Crayola Night Light

Like most kids, when my daughter was younger, we provided her with a night light. At nine years old, she’s long outgrown the need for the night light, but she still likes having them - mostly as decoration. In fact, it has started to become a gift option for her. Grandparents will actually buy her unique night lights that they find. With an Imp in hand, I figured I could build a very unique night light.

What would this night light look like though? Perhaps it should be part of the fabric of her environment. She loves coloring. Maybe I could make her Crayola crayon box into a night light. A night light that could change colors to the colors of the crayons in the box. And of course, a night light that could be controlled from a web page on her iPod Touch. Thus the Crayola Night Light was born.

I gutted a 64 color Crayola crayon box, and used foam core board put stiffness back into the empty box. There was a Google advertisement on the front of the box that was a circle, so that became the target for my light. The light itself is a simple common cathode RGB LED. Half a ping pong ball serves to diffuse the colors. I put a barrel jack on the back of the box. Power runs from the barrel jack to a SparkFun Imp breakout board. The Imp itself is actually exposed through a slot on the side of the box. This lets me change the wireless information easily in the future.

At one point I was thinking that this might be a cool business for Crayola - which is another reason I wanted to expose the Imp. I tried to get in touch with them, but never got a response. I suppose I could strip out the Crayola branding and launch the project on Kickstarter, but I don’t know anything about manufacturing costs, so I wouldn’t even know what financial goal I needed. If there are anybody out there that would be interested in helping to make this happen (or that has contacts inside Crayola), we should chat.

The web page that controls the night light has been saved on my daughters iPod Touch home screen. When she wants to change the color of the night light - to match the color of a new toy, her blankets, or just her mood - she launches the web page (which to her looks like any other iOS application), and selects a color. Moments later the Imp receives the color code and sets the RGB LED to match.

Her mom has since started asking for more features in the application. At first it was the ability to turn the light on and off manually. Easy enough. Then she wanted the ability to set timers in the web page/app to have the night light come on at certain points of the day, and go off at some point in the night. It’s not like 3.3V is saving the environment, but what the heck. Learning that she could make feature requests, my daughter has now asked for the ability to have a sequence of colors displayed, over a time period she sets (e.g. change from one color to the next every ten seconds). A maker’s work is never done, I suppose.

Fun project. (Sounds like your daughter is perhaps destined for a career in marketing :slight_smile: )

About the diffuser, I used a PIR dome on a recent project for this function … turned out pretty well … and I liked the “fly eye” type effect. I picked a couple up from these folks … In particular I used/liked the 5122 … … very easy to mount from the back. Maybe a bit expensive for one or two … but perhaps something to consider if you like the effect and build several.

Thanks for sharing the project.

  • Larry

Thanks for the tip, Larry!

The diffuser is the one part I really questioned. The bulge it creates makes it difficult to place anything on top of the night light. Not that you’d want to do that long term (thus blocking the light), but I’ve considered pushing the light into the box and using a thin sheet of plastic mounted just under the packaging cardbox, and on the outside of the inner support structure. That’d give the night light a flush top with the sacrifice of some brightness. But then perhaps I could go with a brighter LED. There are many on the market these days.

One request I got from another parent was to use a book as a night light. Something an inch thick or so. Gut the pages, then put the components on the inside of the book. Replace what would normally be the edge of the pages in the closed book with a thin plastic to allow the light through. It would illuminate an entire shelf from the back (with the spine facing outwards). Then to put a sensor on the side opposite the spine (the opening), so that it could be turned on by pulling the book out from the shelf an inch or so. I might play with that next.

Thanks again for the product recommendation!

Very interesting concept with the book. (My little gadget is based around a wall-mount chassis … … could possibly be used as a starting point for a more conventional, though far less imaginative, night light).

Re: a sensor possibility … one of the devices I’ve started to play around with is a proximity sensor … Some initial demo evaluation has been quite encouraging, and I’ll have some boards back in a couple days to try it out in my application. From what I’ve seen so far it could be one option to detect how far the book was from the back of the case.

Good luck!