Introduction: Moon Secrets LED Jacket

Have you been to the moon? Do you know what secrets it holds? I was invited to construct an LED space uniform jacket for Buzz Aldrin to wear in a segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It's a fairly straightforward NeoPixel and LED sequin project and I thought you might like to learn how to build something similar at home.

Before you begin, you may wish to check out these helpful prerequisites:

Photo with Stephen by Derek Moreno, wardrobe supervisor for The Late Show

Step 1: Materials & Tools

To create an illuminated jacket with NeoPixel motif and LED sequin emblem, you will need some sewing supplies and some electronics supplies from Adafruit. I made a parts wishlist and link individually to them here.

Parts & Expendables:

Tools:

Step 2: Design Process & Circuit Diagram

The design for the LED circuit was conceived by Antonia in The Late Show wardrobe department, sketched directly on the jacket with LED strip. To create your own design, put your jacket on a body form or patient model and pin your pixel strip in place (if pinning on a human, be careful not to poke your model). Leave more than you will need in each strip because it's easier to cut pixels off than it is to add them to a strip later.

Check out the circuit diagram for this project. The chain of NeoPixels starts at center front, heading up over the right shoulder and down over the left, then back up over the left and down the right, then back one more time to the left lapel area, where the power and ground lines run to an emblem made of single color LED sequins.

One switch controls battery power, and one triggers an animation effect to occur across the NeoPixels. The circuit is controlled by the Feather 32u4 microcontroller board, which sits in the front right pocket with the switches and battery.

Step 3: Construct NeoPixel Circuit

To put together the NeoPixel circuit, use small bits of silicone coated stranded wire, your third hand tool, and soldering iron. Be sure to keep track of the directionality of the NeoPixels while you're building. All the data lines must point towards the end of the strand, as shown in the circuit diagram.

Where the pixel strip reverses direction, solder three wires to connect power, ground, and signal pads. Be sure to tin each pad and each wire end before soldering them together. A stray strand of wire here could cause a major malfunction later, so be careful to twist all strands together and work with good lighting.

For the freeform pixel chain, use a ruler and marking pen to measure and cut pieces of a consistent length. Strip and solder wires connecting power, ground, and signal pads between pixels. This is a pretty time consuming part of the project. Take breaks to stretch and use pliers or tweezers to hold your wires when your fingers get tired.

For even color distribution, it's important to supply supplemental power and ground along a strip of pixels this long. At the right front, power and ground from all three strands join together on their way to the microcontroller, and the joints are protected with heat shrink tubing.

I've documented construction of a few similar projects before. The EEG Costume Cap, for example, has more detail about soldering mini pixels into freeform NeoPixel strips. The Bandolier of Light shows simple front/back NeoPixel strip pad soldering.

Step 4: Code for Feather 32u4 Microcontroller & Battery Power

Attached is the Arduino sketch for this circuit. It takes switch input from the tactile button on pin 10 and uses it to trigger an animation (or two) to 131 NeoPixels connected to pin 6. To program the Feather 32u4, you will need to install the additional Adafruit boards for your Arduino software.

Step 5: LED Sequin Emblem

At the end of the pixel chain, the data wire terminates inside the lapel (it is continued on the front of the jacket just to look symmetrical). However the power and ground lines continue to work their magic.

The LED sequin emblem reads "LSSC" in condensed Braille pattern dots (another brilliant design idea from wardrobe). All sequins are wired in parallel by soldering two wire ends for daisy chaining all positive terminals together and likewise the negative terminals.

Step 6: Sewing & Wire Management

Most of the pixel strip and wires are held in place with clear quilting thread and a whip stitch. But it's flimsy and annoying, so anywhere that doesn't show is whip stitched in jacket-coordinating cotton/poly thread.

Use a seam ripper to create routing holes for wires as you install different elements. Construction can get a bit awkward when you're taking the bunched up jacket to the soldering station, so be extra careful not to burn or melt anything unintentionally.

It's important to secure any exposed wires so they don't get snagged. In this case it was also important to stop the zipper from extending past a certain point by whipping around the teeth several dozen times.

Step 7: It's Finished!

There you have it! A simple space themed uniform of sorts, perfect for Buzz Aldrin's Moon Scoops on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Hopefully it can inspire an LED creation of your own design! I'd love to see photos if you build one.

What would you add to this project to take it to the next level? Bluetooth to add remote animation control? A cell phone module so you can text it commands? A microphone for audio-reactive animation? Let me know what you're brainstorming in a comment below.

Comments

author
darrenah (author)2016-09-09

Great Jacket!!

Did you design it? Or did they already have an idea of what they wanted and asked you to build it?

author
bryanbrews (author)2016-05-11

awesome project Becky and congratulations! Why did you use the Feather and not the Gemma?

author
push_reset (author)2016-05-10

There is so much awesome in this 'ible. You must have been puummped. Buzz Aldrin = the coolest person to ever wear LEDs.

author
Jonathanrjpereira (author)2016-05-10

I saw this YouTube(Stephen's show). So cool!

author
lorryt0 (author)2016-05-08

Its a bit hard to take seariosly when the chump never got to the moon

author
NigelWM (author)lorryt02016-05-08

He was the second man to walk on it.

author
User1 (author)2016-05-08

Nice job on this! Man, I never knew this about Ortega!

I really love Stephen's helmet. Is there an 'able on it?

author
Lavoz24 (author)2016-05-08

Awesome 'ible and even more awesome person!!! Thanks so much for sharing! I have an old Star Trek type work jacket and suspenders from when I worked at Mars 2112(look it up) and I was thinking what could I do with it them and now I know. Thank you.

author
kart15 (author)2016-05-08

very creative

author
farraha (author)2016-05-05

This is really beautiful

author
ThriftStore Hacker (author)2016-05-05

Great work!! You are very fortunate! Every time i see that guy it makes me think of 30 Rock. The episode when he let Liz Lemon yell at the moon with him. lol

author
mikeasaurus (author)2016-05-05

Moon Scoops!

author
Paris121 (author)2016-05-05

I watched this segment...love Buzz!

Was absolutely delighted to see your cool Instructable

author
Mjtrinihobby (author)2016-05-05

beyond awesome!

author
audreyobscura (author)2016-05-05

So very delightful. Great work and congrats!

author
impied (author)2016-05-05

SPACE JACKET!!!!

author
asergeeva (author)2016-05-05

SO COOL!

author
jessyratfink (author)2016-05-05

Yay!!! This is amazing. So excited for you! :D

author
diy_bloke (author)2016-05-05

nifty. Enough to light up the Dark side of the moon :-)

About This Instructable

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Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables, Becky ... More »
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