Overview

Create a delicate ring of NeoPixels attached to a Gemma bracelet. Program your ring in Arduino, CircuitPython, or with MakeCode Maker & then protect your NeoPixels by encasing them in resin.

Make sure you're familiar with the following guides:

Parts

This guide uses an Adafruit Gemma M0 and Nano RGB LEDs. The Gemma M0 should be used with the onboard dotstar LED, capacitive touch sensors, and ability to program using CircuitPython or MakeCode Maker. 

Nano RGB LEDs are a quarter of the size of standard 5050mm NeoPixels you may be used to seeing. They're tiny and adorable and once encased in resin, will be both durable and waterproof. Although these LEDs are not really meant for hand soldering, each LED has a teeny tiny pad that can be carefully soldered to.

The following parts are the electronic parts for the project from Adafruit. 

Adafruit GEMMA M0 - Miniature wearable electronic platform

PRODUCT ID: 3501
The Adafruit Gemma M0 is a super small microcontroller board, with just enough built-in to create many simple projects. It may look small and cute: round, about the...
$9.95
IN STOCK

NeoPixel Nano 2427 RGB LEDs w/ Integrated Driver Chip - 10 Pack

PRODUCT ID: 3484
These incredibly small surface-mount LEDs are an easy way to add a lot of very tiny (but bright!) colorful dots to your project. They are just mind-bogglingly small....
$4.95
IN STOCK

Lithium Ion Polymer Battery - 3.7v 150mAh

PRODUCT ID: 1317
Lithium ion polymer (also known as 'lipo' or 'lipoly') batteries are thin, light and powerful. The output ranges from 4.2V when completely charged to 3.7V. This battery...
$5.95
IN STOCK

Silicone Cover Stranded-Core Ribbon Cable - 4 Wires 1 Meter Long

PRODUCT ID: 3889
For those who are fans of our silicone-covered wires, but are always looking to up their wiring game. We now have Silicone Cover Ribbon cables! These may look...
OUT OF STOCK

Silicone Cover Stranded-Core Wire - 50ft 30AWG Black

PRODUCT ID: 3164
Silicone-sheathing wire is super-flexible and soft, and its also strong! Able to handle up to 200°C and up to 600V, it will do when PVC covered wire wimps out. We like this wire...
$4.95
IN STOCK

Tools

Small Alligator Clip Test Lead (set of 12)

PRODUCT ID: 1008
Connect this to that without soldering using these handy mini alligator clip test leads. 15" cables with alligator clip on each end, color coded. You get 12 pieces in 6 colors....
$3.95
IN STOCK

Adafruit Micro Lipo - USB LiIon/LiPoly charger

PRODUCT ID: 1304
Oh so adorable, this is the tiniest little lipo charger, so handy you can keep it any project box! Its also easy to use. Simply plug in the gold plated contacts into any USB port and a...
OUT OF STOCK

Other Supplies

Code

With a Gemma M0, you can use it with the Arduino IDE, CircuitPython, or MakeCode Maker. Although the MakeCode Maker sketch is a bit different than the Arduino and CircuitPython examples, the sketch looks great on the NanoRing. 

Choose your own adventure!

Arduino

This is a great basic Arduino sketch that looks fantastic on this NanoRing. You may recognize it from the example code used in the NeoPixel Tiara guide. I've updated the Random Flash animation to show flashes of 5 colors on a ring with 3 LEDs. 

If you are new to Arduino, check out this guide: Adafruit Arduino IDE Setup. This sketch uses the Adafruit NeoPixel library. You can learn more about Arduino libraries by reading this guide from Adafruit.

Plug the Gemma M0 into your computer with a working USB cable and select Gemma M0 in Tools -> board. Download the code from the download link below. Verify and upload the code to the Gemma M0.

#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h>
#define PIN 1
#define NUM_LEDS 3

Adafruit_NeoPixel strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(NUM_LEDS, PIN, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);

//                          R   G   B
uint8_t myColors[][5] = {
                         {30, 144, 255},   // dodger blue
                         {232, 100, 255},  // purple
                         {204, 0, 204},    //  
                         {200, 200, 20},   // yellow 
                         {30, 200, 200},   // blue
                         };
                               
// don't edit the line below
#define FAVCOLORS sizeof(myColors) / 5

void setup() {
  strip.begin();
  strip.setBrightness(20);
  strip.show(); // Initialize all pixels to 'off'
}

void loop() {
  flashRandom(10, 1);  // first number is 'wait' delay, shorter num == shorter twinkle
  flashRandom(10, 3);  // second number is how many neopixels to simultaneously light up
  flashRandom(10, 2);
}

void flashRandom(int wait, uint8_t howmany) {
 
  for(uint16_t i=0; i<howmany; i++) {
    // pick a random favorite color!
    int c = random(FAVCOLORS);
    int red = myColors[c][0];
    int green = myColors[c][1];
    int blue = myColors[c][2]; 
 
