PROJECTS: SPEED VEST
3. TEST THE CIRCUIT
3a. Download and install the latest Arduino software from arduino.cc. On older versions of Mac OS X, you may
also need to install the provided USB Serial Driver, so that your computer sees the Arduino as a serial port.
3b. With the ProtoShield unplugged, hook the Arduino to your computer. Download and run the “Blink”
example code, on the Arduino site under “Learning/Examples,” to prove that your whole toolchain works.
3c. Download the test software, Test_EL_Digits.pde, from makezine.com/19/speedvest. Plug the
ProtoShield into the Arduino and the ribbon cable into the ProtoShield.
3d. Run the test software, which cycles through each output pin in order, so you can spot any bad connections. Quality control and breakage can be an issue with EL wire, so handle it gently and make sure each
segment works. One bad segment can short out the whole circuit, in which case you should check the
resistance across all of them.
4. BUILD THE DISPLAY
4a. If you’re working with plain EL wire rather than prepared segments, you need to connect leads to the
core and wrap wires of each piece. Cut the EL wire into 16" segments, and burn off 1" of the outer sleeve at
one end to expose the wrap wires. Make 12 of these segments. To make a solderable contact for the wrap
wires, you can carefully tease them to one side and twist them together, or else belt them with a snug loop
of copper tape. Then use a knife or stripper to remove the phosphor underneath and expose the core wire.
Split and strip a dozen 10" leads, then solder the EL core and wrap wires to separate lead wires. Use
heat-shrink tubing to insulate and reinforce the joints, remembering to slip the pieces over the leads
4b. Download the digit template stacked_numbers_template.pdf
from makezine.com/19/speedvest, print it, and pin it to the
1' square of thick black cloth.
4c. Pin the cloth around a frame of plastic or cardboard, then run
strands of EL wire along the path of each digit, entering and exiting through holes cut in the backing cloth at the bottom of each
To anchor the EL wire to the fabric, we used a great tool the
CooLight folks hipped us to: the Buttoneer. It’s designed to
attach buttons to clothes using small plastic staples, but it
also works brilliantly for attaching EL wire.
106 Make: Volume 19