LED Floaties: That Float Away!




About: Twitter: @mindsforge
My friend from blastwave labs gave me a call a couple days ago and he told me grand plans for the LEDs and batteries I had stagnating in my closet. His female counterpart was leaving her job at party city, so it was the perfect time to obtain a bunch of balloons (not steal) and rent a tank of helium.

There's another related instructable: LED Floaties by tetranitrate. The floaties didn't get to float up up and away, but made a cool temporary art installation at a park!

Video of the construction and launch:

Step 1: LED Throwie Minus Magnet

Follow the instructable for LED Throwies, but just leave the magnet out of the equation. We also decided to make an internet guestbook, print out the URL and tape that to the LED units that were going inside the balloons.

There is also some maths you can do to make sure your balloons are going to fly:

The volume of a sphere:
V = 4/3(pi)r3

And we used 12" latex balloons, so r = 6 inches, which gives ~904 cubic inches or ~15 liters of helium per balloon.

You can approximate for every liter of helium used, you can get about 1 gram of lift, the battery and LED were about 4 grams, the balloon itself was around 3 grams and we can give another gram for the tape and URL paper. The payload for the helium was a total of ~8 grams, which is a ready for launch Houston!

Step 2: Stuff Your Balloons

Now that you have the LEDs and batteries taped together and ready to rock, stuff them in a balloon.

The video in the intro has a good demonstration on how to do this, but basically just have someone stretch the neck of the balloon like it was a sock about to be put on and have another person insert the LED unit. Simple!

Step 3: Fill Them Up and Bag 'em!

Just fill up the lit balloons as you would a 'normal' one, great!

You can start bagging them for transport, we just used large black lawn bags, which held around 7-10 balloons each. In total we had about 70 balloons, including one large 24" with 5 LEDs on it!

Step 4: Release!

It's a most beautiful sight. Have fun, feel guilty about shafting mother Earth*, and listen to your radio scanner!

(*but not too guilty, I talked to her about the project and she said "Don't worry about it! I'm just a rock in outer space hosting some very silly self conscious life forms... the one's who will waste time and energy making comments about the impact to their water table have actually done more damage to me themselves at the end of the day!" and I was like "Cool, thanks Mom! I love you.")



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    92 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    If some short-circuit happens, you know the LED's pins stick and cause a spark/arc would that ignite the helium on the balloon?

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    "Helium is the least reactive noble gas after neon and thus the second least reactive of all elements" Someone needs to learn for themselves! Have you ever tried to ignite helium?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    awesome! how dim/bright was that? how long did it take to make?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    why not use those cheap solar led sets then you'd want to keep them.

    Jonny Katana

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable, I don't know why I didn't think of this when all these LED shenanigans started. I think it would be entertaining to tether the balloons to the ground in a pattern to form some sort of figure, maybe even a 3-dimensional object like a tilted cube or something (use the ground as your xy plane, the string length as your z). A fair amount of calculations would be in order, to be sure, but it would be worth it. And afterwards, you can retrieve the whole works, keeping your wallet and the hippies happy :)

    5 replies
    nakJonny Katana

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, I like this idea, I've just been thinking about it, and the calculations shouldn't be too difficult. The string used to tether the balloons/LEDs down would have to be factored into the weight to make sure they will still float! And just some graph paper to determine the length of the strings. But wind could also be a problem, a slight breeze could take your beautiful art and tangle it up into some unrecognizable mess!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    use a very long length of wire, not string, to hold the balloons still could it work?

    Jonny Katananak

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I live in Arizona, so I think there will be a few days soon where wind is not too much of factor. Still, I agree it is vulnerable to any substantial wind, so maybe some sort of rigging should be used between the balloons as well. Now to go find massive amounts of button cell batteries on the cheap...

    Tie fishing line on these and tie them to random things. Maybe vary the sizes of the line so u got stationary UFO's floating everywhere. I tie them to stuff at parks, stopsigns, and ..... SCHOOLS!!!! Oh the schools! So funny. I gotta try this!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    How do you ensure that the floatie comes down when it's still dark out??? Is there some sort of 'bloon airtime calculator somewhere??

    1 reply