Instructables

Fireworks Controller

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Picture of Fireworks Controller
This instructable is on a 12 channel fireworks controller that I built during the summer. It was a lot of fun to build, and is a blast (pardon the pun) to operate! I couldn't find a good quality instructable on building a complete fireworks controller like this one, so I decided to write my own.

DISCLAIMER:
The information contained herein is for the sole purpose of information and education. Build this project AT YOUR OWN RISK. I have NO responsibility whatsoever for any injury, death, legal issues, encounters with law enforcement, or damage to property of anyone operating or involved with using this fireworks controller. In no event will the author be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from the use of, or in connection with the use of this firework ignition controller. Look up your local and state laws regarding pyrotechnics before starting this project and make your own smart decisions when it comes to using it.

Fireworks are dangerous, so watch what you are doing and don't do anything stupid with this. Be careful when handling explosives. Clear the area before launching the fireworks, check to make sure your battery is disconnected while wiring up the fireworks. Once again, build at your own risk.

Okay, now that that's over, on to the fun part!
 
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Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts
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Here is the parts list. I bought most of the electronics from Jameco , but also bought things from Parts Express , Radioshack, and Michaels.

From Jameco Electronics
1- 12v Sealed Lead Acid Battery
1- SPST (Off-On) Keylock switch
1- SPDT (3 position On-Off-On) Toggle switch
24- LED mounting hardware
12- SPST ( Off-(On) Momentary) Pushbutton switches
12 - Red LEDs
12- Green LEDs
48 - 470 ohm Resistors
12- Alligator clip pairs (24 total)
2- battery clips
1- 1/4" fuse (there is no specification on the fuse for right now, the original fuse value had not worked and I am currently figuring out what amperage fuse to use. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can still build the controller, since it still works without a fuse. Use a short piece of wire to bypass the fuseholder for now.)

From Parts Express
6- Four conductor speaker terminal
Check out this page for different types of terminals. This controller's circuit is expandable, so it can have as many channels as you want it to have, so be creative!

From Michaels or any craft store
One 12 x 12 piece of wood panel - must be 1/8" thick - available at Michaels, possibly at hardware stores

Other Parts
> A case to put it all in -I got mine at a thrift shop for $5.00. It was used as a carrying case for an old VHS video camera.

> 12 short wood screws (that fit inside speaker terminal mounting holes but can still reach the wood panel below them)

> Also, you will need wire for connecting the panel components. I used 22AWG solid wire, but any wire from about 22-18AWG should work fine.

> You will also need long speaker wire or any insulated 2 conductor wire. How much depends on how much you can afford or how far away you want to be from the fireworks. Both Lowes and Home Depot sell some cheap wire in bulk and in spools. Wherever you buy it, buy it in bulk to save money. We're not looking for audio quality here. I used 18 gauge lamp wire, which I bought in a bulk spool and cut into smaller lengths.
Not every one of these parts has to be used, feel free to experiment or use different switches, buttons, terminals, etc. Make yours unique to suit your needs, you don't have to build yours like mine, but you can.

Step 2: Hardware needed

Picture of Hardware needed
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Woodworking Tools

  • Drill (hand or power)
  • Ratchet brace (or a bigger drill). I have one of these, so I used it. You don't have to use this.
  • Auger bits (spiral shaped large drill bits)
  • Drill bits - check with the place you bought your components from for hole diameters and dimensions.
  • Dremel or other rotary tool
  • Dremel bits (sanding)
  • A small saw (for cutting the plywood)
  • C-clamps
  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
Notes:
A drill press would help to cut the holes in the panel, but I don't have one of those and you can still cut the holes with a regular drill.

If you don't have the right size drill bit for all of the panel-mounted parts you can use a dremel to widen the holes like I did.

Electronics Tools

Step 3: Designing a template

I just sketched a template for the panel out on paper to start with. You can arrange things however you like on the board, depending on the size of the case you are putting everything in. I designed everything on a 8.5"x11" piece of paper and just centered it on the wood panel (12"x12") when it was time to start cutting.

Start with arranging the speaker terminals, which I put on top in two rows of three. They have an outside dimension of 2-3/4" x 15/16".

