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Welcome to the site. Click on a topic above to get more information about the LCDS LED widget. Please note that the widget is a parent creation, and not officially affiliated with Loudoun Country Day School.

About

The LCDS LED widget is an Arduino-powered LED display.  It was created by an LCDS parent to demonstrate to the LCDS 5th grade STEM class the process of creating a customizable product using several accessible processes that will be documented further on this site.  The goal was to have a fun, interesting and tangible product, to illustrate the process, and most of all to show that this is something that is feasible for anyone to accomplish.

Many pitfalls along the way stalled this project past when it was anticipated to be complete for the students to enjoy, but hopefully it will still be interesting and in their hands before the end of school for the summer.  

The Creation Process

Step 1: Design Idea

First a project needs to start with an idea. For this project, the idea was getting students interested in this process by showing how it’s possible to come up with an idea and turn it into a working product.  LCDS does a great job of instilling that concept in our students, this was an attempt …

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Step 2: Prototyping

The next step is to prototype the concept.  Gather the basic parts needed to produce the end product, and see if it works!

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Step 3: Technical Design

After it works, it needs to be translated into something that can be produced.  We used the Eagle CAD program to build our circuit and lay out our board.  It’s free for personal and educational use, so long as you don’t sell your work product.  There’s a bit of a learning curve, but there are …

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Step 4: Fabrication

Once the design is finalized we send that design off to be fabricated.  We use OSH Park for our board fabrication.  It takes a few weeks to produce the boards, and then you’ll get them in the mail.  At the same time we went and ordered all of the other components from Mouser, an electronics supplier.  Then the …

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Step 5: Testing

After the boards are made and programmed and any rework happens to fix any bugs, we’re good to go!  Testing along all points of the process is essential.  This last point came back to bite us, as explained next.

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Step 6: Problems

Occasionally problems creep up.  A big problem popped up in this project when the first board was made.  No matter what was tried, the original design of having the board powered by button cell batteries with an on/off switch couldn’t work properly when finally assembled.  One of the problems wound up being an unacceptable voltage …

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Programming Your Board

1: What does it mean to program the board?

These boards use an Arduino microprocessor board to control the LEDs. All of the animations for the colors of the LEDs are controlled by code that can be changed and uploaded to the Arduino. You can take the code and download the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment – think of it as an application that …

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2: Getting the Arduino IDE

The Arduino IDE is the software package we use to modify the code on the board that controls the LEDs. It is available for all major operating systems, so it shouldn’t matter if you use a Mac or Windows PC to program the board. To download the software, go to https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software and choose your operating …

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3: Configuring the IDE

The Arduino board we used is compatible with the Arduino Nano with the old bootloader, so the board configuration should look like this: The port will vary from system to system, but you should see the port appear after it’s connected to the computer. There may need to be some driver work to be done …

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4: Getting the sample code

The code uses the FastLED library, which can be added to the IDE through the Library Manager. Depending on the version of the IDE you use, it may look a little different, but on a Mac, it looks like this: A search for FastLED should turn up the library we need, and clicking “Install” makes …

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5: Uploading the code

Coming soon

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