8x8x8 LED Cube

My last HackerBox, #0030: Lightforms, came with an 8x8x8 LED cube kit. I started building it in May, when I assembled the PCB and made a jig for assembling the grids.

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8×8 jig

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I got busy over the summer and the thought of soldering 512 LEDs didn’t excite me. After catching up on all of my other kits, it was finally time to dive back in.

I thought I took some video of assembling the board, but I must have deleted it. So I didn’t bother with any video while assembling the grids either. The repetition would have been quite boring. I thought I’d do a gallery with captions for a change.

While assembling the 8×8 grids I settled on a pretty good system, so I recorded myself doing a couple of rows to show my method.

This is definitely my longest electronics kit in terms of hours spent and it had so much repetition. Pretty cool result. Here is someone’s demo showing what can be done with the cube.

I’ll need to upgrade the firmware so I can program the board with my own animations.

I Cancelled HackerBoxes

I recently mentioned I was considering cancelling my subscription to HackerBoxes. Turns out the owner of the company made that decision much easier with the way he treats customers. Box #0030 is my last one.

The HB owner came up with some crazy conspiracy theory that all of his most active customers were trying to run him out of business. He started attacking us and censored us from helping other people in the community. You can see what the owner says in this deleted subreddit thread (also on the Internet Archive in case that page gets removed).

He also jumped into the comments on one of my unboxing videos and started making a bunch of incorrect assumptions about me and attacking me. It was so outrageous I thought it was a YouTube troll and I blocked the account soon after the 2nd comment came through so other HB customers to see the garbage this person was saying. Later that night I found out it was the owner! I wish I had saved those comments.

If you’re a HB subscriber or thinking to start you can decide for yourself if it’s a company you want to support. I won’t be giving my money to someone who treats customers like this. It’s disappointing because the concept is sound, I learned a lot, and there were some fun projects. If HB embraced and appreciated their community it could be an awesome way for people to learn about electronics.

The community has moved over HardWareFlare. Discord info is there as well, which is very active.

I’ve restarted my subscription to AdaBox and I suggest you check them out. Adafruit actually cares about people. Their next box (8) will be all about building robots. Another subscription electronics service I’m enjoying is Boldport Club, which comes once a month.

Unboxing HackerBox #0030: Lightforms

Quick unboxing video for the latest HackerBox.

Official box contents from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0030 Collectable Reference Card
  • NodeMCU V3 Module with ESP8266 and 32M Flash
  • Reel of 60 WS2812B RGB LEDs 2 meters
  • 8x8x8 LED Kit with 8051-Based MCU and 512 LEDs
    • PCB
    • Reusable Plastic Parts Box
    • Two 4.7 KOhm Resistors
    • Eight 470 Ohm Resistors
    • 10 KOhm Eight Resistor Array
    • STC12C5A60S2
    • 40-Pin DIP Socket
    • Eight 74HC573 Octal Latches
    • Eight 20-Pin DIP Sockets
    • ULN2803 Transistor Array
    • 18-Pin DIP Socket
    • Two 10uF 25V Electrolytic Capacitors
    • Two 22pF Ceramics Capacitors
    • 12MHz Crystal Oscillator
    • Barrel Power Socket
    • 4-Pin Serial Header
    • Power Switch
    • Cable with USB to 5V Barrel
    • Red Hookup Wire
    • 550 LEDs
  • USB Serial Module with CH340G and Jumper Wires
  • Stranded Hookup Wire 3 meters, 22 gauge
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Decal
  • Exclusive Dark Side LED Decal

It’s disappointing that HackerBoxes resold us a popular kit that you can get for $15-20. I’ve seen these LED cubes many times online and while they do look awesome, I never bought one because I didn’t think I’d have the patience to put one together. I guess I’ll get the chance now.

I’ll probably try to do a time-lapse of this assembly, which is going to take a long time.

HackerBox #0029 Field Kit Updates

I’ve customized the items in the HackerBox Field Kit and explained everything in this video.

You can find the example code I put together for all of the modules in my hackerbox-29-field-kit GitHub repo.

hackerbox-0029-field-kit-modules-breadboard

I plan to keep the kit in my backpack, especially for trips up north when I visit family. Maybe I shouldn’t take this with me on flights though. Have you ever travelled with a bunch of wiring and electronics parts?

