LED Cowboy Hat


Here's a new video of our LED cowboy hat, showing the layout in RocketLife LightDesigner. The first shot shows the LightBoard Mini LED controller, which was small enough to fit in the groove at the top of the hat. A "lipstick" USB battery powers everything. View on Twitter »

I used the circle drawing tool to create the layout. (Notice the option in the ••• menu to reverse the LED direction.)

Here’s a photo of the inside. The battery and LightBoard Mini are Velcroed to the top of the hat. I bent the Dupont pins at the end of the LED wires 90° to save space. For the power wires, I used slightly thicker header pins, which should grip even better.

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Nice job, David! I’m glad you made a video to show the process. You made it look so easy!

Thanks, Chili! It was surprisingly easy. The hardest part was figuring out where to insert the wires from the outside of the hat. When I laid the LED strip over the existing band, I discovered I could tuck the wire end underneath the part where the leather overlapped to hide the wires and hole.

Now that it’s built, I’ve been experimenting with lighting patterns. One of the first is “Cowboy Safety Hat,” which uses four groups to make a white headlight in front, a red Cylon scanner in back, and amber running lights on the sides. The fourth group is an exclusion group that disables the lights at the corners of the hat to make space. That group has four non-contiguous zones.

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Update: The LightBoard Mini draws so little power when the LEDs are off that the USB battery kept shutting off. So I replaced the USB battery with a pack of three AAA cells. The board and LEDs happily run off 3.3V, and the LightBoard remains visible to the LightMobile app over Bluetooth so I can turn on the hat with a tap on my phone. The new battery pack is half the size, too. With the brightness at 50% and a sparse pattern, the lights ran for more than six hours.

Update 2: I added a DFPlayer MP3 module and an iLouder speaker to make a Quiz Hat. I adjusted the length of a lighting effect to match the tempo of the Jeopardy “thinking” theme and triggered the music on the DFPlayer.

I then made a “win” and “lose” program to select from the LightMobile app based on the contestant’s answers. The “lose” program plays a red flash and a buzzer before returning to the thinking loop. The “win” program plays firework effects and applause.

This hat has an AAA battery pack installed, which provides enough voltage to drive the LEDs (about 3.5 to 4.5V, depending on type and age of batteries). I replace that with the 5V USB pack when I want to drive the sound module as well.

Here’s a quick clip of the hat in action. The wireless response is so fast, one contestant asked if the hat itself was judging his answers!