Not all projects are incredibly complex builds, technically challenging, or innovative in their outcomes. This is one of those projects, however, it’s probably one of the few projects that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Being a maker is an amazing and enjoyable hobby for me, it is incredibly satisfying intellectually and allows what modicum of creativity I have to flourish. But this project, it’s really special and for none of those reasons.

I began this project last week (February 6th, 2019) because my son, who is currently in the 2nd grade, had one of those typical encounters with a schoolmate who was so kind as to inform my son he had no chance of winning the Valentine’s box competition in their class. My son is an incredibly smart, caring, quiet kid, he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his entire body. I just couldn’t sit by and allow him to believe less in himself because a friend told him he wasn’t good enough. That’s how this project began and it’s also why this project is so special to me. I was able to leverage my maker skills to help “amp” up my son’s Valentine’s Day box and in doing so, hopefully, show him that you can do anything you set your mind to (if you work hard to achieve it). It was so much fun working with him on this project and watching him learn about the different aspects of “amping” up his box. He loves being able to dream up something and have our 3D printer print a tangible version of whatever he dreamed up.

The first step was creating a 3D printed heart that holds 5mm LEDs. I embellished it a bit with voids that I filled with clear epoxy in the hope that it would act as a light pipe. I am quite pleased with the results, I think the thinness of the first layer allows plenty of the LED light to show and the epoxy acted as a solid base for the thin first layer. The next step was sound! I wanted the box to be dynamic and engaging for him and his friends as they exchanged Valentine’s Day cards. I landed on using a simple “beam break” style sensor arrangement on the top. This would allow me to trigger any sounds or LED animations based on someone dropping a card in the box; simple and works perfectly. As for the sound, I had previously purchased a Music Maker FeatherWing from Adafruit, so I decided to use that and a Feather M0 MCU for the brains and voice of this project. All that was left on this project was lots of hot glue, some electrical tape, lots of soldering, and finding some music or sound clips…

I haven’t heard yet today if my son won any awards or had a chance to learn how his friends responded, but it really doesn’t matter. This project was for my son, I wanted to model the behavior I sought in him, never let anyone tell you that you can’t or are not good enough, and always take the high road, don’t ever think you can make yourself feel better by making others feel worse.


As always, you can find all the project-related files, data, images, etc. on my GitHub repository for this project.