Autism Awareness – “Light It Up Blue” Project

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Today, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day, and April has been designated Autism Awareness month. To kick off the month, Autism Speaks encourages individuals and businesses to “Light It Up Blue” for Autism awareness.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) covers many complex brain developmental disorders. There are many individuals that fall under the umbrella of the Autism spectrum, and even greater are the number of family members and friends that are affected by Autism. Since Autism can be seen in so many different forms, it is sometimes difficult to recognize. I believe it is important to recognize ASD and to seek out resources to assist in the development and care of those affected.

For Autism Awareness Day, I purchased a “Light It Up Blue” T-Shirt from Autism Speaks, and made it into a project.

I added an Adafruit Gemma board (Atmel ATtiny85 8-bit MCU), their NeoPixel 24 RGB LED ring, some snaps, conductive thread, and wire wrap wire to put it all together.  I modified the Arduino-based software for the Gemma from the Adafruit examples: changing the patterns to all blue and adding a random single pixel flash pattern to the rotation. It is all powered from a 3.7V 1200mAh Lithium Ion Polymer (LiPo) rechargeable battery, and I added an on/off pocket switch.

This is my first wearable project, and it was a lot of fun. However, the rewards came not in seeing my shirt “light it up blue,” but rather in the conversations it started with others affected by or with questions about Autism.