LED Pin People

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A quick and easy way to make light-up pin people! There are endless possibilities for variations on this basic concept. This method uses magnets to serve two purposes: to hold up the LED + wire pin person and to connect the negative LED leg to the battery.

 

 

 


Materials

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  • LED
  • Coin cell battery + case
  • Wire Any type that is solid core, preferably insulating or w/ insulation. If you do use conductive wire, you can modify the design to incorporate it into the battery switch mechanism.
  • Magnet Be sure to get a strong magnet that will hold the weight of your pin person + LED. Rare earth/Neodynium are ideal.
  • Safety pin; clip off ~ 1/2 inch of the sharp end

After a variety of methods, this was the one that worked best for me. It is studier than wire, and works perfectly for a backing of the pin.

To make a simple cap for the sharp point, dab some hot glue onto the wire person or use pliers to re-use the cover on the original safety pin.

Tools

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  • Wire clippers
  • Hot glue gun
  • Soldering iron This was only used for the safety pin + positive battery connection. If unavailable, can use hot glue to hold the safety pin in place but be sure to maintain electrical connectivity.
  • Optional: Multimeter

Build it! Pt. 1: Make the Wire Person

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  1. Cut about 1 ft of wire
  2. Make a loop in the middle of the wire and twist for ~ 1 inch.
  3. Shape the arms and hands; make a loop ~ 1 inch beyond the torso and twist wires together. Wrap once around the body, then make the other arm and hand.IMG_5851
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  4. Shape the legs + feet in the same way as the arms but make them slightly longer.
  5. Position the wire person into desired motion; running, rock climbing, walking a dog, etc.

Pt. 2: Battery BackingIMG_5802

  1. Solder the clipped safety pin end to the positive battery clip lead. If soldering iron isn’t available, use hot glue to secure the safety pin end in place.
  2. Place the magnet so that it touches the negative battery clip lead. Hot glue it in place. You may need to bend the battery lead into the magnet a bit.
  3. Check connections by touching the LED to the magnet + safety pin. The longer LED leg is the positive side.

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Pt. 3: Attach the LED

  1. IMG_5768Determine where you want to place the LED.
    Maybe your pin person has accessories, like a flashlight, and it would make sense for the LED to go there. Cool! Go for it.
  2. Mark the negative side of the LED with a sharpie.
  3. Twist the LED legs onto the pin person, leaving ~ 1/4 in of each leg sticking out.
    Be sure that the LED legs are insulated (aka not touching).
  4. IMG_5770Using the battery clip, orient the LED legs so that the negative leg connects with the magnet and the positive leg rests on the safety pin.

Done!

That’s it! Super simple and tons of possible extensions with all the random stuff you can find around the house. Happy building!

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Simple LED Earrings

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Wearables are an awesome, relatively new extension of circuits. Conductive threads & fabrics make it easy to attach components like LEDs and sensors to clothing/accessories. Plus, they are a super fun introduction to electronics!

These LED earrings were designed b/c I wanted a wearable that was simple, unique, and could be built by-hand w/ available materials. Purchasing all materials adds up to less than $10, and these can be built in ~ 1 hour (although it does take some patience).

For this tutorial I’m assuming you are an electronics beginner. Regardless of your background, I hope this project inspires you to design your own wearable technology or take the basic concepts to the next level 🙂

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Step 1: Materials

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— 2 LEDs
Fun fact: LEDs on the higher end of the rainbow (red, orange, & yellow) use less power than colors on the lower end (purple, blue, & green).

— 2 Lithium coin cell batteries, 3 V
Mine are non-rechargeable and will probably last for ~20 hours. If you want to make them to last longer, use rechargeable batteries (super expensive but worth it if you want to wear the earrings long-term).

— Thread— Conductive Thread
Used to attach the LED to the battery. Alternatively, you can use wire or anything else that conducts.. like magnets!Also, since conductive thread loops tend to come undone, I hot glued all the knots to hold them together.

