At the project house STPLN in Västra Hamnen, Malmö, Sweden there is
an art project called The Window project where different artist decorate the windows in the co-working space "the Hub" with different pieces of art. Usually the artist draw on the windows, so when we where asked to do an art piece we wanted to do something different. We (Jackd103 and I) wanted to use the scrap materials that was left in the Maker Space and build something three dimensional and interactive. Something that brighten up the dark winter month of December. It ended up as a city with lights that pulsates, a bit like the pulse of the city we both live in. Check out the video for an overview and the instructables to see how we made it.
Step 1: Prepare and Collecting Materials
As we said before we had a lot of materials. Usually the members of the maker space leave the scraps when they laser cut something for others to use. So after a whole term the bins where full.
What we used for the houses where:
MDF in different sizes an thickness
Silk paper to cover some of the windows
A glue stick
For the lights we used:
Yellow and Orange LEDs
Enamelled copper wire
Nail polish and/or shrinking tubing
One Arduino Board
A prototype soldering board
Mosfet Transistors for power regulation (which to use depends on your circuit, we used something like these)
Step 2: Building Your Houses!
We used the webpage http://www.makercase.com/ to maker houses in different sizes based on how big pieces of scrap material we had. We then opened the generated files in Illustrator and added windows a bit randomly and unevenly to get a bit of a favela look.
When we had a few different ones we started to cut them out on the maker spaces laser cutter. The pieces where then glued together with woodglue but leaving one side open so we later on could fit the lights inside them.
Step 3: Doing the Wiring
We began with soldering all the LED's to the enamelled wire. A few LEDs at a time on smaller pieces of wire about half a meter long. Then we soldered them together to longer strands and finally isolating everything with shrinking tube and nail polish. Remember to put all the plus sides of the LEDs (long legs) to the same wire and all the ground sides to a separate wire.
This was a bit of a pain, we used what felt like hundreds of LEDs and trying to not get it all tangled up.
To control the LED so that they would fade we needed a microcontroller and why not use the Arduino since we are familiar with it. I won't go into details about how to program it since there are other great instructables for that. But I will tell you how we wired it.
Since the Arduino can handle about 500mA of power and an output of 5v it wasn't the ideal solution to power the LEDs directly so in stead we built a simple circuit with the power regulators and an external power source. The Arduino program then opened and closed the regulators so that the LEDs would pulsate. We where using several different strands of LEDs and wanted them to pulse differently and that is the reason we used several regulators.
The connection to each one is rather simple, The digital Pin from the Arduino Writes a High ever so often and is connected to the left side of the regulator. The center leg of it is connected to a ground and the right leg is connected to the negative side of the LEDs strand. Since we wanted it to be easy to connect we mounted a screw list to the board to connect the LED strands. One for the plus side and one for ground.
On the board you can see that we connected all the grounds to a common one and then the external power source to the circuit.
Step 4: Programming!
We connected the wires to the Arduino and soldered them so that we didn't have to worry about them being disconnected. As you can see have more connections on the board than the Arduino can handle. This is because we initially thought about using two Arduinos running the same program.
The program we wrote is based on the pulse width modulation sketch from Arduino which can be found here https://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/Fade Here you can also read up on how it works.
What we did was that we set it up with a "random" command changing the starting point on how bright the LED is in the sketch to get a bit of different light effects.
We got the result we wanted but it could probably be made easier. You could also use the analog write function to fade the LEDs as long as the power regulators threshold is within range for the signal from the Arduino.
Step 5: Setting Everything Up!
Now for the last part, setting it all up.
We took our houses, covered the windows with silk paper to diffuse the light. We placed them in the windows and started to put the LEDs in them letting the wire go from house to house through a small gap in the between the bottom and the walls of the houses. We then connected the ends of the wires to the board and Arduino and powered it all up. We had some problems with wires getting tangled so keep that in mind and work with one wire at the time finishing it and testing so it works before you move to the next one.
Hope you liked the project and get inspired to light up your workplace or home with some awesome lights!