The BIG opening update for the next Fountain Show

If everything works out in the very end, this will be one of my best projects to date. And really, with everything that has happened so far, it has been one of my best projects to date even if nothing actually works yet. I’ve experimented and learned a lot and, even with the bouts of wanting to quit, I really want this project to work because, again, it will be my best.


I made a pool for the fountains out of scrap polypropylene sheets I got from work. I painted it all black because I thought it would benefit the lighting effects, as well as hide any imperfections better.

The white support beam running through the pool is where I would mount the fountain nozzles and LEDs.


I’m trying my best to keep things organized and clean. I drilled holes for the pump wiring so that there wouldn’t be any excess wiring sitting in the water. I also used a silver marker to label them.


Things started coming together as I had imagined. I used transparent tubing from the pumps to nozzles mounted on the support beam. The nozzles were made out of tubing that’s slightly more rigid. There’s also a smaller diameter tubing that I hot glued to the end to reduce the opening.


Looks good so far…


Heat shrink and electrical tape was good enough insulation with all of the water splashing every where. I decided to try another method of waterproofing certain connections which was to use short pieces of tubing and flooding it with hot glue on both ends. The connection in the picture is the splicing of the fountain wires to my own solid-core wire which is a likely point for failure.


Once I was satisfied with the tubing, I threw on some more black paint.


Next were the LEDs. They’re WS2812B modules (the little circle PCBs you find on eBay). I put them in little plastic cups to protect them from getting wet. They’re open on the bottomside but the LEDs are held inside of the cup with lots of hot glue anyway. I didn’t have any issues while testing them with water.


And here’s where things started falling apart…

I barely ever used paint until recently, so I learned the hard way that it’s not very water proof, at least when applied on smooth plastic surfaces. As soon as the water started flying, the paint started peeling.

The other concern I saw was the aim of the fountains. The nozzles are round and are attached to a round support beam, so, while it looks good by eye, it didn’t turn out very straight. The pumps struggle if the fountain streams are exactly vertical so I tend to shoot them slightly backward so they sort of look vertical when viewing the fountains from the front. Anyways, I have some ideas on how to fix this which you’ll see in a future post.

The pump on the far left didn’t seem to respond so it either got through my quick dry tests before building or I fried it while setting up.

Also, no idea where the foam and bubbles are coming from…


So clearly I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me. Main things on the task list:

  • Scrape off all of the black paint on the inside of the pool. The outside black paint is fine.
  • Double check all of the pumps.
  • Replace support beam and nozzles.
  • Add a drain to the pool somehow.

Thanks for reading!

Investing in the lights

A few days later after ordering a few things off of eBay, there’s now more to come. I did a little experimenting on the fountains yesterday and, well, I broke things.

IMG_0001One of the things I’m changing with the fountains is the power supply. I’m upping it to a 9v power supply. To make it easier to move around the project or to swap the power supply again, I’m using these 9v clip connectors. IMG_0003I started taking apart the fountains to set up my experiment. I will move the current-limiting resistors for the fountain LEDs from the mini-breadboard to a soldered perfboard. I’m also planning on soldering the shift register boards directly to the perfboard since these LEDs will be running off of shift registers the next time you see them. I still need to draw up a plan to confirm the number of pins I need and things like that.

IMG_0001Anyways, on to that experiment! There were a few of things I wanted to test. I had some ideas on new nozzle designs, as well as “piping” designs where the pump would be placed away from the actual nozzle outlet. The last thing was to see if the 9v power supply would play nice with my current setup.

The picture above is of a new nozzle design that takes cues from the experiment I did with the last light show. The opening is slightly larger this time and the flow is pretty decent. The flow gets a little rough as the height is increased or if the water is aimed directly straight up. Those are the limits to using the cheap materials and pumps I’m using. The easy work around is to not aim it directly up, which looks good enough for me.IMG_0002About the “piping” design… I was thinking about trying to isolate the pumps from the turbulent water caused from the water falling pretty much directly onto the water going into the pump, which does cause the pumps to fail at times. I started playing around with the straws I have and I think this is something I’ll be trying out the next time. Of course, the picture above is literally just playing around with water. You’re not going to see random straws sticking up from the pool in the show. 😛IMG_0003This was the aftermath of those piping experiments. I’m pretty satisfied with my short experiments. To sum up, the pumps will be at the back of the pool and the nozzles positioned away from the pumps using the straws. They’ll sport that new nozzle design (though I’m still working on being able to reproduce them consistently). Now about that 9v power supply…IMG_0004It seems as though I’ve burned out three of the 5 transistor circuits. I used 2N4401 transistors because I already had them when I was building the circuit for the fountains. I’ll be moving to mosfets as I’ve always wanted to.

Those mosfets have been ordered on eBay. I also ordered some more of these 5x7cm perfboards, and five more water pumps. I’m not so sure we’ll see all 10 water fountains in the next show (but anything is possible, right?). I mostly ordered them as spares.

So that’s it for now. The project is again on the backburner as I wait for things to come in. Thanks for reading!

A closer look at Light Show 7

IMG_0659It’s time to take a guided tour around the newest light show! In case you missed it, the newest show was released yesterday.

IMG_0634I kind of consider the new light show as the second generation of the first fountain show. However, there was so much more added that I couldn’t let it be an incremental update like version 5, 5.1 and 5.2. This was a great situation where I could sit back and watch the previous version and the current version back to back and see the improvements.

Something I wanted to focus on was to use the fountains better. With the backdrop and spotlights, it was a little easier, but looking back I found that there were too many dark moments in the first fountain show.

