A closer look at the Arduino Light Show 5.2

I’m not quite ready to take down the latest Arduino Light Show stage but it’s been sitting around collecting dust, literally which you will see in the photos below. I want to take you through a photo tour and provide some notes on the build.
IMG_1557One of the things I first noticed about the horizontal light bar is that, at a certain angle, it makes a neat effect where you see the light of each LED on the bar.IMG_1562Once the light bar is moved away from that angle, the effect is gone. At another specific angle, the light from the bar colors the area below where the floor LEDs are. The red had the most dramatic effect.IMG_1578Some day I’d like to figure out a way of being able to see a beam of light from the LEDs so that having them positioned like in the photo above would be more dramatic, especially on camera. I’m fairly certain the LEDs would have to be more high powered and somehow focused so they can be more of a spotlight. My other idea is using fog. These are just ideas, ideas that I doubt I would ever go through with.
IMG_1580Let’s take a closer look at the build with the room lights on. These are the transistors I used for the light bar. Since one Arduino pin would be controlling six LEDs, it needed transistors to supply more current than the maximum 40mA the Arduino pin can source. I’ve always had a fear of transistors, mostly because I’d get lost trying to do calculations. I’m going to keep working on it…IMG_1581Here’s what the stage looks like. The darkness and colored lights tend to hide its imperfections.IMG_1582I always love taking a top view to show off the mess of wires.IMG_1583Here’s a close up of the light bar. The four wires coming off of the board are stranded wire where the connection to the perfboard is reinforced with some hot glue. I always do that when I’m dealing with stranded wire which, thankfully, isn’t very often.IMG_1590The final picture is a side view of the floor LEDs. I covered some of the construction of this board of LEDs. It was a lot of soldering and my first time using heat shrink. The diffused LED that’s taped to the table is one of the two floodlight LEDs.

So that’s my tour of the Arduino Light Show 5.2. I’m not really sure what’s next. I feel like I could move on now. We’ll see. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next blog post which will cover some of the techniques I use to program the light shows.

EERef Version 2.0 now available!

compareI am happy to announce a major update release of my Electronics Engineering Reference Windows program! The past few minor updates have been focused on the design but I felt like I was going in the wrong direction. Version 2 is a shift to a completely new design and layout. It’s a lot more polished this time around.

new1Each section now has a dedicated window with everything, including the tutorials. Pretty much everything is contained in the main program window so there’s no reason to open a bunch of other smaller windows. Removing those windows actually shaved off a third of the program’s file size.

The new design allows for the program window to be resized and maximized. There are just a couple sections that will stretch with it, but the ones that don’t really don’t need to.
new2I was going for that “flat” UI that’s trending these days. There’s a lot of Segoe UI font in there so hopefully you have it installed on your PC.

Besides the new design, a new feature is the Essential Formulas section which is just a quick reference to basic formulas. I hope to continue building on it to make it larger and to include calculators. I also fixed a bug in the number systems calculator that told you there was an overflow error if the result was 1.

Download it now!

EERef: Update 2 (Releasing Friday!)

Since the last update, some great things have happened. I’m excited to share some good news!


I put up a website for this project. I’m in a love-hate relationship with WordPress because there’s not much I can do with the themes. I’ll still put up a project page on this blog eventually, but I’m focused on the Google Drive site because it actually plays a role in the program.

The Visual Basic program will connect to a page hosted on Google Drive that will pass it information. This allows me to push update information to the Visual Basic program on your computer. It doesn’t actually push the information, though, you have to check for updates manually. This is the only thing in the program that needs an internet connection.

If you look at the website I linked earlier, you will see the program features. All of the features listed there are complete at this point, and they are all of the features I wanted to have as part of the initial launch. I still have plans for more content so that’s why having a way to send update information was important to me. There will be update posts here and on my Google+ page.

