My desk is covered with half a dozen geeky trinkets, including an action figure, Star Wars collectible cards, and sometimes a new gadget that makes sounds. Some are useful for writing inspiration, while others add color and humor to my day. You can make your desk more interesting by creating your own Desktop UFO.
GET THE PARTS
Below is a list of all the components and tools you will need to build the Desktop UFO. You will need to solder this project. For instructions, refer to the appendix.
- Adafruit NeoPixel ring, 24 x 5050 RGB LEDs with integrated drivers (Adafruit N/N 1586).
- Adafruit Trinket (Adafruit P/N 1501) and A-to-MicroB USB cable (Adafruit P/N 898)
- Battery holder, 3x AAA with on/off button and two-pin JST (Adafruit P/N727)
- 40 header pins (Adafruit P/N 3002)
- Jumper wires 22 gauge solid wire 5 or 7 inches female-to-female (5-inch or 7-inch) (Adafruit P/N 1311).
- Plastic lid with at most 1.5 cm vertical space below
- Three plastic drinking straws that can be bent (optional) Small plastic gumball machine enclosure lid
- Spray paint
- 3D printer access or 3D printer
- PLA or ABS filament, depending on the 3D printer
- Drill press, hand drill, and/or Rotary tool
- Soldering iron
- Use wire snips and pliers
- Hot glue gun
- Tape for electrical use
- Tape for Painters
The NeoPixel, a ring or strip of LEDs, can be programmed to light up in a specific pattern. It will provide a rotating glowing ring underneath the saucer.
The NeoPixel will go under the Desktop UFO. Wires will be pulled through the legs using drinking straws. Under a plastic round lid made from plastic containers, the battery case and Trinket controller which controls the lights of the NeoPixel will be located. Tinkercad will create the UFO’s body and landing pads. It can be printed on a 3D printer. Let’s get started!
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We’ll first set up the Trinket. This controller board will control the NeoPixel’s LEDs. Next, we will prepare the NeoPixel using a battery. Finally, we’ll put everything in the UFO body which we’ll construct last.
Once everything is completed, we will upload a brief program called a sketch. This tells the Trinket which pattern to use to trigger the NeoPixel LEDs. When voltage is provided, an LED will turn on. Each LED will light up when voltage is supplied. The NeoPixel has an address for each LED. This allows the sketch to indicate to which LEDs the Trinket should supply voltage at any given time.
The wiring of the electronics
The next step is to test and wire up the electronics, before moving on to the design phase of the UFO body.
After all, connections have been made, you can place the batteries in the battery case and turn the switch on. If you have the NeoPixel sketch loaded correctly on the Trinket, and all wiring is correct, the NeoPixel will display a random mixture of animations.
Double-check all wiring connections if you don’t see the animation. Common connections with three heads are a common problem. Make sure that all wires are in good order.
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You can connect the Trinket and your computer to upload another sketch. To verify that the Trinket works properly, you can upload the Blink sketch and use it again. Once you have a functioning NeoPixel that displays the animated colors, it is time to start working on the UFO body parts.