Courtesy: Ryan Davitt, Woodrow RoboCats

The final version of the Big Box of Bright (BBoB) is a 24 x 24 x 4 inch box that contains a 16 x 16 inch grid of LEDs which is powered by an Arduino Uno. The BBoB is capable of creating animations of your favorite retro characters such as Mario and Zelda, as well as words (we coded ours to say "Robocats 5242") and can show images in full color with RGB Values.




The Robocats started with creating a 3D model of the BBoB to plan out the project. This model will not end up being the final product (unless you're Superman), but will give you a general idea of where to start with the LEDs and construction style.


Once we got the gist of the BBoB, we used this project page from Arduino to learn how to code animations and LEDs using the FastLED library. Next, with the help of a mentor, we began the tedious work of soldering 2 rolls of 16 strips of 16s LED; which you can purchase here. For the wiring system, we used insulated 18 gauge wires (we highly recommend using 3 different colors as it can get confusing—unless you're colorblind). The really nice thing we quickly discovered with Arduino Uno and the LED strips is that they can take a bit of electronic beating; meaning that, if you flip two wires by accident and nothing turns on, no harm done, you just need to correct the wiring and it works normally.


After that, we used the code from the Pacman Arduino Project and adjusted the code to work with our LED type and amount, and then started mapping out my animations. The way the LEDs work is that each of them have a specific number: the first one is 0, the second is 1, and so on up until number two hundred and fifty-six, which is 255 in the code. We just set up a Google Sheets that had square cells, and made a giant square area that ran these numbers. Then, we simply colored in each box that we wanted to be that color.


The case is made of a black board of MDF that is 24in. by 24in. The front cover is a normal fluorescent light diffuser and can be found at most hardware stores, or can be purchased online here. We used small nails to put together the trimming and MDF and used flat head wood screws to attach the diffuser. 


The final step is to put the LEDs and Arduino in the box. Mark out and place the LED strips at 33mm intervals. On the back of the strips, use the double sided tape to strap it into the box. Place the first LED where the 0 on your spreadsheet is, and then keep on working your way up to LED 255. After that, drill a hole in the back board so you can find the power plug and USB connector, pull them through, and tape down the Arduino. Plug in the Arduino and let it run! Yay! Shiny lights!

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