    // get a random pixel from the list
    int j = random(strip.numPixels());
    
    // now we will 'fade' it in 5 steps
    for (int x=0; x < 5; x++) {
      int r = red * (x+1); r /= 5;
      int g = green * (x+1); g /= 5;
      int b = blue * (x+1); b /= 5;
      
      strip.setPixelColor(j, strip.Color(r, g, b));
      strip.show();
      delay(wait);
    }
    // & fade out in 5 steps
    for (int x=5; x >= 0; x--) {
      int r = red * x; r /= 5;
      int g = green * x; g /= 5;
      int b = blue * x; b /= 5;
      
      strip.setPixelColor(j, strip.Color(r, g, b));
      strip.show();
      delay(wait);
    }
  }
  // LEDs will be off when done (they are faded to 0)
}

CircuitPython

Below is CircuitPython code that works similarly (though not exactly the same) as the Arduino sketch. 

Your Gemma M0 already comes with CircuitPython but maybe there's a new version, or you overwrote your Gemma M0 with Arduino code. In that case, if you need to reinstall or update CircuitPython Gemma M0, see the set up CircuitPython Quick Start!

This code requires the neopixel.py library. A factory-fresh board will have this already installed. If you’ve just reloaded the board with CircuitPython, create the /lib directory on the CIRCUITPY flash drive that appears when you plug the Gemma M0 in and then download neopixel.py from Github.

To use this, plug the GEMMA M0 into USB - it should show up on your computer as a small flash drive. Edit the file code.py with your text editor of choice. Select and copy the code below and paste it into that file, entirely replacing its contents (don’t mix it in with lingering bits of old code). When you save the file, the code should start running almost immediately (if not, follow the GEMMA M0 guide link to troubleshoot).

If GEMMA M0 doesn’t show up as a drive, follow the GEMMA M0 guide link above to prepare the board for CircuitPython.

import time

import board
import neopixel

try:
    import urandom as random
except ImportError:
    import random

numpix = 3  # Number of NeoPixels
pixpin = board.D1  # Pin where NeoPixels are connected
strip = neopixel.NeoPixel(pixpin, numpix, brightness=.1, auto_write=True)
colors = [
    [30, 144, 255],  # Dodger Blue
    [232, 100, 255],  # Purple
    [204, 0, 204],  # Pink
    [200, 200, 20],  # Yellow
    [30, 200, 200],  # Blue
]


def flash_random(wait, howmany):
    for _ in range(howmany):

        c = random.randint(0, len(colors) - 1)  # Choose random color index
        j = random.randint(0, numpix - 1)  # Choose random pixel
        strip[j] = colors[c]  # Set pixel to color

        for i in range(1, 5):
            strip.brightness = i / 5.0  # Ramp up brightness
            time.sleep(wait)

        for i in range(5, 0, -1):
            strip.brightness = i / 5.0  # Ramp down brightness
            strip[j] = [0, 0, 0]  # Set pixel to 'off'
            time.sleep(wait)


while True:
    # first number is 'wait' delay, shorter num == shorter twinkle
    flash_random(.01, 1)
    # second number is how many neopixels to simultaneously light up
    flash_random(.01, 3)
    flash_random(.01, 2)

MakeCode Maker

MakeCode Makerhttps://maker.makecode.com, is a web-based code editor for physical computing. It provides a block editor, similar to Scratch or Code.org, and also a JavaScript editor for more advanced users. Microsoft MakeCode has been augmented to support more than the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, like the GEMMA M0. See the Adafruit GEMMA M0 guide for more information

Visit https://maker.makecode.com and create a New Project

Visit https://maker.makecode.com and create a New Project.

Select Adafruit GEMMA M0 from the list of boards.

Select LIGHT from the list in the middle of the screen.

Drag a set strip to block so it's under on start.

 

Select the block and update the dropdowns. We're using D1 and we have 3 pixels.

 

Select strip set brightness under LIGHT and move this block under on start.

 

Set the brightness at 20. You may want to set it lower if the light is too bright. Lower values also make the battery last longer.

Select strip show frame of ( ) animation under LIGHT and move this under forever.

 

Choose an animation from the drop down. I selected the comet.

