Picture of Skateboard with PIC microcontroller and LEDs
christmas 2007 027.jpg
final led.jpg
What do you get when an Electrical Engineer builds a Skateboard from scratch for a 13 year old's Christmas present? You get a skateboard with eight white LEDs (headlights), eight red LEDs (tailights) all controlled via PIC microntroller! And I might add, one very happy 13 year old, well as happy as a 13 year old can be. Following is how I modified a skateboard kit (from ROAROCKIT.COM), added LEDs to the front and back, added PIC circuit, and covered with a comic book and custom graphics.
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Step 1: Start building the Skateboard

Picture of Start building the Skateboard
Starting with a laminate kit that was purchased from www.roarockit.com, laminate the first three layers together. The laminate kit from roarockit includes everything needed to laminate and form your own skateboard. This is the second kit that I have used from them and have been very happy with their product.
1. Place the first laminate on the foam mold.
2. Spread the skateboard glue on the first layer.
3. Place the second laminate on top of the first.
4. Spread the skateboard glue on the second layer.
5. Place the third laminate on top of the second.
6. Insert guide pin.
7. Slide the assembly into the netting.
8. Slide the assembly into the vacuum bag, seal the bag, and pump out all the air.

Step 2: Create Channel for Wires

Picture of Create Channel for Wires
The wires that connect the LEDs at the front and the back of the Skateboard to the circuit board are installed in the fourth (middle) laminate of the skateboard.
1. After 24 hours remove the first three laminates from the vacuum bag.
2. Cut a channel/groove into the fourth laminate.
3. Add glue to the top of the first three laminate.
4. Place the fourth laminate on top of the assemble.
5. Place the assembly onto the foam mold, insert guide pin.
6. Place the entire assembly into the netting, then vacuum bag, and vacuum all the air out again.

Step 3: Add wires and complete skateboard assembly

Picture of Add wires and complete skateboard assembly
add wires.jpg
Since we are using eight LEDs at the front and back of the skateboard in a common anode configuration, we need nine wires from the circuit board to the front, and another nine wires from the circuit board to the back. I cut the wires out of a serial cable so that I would have eight different colors. The ninth wire is a larger gauge wire. With this combination I did not have to mark each individual wire.
1. After another 24 hours remove the assembly from the bag.
2. Tape/clamp the remaining three laminates together.
3. Drill holes in the last three laminates at the location of the LEDs and circuit board. Note: I used the TLAR (that looks about right) method for locating the holes.
4. Tape the wires into the groove.
5. Glue and add the last three laminates to the assembly, while pulling the wires through the holes that were drilled.
6. Slide into netting and vacuum bag for the last time.

Step 4: Build the circuit

Picture of Build the circuit
power supply.bmp
This circuit is based on a PIC16F870 microcontroller. This controller was chosen because of the number of input/output pins, and the fact that I have a programmer for this chip. The input is a single pushbutton that cycles through each of the 15 LED flashing patterns. The outputs drive transistor switches, which turn on the individual LEDs. The transistor switches were used to keep the power dissipation through the microcontroller under the specified maximum (200 mA max). The power supply for the circuit is a slightly modified LM317 kit that is available at Ramsey Kits. The power supply was chosen because the circuit will be potted (encased in potting epoxy) and the LM317 will not require a heatsink. The kit provided a ready made circuit board and parts to construct the power supply, DC input is provided by six AAA batteries (9 volts). Since the kit is designed to accept AC power input, I removed the Diode bridge rectifier and large cap as my input is already DC. The power output was adjusted to achieve 5 volts for the microcontroller and the full 9 volts are used to power the LEDs. The entire circuit was tested on a bread board, then built on a prototype board from radio shack. The parts list can be derived from the schematic. The assembly code and video of testing are also attached.

