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July 13, 2018


Posted in el wire, hoodie, projects, rh, tron

TRON Hoodie 2.0

v 2.0

As much fun as the 1.0 hoodie was, realized could take it up a notch by adding a 


That way it would flash along with the beat when you wear it to a concert or on stage. 

We stock a 6v and a 12v. To drive one length of EL Wire you need to use the 6V. 

high-brightness-aqua-electroluminescent-el-wire-2-5-meters  +

el-wire-6v-sound-activated-pocket-inverter + a 4x AA Battery Pack


Before soldering anything, it's a good idea to make sure the circuit works with alligator clips. 

From Left : EL Wire adapter to sound activated inverter to 4xAA battery pack. 


The dashed white lines on the inverter go to the RED lead on the battery pack. 

Then I cut some heat shrink tubing. Important to slide this on the wire BEFORE you solder it. 



At this point realized I needed to strip the ends of the battery pack a bit more to get a good connection.

Attempted to do it 'old school' by rolling a boxcutter along the wire. Then found out it was Stranded Core and gave up to go find the excellent set of Hakko wire strippers

If your wire is solid core you can get away with rolling it under a boxcutter, stranded core you end up cutting through half the strands & won't work. 



Once you have the insulation cut, for stranded core, roll it off with your two fingers. This will twist the wire to make it easier to solder. 

Tin both the leads 


If I have very fine wire, rather than trying to horizontally solder them, 

I will sometimes twist them together with needle nose & then solder that connection. Especially for clothing which will have more movement and torque on the joint.



Slide the heat shrink back over & apply light heat with a lighter or heat gun in smooth back & forth motions.

Don't hold the heat source in one spot or you may get smoke & eventually possibly fire. 

Also the tube will only shrink so much, so use the right guage. 

Success !



The hoodie being modded is a BetaBrand Reversible Disco Hoodie from San Fransisco.

For larger (non-hoodie) projects, If you want to drive 3+ meters of EL Wire, you would need to use

el-wire-12v-sound-activated-pocket-inverter + an x8 AA Battery Pack

For the x8 you would have to cut off the barrel jack adapter & strip the leads a bit. 

July 09, 2018


Posted in makerbuino, projects, rh

Makerbuino Build

Click here to get your own !

Intended as a companion to read before the OFFICIAL BUILD GUIDE

Some additional hints on things to be aware of during assembly. 




Use the buttons to prop board up to make it even for soldering. 


Little containers are great for organizing kits with many parts. 


You need to save your component lead 'off-cuts' so clip them off FACING AWAY from you into a small box. 




Careful to distinguish between similar LOOKING parts. 


Can use needle-nose pliers to bend leads out a little to make it easier to mount on the board. Be very gentle. 



When preparing to insert the IC, gently & SLOWLY roll / bend it against a firm non-static, non-scratch surface. This will make the pins easier to insert. 



I pulled the battery JST connector out to make it easier to move the board around for soldering. It was firmly in there, so used two sets of pliers to remove. IT's VERY easy to DAMAGE your board like this, so only do this step if you are super confident in your abilities.  Not recommended & NO REFUNDS if you damage your product. Mini linesman (square pliers) must be parallel to sides of JST mount on board.

If you haven't recently trimmed your fingernails, I'm sure a motivated person could do it without tools as well. 



A real PROTIP is to use tools to prop components FLUSH to the  board from underneath & solder them in on top. 

This will keep it even when you solder.

The serial programmer,  in this instance. 

The LCD will no longer let you sit it entirely flat. 


The Volume & Brightness Dials ESPECIALLY must be soldered in flush, or they will not be able to turn as they will hit the LCD. Check it on both sides to make sure no gaps are under one of the Dials connector legs. 



Use a microscope (or magnifying glass) to make sure all your solder joints are not overlapping. 

For the curious, I viewed the USB microscope output on Ubuntu using Cheese App. No drivers were necessary. 



Almost done...


Booting !


All that's left is the case assembly. 

I used clear gorilla tape to affix the speaker to the back plate. 

Can now play all the demo games on the card !

Remember to sleep!

*We had some extra colored buttons around the office, so used those to spice it up a bit. The standard kit comes with black buttons. 

IF you hit any snags, check here first : 

IMPORTANT NOTE : Had a brief panic it was dead, as I accidentally shut it off while it was loading a game. When you turn it back on, the screen will be lit, but no content shown. 

If this happens to you, follow the C-button (top left) reboot method here :

BE PATIENT while games are loading, up to 30s each. 


Click here to get your own !


Animated Eyes in a Box, powered by Raspberry Pi

With the 2018 Maker Festival Toronto coming up on July 7th and 8th, we thought it would be fun to build a few things.

Ever since Adafruit released their Animated Eyes Bonnet, I knew we had to build one.  We have also been on a big Glowforge kick lately, so it seemed natural build a box for our animated eyes.  

Adafruit already has an excellent guide for building the hardware and getting the software working, so we won't go too far into the details on that part.  A few things to note:

  • Be sure to start with a clean install of Raspbian Lite.  
  • You have the option of using 1.5" OLED, 1.44" TFT LCD, or 1.54" IPS TFT displays.  We went with the OLED's since they have a wide viewing angle and great colour.    The IPS TFT would be a good alternative as well, or the 1.44" TFT if you are on a budget.
  • We used a Pi 3 B+ because we have a bunch in stock and we knew we would have plenty of room in our 120mm x 120mm x 120mm box.  
  • The guide has an excellent script that allows you to configure the settings of the Python script that runs the displays.  One nice feature is that you can enable a shutdown button on any available GPIO.  We chose GPIO 4 and added a nice red 16mm pushbutton

We started by soldering everything up and installing the software.  Here's a video showing the eyes before we built the box

We then took a bunch of measurements and drew some basic drawings.  A whiteboard is your friend here.  

