Project Aurora

Hi! Once again some time has passed since my last post. I’d like to post more often but I’ve been having some busy days. This time I’m writing about a project I developed mostly with my friends and colleagues Gonçalo Pereira and Fábio Martins. The project was slowly developed from December of 2010 to May of 2011 for the event XXVI Semana Académica (26th Academical Week) of the University of the Algarve. The event consists in a full week of partying, with concerts from known portguguese and few international bands. Each course of the university gets a 3x3m tent to sell drinks and raise some money for trips or other purposes. For the Electrical and Electronics Engineering course that we were representing, we decided to make something that had never been done before in that event, something that people are not even used to see in typical bars and discos. Below you can see a video that we made about it, spoken in portuguese but with subtitles in english :).

After brainstorming for some time on what could we do, we decided to make an eye-catching LED balcony that would surely get the attention of our visitors and stay on their memories for a long time. Together with the balcony we also made some blinking lights using LEDs, glass bottles, water and a few drops of white paint. The result was very good and we all felt great for seeing the surprised and astonished faces of our visitors. We received lots of feedback from them, from colleagues and from other students of the university: some pointed out suggestions, some congratulated us for putting up the best Electrical and Electronics Engineering course tent EVER (thanks,we really appreciate it!), and some wouldn’t just believe that we had made it ourselves and thought that we had bought it. Sorry guys, we really did it ourselves! 😛 We were also surprised that it lasted the whole week, with lots of drinks being spilled on it and people dancing on top of it!
Talking more specifically about the balcony, it had several working modes, some predefined, and some controlled by sound. The modes were selected using a command line application (we didn’t had time to make one with a graphical user interface :\) written in Python. The program would then send the respective commands via USB (see the previous post on how to make a Low Cost 1,85€ USB to RS232 LVTTL Serial Cable) to a PIC16F877A microcontroller from Microchip that provided all the clock and data signals to a bunch of shift registers that would control the LED matrix and the blinking bottles.
After the event was over, we made the video that you have seen at the beginning of this post and named it Project Aurora, since it gave color to our tent during all those party nights. Even when there where power failures emerging all the other tents into darkness our UPS kept it working and giving color and light to our tent. We were all like “They see me rollin’ they hatin!” 😛
Along with everything I already referred, I also managed to quickly do some kind of “photobooth-with-instant-upload-to-facebook” using a Logitech HD Webcam, a laptop and a fancy yellow and red emergency button. I’ll describe it in another post later ;).
Some time later we updated Aurora with a new power supply and a microphone amplifier board for standalone use, right on time to take it to Bar 42 in Monte Gordo, a small village in Algarve, where it remained for a month changing the environment and colors of the bar while being used by several DJ’s as a DJ table. Check some pics below.
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