Make-a-thon Preview: Non-flammable LED Umbrella

In the days leading up to the Make-a-thon (a 24 hour live-streamed fundraiser celebrating creativity in London and raising money for the Mother Teresa Catholic School’s robotics team and the MakerBus), we’ll be featuring some of the projects people will be working on during this event.

Our first project comes from MakerBus co-founder, Ryan Hunt. He writes:

“The LED Umbrella project is something I’ve been working on for a few months now. Kim, one of the MakerBus co-founders, loves umbrellas and since it was her birthday last month I thought I’d surprise her with a LED umbrella that lights up.

I spent a few days gathering the necessary parts and assembling LED Umbrella 1.0. It looked great and the umbrella that I chose looked fantastic when the LEDs were lit, casting off this really cool rainbow pattern. About 5 minutes after connecting the LEDs to the battery pack that I had sewn onto the umbrella, I started to smell smoke. The LED controller that I had connected between the batteries and the LED strip lighting had caught on fire. I quickly disconnected the batteries and luckily the umbrella wasn’t damaged.

I ended up taking the defective part back to the electronics supplier I purchased it from, thinking that I left out something important like a resistor. He told me that as far as he could figure, I had done nothing wrong and the part must have been defective. He gave me a replacement and I went back and reassembled the umbrella.

After reassembling the umbrella, I waited a few minutes and it didn’t catch on fire. I decided that the problem was fixed and ended up giving it to Kim a few hours later.

2014-11-07 17.15.32
Kim enjoying her umbrella before the incident.

Kim was thrilled with the umbrella and later that evening the MakerBus team ended up going out for dinner. At the end of dinner Kim and Beth (another MakerBus co-founder) commented that it smelled like something was burning in the kitchen. I recall the next few moments almost moving in slow moment as I pieced together what was happening. Smoke billowed out from behind Kim’s chair – LED Umbrella 2.0 had caught on fire.

Thankfully aside from the umbrella nothing was damaged and the restaurant was very understanding (or at least confused) about the fact that I brought a self-immolating umbrella into their establishment.

During the Make-a-thon I intend to right my past wrong and make an LED umbrella 3.0 that shines without setting itself on fire. Join us in person during the Make-a-thon or tune into our live-stream to watch my progress (if you attend in person I promise not to set you on fire).”

If you want to support the Make-a-thon, consider making a contribution to our GoFundMe page.

-The MakerBus Team

2 thoughts on “Make-a-thon Preview: Non-flammable LED Umbrella

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