With all of that said, the initial release will be this Friday! From now ’til then, I’ll just be testing the program and going over the content for mistakes. I also need to decide the version number. I don’t think it’ll be 1.0.

Thanks for visiting! I hope you’ll give it a try on Friday!

Arduino Light Show 3: ShiftPWM Test

Planning for my new Arduino Light Show, now into its third version, has begun! 1I decided to try something new to get more RGB LEDs into the show. I followed this tutorial to set up 8 RGB LEDs.3The circuit wasn’t very hard to set up. Other than some colors being accidentally swapped, I didn’t run into any issues with it.2I think this really sets this next light show up for some really good sequences. The plan is to expand the number of RGB LEDs driven by this method to 16. This is in addition to the 70 pins available to me on the Arduino Mega, 12 of which are PWM (allows for fading and dimmed LEDs).

Here’s a quick clip of the rainbow sequence that’s included in the shiftPWM library:

I’m still working on the stage plan. I want to keep it somewhat simple but I also want it to look impressive. It’ll be a while. In the meantime, check out my previous shows.

The final go.

And that’s a wrap on this one! This project will be coming down shortly so I can regroup for a new project into the new year.

The biggest thing I learned from this one is that simplicity can still work. There were a number of different elements to this show that I didn’t know how to handle it all at the same time. I felt like the first light shows I made with servos were easier to move forward with. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep exploring new ideas, though.

I’ll probably post a few destruction pictures. It always stinks taking a project down but I’m ready to try something new.

Last chance

I’ve been close to just scrapping the new light show now but I’m giving it one more go. I have finally used up all 70 pins on the Arduino Mega. There were 9 pins still open since the Christmas Special, so where were they used?


Two more border LEDs were added. Also, the green and red LEDs were swapped out for all whites.


The last seven open pins were given two these background LEDs. Two bundles of red, green, and blue LEDs will illuminate the area behind the towers (you can kind of see the effect in the first picture). The last pin was given to a single white LED in the middle.

These background LEDs were originally going to remedy my issue of not being able to shine any light on the breadboard LEDs since the towers get in the way of the spotlights. I couldn’t do it because I ran out of jumper wires. In fact, the background LEDs were wired using wires taken from Greg the robot. Don’t worry, he still functions, he just doesn’t have any LEDs anymore.

The very last change is seen in the last picture. I play around with the configuration of the breadboard LEDs but it’s not very noticeable when I record the video and because it’s so subtle. In the next video, I do plan on recording the show a little bit higher. It’s just that I found the camera stays in focus better if it’s stable so I’ll need to find something taller (I’ve actually been using the PLC trainer as a stand).

So that’s it. I plan on doing one very very short song before the end of the year. I will probably scrap the project in favor of a refresh for the beginning of 2014. Thanks for reading!

PREMIERE — Christmas Special 2013

Yesterday I made a post about what I envisioned when I was building the show. Now that it’s out there, it’s a little easier to make a few more notes about the show.

  • The original tracklist was “Spirit of the Season” (Alan Silvestri) , “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Mariah Carey), “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano), and “Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday” (Nsync).
    • “Feliz Navidad” was changed to the Glee version because it wasn’t as upbeat. I dislike Glee, but their rendition of Feliz Navidad was good.
    • Spirit of the Season was cut to just that short opening bit because I made it half way through the song but it was just dragging on. At that point, I lost a lot of motivation which is why Mariah Carrey’s track disappeared completely.
    • All of these revisions of the soundtrack resulted in a very short show. I suppose it’s better than nothing.
  • One thing I was counting on was having the servo LEDs shine onto the breadboard but the neighboring towers prevent it from doing so. If I keep up with this setup, I will have to move them around.
  • The last spotlight at the end of Feliz Navidad is supposed to be bowing, a homage to World of Color at Disney California Adventure.
  • I know it seems early for a Christmas show but if Disney parks can do it, why can’t I?

I hope you enjoyed it! Happy holidays!