Office stop light

Office Busy Signal Stoplight

COVID-19 has forced many of us to work from and practice social distancing to flatten the curve. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my home office. Since I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, I decided it was time to clean and organize my office. When I clean/organize I end up digging up a bunch of stuff I haven’t used in years. Most of these items usually get recycled or donated, and some sometimes I’ll find small treasures that I’ve held on to but forgot about.

This time I found my Dad’s original office stoplight that he used when I was a kid in one of the random-stuff boxes. Essentially, it’s miniature stoplight that was used to indicate my Dad’s availability at any given moment. It was made with incandescent light fixtures with colored light covers. The light were controlled by two toggle switches.

Since my kids are home from school too, for the same reason I’m working from home, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to give this stoplight box new life. Hopefully it will help the kids understand when I’m in the middle of something and can’t be bothered.

While I could have made this from scratch that would have a much smaller profile, I wanted to keep the original look. I did replace the 6V incandescent light bulbs with colored LED’s. This was simple enough to do by cutting the light bulb fixture in half on the bandsaw. Then it was as simple as wiring up the LED’s and programming an ESP8266 thing with a very simple web interface.

Parts list:

  • Red LED
  • Yellow LED
  • Green LED
  • 220Ω resistor
  • Sparkfun ESP8266 thing
  • USB Cable
  • USB power adapter


 *  Simple web LED control for a stop light.
 *  The server IP address of the ESP8266 module, will be printed to Serial when the module is connected.

#include <ESP8266WiFi.h>
#include <WiFiClient.h> 
#include <ESP8266WebServer.h>

// WiFi Definitions //
const char *ssid = "your_wifi";
const char *password = "your_password";
const char *hostname = "office-stop-light";
const String title = "OFFICE STOP LIGHT CONTROL";

// Pin Definitions //
const int RED_LED_PIN = 4;
const int YEL_LED_PIN = 0;
const int GRN_LED_PIN = 5; // Thing's onboard, green LED

// Create an instance of the server
// specify the port to listen on as an argument
ESP8266WebServer server(80);

/* Homepage Webcode */
void send_homepage() {
  String server_index = "<!DOCTYPE html><html lang=\"en\"><head><meta name=\"viewport\" content=\"width=device-width, initial-scale=1, user-scalable=no\"/><title>"+title+"</title>";
  server_index += "<style>.c{text-align: center;} div,input{padding:5px;font-size:1em;}  input{width:90%;}  body{text-align: center;font-family:verdana;} button{border:0;border-radius:0.6rem;background-color:#1fb3ec;color:#fdd;line-height:2.4rem;font-size:1.2rem;width:100%;} .q{float: right;width: 64px;text-align: right;} .button_blue {background-color: #008CBA;} .button_red {background-color: #f44336;} .button_yellow {background-color: #ffdd00; color: black;} .button_dark_grey {background-color: #555555;} .button_green {background-color: #4CAF50;} </style>";
  server_index += "<script>function c(l){document.getElementById('s').value=l.innerText||l.textContent;document.getElementById('p').focus();}</script>";
  server_index += "</head><body><div style='text-align:left;display:inline-block;min-width:260px;'>";
  server_index += "<H3>"+title+"</H3>";
  server_index += "<form action=\"/cmd_red_on\" method=\"get\"><button class=\"button_red\">Red</button></form><br/><form action=\"/cmd_yellow_on\" method=\"get\"><button class=\"button_yellow\">Yellow</button></form><br/> <form action=\"/cmd_green_on\" method=\"get\"><button class=\"button_green\">Green</button></form><br/><form action=\"/cmd_all_off\" method=\"get\"><button class=\"button_dark_grey\">Off</button></form><br/>    ";
  server.send(200, "text/html", server_index);

/* Go to http://office-stop-light in a web browser with a device on the same network as this ESP8266 thing. */
void handleRoot() {

void cmd_red_on() {
  digitalWrite(RED_LED_PIN, 1);
  digitalWrite(YEL_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(GRN_LED_PIN, 0);

void cmd_yellow_on() {
  digitalWrite(RED_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(YEL_LED_PIN, 1);
  digitalWrite(GRN_LED_PIN, 0);

void cmd_green_on() {
  digitalWrite(RED_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(YEL_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(GRN_LED_PIN, 1);

void cmd_all_off() {
  digitalWrite(RED_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(YEL_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(GRN_LED_PIN, 0);

void setup() {

  // prepare GPIO / LED
  digitalWrite(RED_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(YEL_LED_PIN, 0);
  digitalWrite(GRN_LED_PIN, 0);
  // Connect to WiFi network
  Serial.print("Connecting to ");

