Archive | Christmas

Crafty Crumble Creations: When Santa got stuck up the chimney!

This year our Crumble Christmas decoration uses a servo to control an “animatronic” Santa leg stuck in a chimney decorated with twinkling lights.

We used:

  • 1 laptop with Crumble software installed
  • Crumble controller; a flexible strip of 30 Sparkle LEDs and a micro Servo (both with crumblisers attached)
  • 1 Crumble-friendly battery box; 3 AA batteries
  • Croc-leads and a micro-USB cable
  • Cardboard blocks, cotton wool balls, cardboard; red and black paint; sellotape & PVA glue

Making the Chimney

The Chimney is made from some sturdy, red cardboard building blocks, that we already had at home, with cotton wool balls stuck on for the “snow”. Santa’s leg is cut out from a cardboard box, painted red and black, with more cotton wool balls as a fur trim. The turning part of the servo is sellotaped onto the back of the leg (excuse the Stormtroooper: we used the box from a Star Wars toy) and the body of the servo is taped onto a smaller yellow block that sits behind and inside the chimney. The Crumble and battery box also rest inside. IMG_9899IMG_9900IMG_9885  

Connecting the Crumble

The Crumble was connected to the battery box with croc-leads and to the computer, using the USB lead. The micro-servo has three connections: power (“+”, “-“) and “control” (labelled “S” on the crumbliser). The power pads were connected to the second set of pads on the battery box and “S” was connected to the Crumble’s pad “C”. The Sparkle strip was connected to “+”,”-“, and “D” on the right-hand side of the Crumble and then wrapped around the base of the chimney. IMG_9897

Programming the Crumble

The servo control block needs to tell the Crumble which output the servo is connected to (in this case “C”) and the angle to set the servo. As this is an absolute, rather than a relative number, we had to do a bit of experimenting. Eventually, we determined that the servo needed to move between 65 and 85 degrees. To slow down the transition, we used a loop which steps the servo 1 degree every 60 milliseconds and a variable “x”, which alternates between 1 and -1, to make it move back and forth. Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 18.19.04We wanted the Sparkle strip to change colour at the same time as the servo is moving. As there are 20 steps in the loop to move the servo, the simplest way to do this was to use only 20 of the Sparkles. We defined a variable “sprk” to be the index number of the Sparkle. Every time the loop is executed, Sparkles 5 to 25 are set to red, in turn. Variable “x” is used to set the adjacent Sparkle to green. Once we were happy with the effect, we disconnected the Crumble from the computer and placed our decoration on the fireplace. Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 12.38.51 Can you improve on this and work out how to thread two programs together to use all 30 Sparkles? Merry Christmas!!

Crafty Crumble Creations: A flashing Christmas tree

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In this project conductive thread was used to connect a chain of Sparkles together. This meant we ended up with far fewer trailing wires and bulky crocodile clips.

We used:

  • 1 laptop with Crumble software installed
  • 1 Crumble controller & 5 Sparkles
  • 1 battery box with croc-clip attachments; 3 AA batteries
  • 3 croc-leads (red, black & green); 1 micro-USB cable
  • A piece of evenweave fabric
  • Red embroidery cotton & tapestry needle
  • Conductive thread (available from Mindsets )
  • Green sticky-backed felt, glitter glue & stickers
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IMG_7849 First the Sparkles were tacked onto the evenweave fabric with standard embroidery cotton. This held them in place for stitching with conductive thread. The connections have to go into the left side of each Sparkle and out of the right side to the next Sparkle in the chain.

To avoid crossed wires (threads), the Sparkles were arranged with their connection pads forming a rough “spiral”.

IMG_7857The conductive thread needs to form a good contact with the gold pads so two or three tight stitches were sewn at each connection point. The evenweave fabric proved to be a good choice as it enabled the stitches to be sewn right on top of each other. A simple running stitch connects one Sparkle to the next in the chain.

IMG_7854It is important to keep checking that different pieces of conductive thread are kept separate. In the picture to the left, too much frayed thread has been left on the back of the fabric after tying off. Threads from two separate knots are touching, causing a short circuit.

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Once all the Sparkle pads were connected with the conductive thread, the first Sparkle in the chain was attached to the Crumble with croc-leads. (For more information on connecting up the Crumble, battery box, and Sparkle see the previous blog post, or the Crumble “Getting Started” guide.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 18.40.49The Crumble program is shown, left. Originally, I thought that Sparkle “0” would be the star at the top of the tree, which is why it’s gold, but in the end the shape wasn’t quite right. It would have been simple to re-program the Crumble to change the gold to green/red, but, shining through the felt, it looked green so I never got round to it..

IMG_7860Two matching Christmas Tree shapes were cut from the green felt and the Sparkles were sandwiched between them. Extra pieces of felt were inserted at the top, just behind the input pads of Sparkle 0. This stopped the front and back sticking together so the croc-leads could be connected and disconnected.

IMG_7872The Christmas tree was then decorated with glitter glue and stickers.

The battery box and the Crumble were concealed among Christmas cards on the mantelpiece and the croc-leads were sellotaped so that the ends dangled down. The croc-leads were connected to the Sparkle within the Christmas tree, so it hangs from the mantelpiece.