I have a big art project in mind, but I am completely new at this.

Hi guys! I just received my Grove beginner kit, and I have big plans for the future.

I'm an art school student hoping to graduate in spring 2021 as a ceramicist and potter. For the graduation exhibition I plan to make hanging objects- like birds nests, or butterfly chrysalises from transparent porcelain, and put LED lights inside that suggest the object is alive, but in a deep slumber. it should be something subtle, and poetic.

I want the LEDs to pulse slowly, like there is a heartbeat. but that is just plan A.

Ideally, I plan to make many of these objects, and each should have a seperate heartbeat, they should not be synchronized.

And then, ideally, it would be great if something changes when it senses a visitor- maybe the heartbeat speeds up, the color of light changes, or it gets brighter.

And, I could also add ambient sounds to further add to the illusion.

Fortunately, I have time to learn how to do this, and some funds. I have never soldered before, and it worries me, and I will have to buy the tools. But if necessary, I think I should be able to learn that.

I have the Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino and 2 extra Chainable RGB LEDs. I expect to need a lot more than that, but what to order?

Can you please give me some pointers on how to get started on this? What is the best platform to use, what should I invest in to make one prototype LED system to begin with? What is the most cost effective? Thank you very much for reading this!

The page you linked to takes a ton of bandwidth - that said - seems to be a tutorial for the equipment - work through the tutorial - that will get you in the right direction - for the prototypes - do simple ones and one or two pulsing LED's etc - usually easy to scale up and better to learn on small then worry about the hardware a bit later -

For help on the platform - you will need a good description of the probable hardware and if the lights pulse (analog I/O required) or just blink on and off (no analog required)

Do small bits to get things sorted

Thank you for your reply! It does indeed seem wise to build this up slowly. The page I posted is very long because it contains 10 experiments to be done with the starter kit. Several of which involve flashing LEDs. But none of these look anything like what I want to achieve.

I found this which looks much more organic: Pulse a LED - SparkFun Electronics
But I have tried to clumsily paste this into the code Seeed gives me, and of course it does not work. May be many reasons for that, but it probably has to do with the sparkfun experiment using a simple single color LED, while I have a RGB LED with its own print plate that can do a whole lot more.

I think I should get me some LEDS and a breadboard and learn to use that. I should be able to use the Seeeduino Lotus V1.1 with that, if I'm correct? And once it works get a few trinkets to make small pulsing objects. I'm really out of my depth, though! :smiley:

Sounds like you want to go on eBay and get a fair number of Pro Mini modules.


You will want a programming adapter to use these, but they are a nice compact module for that sort of project.

hanging means either battery power or you run cables.

once you get some of the examples working,
google about fade .

An LED is easy to fade in and out, but the light output is not linear.
that means that at half power, it is not half bright or at 1/4 it is not 1/4 bright.

there are examples using sign or cosign

you can have a low lit LED and then ramp up to some slightly brigher level, like a heartbeat. at rest

the time period is something you pick. and you can make that a bit random to the casual observer.

so, the time between resting pulses, you pick, and can make that change
say, 3 in a row that time at 3 seconds, then 1 at 3.5 second.
the first three go to 60%, the 4th at 75%

a different one might have the same brightness, but at 2.9 seconds and 3.4 seconds over time they will all align and then all be different, part of the harmony of life.

as for sensors, you can add a tiny PIR that would detect someone nearby.
then change the time to 1.5 and max bright to 95% even ramp up to that.

unfortunately, there is not universal human presence sensor that would be tiny and easy to use.

Thank you, Paul, Dave and Saildude!

I've looked at and bookmarked the ebay listing, they are very cheap but getting them sent from China to an EU nation (I'm in Belgium) is tricky and I have bad experiences in the past, so I try (for now) to work with the local sellers I have.

So if I understand it correctly- this module attaches to the programming adapter (how?) and the programming adaper attaches to the computer. I can then load the code to the module. The module then comes off the adapter, needs its own powersource and a LED of course...But I can program many modules with a single programming adapter? Neat!

