Instructables
Picture of LED
lights_done.jpg
I made this toy a couple years ago when my son was 2. He's always been fascinated with lights and switches. In an effort to keep him entertained and perhaps learn the letters in his name, I built this simple toy. 

Used Parts
- about 50 LEDs (RED, Orange, Green)
- LM7812 Voltage Regulator
- Power source (I had an extra 15v wall wart in my junk bin)
- Power jack (N-size, radioshack)
- Wire
- Scrap wood (Oak)
- Various switches (I had laying around, you can find good deals on ebay)

 
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Step 1: Create Template

Picture of Create Template
My first step was to create a template to work from to aid in drilling the holes for the LEDs. I'm a hack with photoshop but was able to come up with something simple to use as a guide when drilling the holes to accept LEDs.

Step 2: Drilling Pattern

Picture of Drilling Pattern
Next, using a drill press with the paper template taped onto the wood, I started drilling. I just lined up the bit with the crosshairs on the template. After the holes were drilled, I noticed that the letters were closer than I wanted relative to one another. Not a huge screw-up though as each letter has a different color so that contrast helps.
ethomas136 months ago

Nice work! Your instructable really stuck out to me because my name's Elliot and I've been looking for a fun father/son project to make for my 2 yr old. As a kid I always had a hard time finding anything with my name on it, and my son's name isn't going to be any easier i assume. Great work, great name! My son Ember and l will most definitely incorporate this into our Father's Day Toy Build, thanks for sharing!

henlij (author)  ethomas136 months ago
Thanks for the comment. Hope your build goes well and Ember enjoys it for a good long while. My son is 6.5 now and no longer plays with his!
Trevorstach6 months ago

I've finally finished my version of the sign for my nephew. Instead of batteries, I used a wall wart, which produced enough voltage and amperage to power all of the lights easily, so I bypassed the voltage regulator altogether. I also found that the wood used was too thick and for all of you looking to complete a similar project I would select 1/4" ply or similar. I used 1x8 cherry and ended up spending a lot of quality time with the forsner bits on the drill press. I also purchased chromed sleeves for the LED's from Ebay, and while they look nice, I wouldn't do it again, I just found that they added time, cost and unnecessary complexity. I did find that once I completed the sign that a couple of letters seemed brighter than others (specifically, Blue and Green), so playing with the resistors helped in balancing out the look. My wood working was not as precise as I would like as I rushed that part looking to get into the electronics and soldering where I am teaching myself some new skills to move on to more complex projects.

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astromoe992 years ago
I loved this project and used it as my first real electronics project. Thanks for a great idea!

I made mine using 6V from 4AA. The LEDs I bought were very bright and I didn't want to blind the little guy, so in order to dim them I put higher resistance on each series of LEDs than Ohm's law would dictate. In case of the green I used no resistance because the voltage drop and inherent resistance across 3 of them dimmed them to the level I wanted. 6V meant a LOT more soldering but I wanted the box to be portable.
I know you have just finished the project, but do you have any idea how long the batteries last? I want a portable one too, and as long as they last for several hours, I think I would likely follow your lead on using a battery setup
henlij (author)  astromoe992 years ago
Excellent. I'm happy others found this a worthwhile project. Hope Cooper has a great time with it. :-)
The first post didn't take my images.
cooper_box1.jpgcooper_box2.jpg
Ok I apparently can solder but not work image uploading on Instructables :)
cooper_box3.jpg
IronWill2 years ago
Creative. it is cute.
is it just me but all toddlers are named Elliot? :D it is not the first nor the third instructable dedicated to a toddler Elliot.
hope he liked it! :)
Shxdxws2 years ago
If you can help...

I'm building a similar project for my son to play with. Mine uses 3 LEDs (Red, White and Blue) and 3 switches. Each switch is supposed to turn on one light, and they are supposed to each work independently, but run off of the same power source (9v battery, likely). I can't seem to get the wiring right, and I was wondering if you could help. The LEDs I'm using are these:
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3125355
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3111495
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3096133
I need to know how to wire them to make them work independently with their respective switches and what value resistors to use (and where to put them for that matter). The total voltage requirement for all 3 on at once should be about 8-8.5v, so a 9v battery should work. I'm not worried about changing it out when it's dead, I just want this to work! I'm usually pretty good with electronics, but this one is driving me nuts! Thanks in advance for any help...
henlij (author)  Shxdxws2 years ago
There are some handy LED/Resistor calculators online, just google "LED Resistor calculator". Using one, I've determined that you'll want 3, 330 ohm, 1/4 watt resistors. Attached is a schematic as best as I can tell from your description.

Good luck and have fun! :-)
Screen Shot 2012-06-25 at 4.16.06 PM.png
Shxdxws henlij2 years ago
Thank you so much for your time...my only question is that wouldn't the resistor values have to be different since the FV on each LED is different? I couldn't find a resistor calculator that let you put in more than one LED voltage, so I wasn't sure if this would work. I'll give it a shot though and let you know how it goes!
Shxdxws Shxdxws2 years ago
Thanks again for your help...It works! Not shown: I had to cut out a piece of old sponge and glue it to the back plate to hold the 9v in place so it doesn't rattle around, but here's some (sideways?) photos. Oh, and the boy loves it too!
photo 5.JPGphoto 3.JPGphoto 1.JPG
henlij (author)  Shxdxws2 years ago
Love it. It's a lot like the first one I built. Watch out though, if your boy is like mine, he'll grow tired of it and then you'll be making another one more complicated. ;-)

After I built the one spelling his name and he got tired of it, I just broke down and bought him a set of "snap circuits". He LOVES them. Cheers!
henlij (author)  Shxdxws2 years ago
Yes, you'd think they'd need to be different, I'm not entirely sure why! Play around with some values in that 200-400 ohm range and see what they LEDs look like. I did fiddle with values a bit on mine so they different colors would be close to the same brightness.
Shxdxws henlij2 years ago
PS - what do you use to make your schematic drawings? Is that a dedicated program or do you just use an image editor like Photoshop?
henlij (author)  Shxdxws2 years ago
I use a program called iCircuit (for Mac OS and iOS). Very simple and doesn't do as much as others but for someone at my skill level, it is perfect.
Trevorstach2 years ago
Hi, I love this and I have ordered the led's for the project. My little guy is so busy and mobile it would be convienant to have batteries for this project, but drawing ~1 amp, how long would a set of batteries last? I was also thinking I could do it with the option for batteries or a wall wart. Any thoughts?
henlij (author)  Trevorstach2 years ago
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I don't think batteries would last very long given my calculations. Drawing an amp, AAs would only last about 2 hours or so. :-(
jdmolson2 years ago
This is a great idea ... thanks for the inspiration Henlij! I will definately be making one of these for my daughter who is 21 mos. and who's favorite word right now is "buttons"!
B_randon2 years ago
Exactly how many volts are you running on? I'm thinking of using battery holders, but wasn't for sure if it would be easier to use a power supply.
henlij (author)  B_randon2 years ago
I'm running the circuit at 12v (via 7812 regulator). There are about 50 LEDs so the current is ~1amp. You could use batteries but I try to avoid them if possible. Even recharging them is a pain!
popewill3 years ago
That's awesome! I may have to make this sometime.
rionmv3 years ago
This is so great. I'm thinking about making this and the best part is my son's name is Elliot so I have even less work to do!
lmnopeas3 years ago
This is so cool! My boys would love this!