Turning My Maker Faire Badge Into An RGB Light

I went to my first Maker Faire this year and it was really cool. I actually jumped right in at the deep end and went as a maker to exhibit The Amazing Shortcut Keypad.

As a maker, I got given the badge you see below which is made from laser cut wood. Unfortunately, when I got back home after Maker Faire, the badge just sat on a shelf and so I resolved to do something exciting with it.

I thought that the best thing to do with my maker badge was to… well, make something with it! More specifically, I wanted to turn it into a light. But not just any light, oh no….

The plan is to make the light cycle through all the colours of the rainbow whilst brightening and fading to give a ‘breathing’ effect.

The first thing to do was to prototype the circuit and software to see if the rainbow colours/breathing actually work.

I did this using 4 RGB LEDs and an Arduino:

It actually worked out pretty well although I forgot to code in the red part of the LEDs so there are only blue and green colours in the above video… I’m a bit colourblind so I didn’t realise at the time!

With the circuit working, it was time to gather some materials together to turn it into a proper light.

First of all I designed and 3D printed a casing – It wasn’t quite perfect but it did the job and had a nice snug fit around the badge. I also got a switch, some protoboard and finally a layer of acrylic to diffuse the light and hopefully spread it evenly around the casing.

The choice of acrylic was a bit of a guess as I’ve never used it before but as you’ll see later on, it worked really well.

If you’re keen-eyed, you may be able to see that there is a hole in the right wall of the 3D printed case for the power lead. However, I forgot to put a hole in the case for the switch… clearly being able to turn it off didn’t seem important when I was designing it!

So, I got out my drill and created a slot for the switch. It worked out quite well but still doesn’t look as neat as the charger hole which was designed into the 3D print. Moral of the story – it’s far better to design features in than to hack them retrospectively!

I also cut the circuit board to size and screwed it in, as you can see here:

┬áNext up was to cut the acrylic to size. Now I did get carried away with this… I got a dremel for Christmas and went a bit crazy with power (tools). The resulting piece fits and looks fine from the outside but on the inside it’s pretty messy. That became a theme from this point onwards…

┬áThat’s all of the casing constructed, the final stage was to transfer the circuitry from the breadboard and solder it up on protoboard. I am both ashamed and proud of the resulting circuit – ashamed because it’s an absolute mess but proud because despite the mess, it still all works perfectly!

I uploaded my software to the circuit, screwed it all into the casing and that was it! I had to cover up the red LED on the Arduino because it was ruining the whole colour balance. I used paper to cover it up, I hope it won’t catch fire.

If I don’t post for a while, it probably caught fire.

Adding on the acrylic, you can see that it does a good job of diffusing the light. It works even better when the badge is on the front.

Now let’s have a look at the result! Despite the crimes going on inside the casing, it looks surprisingly well-made from the outside. I’m really pleased with how well the light spreads across the whole of the badge too, I was worried it would just be four spots.

After this video, I pushed the badge on the front. It is just held on by friction which means it is never ever coming off again… let’s hope I didn’t forget anything on the inside!

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. Considering the poor craftsmanship on the inside, it looks pretty good and the rainbow colours/breathing effect works really nicely. Also, there has been no fire so far – that can only be considered a good thing.

Most of all, I’m glad that I’ve turned the happy memories from my first Maker Faire into something which I will be able to enjoy into the future. Awww.

If you have any questions about code, the 3D print file or anything similar then feel free to leave a comment.

Happy hacking,


Leave a Reply