Gyro Controlled RGB Blinky Ball Will Light up Your Life

[James Bruton], from the XRobots YouTube channel is known for his multipart robot and cosplay builds. Occasionally, though, he creates a one-off build. Recently, he created a video showing how to build a LED ball that changes color depending on its movement.

The project is built around a series of 3D printed “arms” around a hollow core, each loaded with a strip of APA102 RGB LEDs. An Arduino Mega reads orientation data from an MPU6050 and changes the color of the LEDs based on that input. Two buttons attached to the Mega modify the way that the LEDs change color. The Mega, MPU6050, battery and power circuitry are mounted in the middle of the ball. The DotStar strips are stuck to the outside of the curved arms and the wiring goes from one end of the DotStar strip, up through the middle column of the ball to the top of the next arm. This means more complicated wiring but allows for easier programming of the LEDs.

Unlike [James’] other projects, this one is a quickie, but it works as a great introduction to programming DotStar LEDs with an Arduino, as well as using an accelerometer and gyro chip. The code and the CAD is up on Github if you want to create your own. [James] has had a few of his projects on the site before; check out his Open Dog project, but there’s also another blinky ball project as well.

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World’s Smallest LED Blinky

[Mike Harrison] is known for incredibly tiny soldering. Now he’s claiming a “world’s smallest” in the form of a stand-alone LED blinker, and we think he’s got the record.

He brought it along with him to Friday’s Beagleboard Bring-a-Hack, and we got a close look at the diminutive assembly. The project was dreamed up when [Mike] saw an announcement from Seiko about a new supercapacitor in a tiny package (likely the CPH3225A giving the blinky a footprint of 3.2 x 2.5 mm). With that in hand he added a PIC 10f322 microcontroller in a SOT23 package, an 0603 smoothing capacitor, and an SMD LED.

With such a tiny package, the trickiest part is figuring out how to charge that supercap. [Mike] used a drill and hand files to make a square hole in a CR2032 battery holder to serve as a jig. The bottom of the supercap rests against the battery as a pogo pin makes the second connection to a terminal on the side of his assembly. It charges quickly and will happily blink away for about six minutes after charging.

Mike set out to make two of these, but dropped the second supercap when at his workbench to be forever lost in the detritus common to every electronics workshop. When he first pulled it out at the meetup we were on a rooftop terrace and we were more than a bit concerned that this would just blow away. How do you begin to fabricate such a tiny assembly? He used UV cured epoxy to glue them together first, then somehow completed the soldering by hand!

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Badgelife: From 1 To 100

Blame it on the falling costs of printed circuit boards, the increased accessibility of hardware design tools, the fact that GCC works on microcontrollers now, whatever the ‘maker movement’ is, or any one of a number of other factors. There’s a hardware demoscene now. Instead of poking bits, writing code, and dividing by zero to create impressive multimedia demonstrations on a computer, there is a small contingent of very creative people who are building their own physical hardware, just for the hell of it. They’re pushing boundaries of what can be done with hardware design, demonstrating manufacturing know-how, and turning a (small) profit while doing it. This is badgelife, the tiny subculture dedicated to creating custom electronic conference badges.

At Hackaday, we’ve been doing a deep dive into the rigors of this demoscene of hardware, and last week we had the pleasure of hosting a meetup with some of the big players of the badgelife community as guests of honor. There were, of course, talks discussing the trials and tribulations of designing, manufacturing, and shipping hundreds of pieces of hardware on a limited budget with not enough time. If you want to know how hard electronic design and manufacturing can be, you want to check out these talks below. Continue reading “Badgelife: From 1 To 100”

BOM Cost Optimization and Tindie Badge Engineering

For the last few months, I’ve been up to my neck in electronic conference badges. This year, I created the single most desirable badge at DEF CON. I also built a few Tindie badges, and right now I’m working on the logistics behind the Hackaday SuperConference badge. Sit tight on that last one — we’re doing something really, really special next month.

Most badge projects are one-off production runs. This is to be expected from a piece of hardware that’s only meant to be distributed at a single event. The Tindie badge is different. It’s now a thing, and we’re building multiple badges for all the cons and conferences Hackaday and Tindie are attending for the rest of the year. This means I have the opportunity to do hardware revisions on the Tindie badge. Right now I’ve built three versions of the Tindie and we’ve distributed about two thousand of these kits at DEF CON, Maker Faire New York, and the Open Hardware Summit.

After about two thousand units, I think we finally have this down. This is how I designed three versions of hardware in as many months and cut the BOM cost of each badge in half. This is bordering on a marginally impressive piece of engineering, and a great lesson on BOM cost optimization.

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[David] hand soldered a Blinky ball… and you can too!

This is a blinky ball that [David] designed, built, and programmed himself. Does it look familiar? It should, he took his inspiration from the original prototype, and the Hackerspace-produced derivative. [David’s] version is not as small, or as blinky, but in our minds the development process is the real reason for building something like this. He took a great idea and figured out how he could pull it off while pushing his skill set, staying within his time and budget constraints.

The project is powered by an Arduino nano which resides in the core of the ball. [David] used protoboard sourced locally for each of the slices, soldering green LEDs along the curved edges, and added shift registers to drive them. The ball is driven by a LiPo battery which can power it for about 45 minutes. You can see the animation designs he coded in the clip after the break.

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Nodeblinky, rechargeable and full of blink


Over 2500 unique patterns and up to 25 hours of winky blinky fun, that’s what you get with Nodeblinky. This contraption was designed by the Image Node crew as a learning platform and a way to raise money for their upcoming Burning Man display.

The kit measures 4″ square and has 28 LEDs spread across its surface. An AVR ATmega168, rechargeable 9 volt battery, and two LED drivers power it. One section of their site states that it has over 2500 unique patterns, while another area says 5000 combinations of patterns. Either way, its pretty trippy as you can see in the video above. There are 4 brightness levels as well as 4 running modes to keep you amused. The kit can be purchased for $40 or the assembled unit for $80. They do freely give out all the details though, so if you really felt like building one yourself, you probably could.