Hackaday Prize Entry: Lighting the Way for Walkers

Chances are, you probably know someone who uses a walker to assist in their mobility. Ever wonder about how they could be made better? When [Alan McFarland] noticed his friend using his iPhone as a light to walk down a hallway — with only one hand on his walker — he realized something could easily be done to make the walker more functional. His own light bar.

Sure you could get a flashlight, zip tie it to the walker, or maybe a bike light with a dedicated mount — but [Alan] wanted it to be a bit more elegant; and functional. With this in mind, he attached an LED light strip to the lower frame of the walker to help illuminate the path ahead. A button is wired up to the handle for easy access, and he’s even using a PIC12F1501 microcontroller to give it some logic — it’ll turn off by itself, fading out, giving the person a chance to sit down before the lights go out.

The thing we like about this project is he programmed it using the PICBASIC PRO compiler — the same compiler that [Alan] himself used nearly 20 years ago programming the Borg suits and spacesuit lighting on Star Trek: First Contact — how’s that for a random trivia fact!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Bed Lights Keeps You From Stubbing Your Toe When Nature Calls

While out shopping for bed’s with his better half, [Shane] tried out one of the more expensive, all “bells and whistles” included models. While the aforementioned featurees were impressive, one stood out: motion controlled underlighting for when you had to get up in the middle of the night.

bed-underlighting-thumbKnowing that this feature would be easy to replicate [Shane] went about making his own version. Using PCV pipe to make the framework for the LED’s a 9 volt DC power supply, and a list of electronic components all that was left to figure out was the motion controls.

PIR motion sensors  are the natural choice and its simple enough to hook them up to the micro of your choice and bang out some code. It’s just as simple to hard wire them into a circuit skipping the added cost of the micro and complexity of the software.

The two PIR sensor outputs are wired though a diode OR gate, to a potentiometer to control sensitivity, and then to a pair of NPN transistors to ultimately control power to the LED strips. Now they have motion controlled night lights for their bed when nature calls in the middle of the night.

Jellyfish Inspired LED Skirt for Burning Man

[Lumilectric] is getting ready for Burning Man and made herself this fantastic fiber optic LED skirt.

She’s always been fascinated by fiber optics and the effect they create, so she wanted to try using them in a project, and this was just the ticket. The tricky part was figuring out how best to couple cheap fiber optic strands off eBay with a strip of RGB LEDs.

In the end she figured out a way to make rudimentary fiber optic coupling joints using vinyl tubing. She managed to fit 17 strands of 0.5mm diameter fiber into a 6mm diameter vinyl tube. To improve light transfer when it’s all together, you can gently melt the ends of the fiber optics together to glaze the plastic into a single clear surface — don’t melt the vinyl though!

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“Arduino Borealis” Combines LEDs and Paint

[Stef Cohen] decided to combine three different artistic mediums for her latest project. Those are painting, electronics, and software. The end goal was to recreate the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, in a painting.

The first step was to make the painting. [Stef] began with a shadow box. A shadow box is sort of like a picture frame that is extra deep. A snowy scene was painted directly onto the front side of the glass plate of the shadow box using acrylic paint. [Stef] painted the white, snowy ground along with some pine trees. The sky was left unpainted, in order to allow light to shine through from inside of the shadow box. A sheet of vellum paper was fixed to the inside of the glass pane. This serves to diffuse the light from the LEDs that would eventually be placed inside the box.

Next it was time to install the electronics. [Stef] used an off-the-shelf RGB LED matrix from Adafruit. The matrix is configured with 16 rows of 32 LEDs each. This was controlled with an Arduino Uno. The LED matrix was mounted inside the shadow box, behind the vellum paper. The Arduino code was easily written using Adafruit’s RGB Matrix Panel library.

To get the aurora effect just right, [Stef] used a clever trick. She took real world photographs of the aurora and pixelated them using Photoshop. She could then sample the color of each pixel to ensure that each LED was the appropriate color. Various functions from the Adafruit library were used to digitally paint the aurora into the LED matrix. Some subtle animations were also included to give it an extra kick.

LED Organ Chimes its Light Pipes

Light pipes are a pretty tricky feature to pull off. If the generic set on Digikey doesn’t meet your size and shape constraints, you’ll need to either find a vendor who can fabricate a specific shape for you or redesign that feature altogether. [Folker’s] LED Organ does an excellent job in piping light out from the source, and he does so in a way that’s reproducible with just a couple hours at the hand tools and a couple minutes on a laser cutter.

Hidden inside the base is a cluster of hardware that orchestrates the outer piece. 24 RGB LEDs are broken out into a ring and hidden in the base. [Folker’s] design enables control of the ring through either the LED player or LED Stamp with pattern-generation made possible by the free software, Jinx!

These days, exposed LEDs are ubiquitous enough among DIY electronics to almost be considered a hallmark of the DIY-enthusiast. Sure, “getting the project off the ground” is a great mindset to adopt when trying out some new firmware or components, but it can often leads us to a project’s finish with most of the wiring still exposed. While we’re certainly not offended by exposed LEDs, the task of concealing the shape of these components while also achieving the desired lighting effects is a challenge and rare sight to see. Our hats are off to the execution of this visual symphony.

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LED Strip Notifies You Of The Light Show You’re Missing Outside

Unless you live way up in Canada, it’s not very likely that those gorgeous coronal mass ejections will collide with the atmosphere above your home. If they do, it’s a rare occurrence you wouldn’t want to miss. This is why [James] devised of a special alarm that would notify him when the Northern Lights may be visible in his neck of the woods. And what’s a better aurora alarm than a simulated aurora light show for your room?

[James] uses a Raspberry Pi to check data from Aurora Watch UK at Lancaster University for local activity. If the forecast reads that there may be some light above his home town in northern England, it triggers a NeoPixel LED strip to scroll through the color values of an actual aurora PNG image. This produces the same sporadic shifting of colors for a proximal ambient indoor lighting effect… though slightly less dramatic than the real thing. You can take a look at his Python script on github if you feel inspired.

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Upgrading An Old Lantern

[Shockwaver] stumbled across some old kerosene lanterns, and decided he also stumbled across his next project. He decided to leave the kerosene out, and in its place used some RGB LEDs to bring the lanterns back to life. This is quite an upgrade. Considering the burning kerosene will only put out a few colors of light, the astute reader will have realized the RGB array has the ability put out over 16 million colors.

After some initial testing, he settled on a 24 LED circle array powered by an ATtiny85. The FastLED library helped him keep the code within the tight memory requirements. [Shockwaver] was not used to working with the such a small amount of memory, but after some fiddling he was able to make it work in the end, using 8,126 bytes.

The source can be found on his github page. Be sure to check out the video below to see the RGB lantern in action.

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