Monday, August 13, 2012

Bringing A Fire Truck Costume To Life

We're getting Halloween costume catalogs in the mail, so we asked Jackson what he wanted to be this year.

"A fire fighter."

Who could blame him? San Jose Fire Station No. 15 is just down the street from our home, and they are always happy to see Jackson, who probably thinks that fire fighting involves spraying water from a big truck and handing out stickers.

I figured Jackson would be all set with a yellow raincoat and a plastic fire hat, but that didn't seem like much of a costume. A child in a wheelchair wearing a raincoat wouldn't look too much like a fire fighter.

Unless his wheelchair was a fire truck. Preferably, a working fire truck.

The whole family worked on the project. We found a big cardboard box and bought some spray paint, and in a day we had a fire truck. A pretty cute one, too.

I've seen some cool costumes that used a wheelchair - one of my favorites turned the chair into a Star Wars TIE fighter. But with a Switchamajig, Jackson's truck came to life.

I found some flashlights at Home Depot that can be white, red, or green. They were trickier to adapt than I expected - you're probably better off with single-color flashlight and a battery interrupter. I also bought a Nurf Super Soaker Thunderstorm, a battery-operated squirt gun, and adapted that with a battery interrupter.
Jackson Fires the Squirt Gun with the iPad 

We created a switch panel with the Switchamajig App 2.0 (now in beta.) We downloaded some pictures of a fire hose, siren, and lights, and recorded a siren and bell sound. Then we put the iPad in front of Jackson, and took him for a "drive" around the neighborhood.

We noticed several people doing double-takes while driving by. Jackson ran the siren and bell the whole time, and emptied his squirt gun in just a few seconds. I'll post a video on the Switchamajig web site.

Fire Truck Control Panel
I think there's a lot of potential to make some really amazing Halloween costumes with wheelchairs.
My daughter came up with a long list of ideas:
Police Car
Race Car
Pirate Ship

And of course, you can't go wrong with a Star Wars vehicle. No matter what you choose, you can add lights, action, and sound control with Switchamajig.

Send me your comments with your own ideas! Better yet, post your own videos of your costume in action! Let's Switchamajig Halloween!

Here are a few shots of the innards of the fire truck. I taped almost everything to the inside of the box. For the flashlights, I put 1/4" bolts through the cardboard with washers, and then taped the flashlights to the bolts.
Switch-Adapted Squirt Gun
Switch-Adapted Flashlight
Switchamajig Controlling
Lights and Squirt Gun


  1. What a brilliant use for the app! Jackson is lucky to have such smart parents!

  2. love it, I need to look into your switch program for Junior's ipad.

  3. how did you attach the fire truck to the wheelchair

    1. I built a wooden frame that sat on the armrests. I also had some wood hang down from the frame. I stapled the cardboard to the frame. The whole thing lifted on and off over his head.