If you’re interested in an electronics community, join us on reddit and Discord.

HackerBox #0029: Field Kit

I did an unboxing and a little demo with the latest HackerBox.

Here is the official list of contents from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0029 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Zipper Case
  • Portable 5V Soldering Iron
  • ProMicro ATmega32U4 5V 16MHz
  • OLED 0.91 Inch Display 128×32 I2C
  • Four Key Pushbutton Module
  • Six LED Debug Module
  • AT24C256 I2C EEPROM Module
  • 400 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • Jumper Wire Bundle
  • Set of Mini Grabber Clips
  • Solder Wick 2mm by 1.5m
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • MiniUSB Cable
  • Precision Driver Set
  • Exclusive Phone Phreak Decal Exclusive
  • Exclusive 8bit Dragon Keychain

I really like the idea behind this box. I’ve already rolled up more solder to keep in my kit and will have to think about what else to put in there. Maybe some potentiometers. It’s nice getting a microcontroller I don’t have yet.

I started a GitHub repo with some example code using all of the modules.

I had pretty much decided I was going to cancel my subscription so #0030 would be my last box. I think I mentioned recently about cancelling my AdaBox subscription, that I have accumulated a pretty decent collection of microcontrollers and other components. I spend a lot of time catching up on all of these boxes when I could be using that time to build projects from my own list of ideas, which is quite large. After getting #0029 though I think I’ll stick it out for longer and see how it goes.

Update: I made some customizations to my kit.

Come join the active community on Reddit and Discord. More info at HardWareFlare.

HackerBox #0028: JamBox

I like it when the new HackerBox shows up on a weekend.

I always see electronics projects for making some kind of digital synthesizer to generate sounds so it seems to be a common project. It’s one I’ve never done, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this box.

The official content list from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0028 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive JamBox Printed Circuit Board
  • ESP32 DevKitC
  • CJMCU PCM5102 I2S Digital-to-Analog Module
  • Four MAX7219 8×8 LED Matrix Modules
  • Five 10K Ohm RV09 Potentiometers
  • Five Potentiometer Knobs
  • Eight Tactile Momentary Buttons
  • Four Adhesive Rubber Feet
  • 3.5mm Audio Patch Cable
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • Earbuds with Case
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Skull Decal
  • Octocat Fan Art Decal Sheet

Unfortunately the demo code included in the guide only uses the potentiometers, buttons, and LEDs. Will need to do some tinkering to turn this into a synth.

Unboxing & Assembly of HackerBox #0027: Cypherpunk

Here’s the full list of the box contents from the Instructable.

  • HackerBoxes #0027 Collectable Reference Card
  • Black Pill STM32F103C8T6 Module
  • STLink V2 USB Programmer
  • Full-Color 2.4 inch TFT Display – 240×320 Pixels
  • 4×4 Matrix Keypad
  • 830 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • 140 Piece Wire Jumper Kit
  • 2 U2F Zero Soldering Challenge Kits
  • Large 9×15 cm Green Prototying PCB
  • Exclusive Vinyl GawkStop Spy Blockers
  • Exclusive Aluminum Magnetic Swivel Webcam Cover
  • Exclusive EFF Patch
  • Privacy Badger Decal
  • Tor Decal

I haven’t done an assembly video on a HackerBox in months. I have received some comments that they are really helpful for beginners, so I’m going to try to do one each month, which will also push me to complete the kits sooner. With all of the surface mount components this is a really good box to start with.

Catching up on Electronics Projects

I’m behind on a bunch of electronics subscription boxes and projects, so I’m just going to list out a bunch of stuff. None of its worthy of its own post anyway.

One of the projects for HackerBox #0023 was to build a custom antenna out of PVC, copper wire, and glue. I did a pretty piss poor job of drilling my holes in a straight line (as you can see in the picture), but I connected it to a microcontroller and was able to scan for Wi-Fi networks in the area. Success?

img_0591.jpg

I need to make more time to work with the pan and tilt system built with HackerBox #0024.

The camera that came with the project can only do 640×480, which sucks. One of these days I’ll connect the system to a Raspberry Pi and use one of my unused Pi cameras instead. Would be neat to mount at the front door to track anyone who comes to the house when I’m not home. The face tracking stuff is pretty awesome, even with the shitty camera. Here’s a really rough video of it.

