The LED tree itself , filmed in the dark - a myriad of small orbs glowing mictures of green, blue and warm white

Kaleidoscope – Feelings Turned Into LED Tree

In 2020, [Eddie] found himself with a few hundred RGB LEDs left after a pandemic-interrupted project, and a slew of emotions he wanted to express – so he turned to the language of hardware, and started sculpting his feelings into an art project. He set out to build an LED tree around a piece of wood he picked for its cool shape, and trying out a long-shelved idea of his, while at it – using different resistors to mix colors of the RGB LEDs. The end result, pictured above, has earned “The Most Important Device” spot in our recent Sci-Fi contest, fair and square.

Initially, he wanted to use ATTiny microcontrollers and PWM all the lights in parallel. Having built an intermediate prototype, a small LED flower, he scrapped the idea due to technical problems, and then simplified it by hard-wiring RGB LEDs with randomly selected colors instead. As for the glowing orbs themselves, he made these just by pouring hot glue into silicon orb molds, a simple technique any of us could repeat. After 90 hours of work between him and an assistant he hired, the LEDs were wired up, each with random resistors connected to green and blue LED colors, and some warm white LEDs added into the mix.

He wanted to mostly use blue and green colors, as symbols of a world revived and revitalized – something we can’t help but keep our fingers crossed for. Before putting it all together, they wouldn’t know which colors each of the LEDs would power up in – part of the charm for this art piece, and no doubt a pleasant surprise. In the end, it turned out to be a futuristic decoration that we’re glad a camera could capture properly! If you like what you see, the build logs linked above have a bit more insights into how it all came together.

LED-adorned plants are fun projects that bring joy for a long time after you’ve finished them. You can easily make a LED tree out of what you have on hand, and if you get real fancy, you can create an intricate bonsai, too. And, if you’re ever interested to experiment with castellations, you can design yourself some PCB cube flowers!

This project was an entry into the 2022 Sci-Fi Contest. Check out all of the winning entries here.

Play Runescape IRL

Runescape is pushing nearly 21 years old, and while that’s quite a long time for a game to stay active with an engaged userbase, it’s also a long time for people to modify the game in all kinds of colorful ways. For some older games like Team Fortress 2 this means spinning up a bot to ruin servers, but for Runescape the hacks are a little more lighthearted and fun. Like this axe which allows [BigFancyBen] to play Runescape in real life.

This is more of an augmented reality hack which upgrades his normal human interface device from a simple keyboard and mouse to also include this axe. When the axe is manipulated in real life, the in-game axe can be used at the same time. There are a lot of layers to this one but essentially a Switch joycon is connected to the axe to sense motion, which relays the information on axe swings to an API via a Python script. A bot in the game then chops the virtual tree, which is reported back to the API which then reports it back to [BigFancyBen]’s viewscreen which is additionally streamed on Twitch.

While this started off as frustration with the game’s insistence on grinding in order to reach certain objectives, it seems that there are some fun ways of manipulating that game mechanic for the greater good. [BigFancyBen] originally said he would rather go to the gym than “click anymore rooftops”  this is quite the start on the full IRLScape world. Don’t forget that it’s equally possible to take this type of build in the opposite direction and control real-world things from inside a video game.

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This RGB Tree Has Its Roots In A PCB

[Paczkaexpress]’s RGB tree is a mix of clever building techniques and artistic form that come together into quite a beautiful sculpture.

The branches of his tree are made from strands of enameled copper wire capped with an RGB LED and terminated in a female header. The separate wires are all wound and sculpted into the form of a tree. The wire is covered in a very thin layer of plastic, which we highly recommend observing under a microscope, that allow it to maintain a uniform and reflective copper color without shorting, adding to the effect.

The part we found an especially pleasing mix of form and function was how the “roots” of the tree clicked home in the PCB base. The PCB holds the STM32, power components, and an LED Driver. It doesn’t hide how the magic works, and the tree really does get its nutrients from the soil it’s planted in. This would be a fun kit to build. Very clever and you can see the final effect after the break.

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Helicopter Chain Saw

Among the most dangerous jobs in the United States are timberjack and aircraft pilot. Combining the two wouldn’t sound like a recipe for success, but in fact it makes the job of trimming trees near pipelines and power lines much safer. That’s what this helicopter-suspended chainsaw does. And it definitely doesn’t look safe, either, but here we are.