I tried to address the reliability issues from the previous version with a new nozzle design (even though it wasn’t perfect, at least I tried) and using wire to brace the nozzles to better hold its direction. It’s one challenge of the show that will continue until I come up with a better permanent solution.
IMG_0538The servo spotlights is something that I tried keeping a secret (I should stop doing that). I was a little too conservative with them, but the show still wouldn’t be the same without them. In the next show, I’d like to work on hiding the wiring and gearboxes of the servos.IMG_0664The backdrop performed well, though it still had the lighting issue I was afraid of. If there is more than one color on, the colors start washing out into white or an unwanted blended color. Still, some of the chasing effects look good.IMG_0406The light shows have never been overly complicated to wire since I used to give each LED its own pin on the Arduino Mega. In this version, I decided to use shift registers since I had made some shift register boards in my Eagle experiments and hadn’t used them yet. This actually made life easier because just a few wires have to run back to the microcontroller which is closer to the fountains. Without the shift registers, I’d be running a ton of wires back, and I barely had enough wire as it was. The only downside to shift registers is that programming takes a little more time to get right.

All in all, I’m happy with the results. I hope you enjoyed the show and I hope you’ll share it with others. Thanks for reading and happy holidays! Stay tuned for my last couple posts for the year!

Arduino Light Show #7 Debut: “Make A Wish”

My PHP script on the Light Show website ended up releasing the shows a day early so I figured why not… I’m proud to present the newest version of the Arduino Light Show Project with this holiday special! Enjoy!

A detailed build overview is coming up soon. Stay tuned!


Light Show 7 Journal Entry #9: Decisions.

We’re less than a week away from the new Light Show. I’ve been on the fence about a few decisions but things are coming together.IMG_0524I was trying to debut the new version of the Light Show with more than one show but it’s not going to happen. The fountains are still a big headache trying to get under control so I didn’t have time to mix together a soundtrack and get to programming. The good news is I have a new show programmed. It’s a holiday themed show that I said I’d be satisfied with if that is the only thing I manage to complete. I am satisfied. Sort of.

Like I said, the fountains are difficult to manage sometimes. As the programming day moves along, the fountains start losing pressure because of the makeshift nozzles. They also shift and start pointing in weird directions, sometimes affecting the flow of other fountains. It took several shoots to get a video where the performance goes on well, and even then there are still flaws. I try not to let it bug me. I’m just happy I have something done in time for the holidays.

IMG_20141215_204549After I got it recorded, I decided to try a new design of the nozzles. Before, I would just squeeze the nozzles and tape them so that they’re slightly smaller. They were able to bring up the level of the fountains to a decent height but they weren’t reliable or consistent. For this design, I cut the straw down the middle, then taped them so that the opening is smaller.
IMG_0661The fountain streams are much more consistent and are able to go higher, but there are drawbacks that make it appear even worse than the original. I can’t really make the fountains go to their full potential for too long because the water ends up falling outside of the basin (though they perform best when that happens…) and the LED color doesn’t transfer all the way up the stream. The faded colors with the new nozzles really makes some of the sequences lose their effect.

On release day (December 23), there will be three videos: The version with the original nozzles, the same version from an alternate view, and the second version with the new nozzles and minor tweaks to the performance. Each video has its pros and cons so I’m not really sure which one to label as the “main” video. The idea was to have a main video and then the other two labeled as extras. I still have some time to figure that out though.

Thanks for reading! I don’t expect to post any more updates. Come back on December 23rd for the debut and some pictures!

Light Show 7 Journal Entry #8: Guests in the front row will get wet!

I did some testing with the fountains… I’ll spare you the pictures of my flooded floor.
IMG_0501The nozzles have always been a huge problem with this project. The pumps do not have enough pressure to get a good height with its original opening size. I squeeze the nozzles, which are just plastic drinking straws, to make the opening smaller, then I add tape around it to keep it that way. It is very unpredictable, but it’s the only method I’ve come up with so far. If I ever get into 3D printing, this will be one of the first things I try.

Anyways, this second go at the fountains seems to be going somewhat better. From what I can tell, I’m getting about the same height or slightly even higher. I can only go as high as the weakest fountain, and I also want to limit the amount of splashing going on.

Something I tried this time was to add “braces” to the fountains. I’m using solid core wire again, attaching the edge of the basin to each nozzle. Their purpose is to try and center the fountains. They can’t be completely straight up in the air because the pump starts to struggle so they’re slightly aimed toward the back. At least, that’s the goal anyway.IMG_0502I try to calibrate the fountains to find what value of analogWrite for each fountain will give me a uniform maximum height. With the nozzle situation, it doesn’t stay consistent so I’m constantly adjusting them. The analogWrite values are attached to variables so it’s simple enough to modify. I’ve been doing that since the first show.

I’m not really sure what to show you in the next update. I’ll tell you now that all elements of the build are complete. There are certain things that I would like to keep secret for now because you’ll be able to figure out certain sequences I’m planning for the show. We’ll see! Thanks for reading!

Light Show 7 Journal Entry #7: Prepping the fountains

IMG_0492Remember these guys? They’ve been sitting around since the first fountain show with the tape and nozzles removed. Everything was still connected to the Mega so it was just a matter of taping everything back into place. I did try some new methods in setting certain things up which, hopefully, leads to a better build this time.

I bought some new straws for the nozzles. These straws were a perfect fit for the inner diameter of the pump outputs. They’re still too big to get enough pressure so I’ll have to adjust them again in the testing phase.IMG_0493The wires were in good shape with the exception of a few wires that were too long. It was just a matter of trimming some down. It’s not as messy as it was before.
IMG_0496This time, instead of taping each LED to the actual nozzle, I attached the LEDs to a piece of solid core wire that spans the length of the basin. I used wire because it wouldn’t be affected by the water and would be rigid enough to stay in place.

That’s it for the fountains being set back into place. In the next post, you’ll get to see the fountains in action again. Stay tuned!