One night, I was trying to draw a circuit on a chalkboard, but it became too dark to see. The next day I bought a new lamp, only to find that the board gave off too much glare. I needed a light I could easily adjust. I could have just installed a dimmer, but where’s the fun in that? As an engineer, I like to do projects that use a little electronics, a bit of mechanics and some software.
My friends and I had been talking about those old ’80s commercials for the Clapper, and it occurred to me that I could make a circuit that would dim the lights when I clapped my hands. The one I made is relatively inexpensive and a lot more functional than the original—it’s even got a Party mode that can pulse the light along with the beats of the music from my stereo.
Pretty much any lamp will do, but a DC-powered LED one works best. Direct-current lamps run at around 12 volts, one tenth the power of regular AC lights, which also require different circuitry and carry the risk of a nasty shock.
Download WinAVR for Windows or AVRDude for Mac, both of which are free, to get the clapper software from your computer to the programmer, which sends it to the microcontroller via a six-pin ISP connector.
Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: 3 out of 5
For a full list of illustrated instructions, click through to the next page.single page
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