LED Pez Menorah 2013

Joyce sent us this picture of her 2013 Lord of the Rings Pez dispenser LED menorah.

I thought I’d share my new menorah hack with you all. Friends even started asking about “this year’s theme” so I guess it’s now an official tradition.

She incorporated our new multi-colored LED Menorah kit into this one. You can find our previous LED Pez dispenser menorah posts here and here.

Breadboard Menorah Kit Instructions

aberson asked about our new Deluxe Electronic Breadboard Menorah kits:

Would it be possible to post the assembly instructions for the solderless kit? (if there are any) I’m wondering if this kit would be suitable for somebody who has no electronics experience at all. Does it call out the row/col number for every resistor, jumper, etc?

Printed instructions do come with the kit, are very helpful, because there’s an actual size component bending guide on the page. We have also posted a pdf version on our documentation site. No prior knowledge of electronics is needed, and we call out the location for each component and provide clear diagrams to follow.

Two New Menorah Kits

Breadboard LED Menorah Kit

Hanukkah comes remarkably early this year, starting on Thanksgiving day, November 28.

Today, just in the nick of time, we are releasing two new LED menorah kits for 2013 that complement our consistently popular Deluxe LED Menorah Soldering Kit.

Breadboard LED Menorah Kit - Parts

The first kit, the Deluxe Electronic Breadboard Menorah Kit, is a response to two requests that we frequently receive: (1) for an LED menorah kit that doesn’t require soldering and (2) for a menorah kit with assorted multicolor LEDs— for that assorted-color candle look. (Nailed it!)

The kit includes a 6″ transparent breadboard, 10 mm LEDs in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and warm white, a control button, battery holder, and a pre-programmed microcontroller.

Breadboard LED Menorah Kit
Breadboard LED Menorah Kit

While the electronic components— the microcontroller, resistors, control switch, and LEDs —are essentially the same as in the Deluxe LED Menorah Kit, we’ve had to make quite a few changes to the layout and firmware to redesign the circuit to lay out so neatly on a breadboard. Additionally, as the perceived brightness of different LED colors can vary quite a bit, we’ve included a specific set of per-color resistors to even out the overall brightness levels.

The Deluxe Electronic Breadboard Menorah Kit is in stock now, and ready to make happy campers on some night(s) of Hanukkah this year.

Special Edition LED Menorah Kit

For the second new kit, the multicolor Special Edition Deluxe LED Menorah Kit, we’ve brought the assorted multicolor LEDs back to our original Deluxe LED Menorah Soldering Kit. Because, why should breadboarders have all the fun?

Special Edition LED Menorah Kit

And it even looks good with the lights off! The new Special Edition LED Menorah Kit is in stock and shipping now.

More Star Trek Menorahs for Hanukkah

Star Trek TNG Menorah

We’re not sure what it it is about Hanukkah that brings out the Star Trek fans, but they’re back. First, Joyce brings us an updated TNG hanukiah. Joyce was one of those responsible for the epic menorah we posted about in 2009. The LED on the Enterprise is being worked on–we think they may have a problem with their dilithium crystals.

Star Trek Menorah

Next, VanEdge posted this menorah in the forums. Both of these fine examples are based on Pez dispensers, which seem to be a handy size for holiday hacking, particularly when combined with our LED Menorah kit.

Happy Hanukkah to you both, and thank you for sharing your projects!

Improving the Menorah kit

Scale

 

One of our favorite little kits is our Deluxe LED Menorah kit. Since we introduced it two years ago, one of the most common questions that we get asked is this: “Can you use candle-flicker LEDs in it?” And thatturns out to be a very interesting question.

 

 

The simple– but, alas, naive –answer is “yes.” We have discussed candle-flicker LEDs in the past, and in most cases, yes you candirectly substitute them for regular LEDs.

 

But if you do go ahead build up a menorah kit with the candle-flicker LEDs,
what you will find is that the performance is simply terrible: Not only do these LEDs fail to perform properly– (there is no “candle flickering”), but they actually exhibit behavior that we might categorize as “not even wrong”– the LEDs are not particularly steady either, but are rather a bit weak and jittery.

 

The reason for this is that in the kit, the LEDs are not left continuously it, but are instead continually– and far too quickly for the eye to see –pulsed on and off. This is done because the menorah kit uses pulse-width modulation (PWM) dimming to produce a range of different brightness levels. Not only does the menorah have two different selectable brightness levels, but it also has the ability to softly “fade in” and “fade out” the LEDs when they light up or switch between the brightness levels.

 

In most ways, this PWM dimming is a wonderful thing. It allow us to create these gentle fades and different brightness levels, and allows us to really fine-tune the performance for better power efficiency. While this works extremely well for regular LEDs, each of the so-called “candle-flicker LEDs” is not just an regular LED, but is actually a regular LED packaged with a tiny integrated circuit that executes the “random flicker” program. And, that chip can only execute its program properly if it’s left on continuously. If instead, it is continually pulsed on, we might indeed expect to end up with the kind of jittery, inconsistent behavor that we do see in the kit.

 

 

How could we go about fixing this, if we wanted the LEDs in our menorah to flicker? It would be straightforward to remove the dimming features from the software, and actually use the self-flickering LEDs in a mode where we leave them on continuously. But in doing so, we would lose a couple of our favorite features: the gentle fade-ins that make the kit so elegant, and the ability to have multiple brightness settings.

 

 

So that’s a tough choice: Do we forgo flickering, or live without our elegant gray scale fades?

