Michael Jackson Light-Up Eyes

by Ben N on February 2, 2015

This weekend, I had a chance to start playing with some tutorials and an Arduino Uno, so that I could finally learn about micro controllers, and eventually use those skills for some DIY home automation and LED lighting controls. On a completely different note, my four-year-old girl is now completely obsessed with Michael Jackson, especially the THRILLER video. What would it take to turn a microprocessor tutorial into entertainment for a little girl? Not much, it turns out.

I had already run through a few tutorials on using the Arduino to control an LED. So, I just did a web search for “Arduino fade LED” and grabbed some code from this tutorial.

I copied and pasted the code into the window on the computer software for the Arduino, and then loaded it onto the device over a USB cable.

I followed the wiring diagram on the tutorial, but then added a SECOND LED and resistor in parallel with the first. The little girl and I had already made a Michael Jackson mask last week by copying an image off the web, scaling it to the size of her face, printing it out on tagboard, and cutting it out and adding elastic. I measured the spacing between the two eyes of the mask, which came to about 4.5 cm. I then just made sure that the two LEDs on the breadboard matched that distance. I poked the eye holes out just a little bigger, and then got them to the exact size by pushing a third LED into it.

With the code loaded on the board, and the LEDs laid out, all I had to do was line up the paper mask and push it down over the LEDs. There you have it – Michael Jackson with glowing eyes, ala THRILLER. The entire project took less than ten minute.

I could explain it further, but why do that when we can have video of a pre-schooler tell you.

Right away, she pointed out to me that Michael has YELLOW eyes, not red, at the end of THRILLER. Fortunately, I had an ample supply of both red AND yellow LEDs. She popped out the red ones and put yellow ones in their place. Not even having the sniffles could keep her from having fun with this project.

One thing that I’ve noticed about my little girl is that she’s not that interested in electronics or robots per se, but she LOVES being able to make things happen and interact with them. I see more DIY “smart” toys in our future. Hopefully, built by little girls.

Stay charged up,


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