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Close Encounters of the Curiously Minty Kind.


This Instructable will show you how to build an Altoids version of the 'Close Encounters' mothership, and how to interact with it. This may be vital training for that day when the Bright White Beam comes to suck you up into the unknown.

It will also introduce you to the PicAxe microcontroller chip and a method of drilling perfectly spaced holes in thin sheet metal. I have kept the building instructions fairly concise, but the photos show everything step by step.




 
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Step 1: The LED Array


If you're not familiar with soldering, there's a great guide HERE. I would disagree with one point in it - Lead-free solder may be OK for health, but it's rubbish for soldering. Get yourself a good, big reel of 60/40 tin/lead (while you can) and arrange efficient fume extraction.

Most LEDs are VERY bright over a very small viewing angle. Here I've used wide-angle flat top LEDs which give the same light but spread over a much wider range which will allow this to be appreciated from all angles. The video really doesn't do justice to the brightness and clarity of the LEDs. They are bright even in daylight. Also the initial flashing is an artifact. The LEDs are pulsing smoothly.

The 12 LEDs are arranged as three banks of 4, which gives 7 possible patterns of illumination. It would have been good to have more but I wanted to keep this simple and specifically use the PicAxe 08m chip. The spreadsheet shows the way the LED colours and banks are arranged.

For the LED array you will need :-

  • 3 x red LEDs, 3 x blue LEDs, 3 x green LEDs, 3 x yellow LEDs.
  • 6 x 180R resistors (brown, grey, brown) for the red and yellow LEDs.
  • 3 x 220R resistors (red, red, brown) for the blue LEDs.
  • 3 x 330R resistors (orange, orange, brown) for the green LEDs.
  • 18 x 15 hole copper strip veroboard.
  • Spot face cutter ( or a 5mm drill bit or craft knife).
  • Scraps of plain board and link wire.

Resistors can be 1/8 watt or 1/4 watt, 5%, 2% or 1%.
There are many factors influencing how bright a LED looks, so I chose these values empirically (i.e. what looked right) to balance the brightness, with a quick calculation to get around the right current. These are running at around 12mA

Cut 4 strips of single hole plain veroboard. These are to act as spacers to give clearance for the resistors when the array is mounted on the tin lid. I put ink dots on each so they didn't get mixed up.

Insert the LEDs as shown with the colours in the right order and with the anodes (short leg - large electrode) at the top. The anodes will be all connected to the supply voltage. The cathodes will be joined in banks and switched to Gnd with transistors. Solder these in and crop the legs.

Cut the tracks using the spot face cutter and solder in the resistors.

The table below shows which LED goes where, which resistor goes with it and which output of the PicAxe it's connected to (X,Y or Z).
Column 1     Column 2     Column 3     Column 4Red X 180    Yel Y 180    Grn Z 330    Blu Y 220Yel Y 180    Grn Z 330    Blu X 220    Red Z 180Blu Z 180    Red X 180    Grn Y 330    Yel X 180
You can then carefully solder in the two bare wire links which connect the common anodes and then connect the LED cathodes into banks with link wire (green, yellow, blue wires), and add flying leads which will go to the control board. You should also add a supply wire (red) to the anodes.

Carefully test the assembly by applying 5V to the red wire, and grounding each bank in turn. Each connection should light up a different 4 LEDs. If it works, you've completed the LED array board.

devilmaycry3 years ago
The project is totally cool but It would be realy helpful if you breifely explain how to make the controller because the picture s do not explain that much so .Thanks
AndyGadget (author)  devilmaycry3 years ago
 
I beg to differ.  It's probably not the ideal project for an absolute raw beginner, but the first picture in step 3 clearly shows the topside component and link positions, the second picture shows the copper side cut tracks, and the PDF at the end of the step gives the circuit diagram.  Those three items make the project a simple build.
WVvan4 years ago
Ingenious. And the video is a hoot.
J-Five4 years ago
I was wondering is ther any programing of the chips?
AndyGadget (author)  J-Five4 years ago
The code needs be programmed into the 08m chip but this is done in-circuit with a simple lead.  There's more info in step 1 and step 6 HERE.  The good part is once you've got the lead (and the free software) you have all you need to create your own PicAxe projects.
Thanks I didn't notice it before
It looks cool though.
RPisces4 years ago
This is pretty neat. I thought, at first, that you had used hall effect sensors. That would have added a lot more functionality, randomness, and 'personality' to the project...But anyways, very cool!
AndyGadget (author)  RPisces4 years ago
Hall sensors are great fun - I'll be using a couple in a future project. The PicAxe code space was packed full as it was with this project, so no room for any more functionality.
"The PicAxe code space was packed full..."

I'm not surprised; you've used everything that little chip's got to offer it seems!
AndyGadget (author)  RPisces4 years ago
Nowhere near! I'm not using the servo control, the PWM, the three A to D converters, the interrupt . . . ;¬) The note data which takes up a good proportion of the space too - It's shared with the program space. The 08m can handle all those things, but with only 256bytes of code memory the challenge is always to pack it all in. The 20x2 however . . .
The notes dont actually take up any space on the chip. it is only the program its self that is downloaded not the notes so if i put say a big 500 line explination with a 3 line program it would only take up a couple of bytes depending on what commands where used
AndyGadget (author)  terrapinlogo4 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
AndyGadget (author)  AndyGadget4 years ago
AH!  I've twigged. 
You're thinking notes = comments, which are ignored when transferred to the chip. 
I mean notes = musical tones, which are part of the program .

 ah i get you i have never used the music notes on the picaxe and had forgotten it existed but yes you are correct in that they take up alot of space. my mistake.
J-Five4 years ago
There Here!!!!!
conrad24685 years ago
I was just @ devils tower for an air show....its pretty......WOAH!
coopgrl885 years ago
ok...well i find that to be just hilarious :) *wipes moisture from corner of eye*
thepelton5 years ago
I may do something like this with a plastic egg. I have been buying out of season easter eggs from a discount food store, and I have about a dozen empties now, and too much of a heart to throw them away.
Just don't try to convince anyone it's from aliens. Altoids tin.
AndyGadget (author)  jedi pen-gui-n5 years ago
Not many people know this, but Altoids are actually from a planet in the Altair system. As the Wiki article says, "In astrology, the star Altair was ill-omened, portending danger from reptiles".
Conclusive proof that Altoids are made by LIZARDS!
*sigh*
IS this guy for real???
papalevies5 years ago
Looks like fun
beadydani5 years ago
Wot a very clever idea, it also made me smile. Well done.
dagenius5 years ago
For the array, could you just use one normal protoboard instead of cutting it up into collumns?
AndyGadget (author)  dagenius5 years ago
The thin strips are to give a bit of clearance between the main array board and the tin lid and give a channel for the 12 resistors to lie in. Having a complete board would mean the resistor bodies were hard up against the tin.
cool!!! you are getting my vote!!!
kwk5 years ago
Lol great fun :)
Bongmaster5 years ago
hehe lots of fun :)
bumpus5 years ago
Cooooooooooool!