For my Grandson, I set out to build an LED cloud, mostly based on this Sparkfun tutorial. It was overall pretty easy to build as I had some Chinese lanterns, LED strips and an extra Arduino. The most difficult part of the project was attaching the pillow stuffing to the Chinese lanterns.
The first attempt was with hot melt glue, which worked, but was ugly, as you could see it through the pillow stuffing and it was hard to mold the stuffing into a good cloud shape, without pulling the glue off. 3M spray adhesive can be an absolute mess, but did the trick. It sticks well and allows some forming of the pillow stuffing to swirl it around in nice ways.
Version one of the cloud was pretty simple with a push button to cycle through various LED patterns and a potentiometer to dim the LED. Because I used a very long strip with over 200 LEDs, the control unit required 2 separate power supplies, one for the LEDs and one for the Arduino. I tried using one, but for some odd reason it wouldn’t work and wasn’t worth the time to figure out.
Version two is more advanced. I wanted to give Skyler more control over it and show him his Grandpa can do anything and prove to him that he can also do anything he puts his mind to.
Control: The goal was to add an LCD screen with two encoders for LED brightness and pattern speed control. For control I added an LCD panel and ability to talk to the cloud using an Amazon Alexa to control various LED patterns. I used a NodeMCU 8266 board to connect to the WiFi so it could talk to the Alexa. When spoken commands are given to Alexa, the NodeMCU triggers various LED patterns to start through 8 digital pins connected directly to the Uno.
The first step was to learn how to use the NodeMCU. This took over a month to learn as there is so much disinformation about how to use the 8266 chips in general. The NodeMCU would not support the LED library I was using. After too much work on it I gave up and stuck to using an Arduino UNO to control the LEDS, while the NodeMCU communicated with the Amazon Alexa.