George Heron N2APB and Cecil Clontz (technology guru of TLARC) have been collaborating on yet another really cool project for our radio benches. It’s a colorful light that indicates when we are “On the Air” … and and we’ve turned it into the next project for our TLARC “Makers” group to build, if they wish! (Actually, anyone who participates in our almost-monthly group workshops is unofficially labeled a “TLARC Maker”, as we are the members who like to make things … for the shack, antennas for the field, and gadgets for the sake of gadgets.)

In this Workshop #2, a laser-etched acrylic display is illuminated by a colorful and ever-changing string of NeoPixel LEDs under the control of an ESP32 microcontroller located in the base, using a single input line to indicate when the radio station is “on the air”. See the short video below, followed by some particulars of how we anticipate this workshop running.

So as you heard explained in the video, either a “keyline” signal from the radio or a small RF-detection circuit is able to trigger the display to show a new color pattern when transmitting, and and then have it blinks rapidly if a “keydown timer” has been exceeded … which can alert the operator to prevent repeater shutdowns by long-winded transmissions!

We use open-source Arduino C++ software to enable tech-savvy hams to customize the color patterns for the different states of the display.

If you wanted to make one of these cool displays for your radio bench as we have on ours, you’ll be able to start the project on our next T-Makers meeting on June 16 from 2-4 pm. We’re already set to gather then to finish off the EFHW antenna box from the previous session, and we’ll have all parts ready for you to also start on the On-Air-Display.

The project consists of …
a) Your very own laser-etched acrylic (you chose beforehand the text and graphics you want on it and Cecil & George will etch it for you in advance);
b) A small enclosure;
c) A handful of NeoPixel LEDs that you’ll attach to the inside of the box
d) A ESP32 microcontroller to which you’ll solder wires, LEDs and download your customized software.

The project will cost $15 / person. Cecil and George are contributing parts & materials needed for the 3-D printed enclosure, the acrylics and operating the 40W CO2 laser etcher.

We can accommodate 10 TLARC Maker members at most … The first 10 to contact George and commit will be able to participate in this project. (George is at n2apb ‘at’ verizon ‘dot’ net.)

Here’s where the idea originally came from (and Cecil replicated for himself and me!) …