LittleBit of the Universe


Published on April 29, 2014

5...4...3..2...1...Get ready for Blast Off!! Welcome to the journey through our Universe of littleBits! Watch as the shuttle takes off to planet LittleBit49! The background of the board is illuminated from an Arduino, LEDs, and optical fibers! Create your own effects & design!

Credits: RotoScan

How To Make It


Before we begin the instructions, I must mention suggestions and tips. Be sure to build the Headquarters and Space Shuttle littleBit projects before building this project; you will need both. Also, this project will take up to 3 days or more to complete it, so have patience & stay dedicated young Makers! If you run into any obstacles or want to add any suggestions, post a comment below! :)


Let's begin with our first Circuit on a Mounting Board: Power + Wireless Receiver + Wire (1st Channel) + DC Motor + Wire + DC Motor, Oscillator (2nd Channel) + Envelope + Mix (1 input) + Synth Speaker, + Wire (3rd Channel) + Branch + Servo (left branch) + Pulse (top branch) + Light Wire. This circuit will control the music, shuttle lifting mechanism, littleBit Planet light & rotation.
Second Circuit: Power + Remote Trigger + Latch + Split + Wire (first input) + Wire + Bright LED + Wire + Double AND (1st Input), Wire (Double AND Output) +Bargraph, Wire (2nd Double AND input) + Wire + Long LED + Pulse + Split (second input). This circuit will control the lightning clouds.
Third Circuit: Power + Sound Trigger + Timeout + Servo. This circuit will control the rotation of the sun.


The first portion of the project is the Science Project Board. This is the most time consuming project so come dedicated! We glued light-blue colored paper and cotton to resemble the daytime sky on the bottom half of the board. The top half of the board will resemble the "Universe" during the night. Be creative! We will create star constellations with optical fibers and LEDs to the middle section through the backside of the board. Glue star shapes to the side portions of the board. I used small erasers.


On the backside of the middle section, we will begin the design. First, draw on the backside of the board what you want to resemble through the front side of it. We drew star constellations (Pisces, Aries, Virgo, Leo, planets, hearts, and "littleBits Universe"). Be mindful to mirror the images since they will show through the front side of the board. Once the outline of the drawings are finished, poke holes within the outlines with a thumbtack. For letters, make sure the holes are aligned. Remember that the more holes you have, the more time it will take to feed the optical fibers through. I fed through at least two-hundred fibers


Separate the pictures in four different groups; they will illuminate at different times within the code. The littleBits Universe and Pisces constellations are my main constellations so I used five LEDs to illuminate each group. The number of LEDs you want to use are your decision and since the LEDs are in parallel, be sure to use the correct resistor values.

Group 1 (Pisces, Saturn, Aries):
(5) Super Bright LEDs including one LED for optical fiber

Group 2 (Virgo, Leo, Hearts, Planet):
(2) RGB LEDs including one LED for optical fiber

Group 3 ("littleBits Universe")
(3) Super Bright LEDs
(2) RGB LEDs are used for fiber

Group 4 (All LEDs):
12 (LEDS)

Use a pencil to poke small holes in the board to insert the LEDs. They will illuminate to the other side.


Use a pencil to draw a trace of the GROUND line to connect to each cathode of the LEDs. The ground line will loop all the way to the cathode of the last LED. Try your best to stay outside of the dots as much as possible. Now draw 3 different traces to connect to the 3 groups to the digital inputs. BE SURE NOT TO CROSS PATHS WITH THE GROUND LINE! In each group, the LEDs should run in parallel with each other since they will blink on/off. Keep the inputs of the lines close together to insert inside the Arduino.


Use copper foil tape or copper wire to create the Ground and Power Lines. If you are using copper foil tape, solder each joint connection. Leave the LEDs that are used for the optical fibers out for this step. Solder the anodes of each LED inside the board to the specified group Input line and solder each cathode to the Ground line. The ground line should end at the cathode of the last LED. Solder the correct value resistor to the end of the power lines. Solder jumper wires to the end of the ground line and the power lines; they will be used for the inputs to the Arduino.


This step may be the most tedious. We will now create the mini optical fiber lamps. I used fibers from an old optical fiber lamp. Cut four 2 inch pieces of heat shrink to cover around the four LEDs. Use the heat gun to shrink the heat shrinks around the leads of the anodes and cathodes. Stick many fibers through the opening of the heat shrinks. Once the heat shrinks are filled, heat the heat shrinks to secure the fibers. Now it's time to feed the fibers through the holes. Be sure to place the fibers of each LED in the correct group. If the fibers become bent, just trim them down. Leave about 2-3cm of fiber through the other side of the board. Use wood glue to secure the fibers (any other solvent glue will distort the light in the fibers). Remember, PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE !! It's well worth it!


