Glowing Super Bowl helmets


These geeky Superbowl decorations glow thanks to the EL panel hack which [Becky Stern] created. It’s almost impossible to make out in this image, but the EL panels have been applied to the surface of the helmet. On the San Francisco helmet you can just make out the black connector and cord at the bottom of the F.

El panels are a lot like EL wire (but they’re flat) in that the phosphors are excited when connected to a high voltage AC supply. You can cut the panels into shapes without a problem. The technique used here is to create a black vinyl mask to go over the top of the panel. This makes cutting the panel a lot easier.

The mask sticker is made on a vinyl cutter. [Becky] is a master at using the vector tool as you can see in the video after the break. She outlined each team logo with paths to create a file which the cutter can use. From there it took several tries to get the sticker just right as the curve of the helmet distorts the logos just a bit. Once it was dialed in she stuck the vinyl on the El panel and cut around the perimeter.

The Adafruit team sure loves to use electroluminescent accents.

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Headphone light show

Seriously, nothing says ‘Look at me!’ like these headphones. [Yardley Dobon] added a rainbow of colored electroluminescent wire to his headphones and made them pulse to the music. The video after the break shows the headphones bumping to the tunes. This is one of two versions of the project, the other runs the EL wire along the headphone wire itself. We’re a bit surprised that the high frequency from that parallel run doesn’t inject noise into the signal. We do enjoy seeing these in action, but in practice observers unfortunately won’t be able to hear the tunes to which the lights are pulsing.

It took us a little while to figure out that [Yardley] didn’t roll his own VU hardware. The inverter driving the EL wire is designed to bump to the music. But he did hack it to use an audio line rather than a microphone. He mentions that this has other uses, like allowing carefully crafted sound clips to precisely control the inverter.

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Fancy beer pong table cleans your balls

Beer Pong seems to have been around for some time but it only recently exploded in to a universally known game. But one thing has always bothered us. Who wants to drink the beer into which that grimy little ball has fallen? Leave it to the frat boys at MIT to come up with a solution. Their beer pong table automatically cleans your balls.

Of course the table looks great. It’s outfitted with laser cut felt lettering on the apron, and the top features EL wire highlights. But the two features that really set it apart aren’t hard to spot either. First, there are rain gutters along either side to help catch the spillage. Secondly, that blue ring is actually the input nozzle for the ball cleaner. By pushing the ball through the vinyl sleeve it enters a recirculating liquid cleanser, popping out of the portal on the left a second later. That’s about all the details we have on the system, but you can get a closer look at the inner workings in the clip after the break.

The thing to remember is that these guys NEVER run out of ping-pong balls. They’ve got thousands on hand ever since they built this launcher.

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Back up the band with some RGB stage lights

Fresh off the 72-hour madness of the Red Bull Creation contest some of the folks a North Street Labs took on a stage lighting project. It’s for a local performing venue that just opened up, and despite the time crunch the team pulled off another great build.

Sixteen meters of LED strip make the electronics for the project a whole lot easier. The strips run up the center of a cabinets built as stand-alone columns which will end up at the back of the stage. Each cabinet has its own 5V 4A power supply (note the burnout issues they mention when using cheap eBay PSUs). Each column has its own Arduino Uno driving the LEDs, with an RS485 shield to connect back to a main Arduino Mega 2560 controller. It uses a PSX controller to switch between different lighting modes.

The seven towers boasting 688 LEDs isn’t all that’s shedding light on the show. There’s also about 300 feet of EL wire at work.

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LayerOne badge hacking twofer

Here’s a pair of LayerOne Badge hacks that actually included the RC as intended by the badge designers.

First up, we have the autonomous RC car built by [Arko]. He calls it Stanley Jr. as an homage to the Stanford DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle. It uses an Arduino shield to add a servo with an ultrasonic rangefinder on it. The lets the vehicle drive a bit, stop and scan the horizon, then drive some more. The hope is the rangefinder will keep it from running into anything. There’s a quick test run embedded after the break.

On the right is the badge hack which [Zjpahle] finished up after the contest was already over. He also chose to go with an Arduino shield, this time it’s an IMU board. But he added a standalone Arduino board to the vehicle which drives some EL wire (ground effects) and adds IR sensors to the front of the car. The IR sensors are for obstacle avoidance, and the IMU lets him tilt his badge for direction control.

We looked at the winner of the badge hacking competition on Wednesday. That hack didn’t involve the car, but used the badge as a Morse Code beacon.

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Building a sound reactive EL panel and learning something in the process

We’ve seen a lot of builds using electroluminescent wire, usually in the realm of costumes and props. Unfortunately, most electrical engineers don’t deal with blinking and dimming EL wire and panels and any tinkerer trying to control electroluminescence doesn’t have a lot of resources on how to control EL stuff. [ch00f] wanted to fill this knowledge gap, so he build a sound reactive EL panel driver and learned a lot in the process.

Nobody really knows how electroluminescent wire and panels work on a molecular level, but [ch00f] did know that changing the direction of an electric field will cause the EL material to glow. Changing the frequency of this electric field will change the EL material’s brightness, so all [ch00f] had to do was make a variable-frequency EL driver – something that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

We won’t bore you with the details because we  couldn’t do [ch00f]’s write up any justice. We will skip to the end and tell you [ch00f] was able to make a sound reactive EL panel after a month of work that included making his own transformers and doing a whole bunch of math. You can check out the video of [ch00f]’s [Tony Stark]-esque EL panel after the break.

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EL wire piping on a party couch

If you’ve been putting off that reupholstering project here’s a little incentive to get started. Adafruit now has some electroluminescent wire which is perfect for use as piping. They’ve outfitted a small sofa with the glowing material and we think it looks great whether switched on or not.

The installation process is really quite easy. The EL wire is covered with clear material that provides a continuous tab running the length of the wire. This can be stapled on like you see in the image above, or sewn into a fabric seam. So you could take an existing sofa cover, remove all the stitching, and sew it back together with the EL wire replacing the original piping. The video after the break shows how simple the process is.

This will be a nice complement to that Daft Punk table we’ve been meaning to build. Continue reading “EL wire piping on a party couch”