Lighting projects for robots

this year ohm bots mounted computer neon tubes under our robot and were able to control them from the control station (ironically this was the most reliable aspect on our robot). well this year I’m looking to go one step farther. since we also used nylon mesh tubing to organize all our wiring (highly recommended for neatness but find a way to mark wires first!) I’m going to run something called EL wire through all our tubing. imagine you flip a switch and all your beautiful wiring glows… very cool. Ive also found a LCD board that does the sequential flashing as seen on night rider or the cylons on battle star galactica. just some ideas. if anyone has any other cool ideas post them. :cool:

I was considering suggesting making use of automotive clearance lights (roughly $2 at Auto Zone) for some approximately pimped-out decoration, but it became obvious that we were having trouble making weight as it was, so I kept my mouth shut. (You have no idea how many mounting panels we went through to make weight.)

Well, how about this, mechanicalbrain: instead of just for looks, use it for some diagnostics, too. If you plan to use connectors, then hook the EL lights (people in case mod circles love that stuff!) into the same connectors as the wires. That way, if a connector fails, the light will fail at that point, and you can easily tell where the power ends.
Just a thought.


well i like that idea but dont you need converter to run them and that would mean i need one for every connector :frowning: also i would hate to have one fail and spend hours searching a robot for problems just to find out its the lights.

Maybe, instead of having them go out with a problem, you could make them do something different if there is a problem. I don’e know much about EL wire, but if you can make it change color or blink or somthing, that might work

Do they need converters? I didn’t know that. It was just an idea, anyway, plus I think jdiwnab has a good one there. I was considering using LED’s at the connector itself for the same purpose, but saw this idea, and thought: hey, why not give it some bling?


Just an idea, but sometime ago I wrote some example code that showed how to vary the light output of an LED using the PIC18F8520’s built-in PWM hardware. This code could be used with last year’s IR beacon circuit to drive an array of tri-color high-brightness LEDs to create a pretty wide color spectrum. The filename is and it’s located here:


I made a simple one of these for my car’s front end. I can send you a schematic if you want. It cost me around $10.00 from Radio-shack.

Knight-Rider all the way.

121 had some nifty colored wire on our bot this year. We spelled out “121” on the sides in red and blue glow wire, and then we would switch between turning the red or blue on and off depending on what alliance we were on.

It was pretty cool. :slight_smile:


neon tubes require a high voltage to operate. I wonder if this was the source of your other control problems?

with any equipement that has a radio receiver, and analog inputs running on long wires, you need to be very carefull what type of other equipment you install, esp something that runs on high voltages.

I would not recommend running light tubes side by side with any control wires running through your robot chassis - the PWM wires for example - that would be begging for problems.

That looks blue to me, and at least here in VA, if you drive around with that on it is a hefty ticket. Blue lights are reserved for the police and fire marshals.


Yes I know, I am a full-time firefighter. I use these (and my other lights) when responding to a call. We are free to mix blue, red, and amber as we feel free. Our restrictions on colour are a bit relaxed, because we are not a city department. Most of the time, blue is reserved strictly for police.

You take your personal car to calls? You don’t ride in the firetruck?

in answer to some confusion el lights are just like neon tubes but extremely thin and flexible. mounting neon tubes to our robot had no adverse effects. we had a amazing underglow and we ran a homemade ropelight through our nylon tubing (the type found in computer stores. highly recomended for wire organizing especaily when you need a lot of cable to reach) and it looked amazing.

Hah, yeah. I respond in my PT cruiser from home. I have it set up for rally suspension and tires, as it is hard to do 95 on dirt roads without it. I love having a legal excuse to drive fast :smiley: .

Wow, this thread has gone astray…sorry Brandon.


EL lamps usually have a high voltage AC power supply and I would think that the close proximity with analog wiring might cause some problems for control. Please be careful when handling these devices. (The power supply readiates as well.)

Have you tried connecting a bi-color LED to a PMW output to vary intensity and color? (Assuming that you can reverse polarity of the PWM)

Why would you need to reverse the polarity of the PWM’d output? Using a tri-color LED like this one, the idea would be to use three separate PWM’d drivers to drive the three different LEDs contained within the package. By changing the intensity of each primary color, you can derive many different blended colors.


I was thinking of the bicolor devices that are two colors back to back with one of the diodes reverse wired.

Doesn’t the heat affect the lights?

When the light is right in the front of a car, before the radiator, there is not really any extra heat when you’re driving.