Everybody Dance, Now!


My new team at work likes to have their little Nerf gun wars. They have all sorts of guns, some modded, some not.

I wasn’t particularly interested in playing the testosterone game of Nerf War, but I also wanted to be part of the fun, just … play by my own rules, so I’d walk through their battles with arms raised yelling “Civilian!” They would leave me alone, but once in a while someone would threaten to “get me some day.”

Fortunately, being on the team means that I’m welcome to take one stock Nerf Maverick M-6. So I came up with a way of playing by my own rules: I’d make a gun that didn’t shoot darts, but sang songs of peace.

The web was surprisingly useless on this matter. There are plenty of sites about modding Nerf  guns, and plenty of information about Arduinos and music, but nothing that combined the Nerf guns with Arduinos and music. I briefly flirted with buying an MP3 shield, but who wanted to wait for shipping, and who wanted to pay fourty bucks for just one sub-component? And where would it fit in the gun? And then there was the power source, and all other sorts of crap.

Fortunately, I knew that good ol’ Matt Mastracci had recently been playing with Arduino, so I asked for his advice.


He suggested I get a musical greeting card. Brilliant.

So Wifeberg and I spent 20 minutes in Rite-Aid playing every musical card we could find. Which is pleasant. Finally I settled on what would really be a perfect piece of music: C&C Music Factory’s Everybody Dance Now!

After dismbowling the card and carefully studying my gun’s interior I came up with an execution plan, and all I needed was hot glue and a soldering iron. It took five hours of labor and testing, and much more close contact with hot glue than I imagined.

But 11:15PM on Sunday, my hard work paid off:


And that’s exactly what I did. I played some gun music for Matt, and danced around my chair.

The whole thing took about eight hours from concept to completion, including staring at the gun’s innards and my many mistakes. If I had to do this again it would probably take one to two hours.

Hey, here’s some video proof.



Neat, right? But the real test would be taking it to work: how would they react? Well, various levels of interest from utter amazement, to confusion, to outright disregard, accompanied by a solid Nerf dart beating. In other words, a complete success.

The amazing part of this experiment has been that suddenly, I like dancing! Turns out that showing up your teammates by strutting around to music that demands that you dance makes it easy and fun!

Which brings me to my final story on the matter: this morning while getting breakfast I hummed the song, and boogied around just a little bit. This young, tall, attractive woman noticed me and kind of smiled. So I faced her and explained the whole thing: how I built a music-playing Nerf gun, and had no idea that I’d wind up learning to like dancing more than anything else! She responded, “Uh. You know, that’s cool!” I was amazed by the dancing, she was amazed by the singing gun. I forgot about the gun.


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