Je t’embrasse Salutations from Silicon Valley, California


The Human Glowstick – Part 2

Even though I began this project in August, attempting to adapt a OctoWS2811 implementation to be wireless; controlled by my phone...

What I'm actually going to walk through here is the end result. Which is simply a Adafruit WS2801 implementation on top of the Adafruit nRF8001 "callbackEcho" demo sketch.

PLEASE NOTE: At the time of writing this, the Adafruit WS2801 library does not include the Color() method... and as such, I branched it, created the method, and have made my modified version available on GitHub: Here (in all likelihood the change will have been merged into their mainline by the time you are reading this)

To give you an accurate idea on the scope of the software, remember that there are 4 parts to this project:

  1. The LEDs (238x WS2801 modules)
  2. The Bluetooth LE Module
  3. The Fan control (MOSFET)
  4. The Sound Detector

Whenever I start a project like this, I always try to make sure I have the basic understanding of any one component correct before moving on. (That's why each of those links above refer to a test that specifically targets one thing at a time).

One interesting tidbit that I continually forget: If you want to run your project without a console attached, you should probably not wait for a console to be attached... Basically, many Arduino example sketches run a setup() something like the following:

void setup(void)
    Serial.println("Setup complete");

Only trouble is that when I take this setup into a costume, it will STILL require me to connect a serial console to it before I can continue past that while loop. It can be incredibly helpful to know that your sketch wont start till you connect the console to it... but on the other hand, you can spend an awful lot of time debugging why your sketch is not running when you "hide it away in your project"... but then mysteriously runs when you "look at it"...


Adafruit Color Picker iOS App

As the bare-minimum "glowstick" costume, you have to be able to glow... and given that the previous tests 1 & 2 above both passed... I decided to create the bare-minimum program using the Adafruit Controller ColorPicker.

What this allowed me to do was create another simple test program:

The nRF8001 + WS2801 Color Picker Test

Basically the only educational part of this demo is the breakup of "color picking" to "color setting" (the first being the action done on the App, and the second being the action done by the Teensy 3.2 to the WS2801 LED modules)

The main idea is to never block the main loop. An example of how I do this is to make sure that, instead of using delay functions, I instead just return to the main loop until a certain amount of time has passed.

Another example is inside the mechanism of color-picking. Every loop() starts with reading inputs (like the color #FF0000) and setting modes (in this case seeing a "!C" prefix in the BLE buffer immediately sets the mode to "color picker"). Every loop() ends with implementation of a single mode.


The Human Glowstick – Part 1

As I know there was a significant interest in my costume this year, I am going to try and put together all of the directions on how I both constructed the foam exterior to the costume, and hooked up the 338 LED modules + Teensy + Bluetooth LE + SPL meter electronics to make the costume what it was.

As a first post, I will provide you with my electronics shopping list (that made the final production), getting into the foam in a later post.

Rainbow Mode

Rainbow Mode

Shopping list:

  1. Two 12V/20A DC regulators for powering the LEDs
  2. One 5V/3A DC regulator for powering the electronics
  3. Two Turnigy 4S 5000mAh 25C LiPo Batteries
  4. Two HXT LiPoly Battery Monitors for 4S packs
  5. Two 4mm HXT to 6x3.5mm Bullet breakout cables
  6. Ten 3.5mm Bullet Extension packs (pack of 3 wires)
  7. Eight pairs of 4-pin JST SM Plug/Receptacle Cable Sets
  8. One pair of 2-pin JST SM Plug/Receptacle Cable Sets
  9. Ten feet of 12AWG Silicone Wire
  10. Two 4mm HXT 10cm Silicone Wire extensions (battery side) - would actually recommend NOT using the same for battery/ESC...
  11. Two 4mm HXT 10cm Silicone Wire extensions (ESC side) - would actually recommend NOT using the same for battery/ESC...
  12. 400 (only used 238) WS2801 12v 4xLED modules
  13. One MOSFET power Control kit
  14. One SparkFun Sound Detector
  15. One Bluetooth LE (nRF8001) module
  16. One Teensy 3.2 (32-bit ARM processor) Microcontroller
  17. One 74HCT245 bus transceiver chip


Additional but unknown quantities:

  1. Rosin-core solder
  2. Solder-wick
  3. Solderless breadboards
  4. Jumper Kit
  5. Heat shrink tubing
  6. Zip ties (6 inch & 12 inch)
  7. Resistors of various values (for tuning mic sensitivity)

I will try to go step-by-step with the directions as soon as I can, but I hope this starts you off with a "big picture" of how much time/effort/money is involved in such a project... really that is it though, cause most of the difficult things have been taken care of by using "off the shelf" modules from people like SparkFun & Adafruit. 🙂


Electric Run SF

So here is the thing, we wanted a discount on registration for the Electric Run in SF... so we needed to get a group of people together: Done. Then we needed a team name... so I suggested we be "The Party Rock Crew" and dress appropriately... of course, being the crazy guy that I am, that meant me as Boxhead...

So I start down this crazy road of buying 400 (plus spares) super-bright LED modules from China, a crazy ton of batteries, and EL-wire, and then... I broke my foot. So Im done right? I sure thought so... but then 3 days before the event, these friends of mine suggested I rent a wheelchair, and they will make sure I get through the whole 5k... of course with 3 days, I had an entire day to procrastinate before starting this:

Boxhead with a mohawk!