We used MakerCase to generate the box plans, and then we put the SVG file into Inkscape to add all the holes and artwork.  Here it is good to measure twice and cut once.  It is easy to make a mistake, and the Glowforge Proofgrade material is not cheap!  Here is a video where we are cutting the box on the Glowforge:

We wanted to make it so our fans could see the guts of the project, so we separately cut the top of the box with acrylic.  We have found that these boxes are quite sturdy if glued on all sides except the top, so we made the top piece removable.

A bit of assembly and tweaking and we could not be happier with the results!  We haven't even tried to update the code yet, this is just the default code.  If we have time we will add some sensors and have the eyes react appropriately.  

Bill of Material:

Making a Puzzle on our Glowforge

We have had a lot of fun with our Glowforge Laser Cutter!  The other day thought it would be neat to make a puzzle with it.  Turns out others have had the same idea, and there are already tools to do this!

Working with the Glowforge is super easy.  You can use most image files for the graphics and you can use SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files for cuts.  

A fellow Glowforge owner named Draradech built a super handy tool for generating SVG cut files for puzzles.  You basically just select some parameters and it spits out the SVG file...too cool!  In this case, I made a 9x9 puzzle that was 240 x 175 mm:

You can engrave graphics into wood or acrylic with the Glowforge and then cut out the pieces, but on the first time I did this it made a puzzle that was way too hard.  Instead, I took a picture from an old calendar and put it on some 3mm birch plywood with spray adhesive:

After gluing the picture to the wood, I let it cure for 1 hour.  I then uploaded the SVG file into the Glowforge user interface.  I placed the cut lines onto the image, allowing a 1/4" gap all around since the Glowforge has about a 1/4" tolerance in terms of where you place the image/cuts.  Here are some pics from the Glowforge UI as well as video of the Glowforge running:


And here is the final result!  After wiping off the smoke residue from the picture, it looked great!  I glued the frame to an uncut piece of wood to finish everything off.

Total time invested was about 10 minutes, not including the runtime of 5 minutes on the Glowforge.  Pretty awesome!


May 09, 2018


Posted in projects

Rainbow Light Show LED's + Clear Acrylic = Awesome

When you are in a panic for a last minute gift and you have a laser cutter, the sky is the limit!  It is a lot more fun to make a gift than to just buy one, so yesterday we had some fun doing some customization to a Rainbow Light Show kit.    

Rob designed some constellations in Inkscape and he was looking for a way to integrate them with the Rainbow Light Show.  Building on our MakerCase box building expertise from a previous blog post, we thought it would be fun to edge-light a piece of clear acrylic with the LED Strip from the Rainbow Light Show.

The results could not have been better, check it out:


micro:bit as a Bluetooth Low Energy gestural controller

We're finding more and more to do with the micro:bit. Not merely did Craig upgrade his Christmas Tree decorations to be micro:bit-powered and NeoPixel-driven, but we also discovered how to use a micro:bit as a BLE gestural controller. Best of all, it doesn't need much extra hardware beyond a micro:bit go kit and a BLE-capable computer (like a Raspberry Pi Zero W or Raspberry Pi 3). You can also use the same micro:bit code with Bitty Software's “bitty blue” app for iOS or Android.

The micro:bit has a bunch of sensors built in — accelerometer, compass, temperature, buttons, digital and analogue I/O, plus the 5×5 LED display — and they can be read and set over BLE.

To start, you'll need to download and install the Bitty Blue firmware hex file onto your micro:bit over USB. The download file is here— — and choose the “no pairing required” version. Once the program is on your micro:bit, it will ask you to draw a circle by tilting the micro:bit to calibrate the magnetometer.

Next, you'll need to associate the micro:bit with your Raspberry Pi. Open a terminal and type bluetoothctl, then enter the following commands. I've added some comments following # signs; you don't have to type those:

scan on  # start looking for new devices
  Discovery started
  [CHG] Controller B8:27:EB:0E:C8:6B Discovering: yes  # ← your BLE adapter address
  [NEW] Device D5:9F:24:AE:0C:EC BBC micro:bit [zozug] # ← your micro:bit BLE address
connect D5:9F:24:AE:0C:EC                              # use your micro:bit BLE address
  Attempting to connect to D5:9F:24:AE:0C:EC
  [CHG] Device D5:9F:24:AE:0C:EC Connected: yes
  Connection successful


Now install python-bluezero so you can talk to your micro:bit:

sudo pip3 install bluezero


Then you can run a little program like this to scroll messages on your micro:bit's LEDs:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# encoding: utf-8

from bluezero import microbit
# important: change adapter_addr and device_addr to the values you got above
ubit = microbit.Microbit(adapter_addr='B8:27:EB:0E:C8:6B',
my_text = 'Hello, world'

while my_text is not '':
    ubit.text = my_text
    my_text = input('Enter message: ')



(For more examples, please see Barry Byford's RPi <-> micro:bit Workshop, from which this blog post is derived.)

I'm working on getting all the buttons on the SparkFun gamer:bit board to work with bluezero. Then it will be a real game controller!

January 03, 2018


Posted in projects

Circuit Playground Express Chord Guitar

What's got seven chords and is really, really small?

This little chord guitar runs on a Circuit Playground Express with no additional hardware. It's written in CircuitPython.

The source is here — — and you can install it by dropping the contents of this archive onto your Circuit Playground Express's file system.

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