Introduction: LED Light Up America

About: Hey there! I’m Kevin Yang and welcome to my Instructables! I love tinkering with electronics and I thoroughly enjoy making technology that solves everyday problems. While I’m not in my bedroom-converted worksh…

If you didn't know already, I love LEDs! They go great with any project. So when walking by a wooden America cutout sign in the sadly closed down AC Moore, I instantly knew what to do: make it light up!

Step 1: LED Strips

Despite my extensive history with LEDs, I have never used LED strips before. This is for numerous reasons that I won't dive into but I knew that I was going to have to use LED strips for this project. Thus, I went onto Amazon and bought an LED kit with all the needed essentials.

LED Kit Notable Features:

  • 150 RGB 5050 SMD LEDs (16.4 feet)
  • Waterproof
  • 3M Self-adhesive tape background
  • 12v power supply
  • Controlled through IR remote
  • 16 different color "modes"

Step 2: Prep and Assembly

Originally, I was thinking of making this complicated acrylic glass wall that would be placed on the backside of the sign. I would stick the LED strips along this wall, allowing for even light distribution from the acrylic but this idea quickly fell through for a multitude of reasons. I neither have the tools to make an acrylic cut out nor the skill to do so. Thus, I relied on old fashioned sticky tape and stuck the LED strips onto the backside of the America sign.

Tip: I advise you to wipe down the surface with alcohol pads to remove any dust or grime. This ensures maximum "stick" from the LED strips.

Step 3: The Long Solder...

Going into this project, I didn't realize how much time and effort it was going to take to finish the LED sign. I thought this was going to be a quick solder job but I was mistaken. In all, it took me about 5 hours to solder everything together, most of it spent planning wire placement and cutting them down to length.

Why did I spend such a long time planning everything out? Because I wanted everything to be as perfect and precise as possible. Without a proper light diffuser on the sign, having an evenly lit background would be difficult to achieve. Thus, if you set out on your own journey to make a light-up sign, I advise you to spend as much time as possible planning the placement of the LED strips. Once you stick them on there is really no turning back.

Step 4: Final Judgment

As an electronics hobbyist, I know all too much the reality of the magic smoke. After spending 5+ hours on this project, the last thing I want is the LEDs releasing the magic smoke. Thus, I spent the next hour probing my connections, checking for bad solder connections and/or any shorts.

Step 5: Success!

Plugging in the 12v adapter, the LEDs promptly turn on. Success!

LED Strip Speed Challenge

Participated in the
LED Strip Speed Challenge