Boxhead with a mohawk!

Pretty epic, right? So here was my list of ACTUALLY USED components in this project:

- 15x15x20 cardboard box
- 1x LED strip from China
- 2x (3m) EL wire strands
- EL Sequencer from SparkFun
- Tape + Gold Spray-paint
- Used/Returned bicycle helmet
- Hot Glue
- Black mesh/grid
- 2x 80mm Blue LED Computer Fans

If you look carefully, in the background you can also see the wheelchair which I added another 4 EL wire strands to and had them all running off the same EL Sequencer from SparkFun. (It's programmable, but comes with a default setting... which is awesome, since I had NO TIME!)... Also, believe it or not, but the LiPoly batteries I had wanted to power this with were unavailable... so I threw together some 8-packs of Duracel C batteries. Woot!

OK so, it took 3 of us, working till about 2am to get the mohawk made... and then painted, and then we glued & taped it to the top of the head on the day of. My roommate (seeing how frantic I was working) offered to program the LED modules on the mohawk (yep, thats right, the "tips of the mohawk" were 20 programmable LED modules).

End result? We got there later than we intended to, but WAY earlier than we needed to. So altogether perfect timing. It was of course freezing, and I had to keep begging my friends to let me push myself with my arms in order to stay non-hypothermic. LOL... in the end, I got up off my rump for a photo-op:

"Redfoo" forgot his afro in the car... :)

"Redfoo" forgot his afro in the car... 🙂

Thanks to everybody who made this possible. You guys rock!

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Where the Wild Things Are


Meet Carol:

OK, so it has been about 3 years since I started this costume, and even though it is not NEARLY complete, it clearly belongs on my blog, filed under costumes.

The head is formed by riveting flexible PVC (with metal washers) to a jumbo-sized Halloween "Witches Cauldron". The cauldron shape (ie. the flat bottom of the cauldron) can still be seen if you take a look at the top of the head. This general shape was then filled out using industrial shipping foam, and covered in plastic-wrap, glue, and finally stretched felt.

I wish I had a closeup of the claw-gloves, cause they are pretty cool... Essentially I took the cheapest pair of garden gloves I could find, and glued a fur hand-cutout to the top of the fingers. Then I took the teeth from a caveman necklace and used them as the claws. Finally, I affixed pieces of pink-ish foam on the palms to create paw-pad look.

I had planned to make some feet based on a tutorial I had seen for making some wolf-feet... but I ran out of time before Halloween! DOH!

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In the business of costumes…

So I dont know how I got here, but it looks like I have officially entered the business of making costumes.  Honestly, after 3 straight Halloween costumes that (at least to me) have seemed excessively over-the-top, I find it hard to imagine what chaos next year will bring.

I guess it was a hit.  I don't quite remember much, given my extreme lack of sleep finally catching up to me.  The only question I had was why nobody gave me the memo that there was a special "sit down" lunch today at work... needless to say, that went over splendedly.

So for all the critics out there, YES, I know the power-button is on the wrong side.  I was lacking sleep when I went to make the cut.  There I was, on the inside of the costume, carefully measuring and tracing out the locations on the inside of the costume, and cutting out the shapes from the inside of the costume... opposite side?  mirror image?  Who knew, right? 

Anyway, I won the "most creative costume" (aka "Best in Show") costume, although I personally thought some of the other costumes were absolutely hilarious, and well thought out.  Personally, I am just glad that a good majority of the company got involved this year instead of just QA & Engineering (a la last year).

Finally just a shoutout to my boss's boss, Geoff, who provided a relic give-away item: a blue LED ice-cube (which as you can see, obviously ties the whole thing together)

Now for the cleanup, as I think my room-mate may kill me soon if the living room is not soon emptied of the piles of foam, fabric, and empty glue cans.

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Halloween Time Again

It is Halloween again, and around that time of year, I always get some crazy idea in my head for some monstrocity of a costume.  Although this year there are multiple things adding to the pressure of the costume.

I guess it all started my senior year of college, when having nothing better to do (just a joke), I cranked out a 2200uF Electrolytic Capacitor costume from a simple foam mattress-topper, some felt, and a TON of glue.  The geeky creativity even won me a Nintendo DS Lite at a Costume Competition.

The next year, I already had plans brewing for a GIGANTIC bobble-head doll.  And then on Halloween day, there I was, in my brand new job, wearing a HUGE costume in to the office.  A little less geeky this time, I was dressed as an 8-foot-tall, bobble-head, version of one of the monsters from the childrens book "Where the Wild Things Are".  I was decked, head to foot, in the hottest thing I have ever worn before, and on a harness, strapped to my chest was a 6-foot pole reaching upward to suspend the bobble-head above me.  Claws & everything I was ready... it was pretty sweet.

Now this year, I have (unfortunately) to face the same people in the office, with the expectation that I will somehow top last year's costume.  With this added pressure, a current high-stress project underway at work, and the added bonus of being alternated into a Cheerleading competition routine 5 days prior, I am feeling the burn.

So what am I this year?  Trust me, no guess you have could even come close.  Im going to wait till I can get some pictures of it though before I spoil the fun.  😉

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