430man evolution

A freeform soldering sculpture. Basically a chain of LEDs that can be triggered at multiple points.

Similar projects worth following

430man Evolution has a pretty simply underlying idea: A chain of LEDs that can be triggered at multiple points.

Floating pins capture touch events and a light pulse propagate through the sculpture. Thanks to the ultra low power feature of the MSP430 the system of 8 MCUs only consumes about 50uA in standby and should last a while on a single CR2032 battery.


First Version 430man

JPEG Image - 122.38 kB - 01/08/2019 at 15:40



Close-up of freeform soldered body parts

JPEG Image - 81.96 kB - 01/08/2019 at 15:40


  • 14 × MSP430G2231 16 bit Microcontroller Texas Instruments
  • 48 × LED Smd 1206
  • 28 × 100 mil header
  • 8 × 100nF decoupling cap

  • Evolution

    microcontrollerdude01/08/2019 at 16:02 0 comments

    When I reflected on the results of 430man I liked the outcome. It was much easier for me to explain “chips” and get people excited about electronics. I think it lowered the entry barrier and serves as a conversation starter.

    But the engineer in me was not too happy. The 430man is build of 16 bit Ultra-Low-Power MCU’s, RAM, Flash, 12 MHz clock,… All sitting idle. So why not make it interactive? Touch it and it blinks. A couple of LED’s, CR2032 and 38 lines of code later the evolution was complete.

    ucDude Evolution on UIF

    Now pointing at these two sculptures is easy, explaining that they are made of MicroControllers, very smart things that can detect that they are touched and react to it by turning on all this fancy lights.

    And if the audience is still awake the story can be continued by talking about build details – Read on!

  • The idea

    microcontrollerdude01/08/2019 at 15:52 0 comments

    MicroControllers are a bit (pun intended) abstract to most people. What can you do with them? An unconventional and not too serious approach to this topic.

    “What do you do for a living?” “I am an electronic engineer and I am working with MicroControllers” Sometimes – but only sometimes – people care and are brave enough to respond: “?”.

    Sounds familiar? Even though this question has been asked countless times, I never know how to break it down and explain.

    Seriously: How do you respond and explain to a non engineer? All the excitement we have for our profession – it’s bits and bytes, layout and MIPS. Talking to an engineer is easy and you can go on and on about the beauty of electronics. But with a novice it’s hard to convey the message.

    Let’s look at Leonardo Da Vinci. He was far ahead of his time, constructing all this machines and theories in his head, describing them on paper. Revolutionary! But what is he famous for? Mona Lisa, a painting that does not do anything. Nothing to understand. It has not brought humans a step closer to the moon or solved any problem on this world. But it is beautiful. It is art. It can make your day brighter just by looking at it.

    So, how about explaining electronics by showing it in a form that does not need to be understood?

    A while back I took some 16 bit MSP430 MicroControllers in PDIP packages. Those chips sat on the desk for a while and got arranged and rearranged in sort of an meditative phase while on a phone call. At the end of the call a soldering iron put it all in a more permanent state. The 430man [pronounced Four-Thirty-Man] was born, here are the details.


    I put “him” on my desk, next to a bunch of really cool and complex stuff I am working on. Guess what: No one asked me a question about the cool stuff anymore. Everyone wants to talk about the 430man.

    Sad? Maybe. It could also prove to be an exciting different approach. Time to take the concept one step further.

View all 2 project logs

  • 1

    The chain is divided into independent subsections, consisting of:

    • MSP430G2231
    • 2 input pins detect touch events and receive pulses from its neighbor
    • 2 output pins to propagate pulses to its neighbor
    • 6 SMD 1206 LEDs
    • 100nF decoupling cap (important if you want to avoid brownouts.)
    • 100mil / 2,54mm pitch headers
    • Coated repair wire for the connections
    • R and C for the reset circuit

    Two Pieces of ucDude Evolution

  • 2

    Programming is straight forward too. The chain can be triggered from the “left” and “right”. So two independent shift registers are used to keep track of the pulses. To output the both registers are XORed and displayed.

  • 3
    Advanced Tricks

    Saving resistors and energy is easy. Use the build-in timer with the PWM feature to control brightness of the LED without actually wasting energy. 5 more lines of code and the world is a greener place.

    TI’s IDE CodeComposer Studio has two handy tools build in. First is Grace, a graphical configuration engine that allows you to set up I/O’s, Timer, PWM in no time. And at compile time there is the ULP Advisor that checks your code against ULP coding rules to help you minimize energy consumption.

View all 3 instructions

Enjoy this project?



microcontrollerdude wrote 01/08/2019 at 16:06 point

A quick copy and paste from my homepage. I almost missed the contest.. typed on a cell phone

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates