Hack your own wristband

After a visit to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Will's curiosity led him to get his screwdriver out

  • Xylobands light up the 2014 CHRISTMAS LECTURES audience

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

On the 11th December 2014, I and nine of my classmates travelled from Exeter to London to attend one of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES at the Royal Institution. As we arrived, we were each given wristbands to put on which we were told would flash. Sadly we had to leave part-way through to catch our train home but we were allowed to keep the wristband. I was excited to find out what was inside since I hadn't seen them in action. The following evening, I used a screwdriver and I dismantled the wristband to see what was inside. This isn't my first time dismantling things: I opened up a memory stick once so I could re-solder the connections to the plug.

What I found was a strip of colour-changing LEDs, a small circuit and three 3v batteries. With a bit of research and tinkering I discovered the black wire was positive and that there was a ground wire for each colour. This confused me slightly because black is normally ground. As with every project, mistakes were made and I had to re-solder some of the connections (under the surveillance of my dad, of course) and I somehow damaged one of the LEDs which is now only semi-functional. Once it was ready, I connected it up to my Raspberry Pi and started programming with it.

What I did was I made a piece of code repeat indefinitely which made the LEDs alternate between red, green and blue. The programming language I used was Python because I was familiar with it and I recommend it to anyone who wants to begin programming for themselves. I'm currently part way through another Raspberry Pi project which is to make a robot controlled by a Wii Remote but I'm still waiting for a few parts to arrive in the post. I really liked what I saw of the lecture and it's inspired me to pursue my love of tinkering and programming with things.

See the video of the hacked wristband

  • computer with lights

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