IoT Traffic Light Is Cardboard Made Fun

Traffic lights! Kids love them, hackers love them, and they’re useful in industrial contexts to see if the giant machine is currently working or having a bad day. While the real deal are unwieldy and hard to come by, there’s nothing stopping you tackling a fun cardboard build at home.

It’s a great way to teach kids about traffic rules, too.

In this case, the light is courtesy of WS2812b LED strips. They’re a great choice, as they interface easily with most microcontrollers thanks to readily available libraries. An ESP8266 runs the show here, serving up a basic web interface over WiFi. This allows the color of the various LEDs to be controlled remotely. It also allows the lights to be switched on and off to direct whatever traffic you may be controlling. The whole project is all wrapped up in a simple cardboard enclosure, mimicking the municipal street furniture which so resolutely commands our movements.

The cardboard traffic light is a project that shows just what can be done with some off-the-shelf parts and some good old-fashioned kindergarten-style arts and crafts. If you find yourself similarly admiring these devices, check out our primer on the North American traffic signal. Video after the break.

9 thoughts on “IoT Traffic Light Is Cardboard Made Fun

    1. This traffic light and some chalk (to draw roads). Could have it so several can be connected together and the kids can draw their street layout (in the app) so the street lights can work together. I could see this as a very viable product as long as the price is kept reasonable…

      >I’m gonna have to see it have some method of teaching kids not to text and drive

      Not sure if you’re serious, but they are just kids and they’ll probably be using scooters/bicycles. That usually lends a much “harder” lesson for not using both hands… Besides, kids should be allowed to make mistakes and learn whilst there’s little consequence.

  1. Modern traffic lights are made of plastic, and not particularly heavy, so I wouldn’t call a modern one unwieldy, and not particularly expensive (I suppose that’s a relative matter of opinion) if you know where to buy them (Under $150, direct from Econolite). I’ve found that used traffic lights, and fake/simulated ones often sell for more than new real ones.
    Old traffic lights are cast aluminum and heavy, and there are collectors of vintage ones. I have a W.S. Darley cast aluminum 4-way from 1935 valued at $2500. It weighs over 100 lbs.

  2. Reminds me of the Halloween costume(s) I built for the kids last year. Both kids ended wanting to be a traffic light, so I added an LoRa link between them so that they’d stay in sync (and fall back to a schedule if they weren’t in range).

    The completed costumes:

    A video of them in action:

    Untitled

    The innards are a Particle Photon and an Electron, I had planned on remote cellular control, but ran out of time. It’s all hand cut poster board and foam board. Now that I know how cheap laser cutting is at Ponoko, it’ll look way nicer next time.

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