Failure, Fantastic Failures – Nam Tran

My progress so far

With the software mostly done, this week I decided to tackle the hardware part of the project, mainly converting lightning events into blinking lights on the LED strip. For this I will need my old Arduino board and WS2812 LED strip.

First hiccup I ran into was the Arduino board refused to connect. Keep in mind that this board is over 7 years old at this point and I had to do some probing to figure out why. One of the bootloader fuses blew so I had to reprogram the Arduino with an AVR Programmer board

Pocket AVR Programmer

The board works! Now on to connecting the LED Strip. For this I used a WS2812, more commonly known as NeoPixels, a fairly common choice for addressable LED strips, and comes with a fairly powerful library for Arduino (

My second hiccup was that the LED strip does not work. Turned out on my flight back to the States, the strip was pushing up against the suitcase and bent the data connection. My solution to this was to cut out the first LED and solder it back on. At this point both the board and the LED strip works!

I still decided to order a new LED strip, however, since the current one only has 150 LEDs (149 after the “surgery”) and I want the end results to has at least 300.

I hooked it up and nothing works. Fearing my Arduino has let me down once again, I busted out my ESP32-NodeMCU board, which is a more powerful, Arduino compatible board, complete with Wifi and Bluetooth. This does not work either.

After some more probing, I confirmed that the board does indeed, work. A closer look revealed that the LED strip was working, but faintly. Thought this could be a power problem, I took my 10A 5V power supply and hooked it up. Still nothing.

You can see the dents from the journey

At this point I am starting to doubt my ability to blink an LED. I took out a normal LED and did just that. This confirms that the board and that specific port works, and there’s enough onboard power to drive at least 60mA, which is enough for the first few LEDs on the strip.

It was not until late last night that I tried plugging the ESP32 board to my old LED strip and lo and behold, it works.

The moral of this story is to never put your sensitive electronic parts in a ziploc bag in a suitcase. This week, with most of the hardware parts sorted out, I will attempt to make it interactive, and possibly laser cut the housing.

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