Making Firefly Armbands from The Last of Us

We are living in unprecedented times. There’s economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and a global pandemic that’s causing chaos and threatening our way of life. In 2020 these are the times we live in. But this also describes the events from The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s widely acclaimed action-adventure survival horror game from 2013.

The game’s story follows Joel and Ellie, two survivors living in the post-pandemic United States. Ellie is a teenage girl who is immune to the cordyceps infection that has ravaged humanity; Joel is an older man who, twenty years later, is still reeling from the murder of his own daughter during the early days of the outbreak. He has been charged with taking Ellie to find the “Fireflies” – a rebel group that is working to find a cure.

In light of current events and in anticipation of the game’s sequel The Last of Us Part II releasing on June 19th, I decided to build my own “Firefly” armbands from the first game.

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Building McCree’s Belt Buckle from Overwatch

I decided to try my hand at building my own version of McCree’s belt buckle from Overwatch! I used references from the game in order to create a comprehensive digital model which I then 3D printed, smoothed, molded, cast, mounted to a buckle blank, painted, and weathered. Start to finish (and with lots of breaks in-between!), this entire process took me a little over three years to complete.

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DIY Platform 9 ¾ Sign from King’s Cross

When the story of Harry Potter first took the world by storm in 1997, readers were enamored by J.K. Rowling’s magical universe and the enchanting places within. The ordinary house at 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, where “the boy who lived” grew up with his horrible Aunt and Uncle (and their son, Dudley). The Leaky Cauldron, the grubby little pub that serves as the gateway to the fantastical shops and stalls of Diagon Alley. And, of course, the world’s most famous non-existent train platform: Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

The fictional platform is located in a real muggle-inhabited location – King’s Cross station in northern London. Wizards and witches running at the wall between platforms 9 and 10 would instantly be transported to the mythical platform, where they would say farewell to their families and depart on the scarlet train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Celebrating this connection to the world of Harry Potter, the employees at King’s Cross erected a real-life “Platform 9 ¾” sign in the terminal, which has since become a place of pilgrimage for fans the world ’round.

My sister is one of these many Harry Potter devotees, so this past Christmas I decided to build her her own replica of this iconic sign.

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DIY Aperture Science “Dihydrogen Monoxide” Water Bottle

Aperture Science (a.k.a Aperture Laboratories) is a fictional scientific research corporation, whose facility is the setting for the 2007 puzzle-platform video game Portal, as well as its 2011 sequel Portal 2. Aperture’s approach to scientific research is a little… strange, to put it mildly. They have a penchant for testing exotic materials, building maniacal robots, and creating wholesome musical interludes. And, apparently, coming up with long-winded names for storage containers.

The Aperture Science Handheld Dihydrogen Monoxide Containment Unit was a stainless steel water bottle created and sold by Valve Corporation and ThinkGeek for the release of Portal 2, circa 2011. The bottle came in both 40 oz black and 22 oz white variations, with decals for Aperture Laboratories and a disclaimer about the deadly nature of H₂O. Unfortunately it looks like they stopped selling these several years ago – the product page from the Valve store has vanished entirely, while the ThinkGeek product page has both bottles listed as “no longer available”.

I’m not so easily deterred, so I spent this past weekend building my own “Aperture Science Dihydrogen Monoxide Containment Unit” using a stainless steel water bottle and some custom made vinyl decals.

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Back to the Future Time Circuits

The goal of this project is to build my own personal replica of the DeLorean’s “Time Circuits”, as featured in the Back to the Future movie trilogy. I’ll need to build custom time circuit displays, a custom keypad for changing the date, and screen-accurate enclosures. To make everything function, I’ll need to design and program some embedded circuits to control it all.