How to setup mind-blowing LEDs on your longboard ?

LEDs are just great, especially Neopixel from Adafruit which are top notch quality. Just a good way to upgrade your ride with a bit of awesomeness. The concept behind that is to have LEDs (strips or whatever…) connected to a small micro controller (call that an Arduino, a Flora, a trinket…) that can be programmed (with a coding langage similar to C langage). Don’t be afraid, you don’t need to have coding knowledge, you can just download the existing code and modify some variables to fit your needs. Of course if you are a code geek, you can integrate temperature sensors, 3 axis sensors (accelerometer, gyro…) to make things reacting to these sensors. Takes you maximum 1 hour for the full setup and this is beginner friendly (especially if you follow this tutorial).

introducing_flora2

What parts do you need ?

  • Adafruit NeoPixel Digital RGB LED strips – Black 60 LED (the more LEDs per meter, the better the definition will be). You can also choose white strip but black is better looking if you have a dark longboard or skateboard deck
  • Lithium Ion Polymer Battery – 3.7v 1200mAh. This is the battery that will power up your LEDs. Small, lightweight.
  • Tactile On/Off Switch with Leads. Used to power on/off your LED setup. This switch will have to be soldered within one of the battery wires
  • FLORA – Wearable electronic platform: Arduino-compatible. The tiny microcontroller which can be a a Flora, trinket or Ardunio device
  • Adafruit Micro Lipo – USB LiIon/LiPoly charger. This is used to charge your 1S battery on a USB port (really handy). 1S does not need equilibrating cells (there is only one)
  • Pi Model B+ Case Base – Smoke Gray. Or whatever case you need. You can use a matchbox case. Use your imagination.
  • Silicone Clips and Screws for NeoPixel LED Strips – set of 5. If you choose to screw in your deck… or just use a double side tape with some hotglue.

What additional hardware do you need ?

  • A soldering iron (35w is enough). Otherwise you won’t be able to solder..!
  • Electric wires. I used audio wires because they were cheap. Find flexible cables.
  • Soldering wire, shrink tubing. Pretty useful isn’t it?
  • Superglue / Hot glue.
  • A pair of basic scissors. You need that to cut the LED strips (no you can’t use your teeth)
  • If you have more money, you can also buy a third helping hand, alligator clips (to test) and wire strippers.. but you can of course make it without these. This is just self comfort and may avoid you to get burned with the soldering iron tip (and believe me that hurts!)

Now let’s get started.

  • Cut the LED strips at the appropriate size. I recommend you to cut two LED strips of the same length.
  • Measure and cut the electric wires to fit your needs and your setup. Basically the wires with all have to concentrate into a small box that will host the Flora device (i.e micro controller), the battery and the ON/OFF switch
  • Solder electric wires to the LED strips (from right to left of the picture below) and the Flora according to this:
    • LED STRIP to FLORA : GND to GND
    • LED STRIP to FLORA : 5V to VBATT
    • LED STRIP to FLORA : DIN TO RX

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  • Now solder the ON/OFF switch on battery side

Let’s power this up

  • Install Arduino 1.0.5 (Flora compatible) on your operating system – there’s a mac version available !
  • Open arduino and copy paste this code
  • Enjoy !

A great tutorial is also available at Adafruit at this link. Otherwise, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.