Intro: Light Up Dragon Breath Sound Level Meter
Storytime will never be the same. Make this sound reactive light breathing dragon to gauge the loudness of the storyteller or the reaction from the listener.
You can create the magic of a fire-breathing dragon with any microcontroller driving some Neopixel LED strips embedded in a cloud of polyester fiberfill smoke.
Step 1: Playing Around With Circuit Playground...
I used an Adafruit Circuit Playground board. With it's onboard sensors, it's a versatile board to use to create special effects. I am using it's onboard microphone to listen for sound. The arduino-like board then determines the sound level and displays that as a range of lights on the connected Neopixel strips. The flame effect comes out in a rainbow of colors but you could adjust it to any palette for something like red-orange-white for regular fire.
I used two Neopixel strips because I had them from other projects and they would frame out the smoke plume.
The code is based on the original Adafruit Ampli-Tie project. Two Neopixel strips are driven from one pin. The onboard Neopixels on the Circuit Playground light up in sync with the Neopixel strips. Note that what is displayed on the long Neopixel strip is appropriately scaled and proportionately displayed on the onboard Neopixel "ring".
Here is my Arduino code,
If you have the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express board, try to make this in Makecode or Circuit Python.
You could also hatch up something like this https://www.instructables.com/id/Neopixel-Light-Up-Dragon-Eggs/
Step 2: Thinking Inside the Box...
Just use an empty shipping box as your foundation. If you want something sturdier, you could laminate a few sheets of carboard, use fiberboard, foamboard, masonite, plywood, lasercut acrylic, MDF, whatever...
Print out an image of your favorite little dragon or whatever you want as a fire-breathing creature.
Glue that on to the board.
Cut holes so that you can mount the electronics by passing the wires through as necessary. The bulkier battery pack is taped onto the back.
Position your Neopixel strips and tape down.
I covered first with a piece of felt to provide further diffusion for the light of the Neopixels. I then rolled up tape, easier if I had double-sided tape, to apply to the area of the smoke plume.
Stick on pieces of fiberfill. Work the fibers so they entangle in a big mass and shape into the smoke plume.
You can now hang this up or just prop up on the desk to use.