Next came the toggle switch, key switch, and fuse holder. I centered the toggle switch horizontally on the board right under the speaker terminals. The key switch is to the right of the toggle switch, and the fuse holder is to the right of the key switch.

Underneath these main switches are the pushbutton switches and LED status indicators.
The buttons I arranged in 4 columns of 3 buttons. Each button also has two LEDs; one on either side. I did not include the LEDs on the template, because I just eyeballed where to put them. You also might want to arrange them differently on yours, by putting the LED pairs under the switch or above them instead of on opposite sides.

Attached is a PDF template so you can print it out yourself. Print it and tape it over the panel you choose to use, and you can drill/saw through it to get everything properly lined up if you want to match my layout.
controllertemplate.pdf(612x792) 48 KB

Step 4: Cut the wood

Now that you have your template designed, its time to start cutting the wood. I started out cutting the key switch hole, since it was in the middle. I then moved on to the pushbutton switches, then the speaker terminals, and then the toggle switch and fuseholder holes. You can do it in whatever order you like.

One thing I do suggest is to cover the back with tape to prevent splintering of the wood since you are working with such thin material. I also drilled halfway through one side and then flipped it over to drill all the way through the other side to keep it from splintering even more.

After that you should drill the toggle switch and fuse holder holes (I didn't do this in order, don't know why not). I don't have the correct size drill bit, so I used the dremel to widen these holes to the correct size.

After you get those holes drilled, start cutting the slots for the speaker terminals. I used a drill to drill pilot holes at each end of the line, then a small saw to cut the wood in between them. The saw cut a wide enough line to slip the thin metal tabs of the speaker connectors through them. Use a dremel sanding bit to smooth out all the holes and cuts and get rid of rough edges and splinters.

After this you can test fit the components to make sure everything is lined up well and fits. Take everything back out when you are done, because there's more to do.

Step 5: Drill the LED holes

Next we'll drill 48 holes for the LEDs. I did not use the template for them, I simply eyeballed their location. I used a 1/4" drill bit for them, and put them on either side of each pushbutton, slightly below center.

Arrange them however you want to on yours (below the buttons, above them, on one side of them, etc.)

After you have all the holes drilled, you'll have to sand down the backsides of them so that the back parts of the LED mounts can snap on to the front parts. The wood is too thick do do this without sanding it down. I used the barrel-shaped sanding bit for the dremel to do this, by pushing down on one side, rotating 180 degrees and doing it again (see pictures). If you can find a different way to mount the LEDs you might not have to do this.

Now that all the woodworking is done, we move on to mounting the panel's electronic components.

Step 6: Mount the components

Start out with the speaker terminals, since they are the biggest thing and they need to be screwed in.

Grab your 12 screws and your screwdriver, then place each speaker terminal block in each of the six slots on the top of the wood. If one or two don't quite fit through the slot, swap them out with another one. Some of the speaker terminal soldering tabs were more spread out than others on mine, and they all ended up fitting in one slot or another.

Screw in each speaker terminal with two screws, then use a dremel cutoff disk to grind down the part of the screw that sticks out on the other side so it won't cut through the wires that will be on the back.

After that, I installed the key switch, toggle switch, and fuse holder. All of these components had nuts on the back that would secure them through the mounting holes. Tighten them in with pliers or a wrench, but be careful not to splinter the wood; they don't have to be excessively tight, just tight enough to not spin when you turn the key or flip the switch, etc.

The pushbutton switches had tabs on the sides that put pressure on the sides of the hole and held them in. Reinforce them with hot glue on the back to better secure them and keep them from spinning in place.

Next, install the LEDs. Gather all the LED mounts and pair the tops with the bottoms. The tops are the ones with four tabs that come down, and the parts that go on the back of the panel are the plain rings of plastic.

To mount the LEDs:

1. Slide the top part of the mount over the top of the LED until it snaps into place with the four tabs past the bottom of the LED (not the leads, just the light)

2. Mount the LED on the board. Depending on the size of the hole it will snap through and stay there.

3. Flip the board over

4. Take the bottom part of the mount (the ring without tabs), and slide it over the LED leads and onto the top part of the LED mount. Due to the thickness of the wood, it won't completely snap onto the top part of the mount, so put a good dab of hot glue over the whole thing.

You also might want to label the back of the panel to help you remember what's what when you wire it.
Now that you have all the components mounted, we can continue on to the electrical wiring.