  WiFi.begin(ssid, password);
  while (WiFi.status() != WL_CONNECTED) {
  Serial.println("WiFi connected");
  // Configure and start the server
  server.on("/", handleRoot);
  server.on("/cmd_red_on", cmd_red_on);
  server.on("/cmd_yellow_on", cmd_yellow_on);
  server.on("/cmd_green_on", cmd_green_on);
  server.on("/cmd_all_off", cmd_all_off);
  //get heap status, analog input value and all GPIO statuses in one json call
  server.on("/all.json", HTTP_GET, []() {
    String json = "{";
    json += "\"heap\":" + String(ESP.getFreeHeap());
    json += ", \"analog\":" + String(analogRead(A0));
    json += ", \"gpio\":" + String((uint32_t)(((GPI | GPO) & 0xFFFF) | ((GP16I & 0x01) << 16)));
    json += "}";
    server.send(200, "text/json", json);
    json = String();
  Serial.println("Server started");

  // Print the IP address

void loop() {

Wiring Diagram

Web Interface

Power Wheel Hacks

We inherited this power wheels ATV from a dear family that moved out of state. It needed some “fixing” before we could have some fun with it. These are the things I’ve done to it since we got it.

New Battery

The original battery had long since died, and my 18V cordless drill batteries were the only ones I had that were remotely powerful enough to make it move. Sure the voltage is a bit higher than the 12V ATV is designed to run on, but now it goes faster! Also, I’ve been running it on 18V for 3 years now and it still runs great. As you can see in the photo’s I used a standard RC battery plug. Then created battery adapter to spade wire terminals. I used bits of wood to keep the right spacing of the spade wire terminals for battery connection and removal.

Bike trailer hitch

The problem with having siblings is you need to share. So I thought they could all have fun together if they could pull each other around. So I came up with this trailer hitch. Get a 3/4 in. PVC 45 degree elbow, and drill a hole clear through one side for the trailer cotter pin to go through. Then place a piece of scrap 2×4 on the inside of the battery bay, and put at least 3 screws through the PVC elbow through the body into the 2×4.

Painted it Metallic Blue

RGB Undercarriage Lights

Simply added some 12V RGB LED strips to the undercarriage of the power wheels, and added the controller that came with it. The LEDs were able to operate just fine at 18V using the LED IR controller that they came with. It also adds visibility at night.

Unfortunately the LED strips eventually fell off even after gluing them down.

Battery Level Indicator

New Treads

Now that the kids are getting bigger I noticed that the wheels tend so spin out longer, and that the ATV wont stop as quickly as it used to. This was especially apparent when they tried to pull a heavier wagon. So I found a hack online on how to take a bike tire (not inner-tube) and apply it to the hard plastic wheels to give it more traction.

Pull a Parade Float

Okay this one isn’t really a hack, but was made possible because of some of the hacks. And it is a neat thing I was able to do with my kids. We had a lot of fun, and they were able to help promote Mommy’s business ( We also won 3rd place for best float!


It is nearing Christmas time again.

Last year, I was in an apartment that was doing a Christmas Light Decoration Competition. The first three winner received a discount on the next months rent.

So I decided to order some RGB LED strips from and make some really cool IR controllable stars.

The process was simple, if not a bit tedious…

First, I measured the length of the smallest section I could get from the LED strop. Then I made a pattern, on a regular sheet of paper, that would give me the angles and length for each point in the star.

Then, I traced the angles on a piece of cardboard, cut the star out, and placed the sections of LED strips, to make sure everything fit.

Here is a picture of the star, the template, the tools I used, and the LED strips in place.

Now all that is left is to solder all the LED segments together.
This was by far the most tedious part.

And here it is all lit up.

And, why only make one when I can make three!

So Here is our final apartment balcony.

