LED Light Staffs For The Ultimate Portable Rave


[risknc] and [mpinner] have been working on a couple of LED light staff designs for a while now and have come up with a prototype that can light up the night with an array of streaming colors. There is even a dial that can turn up and down the brightness.

Originally, [risknc] began developing his own project at SpaceX and dove further into the idea right before Burning Man. The visual effects, when twirled through the air, produced an extremely bright flow of energy that can be seen circling around the user.

The 8ft long carbon fiber staff was stuffed to the edges with RGB LEDs. Neopixel strips at 60 LED per meter were used to alternate between colors, and a whole bunch of white capable LEDs were embedded into the staff as well. One of early designs was purposefully left at a local hackerspace called Crashspace in Culver City, California. Photos of community members trying it out surfaced on the hackerspace’s website. In addition, a description of the staff and a few high-quality photos of the ‘Sparkle Stick’ were uploaded on to the Suprmasv projects page. Searching through the pictures reveal an instance that shows the LED light staff being used during a flow session with a fire poi spinner in the background. Perhaps there is a way to combine LEDs and fire? Anyways, a later version of the staff was tested out at the 2014 Maker Faire in San Francisco.

Full specs and logs of the project can be found on Hackaday.io. A quick video of [mpinner]’s light staff being spun around comes up after the break. In the video, it looks like they are testing it out outside of Crashspace as they run through the darkness of the alleyway in the back, lighting up the area with a nice LED glow. Plans for the future include building a bunch of them and wirelessly syncing them up. CAD models will be uploaded soon as well.

15 thoughts on “LED Light Staffs For The Ultimate Portable Rave

  1. Wow that thing looks so much better than I thought it would. As an avid fire staffer who’s fire desires are commonly curtailed at major festivals, I’ll be looking to recreate my own version of this asap.

  2. Way back in the early 80s when I was doing a lot of psychedelics I made a gadget that consisted of an astable multivibrator hooked up to a dual color LED. The LED was connected on the end of a braid of solid wire, so it could be moved around like on the end of a wand. Wow! It really was something to behold at night. Anyhow, this article reminded me of that, strobing lights, rave, I made the connection. For the record drugs are bad kids, so just say no. At least the garbage you kids can get a hold of today is bad. Back in the 80s we could get the good stuff.

    1. Sounds like fun! LEDs are always great when exploring the outer reaches of the mind. And, you’re right. Most of the stuff found on the street now a days is fake, but there is some good stuff still around. They’re extremely rare to find, but can be located if you know where to look.

    2. Last week I assembled 20x cheap self-blinking/fading RGB LEDs into a 36″ string, Christmas-lights style. To stress test, I swung them around in a circle over my head, while powered on in a dark room. An unexpected surprise was that the PWM frequency during fades was rather low on these LEDs, which made for some interesting patterns, like your multivibrator driven LED. Made me not want to give the string up to the friend they were promised to, who had a less impressive purpose for them.

      And now there’s the Sparkle Stick. Guess I’ll have to enjoy the trippy by proxy on this one. More videos please!

  3. How much does it weigh approximately? And how close to center is the weight balanced? Asking because I did a similar thing with translucent pvc and had a friend who is a bo staff ninja try it. Battery placement caused balance issues that made it hard for him to reach “full speed”. I would like to add an accelerometer to the next rev so light patterns change with speed.

  4. As soon as he drops it or smacks into the ground once, LED’s will start going out – surface mount LEDs will disconnect from the substrate and suddenly he’ll have lost one color or two – or the whole pixel! I purchased a ‘professional’ performance product that is made with ribbons of leds and had to RMA them twice and i still lose pixels from the slightest impact or drop. I’ve met people with the same company’s staff and other products and they’ve both reported the same problem.

    This isnt just a problem with that company (although it was annoying due to the price), Spinning a staff or LED poi with electronics in them is asking for disaster. Engineering for impact resistance is why people in the Flow Arts community will pay hundred(s) of dollars for blinking LEDs on a stick (staff)or in a ball on a rope (poi).

    Look at Flowtoys(.com) for example. They are a very well established product line/company that started making what were essentially LED glowsticks, but when people used them for poi and they would inevitably collide, the cases would crack, the battery would fly out, or rarely the thru-hole LEDs would lose contact. Over the years they have addressed these issues with new generations and also sell protective silicone cases that keep the internals from being damaged. Other people have either copied their form-factor to be compatible with their cases or jumped straight into being impact resistant at the cost of being higher quality/versatile.

    I applaud the effort and design of custom Light toys, but i feel like I would have to walk on eggshells while handling most of them. That kind of ruins the fun of having something if i know im about to break it if I look at it funny.

    1. I’m trying to imagine the most likely scenario which would cause a SMD LED to separate from a flexible strip under impact conditions, considering the mass (and inertia) of the LED itself is so tiny that it wouldn’t make this easy.

      And basically what I end up with is any situation that causes the strip to stretch.

      Picture a LED strip glued lengthwise onto a yardstick. Hold it by one end, and strike the other end hard against the ground. The stick will flex from the impact, temporarily forming a curve. If the LEDs are facing down when this occurs, because the strip is on the longer side of the curve, it will be forced to stretch – just a bit, but by an enormous force. I can see the tiny lead-free solder joints giving way pretty easily.

      Put SMD LEDs on a long rigid PCB instead, same mechanics apply.

      But going back to the strip and yardstick example, you could build in some strain relief. Perhaps you could mount the strip to the yardstick under every 2-3 LEDs with foam tape. And pre-compress the strip so LEDs without mounting underneath bulge up a little bit, rather than having the entire strip perfectly flush and taut. Both would provide some strain relief.

      Looking at the Sparkle Stick, it appears the LED strip is wound in a spiral around the inner structure, rather than mounted linearly. That should inherently provide some strain relief too. I’m hopeful the Stick will perform well, and am looking forward to updates.

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