Step 7: Wiring the components: part 1

Connecting the components is probably the most daunting task of building this fireworks controller, but don't be afraid! Just follow step by step and watch what you are doing. Everything you have to do is covered here. Also, print out the schematic to double check your wiring after each step. It also helps to know how to solder. Search "how to solder" for more info.

I wired the push button switches to the speaker terminals first, running wire from one side of the pushbutton switches to each of the corresponding speaker terminal tabs. See the schematic for details.

After wiring these, I connected the fuseholder to the keyswitch and the keyswitch to the middle pole of the toggle swtich.

Next, connect all of the negative tabs of the speaker terminals (the pair in the middle) to each other and then together to a single wire leading to the quick connect tab that will later attach to the battery.

See the photos for more detail (they are in order). There is also the schematic file that made the image below. It was made in TinyCad.

Step 8: Wiring the components: part 2

Before connecting the LEDs, we first have to solder together 24 pairs of the resistors. Remember that for resistors, direction doesn't matter. To make things easier, cut about half the length of of one side of each resistor before you solder them together so the whole assembly takes up less space.

Once all 24 pairs of resistors are soldered together, you can solder them in between the negative side of the LEDs (the shorter lead) and the side of the pushbutton switch attached to the speaker terminal for each channel. We'll be doing both the green and red LEDs in the same step, since they both connect to the same place.

To make things easier when soldering the resistors to the LEDs, where they connect to the pushbutton switch, you can solder the resistors for the red LED to the switch tab, and then solder the green LED resistors to the red LED resistor lead so they are not both attached directly to the small pushbutton switch tab. A diagram is included in the photos below to help clear this up since it is a bit confusing.

Step 9: Wiring the components: part 3 (Armed circuit)

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After you have the negative sides of both LEDs connected, we need to attach the positive side of the red LED to the armed circuit.

This will be achieved through the use of a short jumper connecting the currently unused tab on the pushbutton switch to the positive lead of the LED. The negative side of the LED is already connected to the speaker terminal via the resistors to the wire leading to the terminal blocks.

Cut 12 short lengths of wire, stripping each end about 1/4". Slide one end all of the way through the hole in the pushbutton switch tab, and lean the other against the positive lead of the red LED. Solder the jumper to the pusbutton switch tab and the positive lead of the LED, then snip off the extra wire on the LED side only. Leave the extra sticking out through the switch tab, since we will be connecting the main armed circuit to it. Do this for each of the 12 channels.

Now it's time to connect all of the individual channels to each other and to the armed circuit. Cut 8 more wire jumpers, once again stripping 1/4" off of each end. Use red wire if you want to keep things visually organized. The red jumpers will be connected between the extra wire on the black jumpers so that the left sides of the pushbutton switches are all connected to each other.

Connect all of the channels to each other in each column, then bridge each half of the columns together. The middle two will have a second jumper on the top channels (4 and 7) in each column that will run directly to the toggle switch. See the last picture below to clarify this.

Now the armed circuit is complete.

Step 10: Wiring the components: part 3 (Test circuit and final wiring)

Picture of Wiring the components: part 3 (Test circuit and final wiring)
Now we will wire the test circuit, which will be pretty straightforward.

Cut 8 short jumpers out of black hookup wire, stripping 1/4" off of each end, and solder them between the positive leads of the green LEDs in each column. Connect the first two columns together and the second two columns together using a longer jumper along the bottom of the columns. Then use jumpers to connect each half of the channels to the lower, unused tab on the toggle switch. This is the same arrangement as the armed circuit.

The last thing to wire is the positive connection to the battery. This will go directly from the fuseholder to a quick connect terminal and then to the battery, since everything past the fuseholder is already wired and ready to go.

Step 11: Testing your wiring

After you have everything finished, connected, and soldered, it is a good idea to test each channel to make sure everything is wired right and there are no shorts.

Install a fuse in the fuseholder and attach the negative lead (that goes directly to the speaker terminals) to the negative connection on the battery and the positive lead (that goes to the fuseholder) to the positive connection on the battery.

