Yesterday on the radio I heard the Bruce Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is coming to town“. For some reason hearing the rock-n-roll versions of the Christmas classics always puts me in the holiday mood. I haven’t yet heard Cheech and Chong’s “Santa Claus and his Old Lady“, but it’ll show up sometime between now and Christmas (”Come on, Beto!”). Then John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas“, and that will be the rock-n-roll Christmas trifecta, at least for me.
So in the holiday spirit, I looked around for some simple electronic do-it-yourself holiday decorations. I found a few, maybe you you can build them with your kids.
Even Evil Mad Scientists like Christmas
Over at the Evil Mad Scientist page I found quite a few neat Christmas projects. First is a two-fer of projects, both powered by AVR microcontrollers. One is a tree ornament that uses a multi-segment LED display to show a holiday message, one character at a time. The other is a miniature LED menorah. This one is clever in that it uses the EEPROM to count how many times it has been turned on, so it can automatically light the correct number of LEDs for the given night of Hanukkah.
Dr. Who at Evil Mad Scientist has also written an article on creating fractals of light using reflective Christmas Tree ornaments. His pictures are quite amazing, and there is an interesting technical discussion of the fractals as a bonus. Be sure to go read this one.
There is also an article on creating quick, temporary, and reusable outdoor garden lights using an LED, a lithium-ion coin cell, and a mason jar.
You can always find something interesting over at Instructables. Here is a simple one that uses LEDs in various colors to make a colorful tree decoration. There are lots of options for spicing this up. You could add an LED blinker circuit to it. You could add RGB LEDs to it. You could add an mbed that plays back wave files and load it up with rock-n-roll Christmas classics.
Also at instructables is a mini LED Christmas tree. This is a PCB with all surface mount components, so it can go on a tree, in a card, on the mantle, etc. It’s powered by an AVR microcontroller, and pressing the button makes the LEDs blink for a few seconds.
What could be more conservation minded than a two-in-one Christmas ornament that also has a built in computer game? When it’s not scrolling “Merry Christmas” or another message across it’s LED matrix display, you can plan “Santa Scramble” with it.
Finally an animated snowflake made from a sheet of acrylic with LEDs, and PIC powered. This instructable only includes a compiled hex file for the PIC (no source code) but your inner gadget freak should be able to write new software if you feel the need to hotrod it. The LEDs are wired in a matrix and the PIC displays patterns by selecting a column at a time and displaying the pattern for that row.
Post your own
If you’ve got a holiday gadget that you’ve developed or seen online, post a link in the comment section below. And be sure to watch for part 2 of the DIY test equipment article, DIY oscilloscopes.