Make a Blinky Dragonfly - Maker Faire Version




Introduction: Make a Blinky Dragonfly - Maker Faire Version

For the Maker Faire in Groningen (the Netherlands), I was so lucky to host a workshop, making stuff with visitors.

So the question popped up: what would visitors like to make during a Maker Faire? Well, creatures of course!

So I wanted to make a no-soldering, low cost,  one-hour version of Blinky the Led Pet. Of course, it turned out totally different. It became a Blinky Dragonfly... The dragonfly's electronic brain is the same as Blinky's, but it's structure and looks are really different. This Instructable is for everyone who didn't have a chance at the Maker Faire Groningen to make a Blinky Dragonfly.

The Blinky Dragonfly was a huge success at the Maker Faire! In five hours, the stack of parts (generously sponsored by electronics shop Okaphone) was completely drained and 30 creatures were made by visitors. Have a look at the pictures for an impression of what was made.

This Instructable is an entry in Kiteman's International Go Pro Contest, a solace for the thousands of Makers who can't enter their work in contests anymore, since Instructables (read: Autodesk) is not willing and able to accept international entries.
If you like this Instructable, please try to bribe Kiteman into letting me win a prize :-)

In the upcoming steps are a how-to make your own Blinky Dragonfly. Total costs are around €3,- (US$ 4) and it will take one to two hours to make, depending on your makers experience. 8 to 14 year olds might need some assistance of a grown-up. Have fun, and please post a picture in the comments if you made one.

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Step 1: Parts and Tools

Parts you need:
Euros, for a one-stop shop visit Okaphone (NL, B, D, GB), Conrad or Farnell. The rest of the world, try Radio Shack or Farnell
  • Electric wire Connectors! At least 24 stubs (two rows of 12), but more is better...
  • Solid kern electrical wire, 1,5 mm2 or 2,5 mm2 (the wires that are used connecting the wall-plugs in your house)
  • 2 10mm LEDs, any color you like
  • 2 transistors BC547(B)
  • 1 Resistor 100kOhm
  • 1 9 Volt battery (Carbon-zinc batteries are fine for this project, and very cheap!)
  • A battery-clip
  • Tie raps, any color you like
  • Jumper wire / thin, solid kern wire

  • Pliers to cut and bend the electric wire
  • Small screwdriver for the connectors
  • Sharp knife, to cut loose connectors
  • If you like, pliers to remove the insulation from the wires

Step 2: Body and Wings

With picture 1
The body
  • The body is a strip of 12 connectors, straight out of the packaging. You're done with this sub-step.

The wings
  • Cut loose 6 connector-stubs with a sharp knife. Be very careful, sharp knifes are, well... sharp.
  • Cut six pieces of electric wire (1,5 mm2 or 2,5 mm2), three strips for every wing. Make sure the sets of 3 strips have the same length.
  • Cut away the insulation from the strips' tips.

With picture 2
Dragonfly's right wing
  • Fix pieces of wire in stubs 4, 6 and 7. Start counting from where the eyes will be mounted.

Dragonfly's left wing
  • Fix pieces of wire in stubs 4, 5 and 6.

With picture 3
  • Fix the single connector stubs on the tips of the wires
  • Bind the loose connectors together with a tie rap.
  • Firmly hold the loose stubs together and wrap a tie rap around them. Pull the tie rap as tightly as possible.

Step 3: Eyes

Blinky Dragonfly's eyes are two 10mm led's, connected in series. So, the plus-lead of the left eye's plus-lead is connected to the right eye's minus-lead.

Please note: Led's conduct current in only one direction, from the battery's "plus-side" (anode) to the battery's "minus-side" (cathode). The "plus-side" of a 10 mm led is marked by the slightly longer lead. When you're in doubt, just try the led on a 3V coin battery.

With picture 1
The left eye
Fix the led's minus lead into the left side of connector number two.
Let the plus-lead run along the front side of the connectors.

With picture 2
The right eye
Fix the other led's plus-lead into the right side of the first connector
Let the minus lead run along the front side of the connectors

With picture 3
Connect both eyes (leds, that is)
Across the front side of Blinky Dragonfly's body run two led leads. Twist them together carefully with small pliers.

Step 4: Battery and Wires

With picture 1
  • Mount a battery  to the lower part of the dragonfly's back end. Use two tie raps to fix the battery.
With picture 2
  • To get the current from the battery to the dragonfly, you need a battery clip.
  • Fix the battery clips red lead into the eighth connector stub, on the right side of the body.
  • Fix the black lead in the seventh connector stub, on the left side of the body.
Don't connect the battery to the clip yet!

With picture 3
  • Connect stubs 2 and 4 on the right side with a piece of jumper wire (you can use 1.5 mm2 electric wire for this, but I don't recommend it. It's very hard to squeeze two of these wires into one connector-opening)
With picture 4
  • Twist together one lead of a 100 kOhm resistor with a longish piece of jumper wire.

With picture 5
  • Fix the wire with the resistor into the first connector-stub, on the left side.
  • Fix the jumper wires' free end into stub number 8, also on the left side.
The resistor is now fixed with one tip. The other tip sticks out, like a dragonfly's antenna.

With picture 6
  • From a 7 cm long jumper wire, strip one ending about 3 cm.
  • Fix the other ending into connector stub numer 5, on the right side of the body.
This is the second antenna. Bend it forward, across Blinky Dragonfly's head.

Step 5: Transistors

Almost there! On the tip of every wing, a transistor is needed. But... be careful! The transistors must be mounted in exactly the right way, or your Blinky Dragonfly won't blink. It will just be a Dragonfly...

With picture 1
Left wing Transistor
  • Have a transistor's curved side facing up, next to the left wing.
  • Connect the three leads into the three connector stubs.
(This can be tricky, if the connectors aren't lined up properly. If that is the case, unmount the connectors and cut away some wire from the longest strips)

With picture 2 and 3
Right wing Transistor
Put a transistor with the curved side facing down next to the right wing.
Connect the three leads into the corresponding connectors, and...

Step 6: Test It, Finish It!

Hopefully for you, the hard part is over! When you connect a battery to the battery clip and touch both antennas simultaneously, the leds should light up!

If not, don't panic!
  • First, check the transistors! Left side: curved side facing up, right side: curved side facing down.
  • Check the leds! Did you connect them in the right way to each other and into the connectors?
  • Check all the wires. Are they fixed into the right connectors?
  • Check the connections, esp. with the transistors. Sometimes the small leads escape from the screw's pressure.

Finally: Legs!
If all works well, all you need now is legs! I made them from electric wire and the feet with connectors. Just find a free connector stub to fix the legs.

Have fun! If you got all the way to here, please post a pic of your Blinky Dragonfly with the comments.

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    6 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I have little experience with electronics, so I could not figure out which LED to use. Which voltage LED should be used?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Anything works, actually. Cheapest are the red 10mm leds that I used in the project. Like these:


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Any general purpose NPN would do, so yes. This one, 2N2222, etc.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Cute! It's great that you can make something like this in an hour. This would make a nice kit to sell.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'm about to make a kit out of it, since this was such a success.