How to Create an Eye Catching Display (LED Style)

Picture of How to Create an Eye Catching Display (LED Style)
This is not as much an instructable as a record of how I made a school project. While repeating exactly what I did will probably not help you, this project can be modified to make almost any display more eye-catching.
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Step 1: Come up with an Idea

Picture of Come up with an Idea
I know this sounds stupid but it is necessary to know at least roughly what you are trying to do. In this case, I wanted to somehow incorporate astronomy and draw attention to my poster. With this in mind, I came up with a cheesy saying and a plan for the placement and animation of the LEDs.

Step 2: Generate a poster design

Picture of Generate a poster design
The next step is to create a conventional poster, either by writing/drawing it out on paper or posterboard or by using a program such as Jasc Paint Shop Pro or Adobe Photoshop. Be sure to do a good job here as a great electronics display can only help a crappy poster so much.

Step 3: Gather tools and materials

Picture of Gather tools and materials
Now the fun begins.
You will need:
-A saw
-Some sort of marker or sharpie
-A straight edge
-Tape (scotch or other clear variety)
-Soldering iron
-Desoldering bulb
-Wire cutters
-Needle nose pliers
-Vice grips
-Wire strippers
-Electrical tape or heat-shrink tubing
-A backer for the poster (I used masonite but stiff cardboard or sheet PVC should work)
-Sandpaper (medium grit)
-A microcontroller
-A power source
-Jumper wires
-A breadboard to test it all
...and a partridge in a pear tree.

Don't worry, it sounds like more than it actually is.

Step 4: Make backer

Picture of Make backer
While you probably have a very beautiful poster at this point it is not nearly thick enough to support the electronics. Using the straight edge, mark a piece of the backer board the same size as the poster and cut it out.

Step 5: Sand down the edges

Picture of Sand down the edges
When you cut the masonite it will probably have rough edges. Five minutes with a piece of sandpaper can go a long way towards making your display look nice.
Rokko86526 years ago
I saw what is a microcontroler at radio shack and was gonna buy it, is it good? i can make a small robot as soon as i can program micro controllers
I would recommend an Arduino, they are about $30 and are pretty powerful. They use C, but come with many functions that make I/O SOOO much easier. Also, tons of people use them so you can find answers to your questions easily
ELMo_0007 (author)  Rokko86526 years ago
It is a great microcontroller to start out with, I would highly recommend it. In addition to having a built in battery clip, programmer, and prototyping board, it comes with a 300+ page programming guide and an assortment of components. The only problem that I have found with it is that it uses PBASIC, so if you want to use anything other than a Basic Stamp later you need to learn a new programming language.
Thanks! Now to pay off various debts and to get one hundred dollars DX!
juanangel7 years ago
Have you thought of using SMT LED. They can be mounted flush in the cover. Plus a larger amount for a better look
ELMo_0007 (author)  juanangel7 years ago
Thanks, that's a good idea. At the time I made the poster I didn't even know the difference between SMT and thru-hole components, let alone how to make my own circuit boards. Perhaps I will track down a copy of Eagle and make a version 2.0 next time I have to make a poster for school.
RedBinary7 years ago
Nice instructable! Well done! The only thing I may have done differently was maybe have used less delay between the yellow LED's so that the loop was faster. P.S.: I have the same Crescent flush cutters sitting in front of me this very moment!
Fatvod7 years ago
RFilyaw Fatvod7 years ago
Haha yeah. That was so funny that the cops there got their panties in a bunch when there were some flat circuit boards with LEDs in them. For those of you who don't know, it was a low budget advertising campaign across 10 cities for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. Boston is the only city that freaked.
no they all freaked i know for a fact that philly had patrol cars searching for them when word broke
cvxdes7 years ago
At your age, i was still trying to figure out why 2 leds don't take double the voltage 1 does. Good job, I wish I figured stuff out earlier. BTW, I feel bad that you had to buy all that stuff at radio shack, they quadruple the prices from what they pay for them. If you don't mind waiting, even buying parts online and paying for overnight shipping can be cheaper.
uguy7 years ago
Well done, good job. Blink, Blink, BOOM
uguy uguy7 years ago
oops Blink, Blink, Blink Boom
Nice job, thanks for sharing, it's pretty cool!
jolshefsky7 years ago
Boy do I know the feeling of "I happen to have this clunky programmable thing, but it'll do." Good job!
Great job kid thanks for sharing