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Neuron v1.0

by builttospec, published

Neuron v1.0 by builttospec Sep 26, 2012



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This is the Neuron, a learn to solder kit I threw together for the 2012 Kansas City Maker Faire. On the surface it's just another easy to assemble "my first soldering project" blinker, but put a few of them together and you can make a light and touch reactive light show! It functions as your typical alernating LED blinker with a jumper in place, but remove the jumper and they mirror pulses of light detected on one LED to the other. Chain a large set of them together and they'll activated each other in sequence. They're also bi-directional so you can send a pulse one direction in a chain and send another back the opposite direction. A single Neuron firing can activate more than one Neuron, forming branching light shows as well! You can even use one in blink mode to act as a convenient light pulse source.


Other features of note:

  • The bolts used to make the boards lay flat can be used with magnets to mount them on magnetic surfaces
  • In neuron mode, a piezo speaker can be connected to the mode jumper and each neuron will emit a random tone when it activates, or a specific tone with a slight firmware modificaiton
  • Neurons actively sample the ambient light so they can function fine under several different lighting conditions (they work best in low light, function fine in normally lit rooms, and don't work well in sunlight because the light saturates the sensors)
  • Touching the leads of an LED on a Neuron will activate it as well as light
  • The PCBs are one sided and are fairly easy to etch at home and the circuit itself if easy to assemble on a breadboard or perfboard

Full assembly instructions availiable here:

You can see them on Adafruit Show-and-Tell here:

And here's a quick video I did demoing a set of them at the hackerspace:

Grab what's left of the v1.0 boards in my store:

The firmware was developed in AVR Studio 5, but should be easy to compile using avr-gcc under Linux.

Note that in this version, the ISP header will not work with ISP programmers with inline current limiting resistors (like the tinyISP) once the LEDs are installed.

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Cool project!, although as a neuroscientist I have to say the naming could have been a little less misleading.