To test my panel, I hooked up a short length of 2 conductor wire (2 ft or so) to the board, and on the other end just wrapped a strand of steel wool between the wires to use as a test. This way I could make sure the resistor values were correct for the LEDs (to not ignite the wire in test mode, but do so in armed mode) and that the steel wool burned up when the button was pressed.

Once you have verified that all LEDs operate properly and each channel successfully burns the steel wool in Armed mode only, disconnect the battery and flip the panel upside down. Cut off all excess LED lead sticking up past the solder connection on the jumpers and check to make sure there aren't any wires crossed that shouldn't be.

Find a good spot to place the board in the metal suitcase, or whatever you have decided to place the controller in, and make sure the battery is securely attached inside of the case.

The final step is to label it, and you're ready for some remote fireworks detonation action.

Step 12: Label the front panel

Picture of Label the front panel
Labeling the front panel is important so that you don't accidentally arm the circuit instead of put it on test, etc.
I just used a Dymo embossing label maker, but you could also write it on the wood with a marker if you want to. I labeled each speaker terminal pair, each pushbutton switch, and the main switches (Toggle and keylock). See pictures below for layout.

Step 13: Ignition wires

Get the cheap 2-conductor wire, and cut it into 12 equal lengths depending on how far away you want to be from the fireworks. I cut mine at 20 feet each, but later realized that that is a little too short. The wires should be as long as you want them to be to feel safe about being at the controller and launching the fireworks from that distance.

Strip off about 1/2" on each end of the 12 wires, and solder the alligator clips on one end, or wrap the wire around the screw on the alligator clip. Make sure this connection is secure and wrap it in electrical tape. Polarity does not matter for the ignition wires, neither does the color of the alligator clip, it just has to complete the circuit with the ignitor.

Step 14: Finished board

Picture of Finished board
To operate the board:
  • make sure battery is disconnected and all switches are on the off position
  • connect all of the ignition wires, one per channel:
1- Plug in each ignition wire pair to one black and one red speaker terminal. Use the side that is stripped, but doesn't have an alligator clip.
2- On the other side connect an igniter using the alligator clips, one on each wire.
  • connect the battery
  • insert key into the main on/off keyswitch and turn to on
  • turn toggle switch to test, make sure green lights are turned on for each channel that you have something connected to, if not check your connections and make sure the ignitor is securely attached to the launch wires.
  • clear the area around the fireworks and make sure you are at a safe distance from people, animals, cars, houses, trees, dry grass, etc. (the normal precautions)
  • once all connected channels have green lights, flip the toggle switch to arm
  • the red LEDs will turn on, and at this point pressing a pushbutton will supply full power to the ignitor, setting off the firework.
  • once a firework is detonated, if the ignitor burned completely, the red light will turn off and you will know that that firework has already been used.

Shutting down:
  • Turn the toggle switch to the off position
  • Turn the keyswitch to the off position and remove the key (put it in your pocket)
  • Disconnect the battery
  • Unplug each of the long wires from each channel that lead to the fireworks
  • Dispose of burned ignitors

Step 15: Acknowledgements and notes

You may notice that there is no specification on the fuse for right now, the original fuse value had not worked and I am currently figuring out what amperage fuse to use. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can still build the controller, since it still works without a fuse. Use a short piece of wire to bypass the fuseholder until we get the right fuse working.

Also, the construction of the actual igniters is covered in a separate instructable located here.

I would like to thank the following people for their answers, explanations, and contributions to this project:
  • Jon Witucki for the inspiration to make this controller and info on speaker terminals
  • everyone at electro tech online, especially eblc1388 for his schematics and electronics knowledge
  • tobyfan57 for making me realize what wasn't clear on the instructable to start with and finding a few inconsistencies in the steps
  • Also, thanks to TinyCad for keeping their program open source and easy to use so I could make my schematic
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microman1715 years ago
Lots to read, so sorry if this has been said...

To figure out the fuse value the easy way, build a regular ignitor, and then put an ammeter (multimeter) in the circuit. Battery - - - (Meter) - - - Ignitor. Obviuosly you need to wire the return to negative, but the diagram shows to wire in series.

If the amps needed to make the nichrome (or steel wool) is say, 3 amps, you use a 3.5A fuse. Depends on what you can get.

I don't know why you would use a fuse here...? As long as your wiring and all parts are rated for higher amps (I reckon your wire is probably rated at about 10A).

