O Christmas tree of digital logic

tree

[Chris] over at PyroElectro is getting into the swing of the holidays with a LED Christmas tree build. Unlike the other electrical Christmas trees we’ve seen this holiday season, [Chris] designed his tree entirely with digital logic – no microcontrollers included.

The tree [Chris] constructed on a piece of perf board is a beautiful spiral arrangement of 64 green LEDs.While we’re sure getting all the LEDs soldered to the right height, [Chris] makes it look so easy to create 3D structures with circuits.

The LEDs are driven with a set of eight shift registers, themselves clocked by either a predictable 555 timer chip or a pseudo-random pattern generated with a circuit built from a few hex inverters. By setting the tree to the sequential mode, a pair of lights travel slowly down the spiral of the Christmas tree. If set to random mode, an random number of LEDs light up and walk down the array of LEDs.

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ATTannenbaum

attiny

It’s that special time of year again where the smell of baking cookies fill the house and shopping mall parking lots are filled with idiots and very angry people. [Kevin] thought it would be a good idea to build an LED Christmas tree and ended up building a great looking tree that’s also very simple.

In the video, the imgur album, and the github, [Kevin] shows us the simplest way to make a color-changing LED Christmas tree. The circuit uses LEDs to drop the voltage and to provide a nice glow around the base of the tree. After that, it’s just an ATtiny13 and some LEDs in a very nice freeform circuit.

Of course, if LED Christmas trees aren’t your thing, [hb94] over on reddit created an LED menorah. Pretty nifty he used an 8-position DIP switch for the circuit. Let’s just hope someone gave him a soldering iron for the last night of Hanukkah.

Christmas light controller is its own percussion section

clicking-christmas-tree-controller

[Jason] and his father took advantage of a week off of work over Thanksgiving to design and build a Christmas light decoration that can flash fancy patterns. He calls it the Uno Christmas Tree. It’s sixteen strands of lights draped between a pole and the ground to form the shape of a tree. The main controller is an Arduino UNO, but what really makes this work is a mechanical relay board with sixteen channels.

Using trigonometry they figured out that the decoration would be fifteen feet tall and have a five-foot radius at the base. A pipe was installed to act as the trunk, with an old toilet flange at the top and stakes at the bottom to anchor the lights. They all make their connections at the controller box using extension cords that were labelled with channel numbers. You can see the final product in the video after the break. But you’ll also want to watch the clip on [Jason's] blog which shares the sonic symphony created when the mechanical relays really start working.

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Hackaday Links: December 16, 2011

Free-form Christmas ornament

Here’s [Rob]‘s free form circuit that’s a Christmas ornament for geeks. It looks great, but sadly isn’t powered through a Christmas light strand. It’s just as cool as the skeletal Arduino we saw.

Prototyping with flowers

Well this is interesting: protoboard that’s specifically made to make SMD soldering easier. The guys at elecfreaks went through a lot of design iterations to make sure it works.

We’ll call it Buzz Beer

The days are getting longer and cabin fever will soon set in. Why not brew beer in your coffee maker? It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Christmas oscilloscope

With just an ATtiny and a little bit of  futzing around changing the coefficients of a partial differential equation, you too can have your very own oscilloscope Christmas tree. Don’t worry though, there are instructions on how to implement it with an Arduino as well. HaD’s own [Kevin] might be the one to beat, though.

So what exactly does a grip do?

You know what your home movies need? A camera crane, of course. You’ll be able to get some neat panning action going on, and maybe some shots you couldn’t do otherwise. Want a demo? Ok, here’s a guy on a unicycle.

Decorating an Ent for Christmas

These images may look the same, but if you peer closely at the one on the left you’ll notice the eyes staring back at you. It seems animatronic decor is in this year, and we think [Fjord Carver's] talking Christmas tree is one of the better offerings.

He picked up the diminutive tree at the dollar store, then started added the pieces that put on the show seen after the break. A small strand of battery operated lights, and a bit of garland are traditional. But the Arduino and pair of servo motors are a new holiday tradition. They move parts of the tree to reveal a set of eyes and animate a mouth. He drives the display by sending serial commands from a computer to the Arduino. This way you can script your performances, with flapping jaw, moving eyelids, and blinking lights while the computer supplies the sound.

Is it just us, or does anyone else really want to see this guy singing the Chipmunk’s Christmas Song? Or if that’s a bit too wholesome you could go the more vulgar route.

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Follow up: Star Wars tree gets an upgrade

star-wars-tree-sound

We asked, and [Zach] listened.

Earlier this week, we featured a circuit he built which allowed his tiny Star Wars Christmas tree to visually replicate the series’ theme song. Several of you, along with myself, thought it would be far cooler if the tree also played the music to accompany the light show, so [Zach] set off to add that functionality.

Worried that the music would get annoying if it played along with the lights constantly, he tweaked his circuit design to incorporate a piezo buzzer that could be easily switched on and off. After wiring it to the MSP430 driving the light show, he tweaked the program to output signals to both the light string and buzzer simultaneously.

While the light show accurately represented the song, he initially ignored flat and sharp notes as they would be indistinguishable to the eye. In audio form however, the missing notes would be glaringly obvious, so he re-transcribed the sheet music resulting in the video you see below.

If you happened to follow [Zach’s] lead and put one of these together in your own house, be sure to swing by his site and grab the latest code, complete with audio track.

[Read more...]

Christmas tree water sensor gets an upgrade and a fancy new box

xmas-tree-water-sensor

[Eric Ayars] has a nice cast iron Christmas tree stand at home, but the only drawback is that the stand makes it hard to see just how much water is available to the tree. Last year we covered a small gadget he created to help keep tabs on the water level, but as several of you predicted, the system eventually failed.

His previous solution used copper plated proto board to sense how much water was in the stand, but the leads corroded in about a week’s time. With Christmas just around the corner, he decided to give things another try.

His revamped water level sensor relies on measuring capacitance changes in a copper strip board when under water rather than detecting a complete circuit like the previous model. To protect his sensor this time around he coated the board with polyurethane, which should provide a decent corrosion barrier.

Using the Arduino CapSense library, the sensor can detect the presence of water, signaling an alarm if the base needs refilling. One of our readers suggested that he use the tree itself as a low water indicator, which is just what [Eric] did this year. If the water is somewhat low, the Arduino-controlled relay powering the tree is switched off and then on again, every 5 seconds. If the base is nearly dry, the tree asks for water by blinking the word “Water” repeatedly in Morse code.

We think that this year’s solution is pretty clever, and we’re glad to see that [Eric] didn’t give up after last year’s setback!

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