Digibury: Project Conway Big Reveal Part 2- the hardware build
Life Is But a Game
The Hardware Brief
• To build a 10 x 10 matrix of lights that can play the
Game of Life (GOL).
• The matrix must be controllable from an external
source (the display only needs to render the GOL, it
does not need to run it).
• A high quality finish is required.
• Due to the size of the
matrix we can’t plug in
lots of lights into a micro
(100+ pins needed!).
• Multiplexing is one
▪ This would provide very
fast IO to render an
image, but adds
complication to the
wiring of the device.
• We don’t need fast refresh rates (the GOL will be
slowed down a lot due to the ‘limited’ size of the
• Addressable RGB lights would give us expansion
room (replacing or adding pixels would be easier)...
WS2801 & WS2812B
• 2 wires (ws2801B) and 1 wire (ws2812b) required to
control a huge string of LEDs.
• Very bright RGB and individually addressable.
• Although timing is sensitive (would require FPGA or
some fancy DMA on very large strings) we aren’t
running that many LEDs (100 is relatively small).
• 100 of these LEDs would need a fair amount of
‘current’ at 5V, but easy to supply (10A external psu).
• 5 x 5 Matrix using a
• Bit of hardboard.
Designing The Final Hardware
• WS2812b tape (very
cheap per LED).
• IKEA HOL table (A 10
x 10 lattice!).
• Front one-way-mirror.
A Lot of Soldering Later…..
If YouTube decides to work….
• Soldering by hand is slow and potentially unreliable.
• Time to produce some PCBS.
• Produced in KICAD.
▪ Each strip contains 5 LEDs (will need 10 strips of these).
▪ Surface mounting each led and a capacitor. Fits nicely in
the lattice gap.
Diagnosis – Why is my LED not working?
• Power is fine (5V consistently across the power rail).
• No shorts.
• Can run an individual stick.
• Should be working and we have yet to diagnose
what is wrong (probably something messing up the
The Society To The Rescue – Scrapping the design and going Plan B.
• KISS approach (This had got lost along the way.)
• Many Tinkersoc members = many man/woman
• More eyes to check the work.
• A fun evening of building (make this an actual
Day 1 - Case Design
• Custom case was designed in autoCAD
• Lasercut by architecture department (took over 1
hour to cut all the MDF).
Day 1 - LEDs
• Back to the WS2801s (same as those used in the
• Kiss again: 100 LEDSs prewired purchased and
measured to fit the custom case. Arrived day 2.
Day 1 - Software
• Arduino micro setup with GOL firmware.
• A PhD student wrote this. Uploaded and tested.
• Things can be swimming along fine and fall over
when you least suspect it (generally right at the end).
• KISS is the best approach (as long as you KISS the
• Your society can save your butt.
• I love the smell of laser’d MDF in the morning.