Worst that can happen is you get a fire at the wool end... That's what you want anyway =)
Oh, and this is a great instructable!
systemf92 (author)  microman1712 years ago
Thank you!
That would be fine as long as you don't try to shoot more than one cue at a time or you would have to determine the maximum number of cues you want to fire at a time.

IMHO you are not talking massive circuitry here, and since the purpose is to blow things up, I wouldn't even worry about fusing it. The most that is going to happen is to inadvertently launch more cues than intended, which is just going to make it a better show anyway, so why bother. If there were an electronic timing circuit, then I could see doing that, or if there was an on-board battery charger that could overheat and short out, but besides that I wouldn't worry about it.
systemf92 (author)  microman1715 years ago
Okay, thank you, this is simpler than I had anticipated! As soon as I replace my broken multimeter I'll get to it. And, you're right. After building this I realized that there was no reason to have the fuse in the circuit considering it's only 12v and not too much power. Next time I won't complicate things. I had planned to just take it off of the parts list and instructions, but figured that that would confuse people when they saw it in the pictures.
cmazzei3 years ago
I work at Radio Shack I put together a parts list for everyone :-)
2300945 - 12v Sealed Lead Acid Battery
2750601 - Safety Toggle (we don't carry keylock switches)
2751533 - 3 Position Toggle Switch
2760079 - LED Mounting Hardware
2751547 - SPST Momentary Push-button Switches (We have a wide array. These were the most cost effective ones at my store.)
2740622 - Four Conductor Speaker Terminal
2701545 - Alligator Clips (Again, we carry many different packs and sizes)
6403058 - Battery Clips (Insulated Female Spade Connector)
2781221 - 22 Gauge Wire (Solid, Three spools: Red, Black, Green)
2700364 - Panel-Mount Fuse Holder (1 1/4" x 1/4")
2760022 - Green LED
2760041 - Red LED
2711115 - 470-Ohm Resistors
2711111 - 220-Ohm Resistors

*Note* We do not carry the exact same LEDs that systemf92 used. I spent some time doing the calculations. I used duncant20196's updated schematic and kept in mind systemf92's safety precaution with running the LEDs at a lower amperage. The 220-Ohm and 470-Ohm resistors would be paired up. Let me know what you think!!
What's the price? i want to do this project but i am on a pretty tight budget. i would also be willing to downsize on the number of channels.
I believe that list ran about $135. If I had planned ahead I would have ordered the stuff direct from East Asia for a third of the cost but I didn't stumble across this until a couple days ago. If you use FourSquare on your phone you can get 20% off of your purchase with your first check-in.
hhhdrb cmazzei3 years ago
wich ohm gets linked to led does it matter 470 0r 220
cmazzei hhhdrb3 years ago
I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter but I hooked the 470's to the LEDs. Resistors can be linked in series in any order. The total resistance of each series is just the sum of each resistor.
mmike1 cmazzei3 years ago
Hi I love Radio Shack but the employees at our local store are not nearly as technology inclined as you are. Could you transfer to the Katy, TX store plz.
cmazzei mmike13 years ago
Haha well tell them they better get on point...our headquarters are in Texas!
CCube551 month ago

how many watt do the resistors have to be?

So, I finally built my controller! It is a 20 channel version. I wired everything up correctly, but the leds don't light up at all. I tested the connections a little with a multimeter, and there is no current flowing in between the leds... What could I do?
Hello! Why is it that my leds glow very dimly with 2 or even 1 470k resistors? Please reply rapidly! Thank you!
r u using a 12v battery??
frankmeister11 months ago
I'm setting mine up to use RJ45 connectors to Rail-8 units from Pyrosure. I'm using bi-colour LEDs. Can anyone tell me if this schematic will work?

Thanks
It looks great, might have a go with that myself if you dont mind haha
mbragg19 months ago
Hi, I am using 30m of Speaker (13 strand) wire from the control board to the fireworks and when i ignite them the firework goes off but the Red LED only fades it doesnt go off, so can i use a bigger battery to push more power to fully burn the ignitor or will it blow all the LED's??? PLEAS HELP THANK YOU!
mbragg19 months ago
Hi, I am running 30m of speaker (13 strand) wire and when i ignite a firework it lights and gets fired but the LED stays on why is this? Could i use a bigger battery to push the power further down the wire or will this Blow the LED's?????? PLEASE HELP THANK YOU
Kitboga11 months ago
This will go great with my homemade fireworks. I've been learning how to make fireworks from this cool resource: howtomakefireworks.org. How expensive do you think it is to gather all the parts I need ?
RJCo1 year ago
Hi, I'm building a 24 channel version with my son. You've probably solved the fuse issue by now seeing as this is a couple years old but here's my take.

