Flash A Light Bulb, Win A Prize

How many geeks does it take to flash a lightbulb? Judging from the list of entries in the 2017 Flashing Light Prize, so far only seven. But we suspect Hackaday readers can add to that total.

The goal is almost as simple as possible: build something that can flash an incandescent light bulb for at least five minutes. The system actually has to power the bulb’s filament, so no mechanical shutters are allowed. Other than that, the sky is the limit — any voltage, any wattage, any frequency and duty cycle, and any circuit. Some of the obvious circuits, like an RC network on a relay, have been tried. But we assume there will be points for style, in which case this sculptural cascading relay flasher might have a chance. Rube Goldberg mechanical approaches are encouraged, as in this motor, thread, stick and switch contraption. But our fave thus far is the 1000-watt bulb with solar cell feedback by Hackaday regular [mikeselectricstuff].

Get your entry in before August 1st and you’ll be on your way to glory and riches — if your definition of rich is the £200 prize. What the heck, your chances are great right now, and it’s enough for a few pints with your mates. Just don’t let it distract you from working on your 2017 Hackaday Prize entry — we’re currently in the “Wheels, Wings, and Walkers” phase, so maybe there’ll be a little crossover that you can leverage for your flasher.

Thanks to [db] for the tip.

47 thoughts on “Flash A Light Bulb, Win A Prize

    1. You can use a LED-light bulb if you want. Only if you want to replicate the flashing bulbs with the bimetallic strip you need the heat.
      I for me part much more prefer LEDs over incandescent. Normally I don’t want or need 95W of waste heat for 5W of light.

      1. OK, I just re read the article and noticed, they specifically ask for the old-style bulb. But there are still so many types of incandescent bulbs which are not banned, so it is no problem

      1. Plain incandescent bulbs are pretty well phased out, High efficiency incandescent bulbs (halogen) are mostly what you are seeing. The rule as I remember just said that the bulb had to come in at a certain efficiency level to remain on the shelves.

        1. The regulators are pushing halogen bulbs out of the market as well. California for example mandates 60 lm/W by 2018 which is impossible to meet. The federal standard is 45 lm/W by 2020, which has the same effect: no more halogens either.

          The EU is also banning halogen bulbs by 2018. The original deadline was 2016 but that was delayed.


      1. Except they aren’t from America if they are imported. They are probably from MEXICO!!! So some walls are invisible but they are just as much a wall as a concrete one, if you are a Mexican light bulb.

    1. Yup.

      Entry criteria:
      You can use any size and voltage of incandescent bulb.

      The flash rate must be between 0.5Hz and 2Hz. The mark-space ratio is unimportant but the difference between the bulb being on and off must be clearly visible.

      The flashing must be done electrically (i.e. causing the filament in the bulb to glow on and off). A bulb that is on continuously but has shutters, lenses etc. moving in front of it is not an eligible entry.

      Your system doesn’t have to have amazing longevity but it must be able to run for at least 5 minutes without breaking down, exploding etc.

      So, neon tubes, Nixies, LEDs, EL panels, ect. don’t count as the *blink* part, but could still be part of the circuit.

        1. Do it ! I wanted to build a Moon-bounce radar setup, use the round-trip latency as the time base (needs a few pulses in flight simultaneously), and place a bulb with dangling wires in the path of the beam. Then I settled for the bimetallic switch solution.

  1. I misinterpreted the title and was expecting to see a sort or PROM memory made from light bulbs. I think it would be really awesome to push a button and watch filaments blow, then watch the selected filaments glow as they are read.

    Back to the topic, negative resistance oscillator anyone?

    I don’t think anyone can get simpler than the bimetallic switch in most of our turn signals though.

      1. You’d be surprised…
        Bimetal is everywhere! Mostly for thermostatic control/thermal fuse, but they also still sell the old fashioned blinkers for older model vehicles.

        My last two vehicles use a timer for the turn signals, but a friend’s new truck still has the ‘ol round ‘clicker’.

        1. Do they? I though they were all raspberry pis connected to the internet (IoT) polling an NTP server and a custom python script hosted on a low-latency server to feed back elapsed time with a sound hat to emulate a clicking noise these days

  2. If it weren’t for the 0.5 to 2Hz flash rate requirement I’d rig up a system that would utilize a plants property of growing toward a light source to turn off the light. Maybe two lights, one on each side of a plant, and as it tips toward the light that is on it switches to the opposite light.

  3. … and then some Asian dude made his own chip for this… i think that adds a whole new level, why using either an Arduino or a 555 or an Arduino driving a 555 or vice versa when you just can put your labcoat on and etch your own chip.

  4. I don’t do compo’s, here is an idea for someone to pinch:

    Hmmm…. A 500-700mA bulb at around 6v with a transistor connected to an LDR using diode logic control for defined voltage bands.

    Run it off USB,

    Point LDR at screen,

    GNU-sh script:

    echo the max value into /sys/blah-etc-n-so-forth/backlight
    sleep 1 second
    echo min value into said backlight
    sleep again for 1 second
    goto begin

    Ok I pseudo scripted that as the greater than symbol can be misinterpreted as HTML tags and removed :(

    For bonus credit, do it on an LGA 1155 based gaming laptop running a benchmark in Linux/GNU for maximum overkill!

    1. Simpler solution: blink a redstone lamp in Minecraft and point the LDR at it. Use it to trigger another computer into creating an RSA-signed gzipped data packet and sending it as ultrasound, along with Bag Raiders’ Shooting Stars (rickrolls are not recommended as lightbulbs hate them). A Pi Zero will then decode the packet, check the signature and if it’s *wrong* blink the bulb through an Arduino controlling a motor that rotates some gears and finally pushes on two contacts and turns the bulb on.
      Of course you also need another Pi to disturb the ultrasonic communication and manipulate the keys.

  5. Yeah, I think this thing is a way to make money. First off is the project is hosted on Wix(dot)com (do a Web search – which feels like a modern version of the venerable Angelfire). I suspect they’re somehow monetizing the hits. If-not, they should get off Wix, and get rid of all the scripting bloat!

    Turn OFF scripting in your browser and look at the number of links you must swallow just to see the site’s content, THIRTY (30) plus in my visit, and that’s just the FIRST scripting layer! And Gawd only knows how many Cookie/LSO turds the site will lay in your machine.

    And finally: I already have the simplest incandescent light blinker – It’s the bi-metallic turn-signal flasher in my car which costs less than $5 to replace (I’ve never had to replace one in Many years). And yes, my car is old and ANALOG. So I’ll be driving (and Blinking) long after the DPRK launches and detonates their global EMP bombs ;-)

  6. The rules say it must be electrical control, but I don’t think that means I can’t use mechanical means to open and close the circuit. Now I can’t get this out of my head. I think I can make a system that uses convection heat to open a circuit and then close it again when the part cools off. This could be a fun little project.

  7. I have an idea of monitoring the resistance of the filament as it heats and cools, and using that to trigger state change. But it might be hard to get the switching speed down.

  8. I was just getting ready to enter, when I decided to check the website again.

    I KNEW it: there’s a “Flashing light bulb with Raspberry Pi” entry. I’m not going to dignify this contest with my entry.
    I just might submit it to HackaDay for the glory, and forget the £200, even though my solution–costing either $0.00, or $8.00, depending on the parts source–probably would have won handily.

    Now, if I only knew the magic formula for submission to HaD…

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