Introduction: GLO FLO: Interactive Meditation Mat
Stimulation is everywhere in the modern age. The outside world is filled with flashing lights, loud sounds, advertisements, music, cars. It’s uncommon to get a quiet moment to clear your mind these days. As technology becomes more and more a part of our daily lives and our quotidian objects, our lives become more about convenience, and faster paced than ever before.
Based on a number of examples of homemade pressure sensor mats, I used Velostat to create a giant pressure sensor that would act as a button that turns on a series of LED string fairy lights so that they can pulse.
Glo Flo is about highjacking the concept of unnecessary integration of tech into our daily objects and instead creating something that promotes in the moment awareness, connection with our bodies, clears and calms the mind. It’s highlighting that calm and quiet is becoming a leisure activity.
With smartphones, a world of stimulation is at the tip of your finger.
With Glo Flo, serenity is at the tip of your toe.
The light pulsing is meant to guide measured breathing, being who I am (easily distracted), when I do meditate I need something to focus on, and the light not only gives me a focal point, but also gives me something like a pacer for how I want to breath, depending on the yoga style or meditation I'm doing.
Step 1: Step One: Materials and Tools
These are the materials for the that that I used:
10 sheets of Velostat (purchased online from adafruit)
1 roll of copper tape
1 Roll of Masking Tape
1 Roll of electrical tape (not pictured)
3 or 4 sheets of paper (not pictured)
1 Walmart brand yoga mat
LED string lights, white, 5V, 10m-100LED, IP65 (make sure it has a USB plugin!)
1 spool of upholstery thread
Vinyl fabric, enough to equal the area of your yoga mat.
And the tools!:
An Upholstery needle, can be bought at any local fabric or craft store. They're big and scary looking and often come in a set with a couple straight needles and a couple curved ones.
Just to get everything prepared, you'll want to cut your vinyl to match the size and shape of your yoga mat.
Step 2: Step 2: Preparing the LED String Lights
So, because your lights have to go into a circuit, you'll need to cut them up. There will be more about the circuit later (I promise!), but this step needs to be done first because we're gonna get our traditional femininity on and sew some stuff.
To start, you'll need to cut the string wires off the black USB connection. Easy Peasy.
Once you've done that use the X-acto knife to carefully scrape off the coating that's on the silver wires, keep on scrapin' until you start to see copper. I scraped off about half a cm down each wire.
Next, you'll notice that there are 3 wires. This is the time to be a bit confused. After farting around with a Ohmmeter, you'll figure out that there are 2 positive wires and one negative, use electrical tape or some other way of indicating which is which. You'll also later learn that this is how most string lights are made (funky!).
Repeat the scraping with the USB connection, try to dig out enough wire that you can comfortably solder it to a connection prong (see picture).
Lastly, solder the wires to a connector! Be careful to solder both positive wires to the same one for the string lights. Your end result should look like the picture.
Step 3: Velostat and Copper
The best thing about velostat is that it's super easy to make things with. I did a bunch of testing on how to best attach all my sheets together but in the end decided taping was the best option. As my mother would say, "keep it simple, stupid." My mother loved me very much, evidently.
I used black electrical tape, and just taped along the edges of each of the sheets until it was one big ol' sheet o' velostat.
Now is the time to get your copper on your mat. The best technique I found was to apply the tape little by little, only peeling a few cm of the backing off at a time. Otherwise it curls back on itself and sticks to everything, which will make you want to give up on doing the whole darn thing in general.
A more extensive explanation of the technique is available on my Homemade Pressure Sensor instructable if you want additional tips.
It's not pictured, because I was running out of tape, but you'll want to cover most of the mat and vinyl in copper tape. Make sure it's not wider than the velostat, but it should cover a good majority of it. This is because even though the velostat is all taped up, they're still separate pieces, so you want at least a bit of copper from each side of the mat to be touching the velo.
Once that's all done, pick a side to tape your velostat sheet to! Make sure it doesn't go over the sides of your mat. I found that I had to cut mine a little to get it just smaller, leaving a little of the mat and vinyl overhanging.
Step 4: A Surprise Step
So! I've been testing for the past couple months with this little square prototype I made while doing my materials testing. It worked great! So great, in fact, that I forgot about how heavy and actual yoga mat would be. Another great thing about velostat is that it's nice and sensitive as a material. So, if you're catching what I'm throwing out at you, the mat was actually so heavy that the lights would be on all the time, and not just when someone was standing on it, as intended.
This was easily fixed! It was a pretty MacGyver-ed solution, just cut out a fancy paper snowflake and tape it in between the layer of velostat and the top mat. And Voila! a magical solution.
Don't worry about the paper getting crumpled, that helps by lifting the mat off the copper even a little more, breaking the connection until someone heavier than paper stands on it.
Step 5: Sewwing!!
Now we get to use that big scary oddly specific sewing needle I recommended! The upholstery needle is necessary because vinyl is thick and you're sewing through a lot of material.
I first, I sewed the string lights from earlier around the perimeter of the yoga mat. It was pretty straight forward, but time consuming! This is where patience is vital.
Next, I sewed one of the short side of the vinyl and yoga mat together. I didn't sew all the way around as it starts to bunch up if you roll them all up and all the sides are attached, plus, this way you can show all your friends how it works! Cool!
Step 6: The Circuit.
The circuit I used was a combination of the two fritzing diagrams above, just replace the push button with alligator clips attached to the copper on the mat, and the string lights with the LEDs.
For the Circuit you'll need:
(1) 220 Ohm resistor
(1) 10k Ohm resistor
(1) 1k Ohm resistor
(1) TIP32C Transistor (a PNP type)
Jumper Cables in 4 colours
Both halves of your modified string lights
An arduino Uno board
Negative wire of the LED string lights to GND. Positive wires to 220 Ohm resistor. 220 Ohm resistor to the centre prong on the PNP transistor (make sure the metal bit is facing away from the rest of the circuit). The left prong on the PNP transistor to Power. Right prong to 1k Ohm resistor. 1k Ohm resistor to PWM pin 9 on the Arduino board.
Push Button to GND and Pin 4. Pin 4 to 10k Ohm resistor. 10k resistor to Power.
5V power and GND on the Arduino board to the USB plug in.
Step 7: Code
Step 8: Electronics Housing and My Next Project
This is a box I 3D printed to hold the electronics! I used the program solidworks to do it, and the rendered image is part of my plan for the carrying case that'll go with the mat! Because of all the extra material, it's a tad bulky to carry around without a box, I'll be adding an adjustable strap too. Stay tuned!