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Flower Power Project: Misadventures of a Novice Maker

If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’ve been practicing my soldering skills with the seeed studio Learn to Solder 2V and  3V LED panel kits and playing with foam flower cutouts.

Last night, it was time to put it together in an arrangement.    Everything was set but I had to figure out what to do about power.  These flowers will need to be lit all day when we are at Maker Faire Newark and the original battery compartment wasn’t cutting it.

The original components include a two AA compartment with relatively short wires (short for this project, anyway).  Luckily with the screw down connectors, it made it easy to swap out the power supply but what to swap with?

With some help from my Maker friends, I was able to get to work.  I would use a breadboard power supply and wire the panels into the breadboard.  Okay, simple enough.  Have wire, will solder!

I created the stems by wrapping two different colored insulated 16 gauge wire that was also wrapped around a galvanized steel wire (to help support the flower).   I fed it very carefully through a lime green decorative mesh tubing and was chugging right along stripping the insulation of the wire at both ends.   Then the moment of truth come.

The 16 gauge wire was too big for me to connect to the screw down connect or the breadboard.  Drat!  I tried every trick I could think of including the sewer’s trick of twisting the end real tight to make for a thinner end but no such luck.  The next size down I had were 30 gauge teflon wire.  I panicked.

How do I strip these?  They seem so delicate and my wire stripper tool goes down to 20.  I tried to google it.  Someone had some complicated tool they designed.   Okay, probably wasn’t complicated but it was getting late and I was in a panic.

Finally, I said what the heck; I’ll just use my cutter and hope for the best.  Success!  I was able to strip it with ease. Back on track, I repeated what I had done with the 16 gauge wire.

photo 1

Armed with the 30 gauge stems, I tested the connections.  While I was able to light the panels, the connections were extremely delicate both at the panel and on the breadboard.  I tried tinning the ends but still it kept snapping off and a series of expletives were muttered.

Ugh.  I’m still a novice so my bag of tricks are pretty limited.  Then, I remembered Paul had talked about another project and soldering headers on as connectors.  The light bulb went off and I got to work.  The connectors worked like a charm for the most part.

I fed the stems through the craft styrofoam that I was using to hold up the flowers.   One of my stems connectors ended up getting caught on the styrofoam and snapped  so I ended up using the original 16 gauge stem and soldered connectors to it  panel connections as well as the breadboard ones

It was late and I wanted to go to bed but I couldn’t let it go.  The light at the end of the tunnel was so close.

The moment of truth came when everything was plugged in.  I hit the switch on the breadboard power supply module.  Yea!  The flowers were all lighted and were in all its glory….for a few seconds.

It started to flicker, go off, then become light again and cycle through.  I was warned that while I might have had the right voltage, if the amperage wasn’t right, then this might happen.  But, I didn’t have the right voltage.

The power supply module was set at 3.3V.  While that would have been fine for powering one of the panels, it wasn’t enough for all three.  The blue LED panel along requires 3V whereas the other two required 2V.  With the power supply now set on 5V, I crossed my fingers.

Finished seeed Studio Flowers

It worked!  I just had to futz with the styrofoam and the setup in the basket (that is really a utensil holder).  It was really late, now.  Doh!  In fact, so late that there was an internal debate on whether it was worth going to bed at all.

The whole adventure was worth it though.  I stretch my soldering skills and Maker skills and have this pretty basket of never wilt flowers to show for it!

photo 3

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