CheerLights Christmas Tree

What do you do with an old fiber-optic Christmas tree? Make it better, of course!

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I thought it might be fun to let the Internet decide the colors on my tree, so I hacked it up!

This is a small, cheap tree I bought at a big box store 15 or 20 years ago. It's taken a beating, and it needed to brought back to life. The CheerLights project seemed ideal. Anyone with a Twitter account can tweet a color to @cheerlights, and all of the connected devices will change color.

This was a fun Christmas project and the electronics cost under $30. I'm going to find something else to light up so I can keep the cheer going all year long!

I used an Adafruit ESP32 and an Adafruit Neopixel Jewel to replace the hardware. The code was inspired by some of the projects on the CheerLights site.

The tree is 15+ years old and had been sitting in the closet for a few years. I decided this was the year to do something about it!

  • 1 × ESP32 Adafruit ESP32 board
  • 1 × Neopixel Jewel Again from Adafruit
  • 1 × Old, cheap fiber optic Christmas tree. It has lots of sparkly tinsel, but the lights were kind of wimpy.
  • 1 × USB Cable Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components
  • 1 × USB wall wart Hey, ya gotta power this!

View all 7 components

  • After The Holidays...

    Julie Barrett01/17/2022 at 20:13 0 comments

    I couldn't keep the tree up forever, so I made this:

    This is a resin Edison bulb. I used PVC pipe to make an industrial lamp housing. Right below the lamp is a NeoPixel Jewel, and nestled into the rear of the pipe bend on the left is an Adafruit QT PY. I just used a rotary tool to create a notch for it. My husband built the filament.

    (One of these days I'll get a pressure pot so I don't have to deal with so many bubbles.)

  • Control From A Web Page

    Julie Barrett01/17/2022 at 19:02 0 comments

    We thought it would be cool to have the ability to update the color from a web page, so I put together a small ASP.Net application to make it happen. The code for that is at GitHub, but here is the database schema:

    I'm using SQL Server. 

    Here's the Json for the lights feed from my web site:

    Code is on GitHub.

  • Arduino Code

    Julie Barrett01/17/2022 at 18:57 0 comments

    The code first checks my web site to see the latest color, then goes to ThingSpeak for the latest CheerLights color. The code compares the two and then sends the most recent one to the NeoPixels.

    Code is on GitHub.

View all 3 project logs

  • 1
    Take the tree apart

    This part was pretty easy. There were three screws in the base. As you can see, there's a halogen light, a motor, and color disc. As it turns, the fibers on the ends of the branches change color.

    I removed the components.

  • 2
    The processor

    Here's the ESP 32. I used a tiny breadboard with an adhesive strip so I could affix it to the base of the tree. I was also experimenting with some glued on feet, and that was a fail. The feet built into the base are *just* long enough to provide clearance for the ESP 32. I may 3D print something yet.

    I ran the wires through one of the vent holes and soldered it to the light, which is the next step.

  • 3
    Add the light!

    I used a Neopixel Jewel, which is just about the same size as the opening in the case where the tree sits.  In this picture I'm using toothpicks, which just fit in the holes where the light was attached. I ended up cutting the umbrellas off of a couple of cocktail garnishes. The toothpick end fit right in the holes, and they were long enough to reach the bottom of the cylinder on the base where the tree attaches. This meant virtually all of the light went straight to the fiber bundle.

    I glued everything in place with a bit of E6000 at the base and Helmar 500 on the Neopixel Jewel.

    Let there be light!

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Julie Barrett wrote 01/03/2022 at 21:08 point

Thank you! There are a lot of fiber optic lamps out there now. If there's a Daiso in your neighborhood, they may have a little battery powered lamp for a couple of bucks or so. It's just big enough to put a Feather and a NeoPixel in. 

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Chad Lawson wrote 01/03/2022 at 20:04 point

I love it! When I was growing up (and I'm dating myself here) my aunt had one of those fiber optic desk lamps. I loved playing with it and even took it apart when no one was watching to see how it worked, so your photos brought back memories.

Now I want to find one on eBay or my local second-hand store and upgrade it. The Adafruit jewel is a perfect tool to convert it.

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