Emoticon Helmet




About: A skimpy college kid who just wants to have some fun.
The Internet has become a pretty good mask to portray yourself as anything you want. This includes hiding your true emotions when posting facebook statuses, IMing someone, or sending emails (like telling you're boss they are awesome when they are really a jerk). But what about talking to someone in real life? How do you hide yourself then? That's where the Emoticon Helmet comes in. The person that you're talking to will never know how disgusted your face looks when you see their dress if you always show a happy face! Or how you're happy that you mean ol uncle died and you're smiling the entire time, but everyone else sees a frown.

This project was one that I've always wanted to do, but I never found the time to. But when the time rolled around for our final project in my Engineering 101 class, I suddenly found an excuse to make this ridiculous contraption. I first got the idea for this a while ago from the Mask of Emotion, but I couldn't actually find where to buy it. So why not do the next best thing and make one myself? It was a team project, so I did half of the work while my teammate did the other half. That's also why some of these pictures aren't the best quality, because he tried sending me the pictures, but there was a miscommunication, so I just pulled them off of a video he made over it.

The helmet has 12 faces total: happy, sad, neutral, mad, surprised, tired, confused, disgruntled, disgusted, elated, worried, and creepy. It is done with a set of 22 LEDs, 6 for each eye and 10 for the mouth. It is set up as a multiplex matrix and hooked up to an Arduino in the back of the helmet, which is powered by four AA batteries. The user can switch between the faces with 2 buttons on a controller in the user's hand.

Skip to 1:50 for the demo.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Materials

What's a project without supplies? Things I used:
- a motorcycle helmet (can be any helmet as long as it has a visor)
- an Arduino Uno
- 22 red LEDs
- plenty of wire and ribbon wire
- 10 resistors
- 4-6 transistors (depends on how you set up the multiplex)
- experimental board
- 2 buttons
- button housing (an old mini M&Ms bottle)

- Hand drill
- 7/32 inch drill bit
- 3/8 inch drill bit (?) (can't remember if that was correct)
- Jigsaw
- Soldering iron
- Hot glue gun
- Duct tape

Step 2: Drill Them Holes

The LEDs need a place to call home. The 7/32 inch drill bit should do well for the visor, as the LEDs aren't going to be fully put in. The mouth LEDs need the full LED inside of the hole, and therefore require a bigger drill bit. I can't remember completely, but I think we used the 3/8 inch for the mouth holes.

Try on the helmet and draw out places for the LEDs. For me, the top center LEDs on the visor were on my eyes and the middle row on the mouth was on the crest of my lips. Marked? Good, now the drilling can commence!

The LEDs can be secured into place with hot glue. I didn't try it, but putting the glue on top of the LED could diffuse the light so that you can see the light better from different angles. Just make sure that you don't put too little glue on them or you'll regret later on (like we did).

Also, the "legs" of the LEDs weren't long enough to fit all the way through the holes in the faceguard of the helmet, so we had to solder small wire extensions onto each leg. After we put the LEDs into the faceguard, we stuck small scraps of foam in the holes so that they wouldn't touch and short-circuit.

Next, we need a place to put the Arduino. We drilled four holes in the back of the helmet in a square pattern and used the jigsaw to connect the dots. At first the hole was too small, so we used a box cutter to remove some of the styrofoam to give the Arduino a snug fit. Then we cut a hole in the fabric on the back of the helmet so that we could run the wires from the front to the Arduino.

Step 3: Wiring in the Front...

Now it starts to get tricky. Since there are only 15 (technically 13) digital out pins on the Arduino and 22 LEDs, we needed to make a multiplex matrix. I'll explain how this works later. For now, you just need to know how to wire the LEDs. There are four rows and six columns. You can use either to be "power" and the other to be "ground". At first we set up the plans so that the rows would be ground and the columns would be power so that we would only have to use four transistors, but we soon realized that we wired them backwards.

Now, solder lengths of wire across the long legs of the LEDs. These will be your power wires. When we had the ones on the mouth soldered, we folded them down and put tape over them so that they wouldn't touch the short legs and short-circuit. Then we took some ribbon wire and soldered it to the row wires and sent it running back to the hole where the Arduino would be stored.