The saw is equipped with ten two-foot diameter saws and is powered by a 28 horsepower engine which is separate from the helicopter itself. The pilot suspends the saw under the helicopter and travels along the trees in order to make quick work of tree branches that might be growing into rights-of-way. It’s a much safer (and faster) alternative that sending out bucket trucks or climbers to take care of the trees one-by-one.

Tree trimming is an important part of the maintenance of power lines especially which might get overlooked by the more “glamarous” engineering aspects of the power grid. In fact, poor maintentance of vegitation led to one of the largest blackouts in recent history and is a contributing factor in a large number of smaller power outages. We can’t argue with the sentiment around the saw, either.

An IoT Christmas Tree You’re Invited To Control

We love IoT gadgets, but are occasionally concerned that they might allow access to the wrong kind of hacker. In this case, [Kevin] has created an IoT tree that allows anyone to control the pattern of lights, and he’s invited you to do so!

We played with the tree a bit, and the web interface is fairly powerful. For each LED, you can select either a random color or a keyframe-defined pattern. For the keyframe LEDs, you can create a number of “keyframes”, each of which is defined by a color and a transition, which can be either linear, quarter sine wave, or instantaneous (“wall”). Additional keyframes can be added for each LED, and if don’t specify a pattern for all the LEDs, the system repeats those you have defined to fill the entire string. There are also a few preset patterns you can choose if you prefer. If you, too, want to play with the tree, don’t delay: it’s only available through the first week of 2019!

Behind the scenes, an aging Raspberry Pi provides the local brains driving the LED controller and streaming the video, while a cloud server running a Redis instance allows communication with the web. The interface to the string of WS2811 LEDs uses [Kevin]’s Kinetis LK26 breakout board, which he managed to get working despite the state of tools and documentation for the Kinetis ARM family. You can read a good discussion of the system on his blog; there are a surprisingly large number of pieces that need to work together. As usual, he provides all the source code for this project on GitHub.

We’ve seen [Kevin]’s work before, including his 73-LED wristwatch, and adventures developing on an STM32 from scratch.

But, if it’s IoT Christmas trees that have got you thinking, you can check out this one from last year.

An IoT Christmas Tree For Your Hacker-Mas Celebrations

Smart Christmas trees may soon come to mean something more than a fashionably decorated tree. Forging ahead with this new definition, [Ayan Pahwa], with help from [Akshay Kumar], [Anshul Katta], and [Abhishek Maurya] turned their office’s Christmas Tree into an IoT device you can watch live!

As an IoT device, the tree relies on the ever-popular ESP8266 NodeMCU — activated and controlled by Alexa, as well as from a web page. The LEDs for the tree — and the offline-only tree-topper controlled by an Arduino Pro Mini — are the similarly popular Neopixels.

For those viewing online, a Raspberry Pi and camera have been attached to this project to check out the tree’s lighting. To make that possible, [Pahwa] had to enlist the use of ngrok to make the Pi’s –normally — LAN-only camera server accessible over the internet. The aforementioned web page was coded in Javascript/CSS and hosted on a server running an instance of Ubuntu 16.04.

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A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!

For all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, people still find ways to make time for their passions. In the lead up to Christmas, [Edwin Mol] and a few co-workers built themselves an LED Christmas tree that adds a maker’s touch to any festive decor.

Before going too far, they cut out a cardboard mock-up of the tree. This an easy step to skip, but it can save headaches later! Once happy with the prototype, they printed off the design stencils and cut the chunks of clear acrylic using power tools — you don’t need a laser cutter to produce good stuff — and drilled dozens of holes in the plastic to mount LEDs, and run wires.

A Raspberry Pi 3 and Arduino Uno make this in league with some pretty smart Christmas trees. MAX6968 5.5V constant-current LED driver chips and MOFSETs round out the control circuit. During the build, the central LED column provided a significant challenge — how often do you build a custom jig to solder LEDs? That done, it’s time for a good ol’-fashioned assembly montage! The final product can cycle through several different lighting animations in a rainbow of colours — perfect for a festive build. Continue reading “A Clear Christmas Tree Means More Lights!”