Upload the program to the Arduino and plug in the three wires in pins 2, 3, & 4.  Test the constellations. How did you enjoy the show? If you didn't enjoy the show, check whether the LEDs are soldered correctly, check the resistor values, be sure that the power lines and ground lines don't touch. Drop a comment below if you have further questions.


Lets move forward to another portion of the Universe. First print the cloud files from thingiverse. Scale up the clouds and print. Depending on the size of clouds, this may take a couple of hours.


Get ready to get your hands dirty! We will begin the construction of the sun and Planet littleBit. In this section you will need newspaper, balloons, scissors, flour, water, a bowl, mixing utensil, acrylic paint, paint brush, pipecleaners, and a fan. Start by cutting 2" strips of newspaper. Create a paper mache paste by mixing two parts flour/glue and one part water in a mixing bowl. Inflate two ballons. Dip a strip of newspaper in the paper mache mix and cover the balloon with a single layer. Remove any excess paste from the ballon to speed up the drying process. Stick the balloons in front of a fan and wait till it dries. Once it has dried, repeat the process. After the second layer has dried, use a thumbtack to pop the balloon on the inside of the paper mache shell.


Let's paint the sun and planet. I used purple paint of Planet littleBit and orange paint for the sun. I also used pipecleaners to resemble a rays from the sun and a ring around Planet littleBit. I also used the Lightwire bit to wrap around the planet with masking tape. Paint the masking tape the same color as the planet. Get creative!


We will now design the pulley system. We will need a cylinder to create circles on a sheet of cardboard to build two wheels. I used a soda can and button. Trace the bottom of the soda can onto the cardboard and create 4 circles. Find a slightly larger or smaller cylinder to create four more circles. The smallest diameter circles are the inside of the pulley, while the larger circles hold as the support of the pulley. With a pencil, poke a hole through the center of each circle (this is for the motor mate). Cut 4 ft. of fishing line and wrap one end to its own motor mate. Secure the line around the motor mate with electrical tape. Sandwich the two smaller circles together along the seam with masking tape with the motor mate in the center. Leave half a centimeter of space in between the two circles so that the tape can form a grove for the fishing line to wrap around the pulley; keep a small hole so that the fishing line could wrap around the pulley. As a test, wrap the fishing line around the wheel to ensure the grove's depth is deep enough. Now, glue the two larger circles on the outside of the smaller circles. You have now made the first wheel. Before creating the second wheel, move to step 14.  


Since you have one side of the pulley made, it's time to add the space shuttle.Drill a small hole on the tip of the SpaceOrbiterNose which connects to the top hole on the bottom side of the shuttle. Feed the other end of the fishing line through the shuttle. Now, repeat step 13 for the second wheel.


Since the pulley system is complete, We can build the top portion of the Universe. You will need the first circuit within this project. Tape the mounting board to the center of the yard stick. Lay the yardstick across the top of the project board. Place the launchpad and shuttle on the floor directly under the yardstick. Place the wheels on the DC Motors. Switch one DC Motor to the left direction and the other to the right direction; this gives lift to the shuttle. Test the pulley system. Wrap the fishing line around one pulley to ensure that the line is even on both sides. Once the shuttle has nearly reached the top, stop it and mount the servo on the bottom of the yardstick with hot glue a few inches away from the shuttle. This will rotate the planet back and forth. Now glue the planet onto the servo. Awesome setup!


Now, grab those clouds.from the MakerBot and lets begin the lightning clouds. You will need the second circuit from step 2. The Long LED + Bright LED + Bargraph will illuminate their own cloud. Under two of the cotton ball clouds, poke a hole with scissors on the mid section of the board. Both wire bits from  each end of the split will go through the holes. Hide the Double AND Bit under a cotton ball cloud towards the center. The other two holes should be on each side of the Double AND bit. Wrap and tie each cloud with fishing line and glue the line to the bottom side of the clouds. Wrap the fishing lines around the yardstick directly over each light bit. With masking tape, tape each light bit to its individual cloud. The clouds should dangle from the air. To activate the circuit, I used my tablet which has an IR blaster. You can use the UV Light Bit or a remote control. 


The final step of this project is the simplest portion of this project. Glue the sun to the servo of the third circuit. Glue the servo to the side of the board. Switch the servo to swing.


Congrats! You have created a littleBit of the Universe!! Use the Headquarters to command the shuttle through the universe. Watch the star constellations, lightning clouds, Space Shuttle littleBit, and Planet littleBit illuminate! Enjoy the Space Kit and start Making!

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