If you’re like us, you saw the engineering marvels coming out of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory‘s pumpkin carving contest, and glanced at your own sad attempt at a jack-o’-lantern with disdain. Once you’ve seen a pumpkin abducting a tiny floating cow, or a Jupiter pumpkin being orbited by a little Juno spacecraft, that goofy-eyed mess you carved with a dull kitchen knife just doesn’t glow like it used to.
There’s still time left to take your pumpkin carving game to JPL levels: Try one of these all-time favorite hacks for Halloween.
With minimal household materials, get maximum gross-out effect: This pumpkin project is basically a grade-school volcano experiment, but with a spooky twist. Adding food coloring, water, dish soap, and baking soda to a grimacing Jack before pouring in the vinegar turns an otherwise boring pumpkin into an oozefest. Get the full directions here.
Circuit Playground Jack-o’-Lantern
Phillip Burgess at Adafruit created a flame-free lantern from a bit of code and a circuit board with flickering LED lights. Copy and paste the code from the Adafruit blog into a new Arduino sketch, and place the light board inside your carved creation for a non-flammable jack-o-lantern. Full instructions and where to purchase the materials are here.
Jack-O’-Lantern That Automatically Lights Up When It Gets Dark
Inspired by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, Popular Science created this lantern that’s still a favorite. This project is a bit more time-consuming and advanced, but the payoff is a pumpkin that automatically switches on when it gets dark outside, as if by magic.
Nathan Pryor at HaHa Bird built a fully functional Tetris game on the face of a carved pumpkin — complete with the stem acting as a controller. The worst part of this project is that it’s temporary, so get as many hours into playing with Pumpkris in as you can before it rots away.
Boo, do you even vape? Head to your nearest e-cig shop and pick up most of these materials easily, for a pumpkin that appears to smoke and smolder. Get the step-by-step directions, here, and fill your stoop with “smoke” sans-flame.