Preview the test animation on the left. Give your sketch a name and then download it to your desktop.

You can also get the code here:

Plug your Gemma M0 into your computer and ensure that the onboard switch it turned ON.

You should see it appear on your desktop as GEMMABOOT. If you have previously installed Arduino or CircuitPython, you may need to double press the reset button to get your board into bootloader mode.

Find the .uf2 file you just downloaded and move it to GEMMABOOT

The status LED on the board will blink while the file is transferring. Once it's done transferring your file, the board will automatically reset and start running your code (just like in the simulator!)

Build it

Circuit Diagram

Review the circuit diagrams for making a ring with 3 pixels. These illustrations are meant for referencing wired connections. The length of wire, position, and size of components will not match the actual project.

Lay out 3 LEDs in a diagonal orientation with the teeny tiny notch on the top of the row. The notch signifies the negative side of the pixels. 

 

Using this orientation, the data in will be on the left and data out will be on the right. 

Take a piece of blu-tack or tape and label the top with a "-" and the bottom with a "+". Since we've flipped things over, the data in will be on the right and the data out will be on the left. I used a screwdriver head to keep things labeled. 

Tin all of the pads on the backs of the pixels. Tinning the pixels worked best when I hovered the soldering iron right above the pads instead of directly touching them. 

Put the bracelet on your arm and move it as far up your arm it might go. Measure the distance between where the ring will sit (on your finger) and the bracelet. Add 1" and cut 3 pieces of wire. 

Measure the distance 1.5x around the ring finger and cut a piece of Silicone Cover Stranded-Core Ribbon Cable. Remove one of the wires if you've picked up the 4-strand variety.

Soldering

Tip: Tin and then trim wires. Strip a comfortable amount of wire cover (~1/4"), tin, and then trim it down. 

Power line

Use a wire stripper tool or your fingernails to strip a tiny bit off the end of one of the long pieces of wire.

 

Attach the wire to the positive pad of the middle pixel.

Separate and strip enough of one of the ribbon cable wires to cover all the positive pads. 

 

Solder the wire across all the positive pads, using the tweezers to hold things down if needed. Leave the excess hanging off to the right. 

Data Line

Tin a piece of stripped wire. Cut a tiny piece of it. 

 

Use that wire to connect the data between the 1st & 2nd pixels. 

Use a wire stripper tool or your fingernails to strip a tiny bit off the end of one of the long pieces of wire.

 

Attach the long wire to the data in pad of the middle pixel.

Separate, trim, and strip the middle wire of the ribbon cable to align with the end data pad. 

 

Solder the wire to the data pad. Leave the excess hanging off to the right with the power line. 

Ground Line

Use a wire stripper tool or your fingernails to strip a tiny bit off the end of the last long piece of wire.

 

Attach the wire to the ground pad of the middle pixel.

Strip enough the last ribbon cable wire to cover all the ground pads. 

 

Solder the wire across all the ground pads, using the tweezers to hold things down if needed. Leave the excess hanging off to the right. 

Complete

Test the size of the ring around a finger. The fit should be loose, about a size & 1/2 larger than normal. 

Trim and strip the wires accordingly.

Work slowly and carefully to attach the ground, power, and data wires around the rest of the ring. 

Label the long wires attached to the ring using pieces of tape. 

Connect the ring to the Gemma using alligator clips to test:

 

  • Gemma GND -> Ring -
  • Gemma Vout -> Ring +
  • Gemma D1 -> Ring Data 

 

Braid wires.

If you run into issues, go back and inspect the wiring. A single strand of wire crossing pads could be the culprit so check things over again. 

 

If it works, solder ring wires to the Gemma.

Ring & Bracelet

While encasing the ring in resin is optional, you will need to insulate the exposed components in e6000 or hot glue to avoid damaging the delicate solder joints.

Use the mold and resin directions to test your molds before encasing the LEDS in resin.

I started testing by filling my molds with hot glue before putting a few components into the molds and testing resin. Hot glue rings could work in a pinch, but were more sticky and yellow than I wanted.

Insulate battery terminals and solder joints on Gemma M0 with e6000 or your other favorite adhesive.

Attach a battery to the Gemma M0 and then both to the bracelet using e6000 or foam adhesive. I carefully wrapped the wires around the battery so that I could still remove it for charging. 

Wear it!

Unplug the battery for charging. 

While you’ll want to keep your Gemma M0 and battery away from the water, I was able to safely get my hands wet while wearing this fun piece since I sealed the ring in resin.

Enjoy your new creation!

This guide was first published on Jan 06, 2019. It was last updated on Jan 06, 2019.