— 2 earring backs
— 2 clasps
These act as a switch so the LED can be turned off when not in use. I had some necklace clasps on hand which worked perfectly, but there are tons of options for switches.. all you need is a way to interrupt the flow of electricity.
–Tape
I used conductive tape, but honestly regular tape works just as well.
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Step 2: Tools

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— Hot glue gun
— Scissors
— Needle
Recommended to get a needle w/ a wide eye b/c the conductive thread has a tendency to fray.
— Optional: wire cutters
Helps w/ cutting the ends of the LEDs.
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Step 3: Build it! Pt 1: Wrap the battery.

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Wrap the battery w/ 1.5 – 2 feet of (normal) thread. To make it easier, tape the beginning end of the thread to the back of the battery. Leave at least 6 inches of thread at the end.

When finished wrapping, loop the end of the thread under the band and pull tight. Repeat this a few times, then make a knot. Tape the end/thread band down.
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Step 4: Build it! Pt. 2: Attach earring back.

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Loop the 6 in. tail of the the thread band through the hole in the earring back. Use the needle to loop the thread under the band & pull tight, kind of like sewing a button. Repeat at least ten times, or until the thread runs out, then tie a knot.
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Step 5: Build it! Pt. 3: Attach the Positive LED Leg.

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Tie 6 inches of conductive thread to the positive (longer) leg of the LED. Loop the conductive thread through the bottom of the battery thread band and pull through, leaving the LED ~ 1/2 inche (in.) below the battery. Pull the conductive thread down, so it is only touching the front cover (positive side) of the battery.

Loop the conductive thread around the battery thread band at least five times, then tie a knot. Hot glue the conductive thread knots w/ the littlest amount of glue to help hold it in place.
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Step 6: Build it! Pt. 4: Attach Clasp.

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Attach the clasp (aka switch) to the back of the battery w/ ~ 6 in. conductive threadin the same way the earring back was attached: thread the end of the earring back through the thread band on the battery, above the tape, and pull it tight. Repeat at least five times. Tie a knot and hot glue the thread to hold it in place.
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Step 7: Build it! Pt. 5: Attach Negative LED Leg.

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Tie the other end of the clasp/switch to 6 in. conductive thread. Tie the end of the conductive thread to the negative, shorter leg of the LED, leaving ~ 1/2 in. from the bottom of the battery. Hot glue the knots.

Connecting the two ends of the clasps helps w/ finding the right length.. or you could use a ruler 🙂

Be sure that the LED legs and the respective thread/wires do not touch; otherwise the battery is shorted and the LED won’t turn on.
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Step 8: Done! Woo!

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That’s it! Clean up the mess that is hot glue, snip the ends of the conductive thread and, if you’re not going to put them on right away or take photos, unscrew the clasps.

And have fun dazzling your friends and all that good stuff 🙂
Note: The reason the green one isn’t as bright is probably because the battery was quite bit older.

Setting up a Raspberry Pi to Control Physical Objects, Pt. 1

RaspberryPiLogosmallThere are a slew of relatively simple systems to control physical objects w/ software. The most popular options are Arduino, the Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBoard. I’m an avid Raspberry Pi advocate, so let’s start with that!

The RPi is a simple & inexpensive computer that has general purpose input and output (GPIO) pins that interface w/ the real world.

(This tutorial assumes you are a beginner, but some technical jargon is included. Please feel free to comment if a term or phrase is not clear.)

What is a Raspberry Pi?RaspiModelB-1024x902

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-cared sized computer created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, an educational charity based in the UK. It is designed to promote programming, computing, and interfacing with the physical world. It can control pretty much anything you are capable of conceiving.

There are two versions of the Pi:

  • Model A is cheaper w/ fewer features; 256 MB of RAM, one USB port and no Ethernet port.
  • Model B is more expensive, but has 512 MB of RAM, two USB ports, and a 100mb Ethernet port.

Where to purchase:

You can buy a Raspberry Pi from a variety of distributors. Model B from Adafruit is $40 (+ shipping & handling).