Edited: Here is the YouTube video:

Step 5: Build housings

The LED housings are carved out of Balsa, reinforced with fiberglass and 60 minute epoxy then blended into the board using Bondo (plastic body filler). The housing for the circuit board is created using a project box from Radio Shack, cut to conform to the curves of the board then attached using epoxy and fiberglass. The project box is also blended to the board using Bondo. The LED mounts at the front and back are made out of Aluminum strips from Home Depot, that are drilled to accept the LEDs. The circuit board was constructed first so that the height of the project box could be determined, again using the TLAR method.

Step 6: Adding the Artwork

Picture of Adding the Artwork
add tread.jpg
This step was easily the most labor intensive and time consuming. I have been told by everyone that has seen the board that the pictures I sent them really don't do the final product justice. The skateboard is covered with pages from a comic book and artwork created with Photoshop and Corel Draw printed out on sticker paper. Note: I tried several different papers for Ink Jet printing for the artwork. The one that I had the best luck with was full page labels from Office Depot. All artwork was attached using Polycrilic from Home Depot, then an additional 15-18 layers of Polycrilic were added. Finally the board was sealed with an Acrylic Sealer from Hobby Lobby and Tread Tex from Ace Hardware was added to provide grip. Below is step by step of how it was done.

1. Cut the comic book pages into manageable sections.
2. Soak the sections in Polycrilic.
3. Apply to the board using a flexible plastic spreader.
4. Wait two hours then apply the Ink Jet Stickers. Stickers are sealed with Acrlyic sealer before Poly is added.
5. Apply coat of Polycrilic.
6. Wait two hours then sand the Poly with 220 grit sand paper.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you can no longer feel the edges of the paper. Note: In several places I sanded through the Poly and damaged the comics/art, this "accident" added character to the board and if I did it again I would not avoid sanding through.
8. Once the edges could no longer be felt, I switched to 320 grit sand paper, then added two more layers of Poly.
9. A wet layer of Poly was added to the top of the board, Tread Tex was sprinkled onto the board using a salt shaker.
10. Two more layers of Poly were added to the top of the Tread Tex.
11. The entire board was sprayed with a clear gloss Acrylic sealer.

This entire process took almost two weeks.

Step 7: Make LED assemblies

Picture of Make LED assemblies
led bar.jpg
In step five we drilled the Aluminum strips for the LEDs, here we add the LEDs to the strips and prepare them for inserting into the skateboard.

1. Insert eight white LEDs into one strip, attach using 5 minute epoxy.
2. Solder all anodes together.
3. Repeat steps one and two with the red LEDs.

Step 8: Putting it all together

In this step we complete the assembly of the Skateboard.

1. Solder the LEDs to the wires that are sticking out of the housings. Make a note of what color wires goes to what LED.
2. Attach the wires to the circuit board.
3. Install batteries and test the circuit before gluing anything permanent.
4. Glue the LED assemblies to the housings.
5. Glue the battery boxes to the skateboard.
6. Drill holes for the switches and install the switches.
7. Create a barrier between the circuit board and batteries.
8. Mix and pour the potting epoxy.
9. Drill the holes for the trucks.
10. Install the trucks and wheels.
11. Ride and enjoy.

Edited: here is the YouTube video:

Attached is a short video of Josh (the 13 year old) riding the board in the dark. The video was hard to shoot in the dark with the bright LEDs, but Josh claims they make it much easier to ride at night.
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nodoubtman1 year ago

Hi! Nice project!.. would you mind posting .hex file?

thank you!

traxxer3 years ago
I bought a micro cruiser over at scuffz.com a couple of weeks ago to try something similar like this project but I think i'm way in over my head... I just want the lights so that I can skate at night so I think i'll just fork over a little more and get the risers that mangomango linked.
not good for grinding.. lol.
jimmytvf3 years ago
seems like a christmas tree, but is very cool though
you should make one with a peace of lexan or plexey glass at the core and have the LEDs inside of the board. then the lights could be arranged any way. and the light would shoot out the edge of the board. could also be done with a fiberglass coating so the entire board is clear. Minus the grip tape.
Iron Dude7 years ago
what the heck is a pic microncontroller
it's a microcontroller- something that works like a mini less complex computer
TSC5 years ago
Nice does the top have grip????
theadamlevy7 years ago
you could add an automatic turning signal by hooking up pressure switches to the back trucks then wiring it to orange LED's idk if they make orange leds if they dont you could take white LEDs then add an orange plastic opaque sheet over them
Since it's a driven by a micro controller you could achieve the the same effect with an accelerometer(s) inside the project box, could even give you brake lights... And yes they most certainly make orange leds.
kewlkat0075 years ago
 epic just wondering were i could get the materials plees help i have been wanting to do this for ever
the link is in the step,     www.roarockit.com
GroggDog5 years ago
will do it to my snowboard lol
mangomango6 years ago
there's a website that sells risers for lonboards with those built in.
there actually shock proof so they wont break when your riding