For the columns, the short leg on the LEDs on the top row in the visor were long enough to bend down and solder to the whort legs on the bottom row. We then took some more ribbon wire, soldered it to the short legs on the bottom row on the visor, ran it across the bottom of the visor so that it could still be opened be the user, and soldered it to both of the bottom rows by twisting them all together (it doesn't matter if top or bottom are soldered first because they are all going to ground).

As you'll notice on the schematics, there is one column that was left off of the the mouth. This is because the matrix is actually set up for 24 LEDs, but it will still work with 22, it will just have one short column. When we soldered some colored (yay! color!) ribbon wire to the mouth columns to run back to the Arduino, we just soldered the one that was left off of the visor directly to the colored wire.

Step 4: ...wiring in the Back

It is time for you to learn the ways of the multiplex, padawons (unless you already know how this works, then you can skip to the next paragraph). As you can see in the schematic, the columns and rows are attached by LEDs. You know how a circuit works right? One side is positive and the other is negative. Well, lets say that row 1 is plugged into pin 2 on the Arduino and column 1 is plugged into pin 3. If we set the row to "negative", and the column to "positive", then the circuit is completed and the LED lights. Why doesn't the other LEDs on the row light? Because their columns are set to "off" rather than "positive". If column 2 is plugged into pin 4 on the Arduino and we set that to "positive", then the LED on column 2 row 1 will light along with the column 1 row 1 LED. Now, if we try to turn row 2 to "negative", then the column1 row2 and column2 row2 LEDs will light. But what if we don't want these on and instead want the row2 column3 LED to light? Then it becomes an Arduino coding problem that I will touch on in a little bit.

We realized something early on; the Arduino only has 3 ground pins. To solve this, we used transistors plugged into some of the Arduino's digital outputs, so that when the output was set to HIGH, the transistor would change it into a ground. At first we decided to make the rows grounds so that we would only have to use 4 transistors, but a miscommunication (short and long legs on the LEDs) lead to us using the columns as grounds using 6 transistors. This lead to a more cluttered experimental board, but I guess that was our fault.

Now, we used an experimenting board (a silicon board with a bunch of holes in it) to keep all our resistors and transistors in place in the back of the helmet. The one that our teacher gave us already had a bunch of stuff on it, so we just cut it all off, except for some nice looking pins that would fit quite nicely onto the Arduino. The only thing that was a pain was that everyone in the group was fairly new to soldering (which explains the long-stripped wires). The pins already had soldering on the back of them from their previous usage, and they proved difficult to remove. So we just left it on there and put new soldering on top of it. DO NOT DO THIS. It gathers in massive clumps and can be even more difficult to remove afterwards. Some of the soldering was difficult, and got on other pins (which is why pin 7 was not used in our Arduino code). Also, when pushing the pin on the transistors back up through the experimental board, I accidentally ripped them off so the wire had to be soldered onto the back. But enough QQ for now, back to the project.

The setup should be exactly like the one in the schematic. The only thing that not 100% is the value of the resistors, which I think is 10k for the transistors and 5k for the rows.

Step 5: Button Switch

There were multiple ways to switch between the displayed faces on the helmet (like the Mask of Emotion used different sensors inside the helmet), but we decided to just make a forward and previous button system. Press one button, it goes to the next face, press the other, it goes back to the previous face. Pretty simple right?

I found an old mini M&Ms bottle that I was planning on repurposing into a flashlight, but I never got around to finishing it (story of my life), so I decided to use it as a housing to hold the buttons in place. Plus, it fits well in your hand. We drilled holes in the cap so that the buttons could fit snugly inside of them. Then we cut off the bottom and ran some ribbon wire up to the buttons, soldering them in place. You could tape the wire securely to the inside of the bottle, but we didn't so that we can still open the cap to check the soldering on the buttons. Then just run the wire through the hole in the fabric to the Arduino hole. The buttons should be plugged into analog 1 and analog 2 to ground (if you want to use our code).

