Custom Glowing Multicolored Mickey Ears

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About: Just a hobbyist who likes dabbling in lighting electronics and 3D printing!

I wanted to share a little project I worked on for my wife's and my last Disneyland trip! She has these beautiful custom Minnie Mouse Ears made of flowers and gold wire, so I thought why shouldn't I make my own Mickey Mouse ears a little more magical and little more my style - GLOWING!

I think it's actually a pretty easy project anyone can do! One thing to note is that these do not "Glow With the Show" although that would be a pretty fascinating project as I believe they just use a bunch of IR emitters around the park to send the signal. A project for another day though!

This is my first Instructable, so don't be afraid to pepper me with questions if you think I've been short on some details!

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Materials

    • Mickey/Minnie Mouse Ears (Link)
    • Adafruit NeoPixel 2 Meters (Link)
    • Adafruit GEMMA M0 (Link)
    • Black Wire (Link)
    • Lithium Ion Battery (2000mAh) (Link)
    • Clear RTV Silicone (Link)
    • Fabric Glue (Link)
    • Any old piece of fabric

    Tools

    Hopefully you may have quite a few of the more general tools & materials already! That way you're only looking to buy some of the lights and electronics :)

    Step 2: Cut the LEDs to Size

    First you need to cut the NeoPixel strip into 3 sections. 1 for the base and 2 for the ears.

    • 35 lights for base
    • 16 lights for each ear

    My ears are the adult size and regular Mickey Mouse ears, it will probably take less lights on kids sized ears.

    Make sure you cut right along the middle of the copper connectors between each LED. This will allow for a proper connection on each side of the cut.

    The NeoPixels come in a silicone sleeve which you can easily slide the LED strip in and out of. It's easier to cut when out of the sleeve, but don't throw it away because it helps diffuse the light and gives a better effect at night when you turn the lights on!

    Step 3: Cut 3 Slits in the Felt of the Hat

    The three strips of lights will be connected together in a series. Therefore, with your box cutter, you need to cut 3 small 0.5" holes in the felt at the base of the ears. This is so we can snake the lights through from the base, to the right ear and then to the left.

    I did 2 cuts on the right ear and 1 cut on the left.

    You only need one on the left because that is where the light strip will end and doesn't need to continue through.

    Step 4: Connect the Strands and Board Together

    Time for soldering! I'll admit, I'm by no means a great solderer (as evident in my photos) - But it's something you can easily learn and is a very handy skill to have. I won't be instructing it out because there are SO many other great resources teaching the skill - Like right HERE on Instructables!

    An important thing to note with NeoPixel strands is that they have a direction. You can see little arrows pointing in the correct direction right on the strip. Be sure to connect the three strips with the arrows pointing in the same direction.

    Make sure the rubber sleeve is on each of the 3 strands - You can slide them back and forth, out of the way to make it easier to solder the strands together.

    You'll need to cut six 6" and three 1.5" strands of the black wire (I chose all black wire to help hide them against the black hat, but it will help to label the ends so you don't cross the wires). The 3 smaller wires are for connecting the Gemma board to the first long strand, and the longer wires for connecting the strips together.

    In the diagram drawing I've used colored wires only to help differentiate the proper connectors. But not all LED strips have the same connection order so this is the proper way to connect the wires:

    Gemma --> Strip

    Vout --> V
    D1 --> Din
    GND --> GND

    Strip --> Strip

    V --> V
    Din --> Din
    GND --> GND

    Please note the direction of the NeoPixel strip arrows - They are heading away from the Gemma board.

    This isn't necessary but I used a handy little third hand (link) when soldering the connectors. It just helps hold things in place while freeing up your hands.

    Step 5: Test Your Strands

    Before we thread and glue everything, now is a good time to check that your wiring and lights are working together!

    There are far better guides out there on how to set up CircuitPython or Arduino IDE to get testing and using these boards, than I could put together. Such as this great Instructable!

    I've attached the sketch I used. It is slightly modified from another awesome use of lights (This umbrella project).

    Step 6: Thread the Strands Through the Hat

    As you can see in the first picture you'll want to start (and finish) the long strand at the very back of the hat to hide the seem it creates. (Even though it's not glued yet you can use the binder clips to hold the base lights in place while you thread the ears.)

    Once you fully get around the base and to the back again, go under the hat and push both the smaller strands through the outermost hole and pull them through.

    On the same ear thread the last strand back into the underside of the hat (You can see this happening in the third picture from the front).

    Lastly you just need to pull the last strand up through hole and have it finish on the outer-side of the left ear.

    You should now have threaded everything through and it'll look something like the last photo.

    Step 7: Gluing It Down

    Time to glue the light strands down.

    The sleeves around the lights are made of silicone (which don't glue well) so we need some special adhesive/sealant that will seal them down to the plastic of the ears and the fabric of the hat.

    I highly advise using gloves. I even used a mask as Silicone RTV isn't the nicest stuff to handle.

    You can simply start at one of the ends and start laying down the silicone. As you do that use the binder clips to hold everything in place as it drys.

    Silicone RTV comes in different brands and types so have a look on the back of the bottle for how long you need to leave it to dry.

    Step 8: Battery Storage

    Of course this project needs a power source!

    You can simply use a Lithium Ion Battery (2000mAh) to connect straight to the board, but it needs somewhere to live so you don't have a battery dangling by your ear.

    I'm really not that great at sewing, so as you can see in the picture I made a little pouch and used fabric glue to stick right on the top of the underside.

    Maybe I have a big head, but the gap at the top was large enough that it never touched the top of my head and the ears sat perfectly comfortable on me.

    As for the Gemma, I simply sewed one of the unused connectors to the tag on the back of the hat. You can 3D print a protective housing for it (link) if you'd like - but I found it didn't really bother me back there.

    Step 9: Wear Your Ears!

    It's time to wear your ears to Disney! Or anywhere if you're awesome like that :D

    Simply flick the power switch on your Gemma, and because you made your own or loaded the sketch I posted earlier - you're ready to go!

    Now be prepared to get stopped every 10 feet being asked where you bought them in the park! I'll admit - It's a great feeling!

    One consideration note is that even though they aren't as bright as they look in the photos and videos, they can still be distracting during shows at night. Be curious and turn them off while watching a show :)

    Anyway I really hope you enjoyed my first Instructable - I hope you make a pair for your next Disney trip!

    Don't be afraid to ask me questions!

    Make it Glow Contest 2018

    Participated in the
    Make it Glow Contest 2018

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      5 Discussions

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      JustinB37jpm021990

      Reply 5 months ago

      I don't have an exact figure - I'll try to do the math later tonight.

      But in the real world scenario, it lasted the whole time I was in the park! I turned it off a few times, like on rides and during shows. And then I simply charged the battery overnight to be ready to go again in the morning!

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      tomatoskins

      5 months ago

      I love the custom glowing ears! What a great way to personalize them!

      1 reply
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      ChristineE49

      5 months ago

      This is awesome! Thanks for the detailed instructions :)