Introduction: Smart Snow Globe (gives Snow Day Alerts)

What does a smart snow globe do?

It tells you if tomorrow's going to be a snow day!

Is it snowing tonight? Will you have the day off from school or work tomorrow? Put this snow globe next to your bed when you go to sleep to find out. Then when you wake up in the morning (or middle of the night) you can give the snow globe a shake and it will light up in a specific color to tell you whether you can stay home from work or not. If it's a snow day you can roll over and go right back to sleep without having to check your radio/phone/etc.

The snow globe checks the internet for a specific status message and changes color based on tomorrow's status. But you don't want a bright list flashing next to your bed all night, so the snow globe only lights up when you shake it (that's what snow globes are for)!

Where I live in Washington, DC, the federal government has a website advising employees when federal offices are closed due to weather. Many local schools and businesses follow this status as well. The snow globe checks this website to determine tomorrow's status.

The snow globe will light up using the same status colors as the federal government website:

Green = open for business

Yellow = delayed start (you get two extra hours to sleep in)

Red = closed (stay in bed as long as you want!)

Blue = snow globe is working but has received no status information from the internet

Read on to see how to make one.

NOTE: I'm a complete beginner at using Arduino - I only learned in the last month or so. And I'm new to electronics projects too and only a novice programmer too. So I can testify that this is a pretty easy project to do.

Step 1: Gather the Supplies

Since it was a few weeks after Christmas, I went to a local store and picked up a snow globe for $2.  You might have an old one sitting around.  I bought a snow globe that has a translucent stopper in the bottom to keep the liquid in, making it easy to shine a light up through it.  If your snow globe doesn't have a translucent stopper, you could drill a hole in the bottom and seal it with translucent hot glue, but this runs the risk of making your snow globe leak, so be careful!

For electronics I used Adafruit's Flora platform, which worked great.  It's nice and compact and makes the wiring very simple.

Overall supplies list:

1. Snow globe
2. Adafruit Flora platform
3. Adafruit Flora Accelerometer
4. Adafruit Smart NeoPixel RGB LED
5. Stainless steel conductive thread (or you can use wire and solder it)
6. Rubber cement
7. tape or glue
8. toothpick for applying the rubber cement
9. Dremel or other small rotary grinding tool
10. USB-mini cable for programming Flora
11. PC for programming and checking the internet for snow-day status

Step 2: Wire the Electronics

Now you need to wire up the electronics.  This is pretty easy since there are only three electronic parts here.  I got a "learn Arduino" kit two months ago to learn about DIY electronics and it's easy to pick up.  The general idea in this project is that the accelerometer will tell Flora (which is a variant of Arduino) when the snow globe has been shaken, and the Flora will then check the snow-day status on the internet, and turn on the LED in the right color.

The picture below shows the Flora attached to the USB cable, which makes it easier to hold onto.  Just make sure the other end of the cable is not plugged into your computer while you are doing the wiring - there should be no power flowing through it while you make the connections!

Wire up the parts as follows.  I used conductive thread to do this because I don't know how to solder (yet - that's next on the list).  To use the thread you use it like you would regular thread of you were sewing a button on a jacket - wrap the thread through the hole 3-5 times to create a good connection on the gold pad.  Tie it off.  Then connect the other end of the thread to the other device in the same way.  Tie it off.  Make sure you leave the right amount of thread between the connections that you'll need to position the parts where you want them - not too little and not too much.  Leaving extra thread is a problem because if it's flopping around it could make contact with another part of your project or another thread and cause a short circuit.

Use a toothpick to dab a tiny bit of the rubber cement onto your knots.  The thread tends to want to untie itself and this will make your knots stay tied.

Here are the connections:

NeoPixel LED to Flora
1. Connect the pad with the tiny arrow facing toward the center of the LED on the NeoPixel to the "D6" pad on the Flora. 
2. Connect the "+" pad on the NeoPixel to the "VBATT" pad on the Flora.
3. Connect the "-" pad on the NeoPixel to the "GND" pad on the Flora.  Notice that there is more than one pad marked "GND" on the Flora.  Make it easy on yourself and connect to the one that's right next to the "D6" pad so you don't end up with crossed wires later.

Accelerometer to Flora
First, look at your accelerometer.  On the front (the side with the chips sticking out) there are a pair of pins on each side marked "SCL" and "SDA".  One edge of the accelerometer has a "Z" in a circle with arrows point to "X" and "Y".  You want to use the SCL and SCD pads that are on the opposite edge of the accelerometer from this Z.  Don't use the SCL and SCD pads that are on either side of the Z.  Now make your connections:
1. Connect the "SCL" pad on the accelerometer to the "SCL" pad on the Flora.
2. Connect the "SDA" pad on the accelerometer to the "SDA" pad on the Flora.
3. Connect the "3V" pad on the accelerometer to the "3.3V" pad on the Flora.
4. Connect the "GND" pad on the accelerometer to the "GND" pad on the Flora.  Make it easy on yourself and use the GND pad next to the SCL pad to avoid crossed wires.

Check that all your connctions are tight, you have the right length of thread/wire, and you have dabbed a bit of glue onto each knot to keep them tight.

Fold the accelerometer over and tape it to the back of your Flora as show here.  If you have done the wiring correctly, you will have four straight wires connecting them, and no crossed wires/threads.

Leave the NeoPixel LED hanging off to the side.  It should fac in the opposite direction form the Flora, so that if the Flora is lying on the table face-down, the LED is face-up.  This is because you want the Flora upside down so you can access the button on it from bottom of the snow globe.

Step 3: Mount the Electronics in the Snow Globe

Before you mount the electronics in your snow globe, you need to make sure that the Flora can be attached to the USB cable.  To do this, I had to cut a small notch out of the bottom rim of the snow globe to accommodate the USB connector.  Determine where you will position the Flora and the USB connector, then mark the edge of the snow globe and cut the notch with your dremel.

Now insert the Flora (with accelerometer taped/glued under it) and the NeoPixel LED into the bottom of the snow globe.  Position the LED so that it shines up through the translucent plug in the snow globe and lights the inside.  Position the Flora so that the top of it faces away from the snow globe, giving you easy access to the reset button, just in case you need that later during programming.

Now affix the electronics to the hardware. You can glue them easily with hot glue or use clear tape as I've done here.  If using hot glue, be careful not to touch the hot tip of the glue gun to the sensitive electronics - you don't want to melt anything.

Step 4: Program the Snow Globe and Use It!

Now it's time to get the programming done. There are two pieces to this. First is the Processing code that runs on your computer and checks the web for tomorrow's snow day status. Second is the Arduino code that runs on the Flora to translate the message from the processing code into a colored light when the snow globe is shaken.

I've set this up to work with the status website of the federal Office of Personnel Management for offices in the D.C. area, but you could modify this to take status information from another website or from Twitter or somewhere else.

Here's a video of it in action:

Processing code and Arduino code are both attached.

The code includes comments on how to modify it if you want to (e.g. change the sensitivity of the "shake sensor").

Now you're ready to use it! The snow globe needs to remain attached to a computer with the USB cable, because I was too cheap to use a wifi module with this that would let it connect directly to the internet. Once you upload the Arduino code to the Flora, keep it conected to the computer and run the processing sketch. Leave this processing sketch running and it will check the website every 10 minutes, read the XML from the website, find the status, and send that status to the Flora.

Enjoy sleeping in!

Makerlympics Contest

Runner Up in the
Makerlympics Contest

Snow Contest

First Prize in the
Snow Contest

Supercharged Contest

Participated in the
Supercharged Contest