Christmas lights with Arduino

After long time since the last post and being back from my “journey” in Scotland it is time for new electronics projects. If you are wondering about the weather station I can anticipate that the project is on-going and soon there will be news (the PCB is almost completed)

In the mean time as a very fast project for the Christmas holidays I thought about replacing the old outdoor lights on the three with old fashioned bulbs with some LEDs, but as a good maker (well… let’s say electronic engineer [as in Italy, should be an MSc outside Italy] becasue maker is a bit too advance, I destroy thing more than make them) felt to go a step further and find something programmable.

With a really rapid research with google I found the NeoPixel from Adafruit, which uses a chip called WS2811 to drive a single RGB LED (or three single LEDs of any kind you want I add). This chip is programmable in serial and can be concatenated with other drivers to form a long sequence of LED. Its successor is the WS2812 which is integrated inside the LED, available in different sizes (see Adafruit)

Once decided the LED/driver I searched online for a programmable LED line for outdoor use and found this on Amazon (Apologies if it opens an italian webpage) from China and a 5V, 10A power supply. The power supply was chosen after a measure with a bench variable power supply and more than doubled the maximum current measured because it is always a good practice to overestimate the power needed for the supply to avoid to break it at the first use. (Also don’t trust the manufacturer of cheap power supply).

With a perfboard I realised the connections for the Arduino Leonardo I had around the house and wrote the code necessary to have some light effects. The code is availeble on github.

The code is really minimal in order to use the lowest memory possible which enables further effects to be added in future.
So far there are only a couple of effects and an Arduino sketch to test colours which does not work on my laptop (I don’t get the string messages I wrote in the code). Enjoy and have fun.

Ciao and happy 2017 to everyone.

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