Project Illuminate Home

First Bytes 2014

Project Illuminate

Connecting the Lights

Now that you have learned to connect your Arduino board and you have an example program running, let's begin working with the lights.


We're going to begin with the hardware, which is any physical component of the system. (Can you touch it? It is hardware!) In this project, your main pieces of hardware are the lights, Arduino board, and computer, but there are smaller pieces, too, such as the USB cable, connectors, and wires.

First, let's take a look at your lights. Your strand of lights consists of 16 LED lights, a control box (the green box), and a power adaptor (the black box). These lights are individually addressable, which means that the color and brightness of each individual light can be set by a program command, so a sequence of program commands can make a sequence of appearances in the set of lights that may be patterns, signals, or messages.

Looking at the lights again, you'll notice the power adaptor has a black wire running to the green control box, and the green control box has a green 3-wire cable connecting it to the lights. One of these wires is the power, one is the ground, and one is the data. Since your lights have already been modified for this project, figuring out which is which is easy: the ground has a blue connector attached to it, the data has been cut and had red connectors added to it, and the power is unmodified.

Next, let's take another look at the Arduino board. As you look at it, notice the numbered black components:

Each of the holes is a pin. Pins are where we will connect the Arduino board to external components. Find the pin labeled 7, put the wire end of the wire with the red connector in this pin; the other end is already connected to the data wire. We will be using it to communicate from the board to the lights.

You might notice that another red connector is connected to the data wire coming from the control box. That connector enables us to reconnect the lights and use them without the Arduino board.

Connect the pin labeled GND (for ground, and indicated below) to the blue ground connector using the wire with the light blue connector.

When the lights and Arduino board are fully connected, they should look like this:

Now plug in the lights. To do this, use the plug the power strip in your box into one of the plugs behind the monitor on your desk. Then plug the lights into the power strip.

Next, we'll learn to control the lights.