The exhibition will last for about a month, so I guess batteries are a good option as LEDs use little in the way of energy.

I've also found this tuturial that looks helpful :https://www.instructables.com/id/Heartbeat-Pulsing-LED/

Dave, that sounds interesting, and the idea of varying the speed and color of the different objects is what I'm aiming for. It should all look a bit organic and random.

It seems that I will not be able to get around the need to solder things, so today I ordered a small starter set with soldering tools, and two little projects with LEDs to practice on. Because I have to start somewhere!

I feel like that little girl at Christmas again, who wanted the cool electrical and chemical experimenting boxes the boys got, but only got stupid dolls. 40 years later, the girl finally gets what she wanted.

You should be able to find the Pro Mini and adapter in the EU - it is a standard product - the link is to a US company - but the Pro Mini should be available in the EU - should not be too hard to find - and even at list $ 10.-- US should not break the bank if you are using only a few

Expect to change batteries - yes LED's don't use a lot of current but over a few days the energy ads up - but you will see that when you start with the prototypes

Good luck - sounds like a fun project

You will want a programming adapter to use these, but they are a nice compact module for that sort of project.

I'm in on the Pro Minis, but I prefer to use FTDI cables for programming. No need to have the programming module with the device at all times.

For sensor: the RCWL0516 should work well. Key advantages over PIR is that they can read through pottery (so you can completely hide them), and they're omnidirectional so if your hanging artwork turns they still work fine. They're really sensitive. You will notice that some react quicker than others (which ones varies all the time), which actually may be a feature for a project like yours.

The sensor is very easy to use, just giving a high/low signal - motion detected or no motion detected.

One such modules per heartbeat, and you just need a 5V wire leading towards it. Probably easy to hide.

For the LED: RGB LEDs will work, but it may be much easier to work with individually addressable ones. WS2812Bs are great, but for you the APA106 may be better as it's easier to solder and you probably need only one or two per device.

It should be fairly easy to hide wires as I'm in complete control of the porcelain shape I am going to make. So there are sensors that can sense somebody moving trough porcelain? That's pretty amazing, as it is such a hard, dense inert material. My idea was actually to make a large owl figure out of clay and hide the sensors in the eyes.
Thank you for all this information, I'm going to get started with the soldering and Grove kits, and work on from there!

Those RCWL0516 sensors are microwave based, so can read through concrete walls and ceilings. They're really cheap as well.

Yeah, I just checked! Awesome! Thank you!

the Mini is a standard board.
if you need tiny, there are other options, but as you get off the main track, you have to do more and more.
the Mini is not set to be battery powered, but you can modify it to make it more efficient.
if you might want to look at the Digi-Spark type units that only have a few pins and can make the project smaller still.

lots and lots of options are available as your confidence and needs grow.

Yes, a whole world reveals itself! There is whole different side to this, which is the extreme difficulty of working with casting porcelain, and making your own plaster of Paris moulds. Porcelain needs to be cast very thin to get good transparency; before firing, it is incredibly fragile. After firing, at a temperature of 1250 celcius or more, it is one of the hardest and most inert materials known to man. During firing it might actually melt and collapse!

My project will be tricky to pull off. I think I should create a working prototype of the electronics, and a prototype for the vessel it should go in. There is a chance that my teachers will shoot the whole thing down, because I'm supposed to graduate in ceramics, and not audio-visual art. For it to pass judgement, I better have it look as impressive as possible...
Anyway, thank you all for your help!

As far as Arduino projects go, yours is pretty simple and great for a first time project. Get some Arduino boards, LEDs and sensors, and start experimenting with it. First get an LED to fade (use the fade example of the IDE), then add the motion sensor to change colour and/or speed of the fade based on the motion sensor.

Or if you'd rather hire someone to do the software and create a schematic for you, feel free to post over in Gigs & Collaborations.