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5 DIY STEM Costumes You Can Make with a Cardboard Box

What’s better than shopping for an awesome Halloween costume? Making one yourself! By upcycling some things around your house and putting your creativity to work, your family can make imaginative costumes that will stand out in any trick-or-treat crowd.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of five fun ideas for DIY costumes inspired by STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and innovation. The best part? Each one can be made with the most versatile STEM tool ever: a cardboard box!


1. Extra Special X-Ray

To make an X-ray costume, all you need is a box that’s big enough to fit over your chest and just a few art supplies. Cut holes in the box for your head and arms, then make your box black by covering it in paint or duct tape. Use construction or printer paper to make an X-ray of your ribcage and glue it on your box. For an extra special touch, consider adding some glow-in-the-dark puffy paint. Before you put your finished costume on, take a moment to learn more about National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee William D. Coolidge, inventor of the X-ray tube!


2. Epic Game System

If you’re a gamer, you can thank Hall of Famer Ralph H. Baer for pioneering the field of interactive video games. You can also make a video game costume with a little ingenuity and upcycling! Think about your favorite gaming system — whether it’s the latest handheld game or a retro system like an original Nintendo — and choose a box that’s roughly the same shape, scaled up to fit your body. After cutting holes for your head and arms, use a few art supplies to make the box look like your game system. Consider using plastic lids to make buttons, and be sure to add any logos that can make your costume look more authentic.


3. Giant Box of Crayons

Turn yourself into one of your favorite STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) tools by starting with a large rectangular box. You can shape craft or construction paper into cones to represent the crayons, making each one a different color. Line them all up at the top of your box, making sure to leave enough space for you to slip the box over your head. All that’s left is to decorate your crayon box! The most famous crayons are from the Crayola brand and were created by NIHF Inductee Edwin Binney and his cousin C. Harold Smith. You can design your costume to look just like a Crayola box, or you can put your own spin on it! Try developing your very own brand and creating an eye-catching logo to feature on your colorful costume.


4. Show-Stopping Traffic Light

Here’s an unexpected costume that’s sure to make fun memories for your family. Use paint or duct tape to cover your cardboard in a vibrant yellow. Next, use some creative thinking to come up with ways to create your red, yellow and green lights. Consider painting a few paper plates, or maybe you could find some colorful cellophane in your gift wrapping supplies. If you have a flying disc, that could make a great light, too! You might even add some reflective tape to your costume to make yourself more visible after dark. And each time you cross a street, be sure to thank NIHF Inductee Garrett Morgan for inventing the three-way traffic signal!


5. Leveled-Up Robot

A robot costume is definitely a Halloween classic. So why not get innovative and level up your robot game this year? Not only can you use multiple boxes of varying sizes to build an amazing costume and use paint, markers, duct tape or other materials to get the look just right, but you can even make your costume light up! It’s easier than you might think. Taking an LED, place one exposed wire from the LED on one side of a AA battery or coin, and move the other wire on the opposite side. Using tape to secure the wires in place, and a piece of paper or cardboard to hide the battery, the LED can now appear on your costume after poking a tiny hole through the cardboard. Hall of Famer Shuji Nakamura invented the blue LED, which allowed for the full spectrum of colors in LEDs which are used in many ways, from TVs and billboards to traffic lights, cellphones and now, even your Halloween costume!


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