Ohm's law (Voltage=Current x Resistance) dictates running 12V through your 940 Ohm resistors produces a current just shy 13 mA, enough to light your LED but not ignite the steel wool. (I read an FAA article somewhere that says the lowest amperage to ignite steel wool is 45 mA...). That's good for your test circuits and such, just what you want.

Running the same 12V through the circuit without a resistor (when you fire for example) puts extremely high current through it since the resistance is only that inherent in the wiring (which in theory is supposed to be next to nothing). This would explain blowing the fuses given your set up. Yes, in theory the circuit should break when the match ignites and the steel wool gets ignited dropping the current to zero for that channel, but IF for some reason it doesn't (who knows what? stranger things have happened...) the heat build up in the wiring could have some serious effects (i.e. blow up the battery potentially). Putting a 1.5 Ohm resistor (say between the fuse and key switch) would drop your current to 8A and allow you to use a 10A fuse and still produce enough current to ignite the steel wool.

If I've misstated something, someone please chime in and let me know.
roverman1 year ago
A great cable would be irrigation wire for sprinklers it has a ton of conductors
If you need a battery charger this one should work:

http://www.monstercells.com/leadacidsmartcharger08afor12vleadacidbatterywith3stagesfloating.aspx
how do you charge the battery
adcurtin1 year ago
two things: I'd just use a 1k ohm resistor. Why waste time and money using 2 instead?

second, it is only 12v, but you are using a fair amount of current. an SLA battery can provide 10+ amps. Definitely worth having a fuse. I used some SLA batteries (a bit bigger than you use here) that were rated for 80ish amps output.
pyro_cat1 year ago
The test setting sends a low voltage current through the circuit to check continuity without supplying enough voltage to ignite the electric match.
Thanks sooo much im 13 years old and i manged to make this with ease thanks to you ill upload some photos of it later if I can.
Thanks again,
Charlie
dema12co4 years ago
Just looked at this and thinking of making my own, I saw you used two 470 Ohm resistors on the LEDs though, the Lite-on spec pages call out 2.6V and 30mA max, which would be a 330 Ohm max resistor. Was your LED circuit setting off your charges or was this just a mistake in the calcs?
systemf92 (author)  dema12co4 years ago
Right, I decided to not run the LEDs at max output all of the time, so made the calculations based on them running at 20mA. Also, just to be safe and reduce the chance of there being enough power running through the ignitor. It was just a precautionary measure, and I do not know whether using 300 Ohm resistors would set off the charge or not.
Why did you decide to use two 470 Ohm resistors in series on each side and not just a single 940 Ohm resistor? (or one close by to that value)
say it if i'm wrong but if you flick the arm switch there goes a current through the igniter?
Does this current ignite it?
samirsky2 years ago
Will standard (Estes) model rocket igniters light the fireworks?
yaly3 years ago
In picture no.6 what is the thing from radio-shack on the top left? is it a pair of wire cutters?
Not sure... I got one in my soldering kit but have no idea what it is.
jtho3462 years ago
I just made this by following your instructable this afternoon and was so disappointed when I got done. I was tired and my neck hurt from looking down soldering, so when i found that it didn't work, i was sad. I was just about to go to bed and try again tomorrow when i realized that i didn't put any test leads in the speaker terminals... turns out it works! awesome instructable! Thanks so much!
Cool! You should enter the R/C Contest!
molyneaux3 years ago
can you send me a list of all the parts and where you get them
I bought all the parts I needed on ebay. I've got around $100 in leds, switches, battery holders, ribbon cable, and everything else. I also set mine up where the test feature will only use 3v. to check it and will use 12v. when it is going to activate the cues.
Try Radio Shack....... also http://www.alliedelec.com/ is a good place to try but if you don't live in the United States idk where to send you
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