This CheerLights display has a mind of its own


[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


[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


[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]

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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.

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Detailed tutorial shows how to unleash your inner [Michael Knight]


Our own [Mike Szczys] recently sat down and put together a great tutorial on building a Larson Scanner. The ubiquitous circuit is usually one of the first few projects on a budding hackers list of things to build, since they are just so darn fun.

Simple versions of the scanner sweep back and forth lighting the LEDs without any sort of transition between them. The configuration most familiar to us all as featured in Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica are a bit more complex, and have a fading trail of light that follows behind the leading edge of the sweep. [Mike] notes that this fading is traditionally accomplished through the use of capacitors, which cause the light to gradually fade as the animation sweeps across the LED array. He decided to take a different route with his circuit, relying on PWM control of the LEDs instead.

Mike put together a simple circuit using an ATmega168, a handful of resistors, and of course, an array of LEDs. Utilizing interrupts and PWM, he was able to accurately recreate the iconic light sweep without the use of any capacitors. One big benefit to his design aside from the lower component count is the fact that he can easily adjust the speed of the sweep as well as the fading properties with a few small code tweaks.

Be sure to check out his blog at some point, where he shares his code, some circuit diagrams, and plenty more details on how his scanner was built. In the meantime, take a look at the video below to see the result of [Mike’s] work.

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Toy car fitted with lights and sirens is a children’s delight


[Nathan], a member of the DangerousPrototypes forums, was looking for a project he could use to enter the 7400 logic competition they are holding. His kids had a small ride on police car, but the light bar on top contained no lights, and the car made no sounds when his children were in pursuit of baddies around the house. [Nathan] had all the inspiration he needed, and took to his workshop in order to fix this glaring oversight by the toys’ creators.

He designed a circuit based loosely around a Cylon-style light that he saw a while back at the Evil Mad Scientist Labs, which employed an oscillator and a 4107 decade counter to control the lights. His design uses a 74HC04 hex inverter as the oscillator, while the decade counter is used to modulate the siren’s frequency and control the rotating LED beacons.

The final result is great if you ask us. An “unnamed adult female” in the house was not nearly as impressed by the additions based upon how much time [Nathan] spent on the project, but his children were absolutely thrilled.

Continue reading to see a quick video of the revamped police car in action.

Continue reading “Toy car fitted with lights and sirens is a children’s delight”

Candied LEDs are a light, tasty treat


[Emily Daniels] recently snagged a free iPad in the Instructables “Play with your food challenge” with an interesting way to work with LEDs. Growing up, most kids attempted to make, or at least have seen rock candy be produced. [Emily] thought it would be interesting to mix LEDs with the stuff to see what she could come up with, and her candied LEDs are the result.

The process is pretty straightforward, and involves mixing up a batch of supersaturated sugar syrup in which LEDs are suspended. The LEDs act as a nucleation point for the crystal formation, growing a nice solid coating of sugar after a couple weeks’ time. After some cleaning up, the LEDs can be connected to a coin cell battery or similar, as you would normally do. The sugar acts as a diffusing medium for the LEDs, giving them a nice soft beam pattern.

Obviously you likely wouldn’t want to use these for any long-term electronics project, but it’s a fun activity for the kids, and it could be a good way to incorporate electronics into baked goods.