Friday, December 18, 2015

Running Neopixels on an ATtiny85

ATtiny85 controlling sewable neopixels
Today, I am learning how to use an ATtiny85 to program sewable neopixels, with the goal of moving toward using surface-mounted RGB LEDs in paper circuitry.  The reason that this is so exciting is because the ATtiny85 is an inexpensive, low-profile chip, making it useful for notebook hacking and art projects!  If I can figure out how to make this entire process happen on a Chromebook, it would be a huge breakthrough for classroom instruction.

At the time I was working on this project, there was still one step that required the use of a PC: the process of burning a boot loader/ changing the fuse timing on the ATtiny85.  To use neopixels, the ATtiny85 needs to run on an 8 Mhz internal clock, rather than the default of 1 Mhz. As of 11 January 2016, this issue has been fixed, making it incredibly easy to do this type of thing with students using Chromebooks!

Once I converted the chip to 8 Mhz, I was able to use CodeBender and a Chromebook to program it with neopixel sample code (with only a couple of small tweaks).

My next step was to see if I could apply this new learning to building a paper circuit with copper tape and surface mounted RGB LEDs.  The photos demonstrate a prototype using the surface mounted RGB LEDs soldered to wire!

Since I was able to get the LEDs to do what I wanted with wire, I am 100% convinced that this can be replicated with copper tape!  Stay tuned!

ATtiny85 controlling SMD RGB LEDs

Updated 19 Dec 15:
I've created my first paper circuit with neopixels!  To learn more, visit

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