As my son has gotten older he's become very interested in weather and how the earth works. He's only 3 and does not know how to read but gets a lot of information from pictures, sounds and color. To help him understand some of the basic concepts of our planet like the moon, high tide, low tide, the seasons and weather I created a Weather Beacon. This Instructable documents the process of creating the family Weather Beacon and it's features.
- Long Range Bluetooth 4.0
- Tri-Color LEDs
- Piezo Electric Speaker
- White translucent Light House Enclosure
- 3 ft Micro USB cable
- Color changes based on weather and seasons
- Sound notifications to weather events
- Dimming and Sound Control
Step 1: Hardware Designs
The first design included a short range Bluetooth BLE 4.0 module and one round Red/Green/BLUE (RGB) LED. The module worked but the color was not prominent and the range was limited. The second design included 2 flat RGB LED’s and a long rang Bluetooth module. This design was superior allowing for much longer range connections, better light mixing and brighter visual effects.
Both of these modules were designed in Eagle and sent to Oshpark for board fabrication. The parts were purchased from Digikey and assembled using the families old toaster oven (reflow soldering). Since the Bluetooth Module and LED Driver are surface mount parts I had to also send out for a solder paste stencil from Oshstencil. This allows for the solder paste, used in the reflow process, to be applied without hassle.
The Bluetooth 4.0 module is from Bluegiga which offers a terrific product. The module is easily programmed using a Texas Instruments (TI) CC Debugger/Programmer ($50 directly from TI). Bluegiga has made programming easy by use of their example driven scripting language.
The parts include:
- Bluetooth 4.0 Module (BLE121LR)
- LDO (TC11853.3VCT713CT-ND)
- RGB LED 5mm x 5mm
- 1 x .47uF CAP
- 3 x 1uF CAP
- Piezo Buzzer (CMT-1603-SMT-TR)
- LED Driver (TPS62730)
- Micro USB (609-4053-1-ND)
Step 2: Enclosure
The enclosure also went through multiple design cycles. The enclosure started out as a large cone with a snap in base. This was effective but not very visually appealing. The second enclosure included a lower profile cone and flatter top. Again, not very visually appealing and frankly boring. The final design, a lighthouse, was recommended by a family friend who thought a structure that represents the outside and an ocean setting might tie nicely with the concept. The enclosures as seen in this picture were printed from a 3D printer using white PLA. The design for the enclosures were created in SketchUP and tweaked until the hardware fit correctly.
Step 3: The IPhone App
The weather information is obtained from the Weather Underground API and polled at set intervals for the desired weather information. Weather Underground provides a free developers API service that offers all the weather information someone would want, but it does limit the number of times the the service can be polled per day. A simple iPhone app was created to poll the API service and set the weather accordingly.
Step 4: Enjoy
Once the Weather Beacon was finished I created a Weather Key for anyone that wanted to know what each feature means. Everytime the Weather Beacon changes color or plays a sound, my son tells (anyone who will listen) what it means and why that condition happens.