We Made Our First LED Cube!


Over the summer, we bought a bunch of project kits from our local Radio Shack because it was closing. One of these kits was a 3D LED Cube Kit and it has been our first big soldering project. Well, we thought is was pretty big. Alex managed to burn himself on the soldering iron pretty early on, but we stuck with it. Lesson well learned! The whole shaft of the iron gets HOT, not just the pointy end.

The project was actually harder than we thought it would be. We followed the directions, but it was challenging to make all of the connections, especially the ones in the middle. I think we could have put it together smarter, but it was our first try. We actually have a couple more of these kits, so I'll bet we get better at it. We also didn't do any testing along the way.

Once we got it all together, three LEDs weren't lighting up at all. We checked all of the connections and re-applied some heat to the solder points. We were checking each point until we noticed we could follow the traces on the board and figure out the connections that were linked to the unlit LEDs. It took us an extra hour of tinkering and testing connections, but we managed to get the cube working right. High five for us!

This kit plugs into our Arduino Mega (works on an Uno, too!) and we had a little trouble finding the program code (known as a sketch) that Radio Shack was supposed to provide. It was no longer available via their website. Luckily, there are lots of folks on the web like us and we managed to find someone who had shared the code online. We uploaded the sketch to our Arduino and the cube started blinking away! We spent more time playing around with the code to learn how the patterns are programmed and made a couple patterns of our own, too.Alex is finally starting to show some interest in the programming side of things. That makes this dad very happy…

We saw a really huge LED cube at our local Maker Faire a few weeks ago. It was kind of amazing and cool. They used RGB LEDs so it could make multi-colored patterns. I think we'd like to try doing a bigger version with RGB LEDs, but maybe not that big! An 8x8x8 cube is probably big enough.

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