Well, it's super cold out and you need to be prepared with a snow day activity. What better time to stoke the imagination to design and build your own light up monster or alien being. It's also a fun way to get started in programming microcontroller boards like the Adafruit Circuit Playground or any other Arduino variant.
Step 1: Hatching an Idea...
Well, it's been super cold all week, oh I mentioned that already and cabin fever was about to set in. I started thinking about what I could make with the stuff I had on hand. Keep moving to keep warm. I made this:
I had used one of my Adafruit Circuit Playground classic boards that was already wired up to a battery pack. There are ten Neopixel LEDs on the board to use. You could use any Arduino or microcontroller that can drive LEDs.
I used foamboard - the kind you use for making charts and posters or for mounting photos in a frame - to make the case for the circuit board.
So the point of this instructable is really to show you that if you need a case or holder for your electronics, just make it with materials on hand. You do not need to get overly complicated to do a 3D CAD designed and 3D printed case or even one requiring workshop full of woodworking tools. If you don't have foamboard - I know, it is expensive - use the corrugated cardboard from an empty shipping box. Using foamboard or cardboard also gives you the quick prototype model on which you can see what works and see what needs improving. You can then spend more time on a final product later that is more refined.
Step 2: Cut It Out, Really, Cut It Out...
What kind of alien creature or friendly monster do you want to make?
Does it have tentacles, robot grippers, clown shoes? What do you want to light up or blink? I've got a "ring" of Neopixels so I am leaning towards something with one big eye.
Sketch out any design on your foamboard.
Place your circuit board somewhere on your design. Trace around it. Gently slice the line with a utility knife without cutting through to the other side. You can then peel off the cut area and gouge or dig out the foam beneath with your fingers. This makes a great mounting hole to press-fit in the circuit board. Position the board and see if you need to make any other cuts like I needed for the wires to the external battery pack.
You can make it any size you want, even include a spot for the battery pack. You may need more layers to increase the thickness or depth of the cutout. Just glue the layers together.
Since I wanted this cutout to stand on its own... You can cut out another leg or arm or limb to act as the third leg. Cut a notch to slide this on to the main body. You can add glue or tape if it doesn't fit securely. Trim the bottoms of the legs to make it all stand evenly on a flat surface.
Step 3: Blinky Eyes...
IMHO, Neopixels or any LEDs look better when the light coming from them is diffused. The harsh bright light needs to be tamed a bit.
To make a better looking eye... I cut another piece of foamboard to be a bezel or a ring around the "eye".
Glue a piece of felt behind it. When the glue is dry, push the fabric out a bit to make a rounded eye. You can also add a sliver of dark material to be the pupil of the eye and even add an eyebrow. To make the monster real hip, you could add a tophat or moustache.
Embellish your creature with anything else you have have on hand, paint, marker, construction paper, pipe cleaners, craft foam...
Install your board and have fun with programming to light up the eye or whatever LEDs you put on. Since the Circuit Playground board has an onboard microphone and accelerometer, I can make it a sound reactive eye or make it flash and beep when it is moved.
And you gotta name your creature. Nobody likes it when someone says,"Hey you!" and everyone turns around.
Get started now on your own monster circuit board holder to open up the world of things to do with your circuit board.