Step 6: Code It

This part is a build on the multiplex part. To overcome the problem of LEDs lighting that we don't want lighting, we need to code the Arduino to over come this. But first, we need to translate the circuit into Arduino language. Because the transistors change the value from the Arduino from "positive" to "negative", then we need to set those pins to HIGH [digitalWrite(pin#, HIGH);]. This will apply to both the "positive" and "negative" ends. Now, back to the problem. To fix this, we will light one row, set a delay, turn off that row then light the next row, ect. But the delay will be so fast that the eye can't detect it (we used a delay of 4 milliseconds). That way we can set the LEDs we want lit on one row and the other LEDs we want lit on the next row.

Before making the faces, we need to test the LEDs to see what order they are in. For this, we used a code that would light each individual LED for a certain amount of time, and then go on to the next LED, going from left to right and top to bottom. The picture is where we found each LED to be; the numbers being the pin that the LED is assigned to (7 and 9 are missing because of a screw up on the experimental board).

To make the face you want, just light the LEDs that you want on each row. A sample would be:
digitalWrite(pin10, HIGH);
digitalWrite(pin3, HIGH);
digitalWrite(pin5, HIGH);
digitalWrite(pin10, LOW);
digitalWrite(pin11, HIGH);
and so on.

The buttons also took a bit of skill to program. It's basically a bunch of IF statements. It does a loop, reads if the button is active, if it is, then it adds to a counter. If it was the "previous face" button then it subtracts from the counter. The counter is reset once it reaches 12 or is less than 0. Each face is assigned a certain number of the counter and shows on the LEDs when it's number is active. If you would like to decyfer it for yourself, I will include the code that we used.

Step 7: Let There Be Power!

To power the Arduino, we used an old battery holder that I salvaged off of an old RC car. It had a very nice on/off switch on it and fit right over the hole to cover up the Arduino. To power the Arduino with it, just plug the positive into the V-in pin and the negative into ground. We decided that it gave the helmet a pretty cool look if the batteries were exposed, but still firm in place, so we just left it open.

Black duct tape. It works. :D

And that's it! Enjoy watching people give you weird looks as you give them even weirder looks, they just can't tell that you are....

Arduino Challenge

Participated in the
Arduino Challenge

Make It Glow Challenge

Participated in the
Make It Glow Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest
    • Robotics Contest

      Robotics Contest

    15 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Seeing this made my day. I got an Arduino you can check out for the semester if you want. Find me on the 3rd floor of Wallace or shoot me an email.

    Your Engr101 teacher.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the rent idea, but I got one for Christmas. Haven't made anything yet, but I'm looking at some interesting things that I could do with it. I'm glad you could find this, I really didn't tell anyone that this was up here lol. How selfish of me.... XD

    Have fun with next semester's group! :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Glad you have an Arduino now. Always feel free to hang out at the lab. We'd love to see you around. You can work on your projects up there and use the resources we have too.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's up now. I am truely sorry for how long it took. It took a while to get the Arduino program working and hindering me from accessing the file. Hope you have as much fun with it as I did! :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You got my vote. Makes me wish I had a reason to wear one. Curious to see what it'd be like if you were to go 'all-out'; the features you've thought to include.

    and who is the 'we' you kept referring to?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    As I said on the first page, it was a group project for one of my Engineering classes. The 'we' is the group effort, and I must say that I couldn't have done it without them.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like it! Can I suggest for a future development that you put a mini flamethrower on each side to show when you're particularly upset? Or one for the road, facing forward for that SMIDSY motorist who doesn't see you and pulls out in front of you?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    lol, actually, you're not the first to suggest this.... XD
    It mainly came down to money. Being a school project, I wanted to make it as cheap as I could. The only money spent on this was for the helmet. If I had done this as a personal project, I totally would've gone all out on it. :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Улётная каска, мне бы такую. А лучше заходите ко мне в гости не


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Oh how I would love to, but the Arduino was the school's and I had to give it back. I am currently working on acquiring the money for one though. :)