How I Failed
I had the idea for this jacket a while ago… I started planning and designing it back in July
I had lots of ideas how to make it and kept changing my mind about the best way to make it: https://lorrainbow.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/fail-rgb-led-indicators-for-a-cycling-jacket/
Then I even created the prototype using neopixels, conductive thread and cross stitch material. It looked good!
But sadly it didn’t stand up to testing. When moved the lights would flicker on and off. My amazingly neat stitching wasn’t tight enough and there were overlaps in the thread.
I call this jacket Take 27 because I ran out of letters of the alphabet with this original idea. Using the same strip of lights I used for the belt I finally created a micro:bit indicator jacket!
- A set of indicator lights that would be visible to cars/cyclists/pedestrians behind me
- Could be controlled from the handlebars
- Wasn’t permanently attached to my expensive cycling jacket so I could still wash it
- Could be made waterproof
Materials & Equipment
- A hi-vis vest
- 45-50 WS2812B lights on a strip. I used part of this strip: MENGCORE® 4M 5V 60Leds/M 240pixels programmable WS2812B RGB 5050 LED strip Individually addressable dream color Waterproof IP67 PCB Black
(affiliated link to my jam)
- micro:bit AAA battery pack x 2
- M4 Bolt and Nut x 3
- M4 plastic spacer x 3 (or some plastic)
- Ring terminals x 3
- Single core wire, 3 strips the length from your back to your pocket + slack
- Solder & soldering iron
- If you’re using a new strip you will have to solder the 3 strips of single core wire onto the light strip
- If you have the original connectors then you can connect them just like I did with the belt in step 2: https://lorrainbow.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/make-microbit-shiny-belt/. Connect the 3 strips of single core wire to your connector. All my wire is white so I coloured in the ends to easily tell each wire apart.
- Put on the hi-vis vest and have a good friend mark the widest point of your back.
- Assemble the strip of lights in a hexagon shape between the widest point of your back. I used tape to secure it down
But be really careful as bending these strips can cause a fault in the connection. I don’t have a better idea how to bend the lights
- FAIL: When I twisted the strip I caused a fault in the connection and had to try a different strip
- Where the strip starts: cut a hole in the vest and thread the 3 wires through. Do this before you start sewing
- FAIL: I tried to pull the wires through after the whole setup was sewed down. I ended up pulling off the soldered wires, gah! Then the 5V wire wouldn’t solder on again and I had to solder it onto the other side of the strip.
- Test your setup. Connect the 3 strip wires:
- GND to GND on the micro:bit
- DiN to Pin0 on the micro:bit using the terminal rings, bolts, nuts and spacers. The spacers stop the terminal rings touching the pins between Pin 0 and Pin 1 and around GND.
- 5V to the red wire of a battery pack using a block terminal
- Connect the brown wire from the battery to the GND of the micro:bit too.
- FAIL: I just put the wire from the battery through the hole in the micro:bit but it’s not very reliable. I might try and crimp it into the ring terminal with the other ground wire.
- Plug the second battery into the micro:bit. This is the final setup:
- Use a simple block script to test your setup:
- Once you’ve confirmed your lights are working start sewing the strip to the jacket. I used 3 strands of cross stitch thread and looped around the strip twice. I placed my thread between every light and tightened it as I went:
To be confirmed!
The strip is covered in plastic. I’ve glue gunned the exposed parts of wire that I had to solder on. The wires run under the vest into my jacket. The micro:bit is in a sealed pocket in my jacket under the vest… will it hold up to the British weather?? I’ll let you know!
A micro:bit remote on the handle bars to make the indicators flash remotely.
I’m really happy with how this looks. I hope I can use it every day when cycling to work!