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We all know that lighting effects make for a good time at movie premieres and parties. Building a design from lights and making the lights move in sequence can give you a great effect. In this project, we show you how to create a series of dolphins dancing across the water (well, the plywood). You could just as easily create a series of spaceships in sequential stages of taking off, birds flying through the sky, or just about anything you can imagine.

Along the way, you can pick up some tips about timer chips, decade counters, and the artistic opportunity of stringing lots (and we do mean lots) of LEDs in sequence.

The Big Picture: Project Overview

When you complete this project, you’ll have a wall display sporting five dolphins, outlined in LEDs, that light up one after the other, making them seem to dance across the wall. You can see the little guys jumping and jiving in the finished display shown in Figure 10-1.

figure 10-1

Here’s the big picture of the dancing dolphin project:

1. Put together an electronic circuit to control the timing of the light display.

2. Create a template for the dolphins and drill holes in a plywood sheet for five dolphin outlines by using the template.

3. Wire five arrays of LEDs and resistors onto the plywood sheet.

4. Mount the circuit on the plywood, connect the arrays of LEDs to the circuit, and add a plywood board to the back of the project.

5. Turn on the juice (that is, pop in the batteries).

The circuit sends current to each group of LEDs for about two seconds, lighting up and then dimming the dolphins in sequence.