Getting in the groove

I actually ordered something like 100 LEDs so that I’d have many spares if and when I messed up. With so many LEDs lying around, I decided to expand my light show using all of the colors I had. The result was this monstrosity:


With the new layout, I also made mixed soundtracks to program the sequence to. The songs were somewhat a bizarre mix. There was a track from Cedar Point’s Luminosity, Canada’s Wonderland’s Starlight Spectacular, and other pop songs that were overplayed at the time.

The lights would go out after the last video for almost a month and a bit short of a year. This was a summer project and I didn’t have much time to program these shows while being in school. The Arduino was eventually used for a school project which I ended up selling off, Arduino and all. The light show story will continue tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

When the lights first appeared


The reason I bought my first Arduino was to make my computer programs jump out into the real world. In my programming classes, I was used to displaying numbers and text on the screen, and sometimes even using graphical simulators with images of lights, switches, and other I/O devices. At the time, I was mesmerized by the sights and sounds of World of Color at Disney California Adventure theme park (though I’ve never actually seen it in person). That was my inspiration for creating my own light show.

Like most of my cardboard and tape projects, nothing I ever make is really permanent. All of my LED configurations are done on a breadboard. Even in the earlier versions, I didn’t even clip down the legs of the LEDs! With everything on a breadboard, the physical layout of the LEDs can change so easily and it can expand what I can do in terms of different sequences that look good. The very first layout was a simple row of LEDs in groups of three, as seen in the following video.

I do apologize for the quality of basically everything in that video… The only reason it’s still up is so you can compare my first light show with my recent ones. The difference is quite nice.

In the next post, we’ll see the first upgrade of my little show. I plan to cover all of the upgrades and other notes by Thursday, before the debut of my newest show on friday (that shows off a new minor, yet very useful, modification!). Stay tuned!

Can you hear me now?

Frank is not one of a kind. There are plenty of robots just like it. The tutorial for using the ultrasonic range sensor is basically the core of a robot like this (the sensor plus some logic and servos). With that, I wanted to add some special touches.

As other people have commented, there are some personal touches that give Frank some personality. It begins with the smile on his face!

One of the features that made it into the project is the speaker. Like I said in the last post, the speaker was from a lab kit from school that we never used. With the speaker, Frank can now give some audible feedback. At this point, he sings a couple snippets of songs with the push of a button, which is a little unintuitive since you have to chase after him to push it. This is a result of when things don’t work out the way you wanted or expected.


Arduino is easy to shop for with plug-and-play boards readily available. I bought that sound sensor pictured above. The description for the product said where to plug in three wires and you’re off. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be that simple. Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t get any change in analog readings unless I blow air at it. In tutorial videos, a simple snap is enough for it to detect a change in sound, so I’m kind of stumped. Some quick searching leads me to believe that these aren’t the greatest sensors to work with. My hope was that a clap would start and stop Frank, and a double clap would have him sing. I hope to eventually get it working. Eventually.

Other than that, that was more or less the plan with my budget being $100 (which I used almost completely on budget).

With what Frank is now, I want to work on making him a little more aware of his surroundings, particularly a wall that he will hit on one of his corners. I hate to say it, but other than some code clean up, I haven’t really worked on it since I released that video of him. I also want to work more with the speaker, add some additional songs, maybe give some personality feedback (like “hello” in tones or screaming).

I’m currently back at my LED shows, hoping to have a new one ready for Friday. There’s a minor change that has created additional sequences for me, but I haven’t even covered the original hardware configurations here yet! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

“Frank” the robot makes his debut

My past Arduino projects haven’t been ones you’d associate with the word “robot”. I finally wanted to dive into the conventional sense of the robot and build a basic roaming robot that I would add onto. With that, “Frank” was born (not sure where I got the name from, but I like it).

I got a lot of inspiration from just Googling “Arduino robot”. There were many other robots already existing that look just like Frank — but made of better materials. I really don’t mind my projects having exposed wires and cardboard everywhere. With everything looking makeshift, it reminds you that you made dis.

My planning started with picking a microcontroller. I’ve only used Arduino Mega compatibles before but for a project that I knew wouldn’t need so many I/O’s and that would have a smaller footprint, I went with the Uno (a real one). I got all of the parts off of except for a tactile button and a switch I harvested from an old RC car, and an 8-ohm speaker I got with a school lab kit but we never used. They’ve got a Montreal warehouse so their cheapest shipping (around $6) usually takes just a day or too.


Frank is equipped with an ultrasonic range sensor that will detect if there’s something in front of him so he can react appropriately. He moves around using two continuous rotation servo motors. That’s pretty much the base objective I was going for, and I’m satisfied to say that I’ve completed that, though there is still some fine-tuning to do. If he’s not going completely parallel to a wall next to him and just slightly going toward it, he’ll eventually crash into it because he’s only looking forward. I tried to have his head turn to look around him but it wasn’t working so he’s just looking straight ahead for now.

So now that I had a base, I wanted to add my little (almost gimmicky) features. On the underside of his carriage, there is the 8-ohm speaker. ┬áRight now he can sing a bit of Vengaboys’ Vengabus and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. There will definitely be more added to his repertoire eventually.


The next post about Frank will talk about features that didn’t work and future feature additions. I’ll also be cleaning up the code, hopefully making him a bit smarter. Thanks for reading!

Code is available here.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by!

This blog will act as a construction journal as I build my electronics projects, eventually becoming a portfolio of sorts. I’ve already got a bunch of projects to show you so I’ll be playing catch up and posting about each project, probably in the order they were built (though I may start off with my most recent project).

As the tagline hints, I’m also a coaster enthusiast so I may post trip reports, industry news and opinions from time to time. And I wouldn’t leave nonsense ramblings out of the question either…

I hope to see you back here soon!