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June 4, 2014 AT 2:00 am

Sci-Fi LED helmets using Adafruit Neopixels! #WearableWednesday

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Thanks so much to Adafruit customer Charles for sending in his awesome project! You can read the full tutorial on his site here.

The above image is from a sci-fi comedy play called Moby Alpha that I cowrote and star in along with my writing partner, Chuck Armstrong, as part of our group Charles. (Performing at The Complex in Hollywood during June.)

Having performed Moby Alpha many times now, one of the biggest takeaways is that people want to know how we built the LED helmets that we wear throughout the otherwise dark show.

And although I’m in no way tired of giving my typical, rambling explanation of “I used an Arduino…there’s this site called Adafruit…buttons”, I figured a more thought-out post would be more helpful.

So here it goes.

First, a description of what this helmets is and what it does:

It’s a basic costume space helmet with an LED strip looped around the inside. The strip is connected to an Arduino, which is connected to two buttons. These buttons allow you go forward and backward through a series of light cues. Here’s an example:

Materials you will need:

Fortunately for me, my helmet design is largely based on this Adafruit tutorial for an LED belt, so a lot of this tutorial will just be me referencing that tutorial. For example you will need all of the materials on that tutorial, which can be bought as a single kit on that link.

You will also need the tools listed in that tutorial that are not part of that kit. I have copied and pasted them below:

  • A soldering iron and solder
  • Wire cutters and wire stripper (or a tool that does both)
  • Heat source like a heat gun, hairdryer, or lighter
  • Any kind of pliers
  • A 3rd hand tool or panavise or some other way to keep your work steady
  • A basic multimeter can be handy

In addition, to make it a helmet you will need:

  • A space helmet
  • Two big buttons like these, or these
  • Two connectors for the buttons, such as these
  • Printed Circuit Breadboard (one of many examples)
  • Breakaway headers
  • A drill with a 1 1/8” bit (depending on the size of your buttons
  • Duct tape (Yes, I am the worst definition of hacker)

Read the full tutorial here.


Featured Adafruit Products!

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Digital programmable LED belt kit: By popular demand, we now have a project tutorial for how to make your own programmable, ultra-blinky LED belt. Perfect for parties, raves, parades, weddings, funerals, and bar mitzvahs. Wear it with pride, wear it with blinky! Follow our soldering tutorial to build your own heirloom LED belt, and hand it down to your grandkids. Read more.


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Panavise Jr.: The best mini-vise for working on smaller PCBs (2.875″ or less in one dimension)! The jaws are strong plastic that wont damage the PCB and doesn’t mind if you hit it with the soldering iron by accident. Made in the USA. Read more.


Flora breadboard is Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!

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