I had to modify the code a lot to get everything working and I put it all on GitHub. If I work on this project more I’ll update that repo.

There wasn’t a lot to do with HackerBox #0025. It was mostly a soldering and look at the blinky lights project. Here are the 3 badges I made. I turned the star and rectangle (with a “Let’s Party” sticker in place) into pins and gave them to my nieces.

The skull badge has a buzzer on it, so I wrote some code (it’s on GitHub) to make it play the Star Wars theme and display some light animations.

Over the holidays I messed with AdaBox006 a bit. The 38 I posted on my birthday was a light painting taken with the Slow Shutter iOS app. I got it the light paintbrush working on both the Circuit Playground classic via a customized Arduino sketch and on the Circuit Playground Express through MakeCode. Both are available in the adabox-006 repo on GitHub. Using MakeCode is a fun way to program and I think it’s going to change the way people learn. Look at how simple and visual that version of the program is…

adabox-006-make-code-light-paintbrush.png

I did solder everything for HackerBox #0026 and verified some of the functionality, but haven’t done much with it. It was one of the most fun projects so far from HackerBoxes because of how many components were on this PCB. I find soldering to be so relaxing and satisfying.

I added the code for the temperature sensor I mentioned and showed in my post Why Are Thermostats Still on the Wall? to a new dht11-low-pass-filter repo on GitHub. Very simple, but useful.

Unboxing HackerBox #0026: BioSense

The first HackerBox of 2018 arrived and it might be my favorite since I subscribed with #0018.

As suggested in the video, I’m not going to do pricing anymore. I proved the value in these boxes is there for the $$. It’s really hard to estimate prices on these custom kits, so it’s not worth the time. Here is a list of the contents copied from the Instructable for box #0026.

  • HackerBoxes #0026 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes BioSense PCB
  • OpAmp and Component Kit for BioSense PCB
  • Arduino Nano V3: 5V, 16MHz, MicroUSB
  • OLED Module 0.96 inch, 128×64, SSD1306
  • Pulse Sensor Module
  • Snap-Style Leads for Physiological Sensors
  • Adhesive Gel, Snap-Style Electrode Pads
  • OpenEEG Electrode Strap Kit
  • Shrink Tubing – 50 Piece Variety
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • Exclusive WiredMind Decal

Might be cool to turn this into something for use in my garage gym.

I am preparing a post with a bunch of stuff from the previous boxes I’ve been catching up on. Maybe I’ll wait to post that until I complete this build so I can be all caught up before #0027.

HackerBox #0025: Flair Ware

I still need to work through HackerBoxes #23 and #24, but #25 arrived on the 1st. I’ve been spending so much time putting together my workshop that I haven’t sat at my electronics desk much in the last 2 months.

The camera was a little too close for the view angle I had set. I need to build a better camera arm/rig too.

I tried to price things out, but there are a lot of custom things in this box. Prices are from Amazon Prime unless noted. This list was copied from the Instructable for HackerBox #25.

  • HackerBoxes #0025 Collectable Reference Card – $1 (estimate)
  • LED Star Wearable Kit – $5 (estimate)
  • Color-Cycling Sign Kit – $5 (estimate)
  • BitHead ATtiny85 Wearable Kit – $5 (estimate)
  • Pluggable Digispark DevBoard – $3.08
  • Extra ATtiny85 8DIP Microcontroller – $1 (estimate)
  • CJMCU LilyTiny Digispark Module – $8.68 (AliExpress)
  • Three LilyPad NeoPixel Modules – $11.85 (SparkFun)
  • LilyPad Coin Cell Module – $1.95 (SparkFun)
  • CR2032 Lithium Coin Cells – $3.19
  • USBasp Atmel AVR USB Programmer – $5.79
  • Green Prototyping Board 4x6cm – $0.25 (estimate)
  • Lapel Pin Backs – $1 (estimate)
  • Shrink Tubing – 100 Piece Variety – $2.36 (AliExpress)
  • Tin Project Box – $1.02 (AliExpress)
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Decal – $1 (estimate)
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Knit Cap – $10 (estimate)

With a lot of estimates I get a total of $67.17. Since I’ve been pricing these out all but once I’ve come up with a $60-70 value. Consistent.