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The holiday season can give us the perfect opportunity to work on DIY projects. Making your own homebrew Christmas decorations are a great way to make use of your tinkering talents.
This article will give you some fun ideas for DIY Christmas themed electronics builds, most of which come in at under $5, making it perfect for people not wanting to ruin their budget this Christmas.
1. Giant Christmas Star
The first idea on our list today combines budget minded thinking with simple design to make something that looks fantastic.
This DIY Christmas star is big enough to really make an impression, and looks a lot more professional than the sum of its parts. The simple design is explained by Crystal at littlebitfunky.com, and uses cheap wooden rulers to create the star shape, which makes the frame for the lights to wrap around. Best of all? This build comes in at under $5.
2. Piezo Arduino Jukebox
Making your own mini Christmas jukebox is simpler than you think, especially if you already own an Arduino. This simple circuit design from YouTuber Andy Tran uses simple and cheap components which cost only cents (and are usually found in Arduino Starter Kits) to inject some Christmas cheer into the vicinity!
Alongside the buzzer, an LED flashes in time with the music, with three further LEDs lighting up in sequence to add to the effect. The music is taken care of by converting MIDI files into data compatible with the Arduino tone library, using a web tool linked in the video description.
A detailed diagram is also linked to help you put the circuit together. This can be a perfect beginner project for new makers, and Christmas is the perfect time to give an Arduino as a gift!
3. Website Hit Counter
Let the bells ring out for the Christmas hits! In this case we are talking blog hits, and Instructables user alex_weber’s Arduino-powered bell ringer!
This ingenious build uses an Arduino Uno board (though you could use almost any other board that is compatible with the Arduino IDE) and a servo to ring a Christmas bell every time the maker’s blog is visited.
The build is simple enough to be attempted by beginners and more seasoned hackers alike, and the code is a blend of C, Python, and PHP.
The build doesn’t just have to stop at blog visits either, by using IFTTT integration you can use almost anything to trigger your bell. We used the arrival of a new email to trigger our LED strips in our Wi-Fi Controlled PC Case Lighting article. The same theory can be applied here. What better thing than your own heralding bell to inflate your ego over your witty Facebook posts?
Next up on our list is the Tweetball. This build integrates DIY tech into a bauble designed to be hung from a tree, or left somewhere prominent for your guests to see. An LCD screen is powered by a Wi-Fi-enabled Arduino to display messages from Twitter.
The screen in this build is a 20×4 LCD, which are both very cheap and easy to use. For a full rundown of display options available, check out our Arduino display guide.
The build was designed and built by Instructables user Gelotology, who provides a detailed guide to both the hardware and software design. The Wi-Fi element of this build is provided using a Sparkfun WiFly module. One way to cut back the cost of this build would be to drop the Arduino and Wi-Fi shield, and use a NodeMCU instead, as it is compatible with the Arduino IDE and comes with Wi-Fi connectivity built in.
5. PCB Christmas Tree
Soldering is amongst the most important skills any budding maker can learn. There are great guides to getting started with a soldering iron, though nothing beats hands on practice on a small project.
Enter, the PCB Christmas tree kit!
These festively themed kits combine two Christmas tree shaped PCBs along with all of the components needed to create a futuristic sparkling decoration. The kits are available for as little as $3.50 and come with all the components required to get started.
These kits sometimes come with difficult to follow instructions, but jlonglaw at Hackaday has you covered with his in-depth guide to putting these trees together.
6. Last Christmas Annoyance Machine
This last one is still fairly low budget, but ups the complexity significantly. We think Last Christmas is less of a song and more a form of aural torture, and Instructables user awall99 clearly agrees. What better thing to do with this information than create the ultimate temptation button for passing evil doers?
This build combines a cheap Ikea frame with two homemade PCBs to take care of the counter and MP3 playback respectively. While the components for this DIY Christmas project are all cheap in their own right, this build might be a little cost prohibitive to those not already making their own circuit boards! Also, as this guide doesn’t go through the components on the boards in detail, you’ll need to use your own smarts to get it up and running.
A much easier way to build something similar to this would be to keep the frame design the same, and use a Raspberry Pi as the brains of the operation. We did something very similar when we taught you how to Play Your Own Theme Tune When You Enter the Room. With a little modification, the picture frame could be fully Pi powered, and you can practice your evil grin as you watch people press the button.
Deck the Hals, Dave
Christmas doesn’t just have to be about Christmas music and your favorite seasonal movies. It’s also a time to take some time for your hobbies and interests. Whether you plan to 3D print your Christmas this year, or you just prefer to give your computer a little Christmas cheer, we hope you have a great holiday!
Are you planning on building your own high tech Christmas this year? Do you have an epic DIY Christmas build you want to show off? Let us know in the comment section below!