The Tale Of The Pantheon Hat Fail

Ever since I've been a kid, I've always been fascinated by technology.  Not just software (which I write every day) but also hardware, Arduino, and really anything that combines electricity and technology.  As I was gearing up for DrupalCon NOLA last year I discovered Electroluminescent Panels.  Naturally, I had to try them so I started thinking about potential use cases for them.

Enter the Unofficial Pantheon Party where, unbeknownst to any Pantheors, I started concocting my plan for a light-up Pantheon shirt.  After a few trips to the neighborhood electronics shop and some fancy eBay purchasing, I quickly found myself in possession of all of the materials needed to build this shirt.

One cut-up Pantheon shirt



EL Panel



Sewing away


After a bit of work, it was finally time to put it at the test in NOLA where it was a huge success:

The shirt at NOLA
Photo credit: @McDwayne

With DrupalCon in my home town in 2017, I quickly began thinking of ways to one-up the shirt.  Over the course of the last 12 months I've quietly been scheming and planning for what my outfit would be for this year's party.  Around the beginning of January I started ordering supplies from various sites online.  Then, a few weeks before the Con, I stumbled upon marcnewlin's GitHub repository for an LED Top Hat.  At that point I put my original plans on hold and started thinking about how to build and customize this LED top hat for the party.  After all, how cool would something like this be but with Pantheon lightning bolts flying around?

Rainbow Top Hat
Photo credit:

With just a few weeks before DrupalCon I frantically started ordering the parts necessary for the hat and encountered my first hurdle.  The battery packs that were recommended for use with the hat weren't easily accessible online.  And, to make matters even more complicated, other battery packs were shipping from Amazon's warehouses in Seattle which meant they had to be shipped by truck and therefore wouldn't be eligible for 2 day shipping.  After much searching I finally found a battery pack in-stock in Amazon's Baltimore warehouse that I could get quickly and the project started gaining traction.

Enter challenge number 2 -- DrupalCon is in my hometown.  Which, while convenient in not needing to incur travel expenses, meant that my friends from the Drupal community were coming into town a few days early.  As I chatted back and forth with friends about potential plans for the Saturday and Sunday before DrupalCon, I kept thinking in the back of my mind that I still needed to finish building this hat.  Through careful balancing (and a long day at home on Sunday while my friends toured my city), I finally started to make progress.  After an emergency trip to my electronics store when it opened Sunday morning (why do stores not open until 11AM on Sundays?!?!?) I finally had all I needed and could start putting things together.

By the time DrupalCon started I had all of the taping, gluing, cutting, and other construction work completed along with most of the electronics (which I worked on in my GitHub repo).  The last step was to hook the circuit board up to the LED panels (I had already modified the code over the weekend and loaded it on the board).  After leaving an event Tuesday night, I quickly drove back over to my office to put the finishing touches on my hat.  It was at this point that I discovered that the LED Panels I had bought from Amazon weren't as they appeared.

Broken LED panels

So, at midnight on Tuesday, 20 hours before the party, I finally tweeted about the problem and started working on Plan B -- my shirt from last year (which had pieces in various parts at various states of readiness because I wasn't planning on using it):

Tweeting about my defective products

I don't normally blog about projects I have not yet completed.  So why am I sharing this now?  Ultimately, this top-hat was actually just the first step of this project and it was going to be enhanced for DrupalCon next year.  How is it going to be'll just have to come to the Pantheon party next year to find out.  It will be epic.

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