Intro to Fab Class 1 – Flashlight

I built a prototype for a night vision flashlight to use while stargazing (most likely when outside the city where there are more stars!) . Ideally, a final iteration would be much smaller. With limited fabrication skills, this is what I came up with so far!

You can see my step-by-step process in the slide show below.

Final A – Night vision flashlight for while stargazing. Doesn’t show the base…
Final B – Night vision flashlight for while stargazing
Creepy Final C – Night vision flashlight for while stargazing
Side 1 – It works!
Side 2 – I had to leave this open in order to be able to still unplug and not drain the battery by powering the arduino.


Sketches Part II – I made a list of possible purposes for flashlights
Sketches Part III – But with my limited fabrication skills at the moment, I stuck to what I knew I could accomplish.
1. I went to the junk shelf!
2. I found a lot of this metallic paper and a clear plastic tube.
3. I also tested whether light travelled up the paper inside the tube, which it did (hard to document while using my phone’s flashlight to test).
4. I felt pretty confident I could make the cardboard form, so I focused on whether I could light up two LEDs with a pushbutton.


6. Testing the form. The sides are made out of toilet paper tubes.
7. Building the middle shelf to allow room for the arduino components to live on top, and the 9V battery to live on the bottom.
8. Making sure it fits.


I wanted this flashlight because recently I learned how important red lights are while camping at night in Yosemite National Park. The stars were incredible. And better yet with minimal lights while you might want to set up a photograph or telescope. Dim red lights are ideal to allow your eye’s pupils remain more open, which lets in more light and ultimately more distant stars. Red lights also produce less light pollution, making it easier for people around you to also see the sky. You can see red lights being used by stargazers at 1:40 in this fun National Park Service’s video.

In making this flashlight, I was also inspired by last week’s Applications guest speaker and astrovisualizer Carter Emmart from the American Museum of Natural History.  His renderings of the universe made me want to get outdoors to see the stars even more.

What I learned:

  • The junk shelf indeed provides great inspiration. The loop-like form of my flashlight was definitely influenced by the clear tubing I found on the shelf.
  • Building with cardboard was an efficient way to test and modify my ideas without too much frustration. I can see how prototyping first with cardboard can save a lot of angst in future projects.
  • Going with my first idea felt most natural. I had other ideas but they weren’t as clear in my mind. … nor did I know how to safely combine water and LEDs…
  • It was fun to hide my Arduino and breadboard in my flashlight. But the size of these components required that I create a larger flashlight than I originally wanted to.

Design issues/What I’d like to know:

  • How to build with other physical materials, such as wood to construct the flashlight’s body and other types of plastic for the lightbulb’s loop.
  • Obviously, the open sides are not ideal! I left this issue alone so I can unplug the battery and turn the flashlight on. Soon I would learn how to build switches myself so they can be built into the form of an object.