Interactive String LED Floor Mandala at MakerFaire Bay Area

Because… of things… Solarbotics didn’t do a booth or official presence at this year’s Bay Area MakerFaire. We opted to do something fun this time, building a custom just-for-the-fair piece of sorta-interactive LED artwork. Following on the success of the quickie LED floor mandala resting area we did at the NYC MF, we turned it up to 11 for the Bay area, making a WiFi-enabled version of the same thing.

Here’s the technical detail on what we did:

The project is based on a modified “Double Rainbow” controller, with the Ardweeny brains replaced by a ESP-12. We set up the three major axis as “always on”, with six zones controlled by the controller for animations. We advertised the WiFi SSID point and the URL for people to login to select one of the 6 animations available.

Dan set us up a nice 10′ layout cord to speed layout of the major axis:


The franken-Double-Rainbow merged with the ESP-12F.

Setup at the Faire grounds, with our co-founder & CFO, Cheryl. The darkroom (Expo hall..2?) has a very hard rubber floor, so installing them directly to the floor would have turned the LEDs to dust with all the foot traffic. It took us 2 hours and some negotiating to find a 12’x20′ carpet at a local Home Depot to mount the piece.

Floor Mandala in full operation! We had zero complications with the piece, other than the WiFi point saturating and not allowing us to login ourselves. Nothing a quick reboot didn’t fix.

Sunday, and the lights have just come up at the Maker Faire. Cheryl, Alan Yates, and Elizabeth (sales coordinator extraordinaire) and two other tired attendees are getting ready to wrap up.

Peel up the art and signage, and you get …more art! Remember, this was brand new (end-of-roll) carpet. That’s what several thousand dirty feet can do to a carpet over a long weekend.

Interesting thing about going from a static LED display (in NYC) to a dynamic display is people (especially children) were interacting with it as if their footsteps were making things happen. Huh. We didn’t expect that. I suppose the most natural interaction with blinky lights is to turn them on and off physically (not via your cell phone). Lesson learned for next time!