 

But fortunately, there is a way out. The right solution is to remember that we do have a microcontroller– an ATtiny2313 –running the show, and to start acting like it. If we go back to regular (non-flickering) LEDs, we should be able to write a “random walk” flickering algorithm and add that to our existing firmware. In doing so, we can keep our original fades and brightness modes. We also can keep the kit price the same (since we don’t need the more expensive flickering LEDs), and as a hugeadded bonus, we can now turn on or turn off the flickering at will– something that you can’t do with LEDs that always flicker.

 

Today we’re releasing the new version of the menorah kit software, and shipping it in the kits. And, we made a little video(embedded below) to show off the new flicker modes and what happens when you try and use flickering LEDs with PWM:

 

 

 

The new source code– Menorah kit software version 1.3 –is available here, and it can be used to upgrade any older Deluxe LED Menorah kit as well. :)

Winter Holiday Projects from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

The Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories Holiday Project Archive!

We’ve rounded up our projects from holidays past and present and will add future projects to this archive each year. You can start with decorations or jump straight to food projects. We’re also including our cookie posts for your geeky holiday cookie making fun.

Decorations:
EdgeLitCard - 49
Holiday Edge-Lit Cards

Edge Lit Cards
Edge-Lit Cards (Refined)

CompletedWhite
LED decorations

Scale
LED Hanukkah Menorah Kit

Christmas fractal
Christmas Chaos

Ornament with Stars in Eggbot
Decorating Ornaments with the Eggbot

LED Micro-Readerboard spells out MAKE
LED Micro-Readerboard, version 2.0

Gingerbread readerboards
Electronic Gingerbread Men

Ornamental Components 08
Deck the halls with fine components

Component Wine Charms
Solder your own wine charms


Vector Snowflake Application: open-source snowflake generator


Evil new year: Turn your Champagne into a DEADLY weapon!!!!

Clear overview
Easy high-power LED blinking circuit

Food:
Star Spangled Biscuits
Spangled Star Biscuits


Five Tricks for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Apple Pie
Now that’s an Apple Pie!

Cranberry Chutney
Indian-style Cranberry Chutney

Truffles
Pumpkin Spice Truffles

Chocolate Debian
A Chocolate Debian

koch snowflake cupcake
Fractal Snowflake Cupcakes

Cookies:

Fractal Cookies


Atomic Cookies


Asteroids Cookies


Ice Cream Gyoza


Circuitry Snacks


Edible Googly Eyes

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Year 4

Evil

Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has now been around for four years. We’ve collected some interesting projects from this past year to celebrate.

Microcontroller and Electronics Projects:

Tabletop Pong
Tabletop Pong

Breadboard
Moving from breadboard to protoboard

Revenge!
Revenge of the Cherry Tomatoes

drink making unit
Drink making unit

pin 1
Finding pin 1

xmega - 2
Say hello to xmega

Peggydot
Adding a Chronodot to Peggy 2

Meggy Twitter Reader
Meggy Jr RGB Twitter Reader

twisted wire bundle
Twisted Wire Bundles

LED graph
Some thoughts on throwies

rovin pumpkin
Rovin’ pumpkin

ADXL335 - 10
Accelerometer with an AVR (updated)

LEDcalc - 20
Wallet-size LED Resistance Calculator

Science:

seeing magnetic fields
Seeing Magnetic Fields

Ice Spikes
Ice Spikes

opposition effect in clover
Opposition effect

Kitchen Science 18
Litmus Candy

Beans day five
Gibberellic Acid and Giantism in Sprouts

Simple LED Projects:

fake seven segment display
Fake seven segment display

LED-lit sea urchin
LED-lit sea urchins

Edge Lit Cards
Refining edge-lit cards

Food Hacking:

Ice Cream Gyoza -13
Ice Cream Gyoza

Lemon Pickle
Lemon Pickle

The array
Spices

coffee bean cooler
DIY coffee bean cooler

Marmalade 30
Marmalade: easier than it looks

AtomicCookies 7
Atomic Cookies

asteroids cookies
Asteroids (the edible kind)

Crunchy Frogs01
Crunchy Frog

Kit Projects:

tortiseshell
Bulbdial Clock Kit

Peggy2le-end
Peggy 2LE

Scale
LED Hanukkah Menorah Kit

Larson Scanner
Larson Scanner

D12 bag8
Handbag of Holding Kits

Crafty Projects:

arecibo 2
SETI Scarf

scrap acrylic
Scrap acrylic shelf

Tombstone
24 hour tombstones

ipad 3
iPad lap stand

Custom iron ons 10
Custom iron-on techniques

Geek Design:

symmetrisketch
SymmetriSketch

Typographic Coasters
Typgraphical Character Coasters

Ornamental Components 08
Ornamental Components

Cat String 6
Radio controlled string

Bookend - 9
Bookends for physics geeks

Lego business cards-2
Lego Business Cards

Tie Stools2
Portable Stools

And, don’t forget, you can win a Peggy 2 or one of 13 other prizes in our clock
concept contest
, going on this week.

Related:

Epic menorah is epic.

Star Trek Pez LED menorah 1

Joyce and Kaufman sent in this truly fantastic Star Trek Pez LED menorah that they made. Joyce made it last year to hold candles, and this year Kaufman brought it right into the 24th 21st century by mind-melding modding it with one of our Deluxe LED Menorah kits.
Star Trek Pez LED menorah 2

Let’s give them both double credit for a fantastic job. Overengineering at its finest, this is.