Click to view on YouTube

Toothless Wings

Nothing much to this costume. I just cut up a black fleece blanket into the general shape of toothless wings. Then used a sowing machine to sow the ridges.

I was very lazy with the lights. I hot-glued some RGB LED strips to the wings, one on each side of the center ridge. Then wired the blue lights to a 9V battery plug. Then hot glued a Velcro cable tie to the back side of the wings to hold the 9V battery.

Floodlight on Tripod

I recently acquired an LED flood light to help shed some light on my projects. I found that it works best if it is mounted up high. To do this, without putting holes in the wall, I used my tripod. It has a quick release attachment that I find very useful.

This quick release mechanism is designed to be used with a camera. However, the concept is pretty simple. In the image above, the left is the empty quick-release housing. By moving the lever on the left up, it makes it possible to insert the camera mount pad (center). The mounting pad is simply a square piece with beveled edges.

Now, How to mount the floodlight to the tripod? This is where I had the idea of creating another mounting pad that would mount to the floodlight using the existing hardware. I decided that is would be easiest to just 3D print the part even though it very well could have been made from wood or other materials with a little more effort.

As you can see, I simply duplicated the mounting pad and extended it. This allowed the nuts and bolts that hold the legs onto the light to also hold the mounting pad.

Now I can put my light on my tripod with just a flick of a switch.

And a big thank you to my brother for drawing up my idea and printing it.

LED Desk Lamp Hack

Here you can see all the components used in the lamp. It originally used E14 small screw 40w incandescent bulb. And has been modified to use 8 bright white LEDs.

The circuit is pretty simple. I’m using the innards of a 120V AC to 6V DC transformer in series with an 8.2 ohm resistor to power the LEDs. The original 120V AC power cord and switch is soldered onto the 120 V input of the transformer. 
Then I made my own LED grid using 4 white LED pairs in parallel. Then soldered some long wires to feed down through the tube to the transformer. And finally, soldering the LEDs and the 8.2 ohm resistor to the 6V DC output on the transformer.

I used a water bottle lid to separate the LED grid from the metal arm that used to hold the old bulb. This is to ensure nothing would short out.

The final result is a nice warm white light that is just right for illuminating my desk.

NOTE: I had all of this stuff laying around I thought I’d put them to good use. It really isn’t necessary to use a 10W 8.2 ohm resistor.

UPDATE: I’ve since replaced the internal electronics with just a 5V 400ma 120VAC tranformer with no resistor. While it worked before, It was a little too dim for use at my workbench.

Creative Fatal1ty Gaming Headset Hack

I’ve been using this headset with my Xbox 360 for a while now. But I always found it so cumbersome to use by running an extension from the end of the cable up to where I hold my controller. So about 3 months ago I modified them to be the perfect Xbox headset.

I realize that many of my posts would be much more helpful if they had detailed instructions on how I was able to do what I did. This is one of those times where I wish I had taken more pictures while working on them, instead of just afterwards. I don’t even have a decent before picture.

Essentially, I removed the mic plug and cable and soldered it directly into the volume/mic control

The silver adapter, in the right photo above the mic plug, makes it so I can plug it directly into my Xbox 360 controller.

Now the distance from the headset to my controller is perfect with no more extra cables. So much nicer than what I was doing before.

If I ever get my hand on another one I’ll be sure to do a How-To step-by-step guide. And if anyone would like me to mod theirs I’ll do it for free. Just shoot me an email and we can work out the details.

Pinewood Derby – Propeller powered

A week ago my brother invited me to join him for an Anything Goes pinewood derby race. I have great memories of building these cars with my Dad and wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to relive those moments.
First I designed my car in Sketch-Up, and then built the car from a standard derby kit. (see image below)
The hardest part was building the propeller motor stand. I made that part separately and the glued it into place. Before I could glue it I had to drill holes and feed the wires for the motor through the holes.
Then to power the motor I used an old iPhone 4 battery I had laying around. To make the battery easier to use I soldered a new connector on the battery so I could easily plug it into the car and the battery charger. To finish the simple circuit, I added a switch so I wouldn’t have to disconnect the battery to turn it off.
And finally, to finish things off I added some tungsten weights to a cardboard cover painted to match the car.
I say the finished product always looks better than the sketch.