When the coronavirus pandemic hit, those of us in my line of work (writing about maker projects) were concerned that the community would come to a standstill and there wouldn’t be anything to write about. As it turns out, it has actually been the opposite. Many makers are stuck at home and have used that time to tackle quarantine projects. Carl Steinhilber was in exactly that situation and made the best of the quarantine by building a Firefly-themed model. This scale model of the iconic Serenity spaceship was 3D-printed and features both visual and audio effects, all controlled by an Arduino.
Firefly was easily one of the best sci-fi TV shows of all time, despite being tragically canceled by Fox during its first season due to poor ratings. Those poor ratings were, at least in part, a result of the fact that Fox decided to air the episodes out of order—an absurd and infuriating choice. Later, a movie, called Serenity, was made to at least partially wrap up the story. Both the TV show and movie had a distinctly Western, “cowboys in space” vibe. The main characters are outlaws who zip around in a Firefly-class spaceship called Serenity. That spaceship is the subject of Steinhilber’s fantastic model. This model is very accurate and is covered in lights and moving parts that will make any Firefly fan drool with envy.
Steinhilber started with a 3D model of Serenity that was purchased from designer William Adams. That was heavily modified and 3D-printed. Steinhilber then integrated an Arduino Nano 33 BLE development board to control the LEDs and servo motors spread throughout the models. The model also contains a MP3 sound board that is used to play sound effects, audio clips, and the fantastic Firefly theme song through a small mono speaker. Because the Arduino has Bluetooth connectivity, Steinhilber was able to create a smartphone app to control all of the various effects. The effects are grouped together into various themes, such as for a standard flight or a landing. The individual effects can also be toggled and adjusted independently. We can only imagine how much work went into this project, but it was well worth the effort to create this homage to one of history’s most beloved shows.