Bubble Alarm Clock Makes Waking Up Fun(ish)




Introduction: Bubble Alarm Clock Makes Waking Up Fun(ish)

About: I like termoplastic and most anything sold at IKEA. Quirky, random, technical and even automagical...all adjectives you might use to describe me! That's all I've got.

Waking up to a buzzing alarm clock sucks. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to wake up before the sun is out (or has been out for many hours). So what better way to make waking up fun than having a bubble party in bed!

Using an arduino and a commonly available bubble machine toy, you too can wake up to the joy of bubbles.

Take a look at the alarm in action:

Step 1: Tools & Materials

The Parts (you can definitely substitute for stuff you have around the house):

Bubble generating toy: Super Miracle® Bubbles Bubble Factory (purchased at Michaels for 12 bucks)
Microcontroller: Arduino (old Seeduino in my case)
LCD display: Sparkfun Basic 16x2 Character LCD
Snooze button: Staples Easy Button
LED: ThingM BlinkM
Transistor: TIP-120 (Radio Shack 276-2068)
Relay: 5V SF COM-00100
Assorted buttons/switches to adjust time: SF COM-09190 & SF COM-00102
Potentiometer: SF COM-09806
Diode (1N4001)
Resistor 2.2K
Power adapter for arduino
Pin headers


Soldering iron
Wire Strippers
Zip Ties

Step 2: Break Open the Bubble Machine

First you'll need to open up the bubble machine. The one I found was easy to open, just four philips head screws.

Once inside, disconnect the battery and motor from the switch and solder wires for both the motor and the battery pack long enough to feed outside of the machine.

Next, use a Dremel tool to make an opening in the plastic to feed the wires out.

If you like colorful bubbles, attach the LED or ThingM BlinkM on the top of the machine.

Finally, I opted to place a mini-breadboard on the back of the bubble machine to collect all the wires. This made it easier to adjust the distance between the controller and the unit. 

Step 3: Prepare the Easy Snooze Button

Flickr user Tommy Bear has provided a great step by step guide to easy button hacking.

Easy Button Hack Step 11

Essentially you need to remove a capacitor and resistor and attach your own wires.

The easy button is, uh, easily opened by removing the plastic feet to access the four philips head screws. Be sure to hang onto the feet.

Big buttons rock.

Step 4: Prototype the Circut

Plugging stuff in

Depending on the LCD you choose, there may be different wiring requirements.

For the Sparkfun Basic 16x2 Character LCD & using the LiquidCrystal.h library Using the LCD library and following the data sheet (http://www.sparkfun.com/datasheets/LCD/GDM1602K.pdf

Here is a wiring diagram: 

second version of bubble alarm diagram

Originally I was planning to run the motor directly from the transistor. It seems that the motor produces a significant amount of noise in the ground, causing the LCD to print garbage. I switched to a relay to keep the motor and Arduino circuits separate. 

I wasn't familiar with making this type of circuit. These resources were helpful, you might want to check them out. 

Bildr.org: High-Power Control: Arduino + TIP120 Transistor
ITP Physical Computing Tutorial: Using a transistor to control high current loads with an Arduino

Step 5: Write the Code

Here is a GitHub Repository of the current code I'm using. It needs a bit of work, but it should get you going.


The current version of the alarm clock uses the Time.h Arduino library to provide the basic time keeping. 

Improvements to be made in the future:
- Incorporate an external time keeping device or even a GPS based time clock, avoiding the loss of the time & alarm if the Arduino looses power
- Allow time to be set remotely, or different alarms for different days of the week
- Method for activating bubbles for fun (secret snooze button tap sequence?)

Step 6: Build the Circuit on Perfboard

Once you have a working circuit on the breadboard, it's easy to transfer everything over to perfboard to build a more permanent setup. I happened to have a couple pieces sitting around, but you can also find boards that are similar to breadboard designs, making moving the circuit easier. 

Because no holes are connected on this type of board, I wired a ground and +5V wire down the side. 

I originally soldered the LCD directly to the perfboard. Bad idea! It made troubleshooting difficult. The second time around I soldered female pin headers to the perfboard so the LCD can be removable. 

Step 7: Test & Adjust

Once you have finished the perfboard circuit, connect it to your Arduino. Once everything seems to be working you can mount the bubble machine and controller in your bedroom.

I ended up using an extra box to mount the microcontroller on the bed frame for the time being. 

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    6 years ago

    Jajaja, the snooze button is actually a mercy button.

    Gravity Boy
    Gravity Boy

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Cool idea in theory and seems to work well in reality, good job. Don't think I would like bubbles in the bed, like my distaste for crumbs. A device that dumps sticky syrup could work as well but not for me, however some like the bubbles.


    Happy tinker.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    My cat would love this if the bubbles were the cat nip kind! Very creative, nice job.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is pretty cool and really creative! But I'd kinda have to laugh if someone got the bubbles in their eyes, now that would really wake them up! XD That's the only negative thing that I'd have to say about the project and having soap residue all over the place, but other than that GREAT JOB!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Eww, fun? Having wet bubbles all over my face and in my eyes as I wake up? No thank you!

    However, this would be a cool way to announce times when you're awake - maybe as a replacement for the school bell in a school for the deaf?