It's time for another episode of The Fellowship of the Things, the video series where we set our Creative Technologists loose in SparkFun's IoT apartment. For weeks we thought Sarah was out on vacation, but it turns out she was hard at work, buried in pillow stuffing and paper lanterns at her desk. She emerged with one of our favorite projects yet - the Cloud Clouds - and she and Shawn installed it into the apartment with great fanfare. Instead of pushing data to the web, as with past projects, we decided it would be interesting to pull weather data from the web, and use it to affect the appearance of our clouds.

If you're anything like the rest of us, you'll have to go back and watch the video again because you missed large chunks of the instructions while shouting, "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY." Thankfully Shawn and Sarah anticipated this, and they made a wishlist and a GitHub repo so we can all make our own Cloud Clouds. We hope you enjoy our latest IoT project, and we'll have another episode before you know it!


Comments 18 comments

  • So I was looking through some of the specs and doing some calculations and I was wondering what you did for power? If you have 300 leds per cloud it seems like it could draw quite a bit of current. Any suggestions for power?

    • You are correct! The power was a bit of experimenting for me. At first I thought current would be a huge issue, but unless you are running all the LEDs at the brightest white, it's actually not a huge problem, and lower currents work just fine without too much of an issue color wise. I started by using our 5V 2A power supply for each cloud, this didn't look quite the way I wanted it to, and I thought it might be a current issue, so I switched to a 5V 4A power for each cloud, this actually didn't change very much, and I was sad. After further inspection I found that I was actually getting a voltage drop across the 300 LEDs and this was an issue because I was running them at 5V to begin with, which these LEDs are recommended to be run at 6-7V. So I hooked the last LED back up to the first to try and maintain the voltage and this helped with the color a lot. I was still getting a bit of variation in the middle LEDs so I decided to go full out with a 6V 8A power supply for each cloud which I got from Mouser. This looks really nice, but it wasn't as much of a difference as I wanted so in the end I think it didn't really make too much of a difference, for the huge pricing difference.

      I hope that answers your question, in the end it ended up being the voltage drop I was getting across the LEDs that mattered more than them getting enough current because I was rarely running them at all white as bright as they could go. Ideally these 300 LEDs want 6-7V and at most 6A to run them at their peak brightness.

  • Awesome...requested the use of the thing...BAMMMM requested to pull and push some data...BAMMMMM requested rainbow disco lights.... well no, not really. but 2 out of 3 aint bad.... Awesome thanks guys

  • This post cheered me up like no other in a while! I've made plenty of LED color-cycling gadgets in the last decade but your clouds really look awesome... Shawn and Sarah have out done them selves with this one. Good work - keep it up!

  • OH... wait... nevermind..... wrong blog. ;)

  • Hi. I really enjoyed watching you build this project. I am creating a multi-sensory environment (Snoezelen room) for a children's dental clinic in India. I would love to implement this project in there. I have a room size of 14' x 16' and I would like the entire ceiling covered with this project. I am planning to do the following - 1. instead of using paper lanterns, I will fix a chicken wire or similar light-weight (yet stable enough) material for the framework on the ceiling; onto which I can mount the LED strips. I will then attach the fluff (clouds) directly onto it. I will get creative and design the clouds such that it could be made ready-to-remove-to wash/clean and fix back on. 2. With such a set up, I am planning to use 10m of LED strip to cover the ceiling. (Will that be sufficient? And when I use two LED strips of 5m each, what kind of power supply will I need?)

    Thank you for the inspiration. I will get started soon and keep you posted with the project.

  • George is growing the Cloud Cloud bank at www.lovelandcreatorspace.com https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153323304716911

  • I want to hang a bunch of Cloud Clouds in the Loveland CreatorSpace. I have the code loaded on both a Pro Mini and a Thing. I have 5 meters of WS2812 LEDs attached to the Pro Mini and I am using a 30A 5V supply that I had sitting around. There is about a 1/2 volt drop, but the LED Control sketch as no trouble lighting them up in the default Disco mode. The issue I currently have is wiring the serial connection between the two boards. It would be instructive if you could provide some details on that. The LED_Control side (Pro Mini) looks like it is using pins 8/9 via the AltSoftSerial library, based on the comments in the code, but I can't see what pins to use for the Thing side. I also made tried to replicate the Blynk bit, but it appears the IOS version of Blynk does not support the LCD control yet. I assigned all the virtual I/Os to match the code for the controls that are available, but it does not seem to talk to the Sparkfun Thing. I am planning to use the clouds as a visual feedback device for the IoT lab we are constructing as part of our Internet of Things special interest group. Any help would be deeply appreciated.

    • Here's the current Cloud Cloud bank at Loveland CreatorSpace https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153323304716911

  • Super cool. Would it be possible to see a picture or get a description of how the lights are arranged inside the lanterns? The light looks pretty even and it would be helpful to know how you achieved that. Also, how many lantern balls did you use in that setup?

    • Actually the LED placement really isn't even at all, the way you saw me tie in the LEDs into the paper lantern was exactly how I did it in the clouds. I tried to make sure the LED strip didn't hit right up against the wall of the paper lantern so that the light would get dispersed more, but they ended up hitting the edges in a few places and to compensate for that I just put more pillow fluff on the outside so it got dispersed more. It was one of those things were I just stuck everything in, lit it up to see how it looked, and made adjustments accordingly. There are even some LEDs that are outside the paper lanterns (to connect them between two lanterns) and these looked really bright and not even at all at first. So I ended up gluing a lot of the pillow fluff directly to the LED strip to disperse the light, more fluff than I put on the outside of the paper lanterns. Let me know if you have any more questions, it was actually really fun working on it, but a little bit time consuming to make sure it looked even from all angles.

  • Who is going to keep the clouds clean?

  • I just happened to notice in the intro the mention of the coffee pot. I presume that this is in reference to the original webcam? (I recall it well... even though I never actually got coffee from that coffee pot, as I was in Arizona and the coffee pot was in the U.K.)

  • I'm having a hard time wiring this up, can you post a hookup guide or something to show me how the thing and the pro mini communicate and get the data to the LED strip?

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