In 2004, underwater archaeologists began making an extraordinary discovery. Eleven warship rams, helmets and other debris were recovered from the seabed in exactly the area where historians speculated that the Battle of the Egadi Islands between Rome and Carthage had taken place.
The Carthaginians had the best navy in the Mediterranean, and the Romans were expert fighters on land but not at sea. But on 10 March 241 BC the Roman fleet successfully ambushed a convoy of Carthaginian ships near Sicily. Caught by surprise, 50 Carthaginian ships were sunk and 70 were captured while the Romans lost just 30. This unexpected victory changed history and won Sicily for Rome.
See three of the enormous recovered warship rams, used on that day, as well as a video re-enactment of the battle, in our Storms, War and Shipwrecks exhibition.
Creative Assembly, makers of the Total War games, created the realistic video re-enactment of the Battle of the Egadi Islands in the exhibition using the Total War game engine and art. Find out more about the battle, and see some of the re-enactment, in their short video below:
Delayed writeup of my Daft Punk inspired visor! This was a last minute project that somehow all magically fell together right before Halloween. I know next to nothing about circuits other than how to not short them out (let’s be honest, building a CPU out of transistors doesn’t count), so fortunately this project was almost entirely wiring.
Inspiration: Guy Manuel’s Discovery-era helmet. I was originally going to do a full face LED matrix and use it as a low-res display, until I realized the spacing between the strips was probably not sufficient for visibility. (If you look at any fan-builds of Thomas’s helmet, they use a clear visor with holes for a matrix made of hundreds of individually soldered LEDs to get around the visibility problem. I had no desire to do this.
Helmet: An ordinary welding visor.
(Prerequisite materials I already had on hand: Soldering iron, soldering helping hands, breadboard & cables for testing, wire, wire strippers, electrical tape, solderable DC plugs, test power supply.)
LEDs: a meter of WS2811 I happened to have leftover from years ago. Half the usual price if you ebay it from China. I cut them into 12 segments of 5 LEDs each and soldered in ribbon cable head-to-tail to reestablish strip continuity, unit testing vigorously as I went because I had no spares. I was originally very worried about the LEDs showing through the welding visor, since it’s made specifically to reduce light and the LEDs by themselves looked terrible through it.
Diffuser panels: The panel arrangement in Guy’s helmet curves much more, but so does his visor. I tried out various shapes with paper before settling on slightly angled trapezoids. Ramya kindly offered to laser cut them for me. I was originally thinking 1/4″ translucent acrylic, but the closest we found in her shop’s scrap pile was 1/2″ clear and 3/32″ frosted, so we did both and I stacked them. Serendipitous. The thick panels made the resulting light dots huge and much more visible through the darkened visor. *A downside is that it’s heavy and tiring to wear for the length of a social outing.
Controls: Arduino Pro Mini 5V/16MHz. Bit overkill for this project. If I had AVR programming capability on hand (and more time to order things) I’d rather have used an ATtiny.
Power: 4 NiMH rechargeable AA batteries. NiMH batteries output a lower voltage than non-rechargeables, which is good in this case. LEDs are drawing directly from the Arduino’s 5V pin here. *This is almost definitely a terrible idea given that a 60LED 5V strip like this draws ~2 amps, but I didn’t have a voltage regulator handy other than the one onboard the Arduino. PSA, my cheap series battery holder broke and I had to resolder it at some point.
Assembly was the most annoying part to figure out. I didn’t want to use something permanent like glue or epoxy to hold the panels against the helmet, since I might want to disassemble parts of it for maintenance. The entire front of the panel needed to be visible, so I couldn’t adhere it on that side. Most adhesives (hot glue, superglue, tape, you name it) do not adhere to silicone, which comprises the weatherproof sheath around the LED strip. I had some velcro cable zipties handy, so I eventually ended up adhering the panels to the ties, putting two screws into the forehead area to secure the tops, and using adhesive velcro to anchor the bottoms. Wouldn’t trust this for a long excursion, but it worked well enough for Halloween.
*Couldn’t get access to a lasercutter or router during the assembly phase. If doing it again, I think I’d lose the LED strips’ sheaths and cut a rigid curved frame to hold the panels in place against the visor.
Finishing touches: As you can see from the last photo, I was only able to see through a narrow slice of the middle helmet. My eyes were blinded by light leakage from the backs of the panels, so I covered the backs with felt, which greatly improved visibility. Added a little fabric pouch inside to hold the Arduino and redid all the janky connectors so I could easily unplug when changing my battery. Then wore it with head-to-toe black leather to work.
Fantasy bucket list: Sound reactivity / graphic EQ, encoder at my temple to scroll through different lighting modes, and a vocoder.
We spoke with Brandon Alinger, the author of “#StarWars Costumes: The Original Trilogy” (2014), about his discoveries with #BobaFett helmets, belts, and jumpsuits at Lucasfilm Archives. Brandon also works for the Prop Store.