then exported those to PDF (body, point).

Close-up of the laser-cut frosted acrylic design.

For the electronics, I used a NeoPixel strip, an ATTiny85 microcontroller, and a 3 AA battery holder (3 AA batteries were enough to power it for the whole week). I put all the electronics in the acrylic housing, and drilled that to a long wooden dowel that I could stick in my backpack or take out and wave around.

It was fun! A few strangers called out to me about it on the street, and my friends said it was nice to have a visual landmark to find me in a crowd. It was also fun connecting with other people that decided on punctuation-based lighting, like this guy with a question mark light:

Meeting a person with a question mark glow sculpture

In 2017, I decided to change the color pattern to have more rainbow colors and I also added a rave mode button, for serious dancing: