NeoPixel Matrix Simulation Lets You Virtually Groove To The Lights

You are stuck at home quarantined and you want to do some Arduino projects. The problem is you don’t have all the cool devices you want to use. Sure, you can order them, but the stores are slow shipping things that aren’t essential these days. If you want to get a headstart while you are waiting for the postman, check out Wokwi’s Playground. For example, you can write code to drive a virtual NeoPixel 16×16 matrix. There’s even example code to get you started.

There are quite a few other choices in the playground including Charlieplexed LEDs, a keypad, and an LCD. There are also challenges. For example, in the traffic light challenge, you are given code that uses a task scheduler library to implement a traffic light. You have to add a turn signal to the code.

In addition to LEDs in various configurations, the site has some serial bus components, an LCD, a keypad, and a NeoPixel strip. There are also a few tools including an EasyEDA to KiCad converter and a way to share sourcecode similar to Pastebin.

Of course, simulations only get you so far, but the site is a fun way to play with some different I/O devices. It would be very nice if you could compose for the different components together, but you could work your code in sections, if necessary. You can do similar things with TinkerCad circuits. If you want to install software, there’s a simulator for you, too.

Seven-Segment Shelves Do Double Duty

[Lewis] of [DIY Machines] was always on the lookout for that perfect something to hang above the couch. After spending a lot of time fruitlessly searching, he designed and built this awesome shelving unit with recessed lighting that doubles as a huge 7-segment clock.

The clock part works as you probably expect — an Elegoo Nano fetches the time from a real-time clock module and displays it on the WS2812B LED strips arranged in 7-segment formations. There’s a photocell module to detect the ambient light level in the room, so the display is never brighter than it needs to be.

Don’t have a 3D printer yet? Then you may need to pass on this one. Aside from the wood back plane and the electronics, the rest of this build is done with printed plastic, starting with 31 carefully-designed supports for the shelves. There are also the LED strip holders, and the sleeve pieces that hide all the wires and give this project its beautifully finished look.

You may have noticed that the far left digit isn’t a full seven segments. If you’re committed to 24-hour time, you’d have to adjust everything to allow for that, but you’d end up with two more shelves. Given the fantastic build video after the break, it probably wouldn’t take too long to figure all that out.

We like big clocks and we cannot lie. If you have room for it, build something like this blinkenlit beauty.

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Latest FlexLED Milestone Refines The POV Display

With his FlexLED project, [Carl Bugeja] is trying to perfect a simple and affordable persistence of vision (POV) display capable of generating “holographic” characters in mid-air. Traditionally POV systems spin LEDs rapidly to create the desired illusion, but that means motors, slip rings, and noise. As the name implies, the goal with this project is to do away with all that and replace it with a self-actuating flexible PCB.

The device is able to quickly move the LEDs back and forth quietly and efficiently thanks to a permanent magnet and magnetic coils integrated into the flexible PCB. With no motors or gears, the whole unit is smaller and less complex than other POV displays. As an added bonus, there’s no danger to the operator or the device should a curious user stick their finger into it.

The last time we took a look at this project, [Carl] had entered an earlier single-LED version into the 2019 Hackaday Prize. Competition was tough last year, and unfortunately FlexLED didn’t get selected as a Finalist. But we’re still extremely interested in seeing the project develop, and we imagine so are you.

The recently completed second version of the display features an improved coil design, eight RGB LEDs and a 3D printed base with integrated magnet. With more LEDs onboard, a single display is able to show multiple characters and even rudimentary animations. A large array of these flapping elements promises to be quite a sight.

But before you get too excited, [Carl] does have some bad news. For one, the cost of building them in small quantities is high, which is always tough for a single hacker trying to iterate a design. Worse, some of the LEDs seem to have died on this prototype already. He says it likely has something to do with the stress of flexing back and forth so quickly, which is obviously a bit troubling. He’s looking to get some feedback from the community, and is hoping to address these issues in the next version.

For an interesting look into his flexible PCB actuator projects, check out the interview [Carl] did with us at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference.

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Levitating Starship Model Comes In For A Landing

If everything goes according to plan, Elon Musk says the first generation of SpaceX’s massive Starship will make an orbital flight before the end of 2020. That’s a pretty bold claim, but when you’ve made landing rockets on their tails as in the old science fiction pulp magazines seem routine, we suppose you’ve earned the right to a bit of bravado. We’re excited to see the vehicle evolve over the next several months, but even if the real one stays grounded, we’ll gladly take this “flying” Starship model from [Chris Chimienti] as a consolation prize.

A magnetic levitation module, we’re officially in the future.

Feeling a bit let down by the 3D printable models of the Starship he found online, [Chris] set out to build his own. But it wasn’t enough to just make his bigger, stronger, and more accurate to Starship’s current design; he also wanted to make it a bit more exciting. Some RGB LEDs an Arduino embedded in the “cloud” stand the rocket sits on was a good start, and the landing pad inspired by SpaceX’s real autonomous spaceport drone ship Just Read the Instructions looks great all lit up.

But this is Starship we’re talking about, a vehicle that could literally push humanity towards being a multi-planet species. To do it justice, you’ve really got to knock it out of the park. So [Chris] found a magnetic levitation module online that could support a few hundred grams, and set to work on making his plastic Starship actually hover over the landing pad.

As you might imagine, it was a bit tricky. The first versions of the rocket looked great but came out too heavy, so he switched over to printing the model in so-called “spiral vase mode” which made it entirely hollow. Now far lighter and with a magnetic plate fit into the bottom, it was stable enough to float on its own. For the final touch, [Chris] added some red LEDs and a coin cell battery to the base of the Starship so it looks like the sleek craft is performing a last-second landing burn with its “impossible” full-flow staged combustion engines.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a model rocket with an electronic glowing cloud under it, but it’s certainly the first one we’ve seen that could levitate in mid-air. While this little rocket might not make it all the way to Mars, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it touching down on the desks of other hackers and makers in the near future.

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Counter-Strike Gets The RGB LED Treatment

Inspired by the over-the-top stage lighting and pyrotechnics used during e-sport events, [Hans Peter] set out to develop a scaled-down version (minus the flames) for his personal Counter-Strike: Global Offensive sessions. It might seem like pulling something like this off would involve hacking the game engine, but as it turns out, Valve was kind enough to implement a game state API that made it relatively easy.

According to the documentation, the CS:GO client can be configured to send out state information to a HTTP server at regular intervals. It even provided example code for implementing a simple state server in Node.js, which [Hans] adapted for this project by adding some conditional statements that analyze the status of the current game.

These functions fire off serial commands to the attached Arduino, which in turn controls the WS2812B LEDs. The Arduino code takes the information provided by the HTTP server and breaks that down into various lighting routines for different conditions such as wins and losses. But things really kick into gear when a bomb is active.

[Hans] wanted to synchronize the flashing LEDs with the beeping sound the bomb makes in the game, but the API doesn’t provide granular enough data. So he recorded the audio of the bomb arming sequence, used Audacity to precisely time the beeps, and implemented the sequence in his Arduino code. In the video after the break you can see that the synchronization isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly close enough to get the point across in the heat of battle.

With the special place that Counter-Strike occupies in the hearts of hackers and gamers alike, it’s little surprise people are still finding unique ways to experience the game.

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MQTT And The Internet Of Conference Badges

Today, nearly every modern consumer device wants to connect to the Internet for some reason. From your garage door opener to each individual smart bulb, the Internet of Things has arrived in full force. But the same can’t be said for most of our beloved conference badges. Wanting to explore the concept a bit, [Ayan Pahwa] set out to create his own MQTT-connected badge that he’s calling CloudBadge.

As this was more of a software experiment, all of the hardware is off-the-shelf. The badge itself is an Adafruit PyBadge, which doesn’t normally have any networking capabilities, but does feature a Feather-compatible header on the back. To that [Ayan] added a AirLift FeatherWing which allows him to use the ESP32 as a co-processor. He also added a strip of NeoPixel LEDs to the lanyard, though those could certainly be left off if you’re not looking to call quite so much attention to yourself.

The rest was just a matter of software. [Ayan] came up with some code that uses the combined hardware of the PyPadge and ESP32 to connect to via MQTT. Once connected, the user is able to change the name that displays on the screen and the colors of the RGB LEDs through the cloud service. If you used something like this for an actual conference badge, the concept could easily be expanded to do things like flashing the badge’s LEDs when a talk the wearer wanted to see is about to start.

The modern conference badge has come a long way from simple blinking LEDs, offering challenges that you’ll likely still be working on long after the event wraps up. Concerns over security and the challenge of maintaining the necessary infrastructure during the event usually means they don’t include networking features, but projects like CloudBadge show the idea certainly has merit.

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Sleek, Sophisticated Skittle Sorter

Sorting candy by color is a classic problem that has its roots in the contract riders of rock stars who were just trying to make sure that more important contractual obligations were not being overlooked by concert venues. Through the years, candy sorting has become a classic problem for hobbyists to solve in various ways. After a false start a few years back, [little french kev] was compelled to dust off those plans and make the most compact sorter possible.

This minimalist beauty uses an Arduino Nano and RGB sensor to assess the color. At the top, a small servo rotates an arm inside the hopper that both shakes the Skittles and sets them up single file before the sensor. Another small servo spins the tube rack around to catch the rainbow. There’s an RGB LED in the base that bathes the tube from below in light that matches the Skittles. Check out the series of gifs on [little french kev]’s personal project site that show how each part works, and then watch the build video after the break.

Did you know you can roll your own color sensor from an RGB LED and a photocell? If you don’t think candy is so dandy, you could always color-sort your LEGO.

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