A small, screwdriver sized device that uses IR signals and buttons and/or motion data (from a gyro or accelerometer) to control objects like TV's and LED light strips.


I call this Project Sonic Screwdriver, shortened to PSS. The initial reason I started this project was to have a cool movie prop that actually replicates some of the fictional properties of the prop. I have been a Doctor Who fan since I was little, so the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver was a prime candidate for this project.


The goals of this project are fairly simple and are as follows:

  • Must have the appearance of the original prop (cannot be externally/visually distinguishable from the actual prop)

  • This follows the point above, but the size of the original prop must be maintained

  • Replicate at least one neat fictional ability that the prop can do in the movies

  • generate realistic sounds in addition to lighting up like the prop (in the TV series, the sound effect is likely added in in post processing)


With these goals in mind, I did some research to determine what kinds of electronics I could store inside the body of the prop. Some topics I focused on in this research inlcuded miniature Arduino-like electronics, remote control capabilities, and programmable RFID/NFC technology.

In this stage, I discovered Adafruit, a dandy electronics website that sells arduino style circuit boards as well as plenty other neat electronic components. Since this project, I have used plenty of Adafruit products in my projects, including in my V2 Electric Longboard project.

The most ciritical component, the brain, must be very very tiny to fit in the body of the prop, which I decided would be David Tennant's Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver. The Adafruit Trinket was the perfect choice, with a width of about 0.4", and a length of about 1".

For lighting, I bought 4 LED's for the tip, one IR LED one UV LED, one blue LED, and one white LED for remote signaling, hidden ink, blue hues, and a flashlight. For sound effects, a small headphone speaker will fit nicely inside the package. A small rechargeable lithium ion pack and charging circuitry will provide the power to the system. Small tactile buttons and a MPU-6050 type sensor will provide the input. The main body can be designed with CAD to fit the components and match the exterior. The 3D prints can then be sanded for a smooth exterior and painted. A toy prop replica was used for reference.

One of the


The Sonic Screwdriver physcially extends a couple inches. This is accomplished by a sliding outer shell around the main body. The main body has a clear tube between the main compartment with two yellow wires extending through it from the main body to the head. The main body is about 0.5" in diameter, and its length is about 2.5", where the diameter varies and becomes smaller near the bottom. There is a removable cap on the prop replica for a pen. This removable cap can be used for the end of the screwdriver to cover the charging port, which should be micro-USB (or some other standard; Apple's lightning cable was also researched to some extent). The main body can be 3D modeled to fit the components. Using the Arduino IDE and some libraries, code can be written to send standard remote signals to control LED strip lights.


Using the IR sensor and an actual Arduino UNO, I build a small test rig to fire IR signals off a power source. With the help of a friend, we were able to replicate the standard signals that were used by the actual remote to turn on/off the lights and control the RGB colors.

We also read the signals from a TV remote to replicate the patterns, and effectively program the sonic screwdriver as a TV remote.

Images coming soon!