Tool box light dimmer helps out a friend, offers up design tips

toolbox-lighting

[miceuz] has a friend that works as a theatre technician, and in the course of his job he often needs to jigger with various stage components while shows are in progress. As you can imagine, the lighting situation is far from ideal, so he asked [miceuz] to build him an adjustable lighting solution for his tool box.

The circuit itself is relatively straightforward, using an ATMega88 to provide the PWM required for dimming and color control. Input is taken from three different sources, a rotary encoder for color selection, a pot for brightness control, and a button to turn the light strip on and off.

[miceuz] says that while project came together pretty easily, it still presented some issues along the way which provide some useful design reminders for beginners (and some veterans) alike.

First and foremost: debounce, debounce, debounce. [miceuz] forgot this mantra and made a mad dash to add capacitors to his design after etching the PCB to ensure that his inputs were not bouncing all over the place. He also noted that one should always be sure to read the ADCL before the ADCH register when decoding ADC data. His final observation is that using thick traces is the best policy whenever possible – he ran into a lot of issues with traces detaching during assembly, which he had to rework with wire and solder.

In the end, his friend was happy with the result, and [miceuz] is a better hacker for having worked through his issues. What sorts of important/useful lessons have you learned through the course of your projects? Be sure to share them with us in the comments.

Hackerspace light wall plays video at 30 fps

led-light-wall

The folks at The Quad Cities Collaboration and Hackerspace (QC Co-Lab) were trying to find something to build for their first big project, and had to look no further than the wall for inspiration. The north end of their facility is home to a huge 15×17 glass block wall that happens to face a well-traveled roadway.

They decided that turning the wall into a huge LED display would be a great way to attract attention from passers-by, so they picked up some GE Color Effects lights and got down to business. Once they found out that the technical college next door was putting on an open house, the race was on to get the light display assembled as quickly as possible to maximize their exposure.

The team mounted the 255 LEDs in vacuum-formed reflective cones, which were attached to wooden frames before being installed behind the glass wall. An Arduino drives the entire display at a smooth 30 frames per second, a task they say tests the very limits of the board’s capabilities.

They finished the job in time for the open house, and as you can see in the video below, the display looks great.

Nice job QC-Co-Lab!

[Read more...]

Build your own mini ball drop for New Year’s Eve

dinos-new-years-ball-drop

[Dino] wanted to make this New Year’s celebration a bit more interesting, but he can’t make it to New York for the ball drop. Instead, he decided to make his own mini display in his workshop. Obviously he’s working with a slightly smaller budget than the folks at Times Square, but we think his display is pretty neat. If anything, [Dino] can at least guarantee that his New Year’s is 100% Seacrest-free.

The ball drop is made up of five ping pong balls, each backlit by a 10mm LED. The LEDs and ping pong balls were mounted on the electron gun from a broken oscilloscope, giving it a cool look. The balls are lit one at a time by an Arduino, which illuminates each one for 15 seconds while the final minute of 2011 is counted down. Once midnight hits, a flashing “2012” sign illuminates while Auld Lang Syne plays from a tiny speaker.

The musical part of this build is something that [Dino] spent a lot of time on. He thoroughly explains how he translated the song from sheet music into its digital form, a process that would be helpful for beginners to watch.

Continue reading to see how the display was built, and if you’re just antsy to see the ball drop in action, a short demo can be found at 12:13.

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This CheerLights display has a mind of its own

cheeriobot

[Axel] wanted to participate in the CheerLights project this holiday season, but not one to always follow the rules he decided to make his display a bit different than most others out there. While the lights at his house are synchronized with the CheerLights project, he programmed his Cheeriobot with a little added personality.

Normally, Cheeriobot is happy to follow the rest of the world, changing its colors whenever the Twitter feed dictates. If things are a bit slow however, Cheeriobot gets impatient and will send a tweet to @CheerLights on its own to ensure that it doesn’t display a single color for too long.

[Axel] also created a mode that turns Cheeriobot into a bit of a contrarian. The display’s “Rebel Mode” causes it to change colors when someone tweets, but it selects a random color instead of following the rest of the pack.

It’s definitely an interesting twist on the CheerLights project, and we really like the fact that it keeps things moving if the stream of tweets ever slows down.

Electronic ornament will definitely put [Dave] on Santa’s “naughty” list

mischievous-xmas-ornament

[Dave Vandenbout] says that his sister has gotten big on Christmas traditions, and decided that the whole family should start making ornaments for the tree each year. Not one to let a chance to tinker with electronics pass him by, [Dave] started brainstorming the perfect electronic ornament for their tree.

He settled on the Christmas tree design you see above, which will eventually hold 15 RGB LEDs. On the back of the board, he is planning on mounting a PIC 18F27J53 microcontroller, which will take care of the LED display along with his other more mischievous components.

You see, undeterred by his sister’s holiday spirit, [Dave] wants to arm the ornament with a foul mouth, and have it attempt to shake other ornaments off the tree. To do this, he’s installing a vibrating motor on the back of the PCB, along with a speaker and MicroSD card to provide the ornament’s sound bites.

To be honest, we think his idea is pretty entertaining, we can only imagine the look grandma will give when the cute, light up Christmas tree ornament blurts out, “Eat me Santa!”

We just hope he sends some video our way once he wraps up the project.

Lighting LEDs with raindrops

lighting-leds-with-rain

[Steven] had one of those musical gift cards laying around, and thought he might as well reuse the piezo speaker inside it. Without a particular project in mind, he soldered an LED to the piezo and tapped on it, which caused the LED to illuminate as expected. He started to wonder what quantity of force would be required to light the LED, and if it could be done by a raindrop.

He first tested his theory in the shower, and as you can see in the video below it actually worked, though the light was dim and sporadic as you might imagine. He eventually discovered that for optimal lighting, the piezo worked best when struck by single droplets falling with pauses in between, from a minimum height of 4 feet. To achieve a water flow within those specifications, he built a rain funnel so that he can control the droplet frequency and intensity.

It seems to work pretty well from what we can see. Off the top of our heads we can’t seem to come up with any practical applications of the water powered LED, but it is an interesting set of experiments nonetheless.

Have an idea to use this setup that we totally missed? Let us know in the comments!

[Thanks, Rob]

[Read more...]

Turning LEDs into a camera

[Udo] figured out how to turn a bunch of LEDs into a very low resolution camera.

The build is based around [Udo]‘s Blinkenlight shield he’s been developing over the past year. The camera operates under the idea that there’s really not much difference between a LED and a photodiode; LEDs can do light emission and detection. In actuality, the LED ‘camera’ isn’t all that different from a linear CCD array, the type of image sensor in flatbed scanners.

After connecting his Blinkenlight shield to his Arduino and computer, [Udo] wrote a sketch that would capture 17 values from his LED camera. These values are shot over the serial connection where high levels of light show up as smaller numbers and low light levels are understood as larger numbers.

[Udo] has been doing a lot of other cool stuff with his Blinkenlight shield, like a persistence of vision experiment and pretending to be [Michael Knight]. Check out the video after the break for a demo of [Udo]‘s linear LED camera.

[Read more...]

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