that was a horrible video. good idea though.
denilsonsa6 years ago
The YouTube video from step 8 has been removed by the user.
Flaky_Jay's6 years ago
what did the other board look like.
fourball (author)  Flaky_Jay's6 years ago
Here is the top and bottom of the other board before the trucks/wheels were put on.
Newblit6 years ago
That's great. I really do think this is a great way to skateboard at night and not get hit by a car lol. Where did you purchase the LED's from anyways?
fourball (author)  Newblit6 years ago
All of the electronic components were purchased from Digi Key.
cool i would love to boardside with that baby. actually i think this mod would have been better for a longboard.
That's pretty sweet, he needs to be careful with it though.
This is a great article. very informative. Do you mind if we use this article at www.thriveepidemic.com ? we will acredit you fully.
fourball (author)  thriveepidemic6 years ago
I don't mind at all, feel free.
thank you much.
=SMART=7 years ago
Wow you actually built the board!!, the comics look great ! your son is very lucky!!
damasta7 years ago
is it possible the electronics all inside the board instead of a project box on the bottom? because then you could still grind and do other tricks in which the board touches whatever you're riding
i agree. or turn the box 90 degrees so if he turns sharp it wont scrape the box.
bryanbrews7 years ago
really awesome! with that large controller box why didn't you consider using RGB LED's?
Dr.Paj7 years ago
Another idea is to put leds facing down along the edges of the board to create an under body glow (like some cars). Then with your electrical engineering skills, make it so that the line of leds light up just like yours, but along the entire board (facing down not out, or you might look like a UFO).
Dr.Paj Dr.Paj7 years ago
A good site for lighting (vehicle or otherwise) is Oznium. You can buy individual leds really cheap, or just buy a tube/string of leds by the foot.
fourball (author)  Dr.Paj7 years ago
Thanks for the link. I have been considering building another one, a Longboard this time. Will look over everyone's comments and see what happens. It's still in the "thinking about it" stage, but you never know.
Dr.Paj fourball7 years ago
No problem. I used that site to put cold cathodes under my car's seats for a glowing floor, I've heard they have good customer service. Good luck if you build the longboard.
summit7 years ago
They do sell clear grip tape. Maybe that would have been easier to apply.
I believe these people sell them.
fourball (author)  summit7 years ago
The Tread Tex was by far the easiest part of the whole project and produces a much better finish than clear grip tape. Thanks for the link.
summit fourball7 years ago
No problem!
bduffman7 years ago
1 they do make orange leds , 2 if u cant get them u can buy paint for them , 3 they idea would be great on a long board , 4 mayb more powerfull lights tho for the front like 3 watt leds , 5 do them battarys recharge if not u should go with say a 6 volt rechargeble battary i used one for a speaker box then u could just plug it in and be all charged up ready other then that great build love the ideas if i didnt give my skate board away ild try this
thats crazy dude... i like. if you want simple though use this one

you can still do tricks with the board too...
fourball (author)  pyrothepenguin7 years ago
I saw that one before. Basically like you said it's crazy, which was pretty much what I was going for. If I hadn't given him two skateboards (both made from the roarockit.com kit), I probably would have done something more along those lines. Thanks for the comment, glad you liked it.
WoodWinds7 years ago
I can see it now..."Pimp my Skateboard". I'll be waiting for the one with hydraulics and lift kits. Good job on the Instructable.
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