Huge LED school bus project

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by tdietz20, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. tdietz20

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 7, 2011
    Hi. New to the forum, did some searching for help but couldn't find something the scale of what we're attempting.

    Some friends and I have a 40' schoolbus art car. Last year we finished spending money on sound equipment (which is more our area of expertise), but now we want to do something more interesting with the lights.

    Here's what it currently looks like at night to give you an idea

    Those white lights around the sides are simple incandescent rope lights running off a two circuit controller. We'd like to get rid of the cheezy power guzzling lights and install LED strip up and down the length of the bus several times (not sure exactly how much LED yet, waiting to learn what is feasible given our goals)

    The current controller does several patterns, but the thing we like about it is the sound activated mode where the lights pulse to music via built in mic.
    I've built simple LED circuits on breadboards with a TIP31 that pulses to an audio signal, but not with a mic and nothing close to this scale.

    I realize there might be many ways to skin this cat but we're looking for something relatively easy at first. Given our time constraints what would seem to me easiest would be to somehow convert the output of our existing 110V 8A controller to power the LEDs. We can live with only two circuits for our first year, then maybe redesign it next year when we have time to design a more complex controller.

    However it's important to us that we maintain the sound pulsing functionality (I'm assuming the current controller is doing some sort of PWM'd output).

    We're willing to run install and wire up a couple hundred feet of LED strip (single color .4A/Meter), controlled by two parallel signals, as soon as we have a feasible plan to power/control them.

    Any thoughts on converting the current controller signal?
    Would it be easier to build brand new controller entirely?

    If anyone has any clarifying questions please let me know.

  2. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    A suggestion, diagram what you want to do in terms of layout and what the colors will be. Different color LEDs have different electronic characteristics you have to design around (not too fancy, but it has to be done).

    You can buy LED strips, complete with some fancy controllers, but that may be too expensive for what you want. Easy though, and not dramatically over priced.

    I have a tutorial for beginners, some of it may be useful for what you want to do...

    LEDs, 555s, Flashers, and Light Chasers
  3. tdietz20

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 7, 2011
    Hi Bill,
    Thank you for the reply. For ease of installation we're going with single color LED strip set up for 12V. I've worked with it before on a smaller scale.
    We're basically trying to run the LED strip across the side of the bus about 4-5 times, cutting each strip about every foot (at the appropriate cut points) to alternate each foot on one of the two circuits from the controller.
    But the exact amount and layout is still undecided. If we have so much that we have to repeat the signal we'll cross that bridge if and when we have.

    Still thinking about controller signal for now. Is it possible to convert the existing 120V controller signal that controls the incandescent rope lights to a 12V DC signal? If that's not feasible then we'll start from something else but we want to utilize as much of what we already have as possible.
  4. whatsthatsmell

    Active Member

    Oct 9, 2009
    What is the source of power for your 120v controller?

    Why can't you use the 12v alt./battery system already on the bus for your leds?
  5. Bernard

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 7, 2008
    You could use 120V Christmas tree LED lights with existing Controller for a start, Then get expansive using bus 12?? V power. There have been several color organ projects on AAC which you might borrow from.