Other supplies:

RaspPiStarterKitThe Pi is literally just a computer. You’ll need a few additional supplies to set it up and use it (unless you’re a wizard). Think of it like a puzzle: collect the remaining pieces to customize an inexpensive interactive computer! To make the process easier, here’s a list of parts w/ explanations (you probably already have some):

  1. Power Cord
    The Pi runs on a micro-USB power supply, similar to many phone chargers. More specifically, the Pi needs 5 VDC and at least 700 mA. The Pi Foundation recommends a power supply that can provide 1200 mA. You can get one for less than $10, best values ~ $5, if you’re crafty you can find cheaper (or free). Here’s a google search for some that meet the best specs. Take note of where the power cord plugs into: wall socket, USB, etc.
  2. SD Card
    The Pi needs an SD card for physical memory storage (it doesn’t have a built-in hard drive or solid state drive). For ~ $6, you can buy an SD card with a pre-installed operating system and necessary software from the Pi Foundation’s Swag store here.
    With slightly more effort, you can buy any generic SD card and download the software here. This is fairly easy with a Mac system; if you chose to go down this route, here’s a great tutorial.
  3. Monitor & Display cable: HDMI/DVI cable or RCA composite video lead.
    Most modern monitors and TVs have HDMI ports for video (you can connect your RPi to your TV, woo!!). If you don’t already have one lying around, HDMI cables are found at RadioShack, Best Buy, Amazon, Ebay, etc. You can also get a HDMI converter cable for monitors or TVs w/ different ports. Older monitors are easy to find for free; many places of business, colleges/universities, and friends are happy to part with old monitors, or you can check out e-waste recycling bins.
  4. USB Keyboard & mouse (easiest way to set up).
    Any keyboard and mouse w/ a USB connection will work w/ the Pi.

Optional Supplies:

  1. Raspberry-Pi-Geek-Cases-1Ethernet Cable  (easiest way to connect to the Internet for Model B).

    Usually blue and lying around in some pile of cords you know are important. You can also buy them at places like Radio Shack, Best Buy, Amazon, etc.
  2. USB WiFi chip.
    Getting a USB WiFi “dongle” (yes, that is actually what it is called..) will allow you to connect to the Internet w/out an Ethernet cable. This requires some fairly involved setup, but it is completely doable for a RPi user of any experience level. Here are two methods:
    –Using wicd-curses,
    –Using GUI application
  3. Audio Lead (if not using HDMI)
    To get sound w/out an HDMI cable, you’ll need a standard 3.5mm jack to connect to speakers or headphones.
  4. Case
    The Raspberry Pi is designed to be a bare-bones computer to reduce cost as much as possible. However, cases are helpful protection from inevitable accidents and improve the mechanical connection of cables. There are TONS of awesome cases made specifically for the Raspberry Pi, although feel free to get creative and make your own!

Basic Setup:

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  1. Insert SD card. Plug the RPi into a monitor & connect the keyboard and mouse via USB. An Ethernet cord is also recommended as it makes installing software on the RPi much easier.
  2. Plug the power cord into the RPi. Make sure you see a light turn on. (Yes, I honestly needed to include this step because this is an all too frequent problem for me.)
    Always do this after everything else is plugged in.
  3. If everything has been connected properly, you will see a start-up window. Every operating system (OS) will be different, but initial setup is simple and manageable.
    If you have a pre-loaded RPi-specific OS, or you have Raspbian or Adafruit’s OS, here’s a super straightforward tutorial on how to fully configure the RPi.Changing a few basic settings will definitely make life easier. From personal experience, if you have an SD card larger than 2 MB it’s useful to initially expand root partition to use the full SD capacity. If you want to avoid a command line window, you can specify Desktop launch whenever you power up the RPi.The default username is “pi” and the password is “raspberry”.Note: Since every OS is different, if your Pi doesn’t launch into the startup window, if you are still on the terminal window type “startx” into the command line. If that doesn’t work, leave a comment and we can troubleshoot together!
  4. Essentially that’s it! Once you’re at the desktop, you can use the Pi much like any other computer! Some basic programs: Midori is a simple Internet browser, Leafpad is a word processing program, Idle is a Python programming environment, and Scratch is kid-friendly programming language.

I will add more on how to set up the wireless, or other topics as requested.