First Officer’s log. I am being held captive by the Kzinti, an aggressive feline species with the worst fashion sense in the sector. They intercepted our shuttlecraft and seized highly sought-after cargo — Adabox #1242. What IS it with cats and boxes?

It’s a simple matter of economics that retail mass-produced costumes and props will always be the popular main characters.

3D printing and electronics affords us the opportunity to faithfully cosplay the “deep cuts” — supporting or background characters with little screen time that never got a Funko POP! of their own. Everyone has an odd favorite…Willrow Hood from The Empire Strikes Back is now a cosplay staple, eventually earning his own action figure. But most remain obscure.

A Challenger Appears

Episode 14 of Star Trek: The Animated Series was notable for its crossover with episode writer Larry Niven’s Known Space universe. The show’s depiction of his Kzinti species — bloodthirsty, warlike humanoid cats — was hard to take seriously with their pink space unitards. The entire Animated Series was a bit peculiar that way, seldom seen for a while with a few curmudgeons even debating its canonicity, but has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence since.

The MacGuffin of this episode was a powerful alien weapon that could change function and shape. It seemed like a fun idea for a DIY project — one design for electronics and code, two different props. The show’s weapon is seen transmogrifying among nine shapes, but time and space are finite…we picked just a couple favorites that struck a nice balance: the “talking computer” and “total conversion beam.” If you’re handy with 3D modeling, you could try for some of the others.

If you’re not looking for a Star Trek prop, the circuit and code might be helpful as a starting point for your own ideas!

“Strange, how the past sometimes breaks through into the present” — Spock

Parts Required

Two 3D-printable models are provided on a later page. If you’d simply like a passive prop without lights or sound, that might be all you need, perhaps adding a subset of components (unsoldered) to fill in some spaces. If you’d like to go all-out though…

In addition to the electronic components listed below, the project requires a soldering iron and related paraphernalia, wire cutter/stripper, and some heat-shrink tubing for insulating some of the connections.

There’s also some hardware and fasteners needed:

Hardware for Total Conversion Weapon

  • 5x M3 x 10mm pan head screws

Hardware for Talking Computer

  • 4x M3 x 4mm pan head screws
  • 2x M3 x 6mm pan head screws
  • 2x M3 hex nuts

Hardware for Both Props

  • 2x M2 x 10mm pan head screws
  • 4x M2.5 x 8mm pan head screws
  • 2x M2.5 x 10mm pan head screws
  • 6x M2.5 hex nuts
  • 3x M3 x 12mm pan head screws

Assembly and finishing also requires one or more adhesives — the exact choice(s) will depend what you have around and are comfortable working with, so be prepared to improvise. This might involve cyanoacrylate (e.g. “Krazy Glue”), 5-minute epoxy, craft glue (e.g. E-6000), and/or hot glue. You can touch up some of the details with craft paint if you like, but this isn’t required. Set realistic expectations for build time…you might need to set the project aside while glue dries or you need to go buy overlooked nuts or screws.

Parts below are needed for each of the two props. If building just one or the other, a single set is sufficient. If building both, double up. The last few items are only needed for the talking computer prop; they can be omitted for the total conversion beam.

Angled shot of a Adafruit Feather M4 Express.
It's what you've been waiting for, the Feather M4 Express featuring ATSAMD51. This Feather is fast like a swift, smart like an owl, strong like a ox-bird (it's half ox,...
In Stock
Angled shot of an Adafruit Mono 2.5W Class D Audio Amplifier assembled to a speaker and white breadboard.
This super small mono amplifier is surprisingly powerful - able to deliver up to 2.5 Watts into 4-8 ohm impedance speakers. Inside the miniature chip is a class D controller, able to...
In Stock
Mini Oval Speaker with pico blade connector
Hear the good news! This wee speaker is a great addition to any audio project where you need 8 ohm impedance and 1W or less of power. We particularly like...
In Stock
hand slowly sliding potentiometer back and forth - 45mm Long.
Slip slidin' away Slip slidin' away You know the nearer your resistance The more you're slip slidin' awayIf you're...
In Stock
Angled shot of 16mm green panel mount pushbutton.
OK, this item is pretty simple - it's a panel mount pushbutton. It's not that exciting, no LEDs, no bells & whistles. But we really like it anyways – look at that...
In Stock
Lithium Ion Cylindrical Battery - 3.7v 2200mAh with JST PH connector
Need a big battery for your project? This lithium-ion battery contains a 2200mAh and a protection circuit that provides over-voltage, under-voltage, and over-current protection. Yet,...
In Stock
Breadboard-friendly SPDT Slide Switch
These nice switches are perfect for use with breadboard and perfboard projects. They have 0.1" spacing and snap in nicely into a solderless breadboard. They're easy to switch...
In Stock
8 x Neodymium Magnets
D42 - 1/4in Diameter – 1/8in Thickness
2 x 2-pin JST Plug
Female Connector 100mm
2 x 2-pin JST - Socket
Male Header 200mm
1 x 2-pin Molex PicoBlade Pair
40cm long - Molex PicoBlade Compatible
1 x 3-pin Molex PicoBlade Pair
40cm long - Molex PicoBlade Compatible

Key switches are only needed for the “talking computer” prop. The “total conversion beam” does not require them:

Angled shot of ten white Kailh key switches.
For crafting your very own custom keyboard, these Kailh White Linear mechanical key switches are deeee-luxe! With smooth actuation and Cherry MX...
In Stock

The “talking computer” prop will require two sets of these key caps, since they’re sold in sets of 5. The “total conversion weapon” does not require them:

Angled shot of five orange MA keycaps.
Dress up your mechanical keys in your favorite colors with a wide selection of gumdrop-like, retro, curvy, and stylish MA profile keycaps. Here is a 5 pack of Orange MA...
In Stock

If you already have a healthy assortment of wire, this silicone ribbon cable isn’t required. We like it because you can peel away one or groups of wires as needed. It’s handy for the keypad part of the prop!

1 x 10-wire Silicone Cover Ribbon Cable
10 Wire 1 Meter Long - 28AWG Black

This guide was first published on Nov 09, 2021. It was last updated on Apr 20, 2024.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

Text editor powered by tinymce.