Snowflake

Introducing The SBE Electronic Snowflake

Holiday ornaments are fun. Some of them even light up.. But few light up quite like the Electronic Snowflake! Intended to be hung from a tree, placed in a window, or just plain played with, the Electronic snowflake is the flashiest, most colorful, most sophisticated and --yes-- nerdy holiday decoration you never knew you needed.

Built around the same microcontroller used in the popular Arduino and consisting of 30 full-color LEDs, the SBE Electronic Snowflake will dazzle and delight you with the many swirling patterns of color that it can create. But that's not all. The snowflake is bristling with sensors. It automatically adjusts the light brightness to match the ambient lighting of your room. It also has a sound-sensor that lets it flash the lights in time with the music in the room. Finally, it sports and infra-red detector (and accompanying remote control) so you can control the snowflake from afar!

Background

Having seen my share of holiday directions and enjoying the success the SBE Hanukkah menorahs, I decided to set my sights on a holiday project that would be "next-level" and could be enjoyed by all regardless of their religion. I knew right from the start that I wanted lots of lights, and I wanted full color control. Over months and various prototypes, I worked out an appropriate shape, power management, and sensors to make this a fun and fascinating holiday item.

Though anyone can enjoy the Electronic Snowflake just as it is, I also wanted this to be a potentially educational toy, so I designed it so that it can work with the Arduino development environment. Essentially -- it is an Arduino, just in the shape of a frozen water crystal and populated with some special built-in peripherals, most notably a string of WS2812C fully addressable LEDs.

More information on how to use an SBE Electronic Snowflake is available in the User's Manual. You can also find technical details, including the software that comes with the Snowflake on its github page.


Features

  • Handsome snowflake-shaped white PCB
  • 30 WS2812C addressable RBG LEDs arranged in a hexagonal pattern
  • Atmel ATMEGA328P main processor
  • Can run for many hours on 3x AAA alkaline batteries
  • Can also run on wall power from the micro-USB jack on the rear. A protection circuit makes sure batteries are not harmed while running on USB power
  • A sound detection circuit built around a MEMS microphone and an opamp configured to do "envelope detection"
  • An ambient light sensor that allows the Snowflake to dial down the brightness in dim environments
  • An infra-red receiver allowing the Snowflake to receive command from a remote control. A remote control is included!
  • Many different light effects with literally hundreds of possible variations in color, speed, direction, etc
  • Can be programmed just like an Arduino
    • Standard "FTDI" 6-pin serial header lets you program directly from the IDE with only a serial cable
    • If you have a device programmer, you can also use the standard Atmel ICSP port
  • Several unused Atmega pins are brought out to 0.1" headers for direct access, including I2C.
  • Hole for using string to hang from a tree
  • Designed and assembled in the USA by me


Resources

Be sure to check out the in-depth User Manual.

The project can be found on GitHub: https://github.com/djacobow/sbe_snowflake . In that repo, you'll find:

  • complete firmware and instructions for building it with the Arduino environment
  • a schematic for the Snowflake circuit