The World Is Mine!

World map illuminated by RGB optical fibers

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On the walls of classrooms around the world, maps, posters of the human body and various types of educational boards are hung.
They are part of the furniture, we look at them but often they don't attract our attention as we would like.
I asked myself: is there a way to illuminate them? Can they be made more attractive and interactive?
This project is the answer...


We all know how much an interactive map helps students in learning.
The possibility of independently lighting up one by one all the most important cities in the world, added to the presence of the display with scrolling texts, offers a vast range of possibilities.

For example, the teacher can create animations with which to integrate the lesson, he can make tests, he can organize team games, with quizzes concerning continents, states, capitals...


Thanks to the ESP8266 microcontroller connected to the school's Wifi network, all the maps of each classroom can be controlled and programmed remotely.

This gives the possibility to put the maps on the net and to update them all in order to unify the training experience.
Furthermore, thanks to the IOT functions of the controller, teachers and students can interact with the map via PC, tablet or smartphone!


Obviously you can modify the project in order to animate a map for example of the United States of America or other states or continents...

But not only geography teachers can benefit from this technology.

For example, tables of the human body, or botany or many other subjects can be animated!


This project could be done by students as a lab activity.

From an educational point of view it's a fantastic thing: they learn a subject, making themselves the educational tools for them and for others, actively participating in the training activity!


The world is mine, the world is yours, the world is ours!

With this project I wanted to embrace the world and illuminate it with many colors

I bought a world map, put it in a frame and illuminated all the major cities of every continent using fiber optics.


Because having a very small diameter, they manage to illuminate the center of a city, without covering the writings or important parts of the map: with LEDs it would have been impossible to achieve this!

Each fiber is controlled independently and transmits the light coming from an RGB LED.


I created a system that I called OpticalShow (see OpticalShow Hackaday project) which consists of a 3D printed plastic mask that interfaces with an 8x8 RGB matrix, with a small hole of 0.75 mm in diameter near each single LED.

The 0.75 optical fiber is inserted into the hole, which transmits the LED light.

I connected n.8 8x8 led matrices.

With the first four I lit up the 256 cities of the world that I chose.

With the remaining four I created an 8x32 display in the lower part of the map, where you can view fixed and scrolling texts.

The animation of the LEDs of the matrixes is performed with a Wemos Mini microcontroller that I programmed using the Arduino IDE application.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


As an example of application in education, iIn the following video there is the random complete animation of the cities.


correspondence between LEDs of the matrix and Asian and Oceanian cities

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 435.67 kB - 04/04/2023 at 17:39



correspondence between LEDs of the matrix and African and Asian cities

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 435.05 kB - 04/04/2023 at 17:39



correspondence between matrix LEDs and European and Asian cities

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 427.32 kB - 04/04/2023 at 17:37



correspondence between matrix LEDs and American cities

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 427.95 kB - 04/04/2023 at 17:31


OpticalShow card gerber files

Zip Archive - 41.65 kB - 03/12/2023 at 09:16


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  • The test bench

    Sergio Ghirardelli04/20/2023 at 17:54 0 comments

    To develop the hardware and software part of the project, I assembled a small test bench on a wooden base.

    It is composed by:

    • n.1 Switching power supply 5v 30A

    • n.1 breadboard with ESP8266 Wemos Mini card and buttons

    • n.8 8x8 WS2812B RGB led matrix

    The development of the software with which I made the various animations of the map was made with the Arduino IDE tool.

    Thanks to the Adafruit libraries: GFX, NeoPixel and NeoMatrix, I was able to easily animate each single LED (corresponding to a city on the map) and the scrolling texts of the 32x8 display that I created in the lower part of the map.

    For the management, animation and visualization of all the cities on the map, I have associated them with the matrices, through the use of a bidimensional array of strings.

    Switching from one animation to another is done by pressing a button.

    In this video I show the first simulation tests... 

  • The idea

    Sergio Ghirardelli04/16/2023 at 11:02 0 comments

     I've been wanting to make an animated world map for a long time, like the ones you see in movies on the walls of the CIA headquarters (or in the rooms of madmen who want to conquer the world!)

    In order to light up the capitals and major cities, I needed at least 200 lights.


    I immediately thought of LEDs, but these were the main contraindications:

    - the dimensions of the leds, especially the RGB ones, were too high and would have covered the writing with the texts of the cities, forcing me to choose a very large format map, for which it is very expensive to find a suitable frame.

     - fixing 200 or more led-holders would have been complicated, as well as soldering them one by one (2 wires per led = 400 connections!

    - driving every single LED with a microcontroller would have forced me to use a very complex electronic circuitry, with shift registers.

    Optical fibers

    Walking through a shopping mall during the holidays, looking at a fiber optic Christmas tree, I finally had the inspiration I was looking for: why not take advantage of fiber optics? Why not transmit light?

     Here are the advantages of this choice:

    - small size: the fiber has a diameter of 0.75mm

    - lightness and ease of installation: just drill and give a small dot of vinyl glue

    - no soldering: a job within the reach of all hobbyists and not just electronics!

    - possibility of using the fantastic WS2812B RGB LEDs as a light source, with their libraries for Arduino IDE: for example, using the 8x8 RGB matrices, with which I was able to create a 32x8 display with scrolling writing to make the world map more interactive!

    OpticalShow project.

    This choice led me to create the OpticalShow project: a 3D printed mask to be combined with an 8x8 matrix, through which each single RGB LED of the matrix transmits its light to the optical fiber.

View all 2 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1: Remove Frame Transparent Plexiglass

    After fixing the map to the frame, remove the transparent plexiglass from the frame.

  • 2
    Step 2: Drill All Cities

    Using a small driller with a 0.75mm bit, drill through all 256 cities on the map.

  • 3
    Step 3: Drill the 8x32 Matrix Display

    In the lower and central part of the map (Ocean over Antarctica) is the 8x32 display which will show scrolling text.

    Drill all the pixels of the display, with a 0.5cm pitch between one hole and another.

    It is suggested to use a plastic stencyl to mark the points to be drilled (as in the photo)

View all 14 instructions

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