You can see the full build process in the video, but the basic steps are:
- Print and cut out your map, and mount it onto the foamcore with spray glue. You either want to have a nice flush, square edge, or a frame it's going to fit perfectly in that has at least 2cm of depth behind it for the electronics.
- Identify the airports you want to put LEDs in place of - verify they have METAR information available on something like AirNav!
- Poke small holes (with a needle or very small drill) from the centre of the airports through to the back of the foamcore) so you can locate them from the back
- Use the spring punch from the back to punch the holes into the foamcore and through the map. If you do it from the front, you'll get nasty dents as the foamcore gets compressed.
- Sketch out the path of a single set of wires that will run continuously between all the LEDS on the back in a single path.
- Place the LEDs over the holes on the back of the map, with their in/out data pads aligned with the path you drew (so you can actually solder them well later). Tape them down.
- Use a very small dab of hot glue in the hole on the front to both secure the LED, and to provide a diffuser so it's not a point light. You could, instead, buy LEDs with built-in diffusers and poke those through, but I didn't have these.
- Solder all the LEDs together in a long chain using three runs of wire, making sure you solder positive to positive, ground to ground, and data out to data in. Warning: this takes a long, long time and is annoying.
- Either tape or hot glue the LEDs down from the back to keep them fully in place.
- Attach your microcontroller to the end of the LED chain and hook up the power and ground lines to the power pins on your microcontroller (making sure its power regulator has enough overhead for the extra current) and the data line to one of the digital-out pins.
- Edit the software to set the correct set of airport codes in sequence (starting at the LED closest to the microcontroller) and the right data pin.
- Hot-glue on the wood pieces and hang it on the wall!
The software for this is relatively simple, and I've uploaded mine to GitHub so you can take a look over it.
I've used a Particle board, because I'm a fan of both their flash-over-the-air technology and the ability to handle API requests on the server side; on the device you just subscribe to and send simple text-based events, and then in the Particle console you can tie those into API calls that handle the SSL and JSON decoding for you. It's rather nice, and Particle do charge a small monthly fee for the Device Cloud usage but I personally find it worth it (it's especially nice with their LTE boards that do all this, transparently, over mobile data - including the flashing part!)
If you want to use a more standard Arduino-like board, you'll have to replace the Particle eventing code with an SSL client and a JSON decoder, so expect to use a moderately powerful Arduino board for that. You could also put a Raspberry Pi as the driving board if you really want to go all-out; there's plenty of libraries for talking to addressable pixels from the Pi's GPIO pins, and you can use a nice language like Python!
Additionally, as I mention in the video, I used a piece of code to turn a set of image tiles from a tiled "slippy" map server into a single PNG; that's part of my
landcarve suite of tools, and you can find it on GitHub. There's not a great user manual for it right now, but if you do
landcarve tileimage --help you can hopefully figure it out.
The Finished Product