Arduino Xmas Tree Shield

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Nothing reminds us that it’s the holiday season more than an LED Christmas Tree submission. This obviously is not the first of its kind, but [Jose] does offer up a new technique using addressable RGB LEDs.

[Jose] decided to use 20 WS2812B RGB LEDs, which if you haven’t seen before, are RGB LEDs with an integrated controller. Yep, that’s right, just power/ground and 1 data line is all that is needed to control hundreds of RGB LEDs. This LED tree’s design is simple: a custom-etched PCB cut it in to the shape of a Christmas tree. The WS2812B LEDs helped keep everything clean, so the tree lacks any ‘ugly’ ornaments, except for the required bypass cap here and there. For an added bonus, the tree’s LEDs are synchronized to music generated by an Arduino via a piezo buzzer. Why is it a shield?  Well, the whole tree plugs in nicely to a standard Arduino interface. This looks like the perfect starter project to familiarize yourself with addressable LEDs, or at least to get you warmed up before building your own infinity portal.

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Fixing Christmas Lights And Shocking Yourself Silly

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As [Medhi] was setting up his Christmas tree, he found a string with a few broken lights. Because he’d bought a cheap string of lights wired in series, of course one bulb was burnt out, rendering the entire string useless. His original game plan was to search through the entire strand for the broken bulb, but that’s the easy way out. His backup plan was to zap the broken bulb out of the string. After a few hours of figuring out what that meant, he came up with a way to fix a broken string of lights.

When a bulb burns out, the filament breaks creating an air argon gap between the two electrodes. By sending a huge voltage down the string, it should fire an arc through that gap, illuminating the burnt-out bulb for a brief time.

Experiments with socks and low humidity commenced, but it wasn’t until [Medhi] stuck his finger in a lighter that he found a better source of high voltage sparks. [Mr. Brows] connected the piezoelectric element to the plugs on his string of lights and… nothing happened. At least until he plugged the lights back in. Then, strangely, they worked. The reddit thread for the video says this behavior is due to an anti-fuse built into the bulb. When enough voltage goes through this anti-fuse, a thin sheet of insulator breaks down and allows dead bulbs to short themselves.

Hackaday head honcho [Mike] just got this method of finding dead Christmas lights to work, replacing 14 bulbs in a string of 100 lights. This leads us to an interesting question: why isn’t this simple method of fixing a string of Christmas lights common knowledge? You would think something this useful wouldn’t be introduced to the world via a YouTube video where someone  repeatedly burns and shocks himself. You can, of course, buy something that does the same thing, but this is far too simple of a solution for a classic problem to pass under our noses for this long.

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LEDmas Tree

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[Nick] is a bit of an LED fanatic. So when his boss asked him to help make an LED Christmas tree for work, he jumped at the opportunity!

It’s a beautiful build, making use of laser(?) cut plexiglass disks, wooden “trunks” made using a lathe, and a TON of RGB LEDs. Unfortunately—because it turned out so nice—the company is thinking of selling it as a product next year, so [Nick] isn’t allowed to divulge much more information behind the build. Regardless, it looks fantastic , and we’re sure you could hack your own.

He was allowed to take a video of it though, so check it out after the break! He also has a ton of other very cool LED projects on his blog at www.hownottoengineer.com

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Inverted Christmas Tree Made of Nespresso Tubes

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What happens when you put a few geeks in a room with a curtain rod, 240 Nespresso tubes, some planks, some tape, fairy lights, and a Raspberry Pi? Well, apparently this!

There’s not too much information on how they made it, but there is a pretty extensive gallery of photos. When we consider how much packaging we waste, it’s nice to see some being reused for a project, at least temporarily! The Nespresso tubes are pretty nice looking which certainly lends itself to this project, but our real question is who drank all the coffee…

The LED fairy lights are voice controlled using a Raspberry Pi model B, nothing too fancy, but a nice added affect. Check out the video after the break — the voice commands are in French though!

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Arduino Christmas Lights

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Here’s a cool hack to get you in the December holiday mood! Arduino controlled Christmas lights!

It all started because [Anx2k] had some leftover LED’s from one of his other projects, so he decided to make use of them as permanently mounted Christmas lights. He’s installed them underneath his tiled roof, and run all the wires into his attic where he has an electrical box serving as the main control hub. He uses an Arduino Uno to control them, and a 460W computer power supply to provide the juice. The LED modules themselves are Adafruit RGB pixel strings. There’s actually three of the LED modules per tile — two shining up to illuminate the tile, and one shining out.

He’s set up a ton of different patterns to run, and they are pretty awesome! Check out the video after the break.

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GameBoy Color Costume

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Okay, okay. We know it’s November now, but when [John] sent this project in, we just had to share it. He made a fully functional Gameboy Color costume!

The costume makes use of a Raspberry Pi (located on his back), running RetroPie, which is an open source project dedicated to creating a universal console emulator.  To create the controllers he used two Teensy microcontrollers in his gloves, setup to emulate two USB keyboards on the Pi. Since he’s using Teensy 3.0, it supports capacitive touch sensing, so all he had to do was wire pieces of aluminum to the input pins to create touch-sensitive metal buttons on the gloves. He then slapped a cheap 10″ LCD from Adafruit onto his chest, stuffed a few 12V LiPo batteries in his pockets, and was ready to be the hit of any party he went to.

The costume was a great success, although a pesky pair of Mario and Luigi kept holding his hands all night… Stick around after the break to see a demonstration video!

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Halloween Links: October 30th, 2013

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Happy Halloween from everyone at Hackaday! To help you enjoy the holiday here are a few festive links:

[Mike Kohn] whipped up a set of motion tracking eyeballs to make his decor extra creepy.

There’s not much to this jet-pack costume but the results are pretty amusing.

The eyes on [Tim Butler's] skeleton prop don’t follow you around the room, but they do use a PIR sensor to light up the skull.

Speaking of skulls, [Tom] is using some real skulls as decorations. He also added lights where the eyeballs should be, but he is using a photoresistor and comparator to turn on some LEDs.

[Clark] built a Mecha Robot Warrior costume for his son. With all of those LED strips we think he’ll be pretty safe when crossing the street!

And finally, [Jesse] added a lot to his prop in order to produce a Sinister Joker. That’s Joker-as-in-cards and not as in Batman. It’s got an IR distance sensor as a trigger, with a motor to move the wrist, lights for the eyes, and a sound shield to give it a disturbing voice.