Circuit Connections

There are only 3 required connections to run the LED shades: power, ground, and the Neopixel data pin. As long as your microcontroller is capable of running 68 Neopixels and has a pwm pin available, you can hack your own brain onto the prototyping space of the shades. For this project, we will use the default Neopixel control pin, D6, on the Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE to control our LEDs, and the other connections required are shown below.

In this configuration, the shades are powered by a USB power bank in your pocket plugged into the micro USB port of the Feather. This allows for a much longer run time, and less mass on your head for easy wearability. The EN connection to GND keeps the shades on at all times when plugged in, so if you wanted to be able to switch them on and off without unplugging them, simply wire a slide swith between EN and GND. The microphone output is read by the analog input A0, and the circuit is powered by the USB power pin. To run the shades from battery power, wire the red connections to BATT, and wire in the switch between EN and GND to turn off the shades without uplugging the battery every time.

Part Placement

Find a position on the prototyping area that will fit the Feather and microphone's connections, I recommend aligning the feather's shorter side of pins in the top left of the area as I did to fit a row of headers to support and attach the board and make the required connections. Find a suitable spot for your sensor as well, and make sure it leaves the head of the side arm attachment screw uncovered.

Soldering the Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE

From Ladyada's guides to the Feather 32u4 BLE and the auto-gain microphone, here's how to solder the header pins and attach them to the board:

Prepare the header strip:

Cut the strip to a length of 10 pins, and make sure it lines up with the pins BATT through 5 on the Feather. It will be easier to solder if you insert it into a breadboard - long pins down

Remember, only solder headers to the 10 pins EN-3, or your feather won't fit into your prototyping area!

Add the breakout board:

Place the breakout board over the pins so that the short pins poke through the breakout pads

And Solder!

Be sure to solder all pins for reliable electrical contact.

(For tips on soldering, be sure to check out our Guide to Excellent Soldering).

Attach the Feather

Once you've soldered the top row, you may remove the Feather from the breadboard and solder it into the prototyping area of the hacker edition LED shades arm so the row of headers is in the top left of the area, as shown on my pair. 

  1. For a stronger connection to the shades, remove the plastic headers spacer with pliers (optional)
  2. Then place the Feather into the prototyping area as shown.
  3. Solder one pin first to attach it, then hold the arm and reheat the joint, moving the arm to a right angle that's straight and parallel to the feather, and let the joint cool. Then solder all the other pins, and come back to the first one to attach the Feather to the arm.

Soldering the Microphone

Prepare the header strip:

Cut the strip to a length of 5, we will only solder 2 to attach it to the shades and use silicone wire for the remaining 2. It will be easier to solder if you insert it into a breadboard - long pins down.

Add the breakout board:

Place the breakout board over the pins so that the short pins poke through the breakout pads

Remember, only solder Out and Gain, not AR! We don't need the rest

And Solder!

Be sure to solder the two pins one pin in on the left (Out and Gain) well for reliable electrical contact.

(For tips on soldering, be sure to check out our Guide to Excellent Soldering).

Attach the Microphone

After you've finished soldering, use your flush cutters to carefully cut away the excess headers so your microphone has two header pins in OUT and GAIN.

Like attaching the Feather, find a place on the available prototyping area to insert the sensor's headers.

  1. Press the sensor all the way to the board, and solder the Gain pin on the other side. Then reheat the joint, pull the sensor to sit parallel to the board, and let the joint cool. Then solder the Out pin, and resolder the first one in place.
  2. To set the gain of the microphone, or its sensitivity, solder a bridge between the Vdd and Gain pins on the mic.
If you want to attach another sensor to your shades, simply anchor it in a similar way with headers or to a space on the prototyping area, and connect its output in the proper way to an analog pin on your Feather or other microcontroller

Once you've finished soldering the Feather and Microphone, cut all protruding pins and clean any flux or left over pin from he borad. Now we can move on to wiring the circuit!

Final Wiring

Now, review and identify where the pins required for this project are located from the "Circuit Connections" sections above, and refer to the circuit diagram to plan out your wiring. 

Once you have wire lengths that work for all your connections, strip the ends with your wire strippers, and it's good practice to tin your wires before wiring anything together. Once you have your wires ready, wire your pins together as the circuit diagram shows, paying attention to the labelling on the three Neopixel driving pins in the top right of the image above. GND at the top, Neopixel data in the middle, and 5V at the bottom.

A properly cut, stripped, and tinned segment of wire

  1. Wire the USB pin of the Feather to the 5V pin of the shades
  2. Then, connect the microphone's VDD pin to the shades' 5V pin.
  3. Wire the Feather's pin 6 to the shades' Neopixel data pin (the center of the 3 on the shades), and the mic's Out pin to A0 on the Feather.

Finally, ground the circuit in the same way you wired the power, between the Feather, shades, and mic's GND pins.

With the circuit all wired up, check your work against the circuit diagram, clean between pins, and if you'd like, test the connections with your multimeter for shorts. If it all looks good, the soldering for this project is complete! Read on to assemble your shades.

Shades Assembly

To assemble the frame of the shades, Garrett over at Macetech created this in-depth assembly video, have a look:

Build Complete!

Once your shades are wired and assembled, we can move on to testing and software, the clever programming behind this project! Get your Arduino IDE ready, we're goin' coding!

This guide was first published on Mar 12, 2016. It was last updated on Mar 12, 2016.
This page (Wiring and Assembly) was last updated on Oct 25, 2020.