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I am working to create a portable educational element display (about 2 meters wide) along the lines of this one at Griffith Observatory: http://www.griffithobservatory.org/exhibits/hallofthesky_elements.html

I wish to be able to use a tablet app (which I will write) to allow one to select any of about 90 elements, have the corresponding display box light up with a couple of LEDs (one to illuminate the sample, one to light up the symbol) while the app displays detailed information about the element and samples.

The original uses about 90 push buttons directly wired to each display box. I want to use a wireless connection (or a single Ethernet cable).

I an not a hardware person and do not have a good idea about how to go about this. Commercial wireless switches I find are completely unsuitable, intended for high power control of one or a few circuits, expensive (when you need to buy 90) and far too bulky and impractical to control.

It seems that something like this is on the right track: https://makezine.com/projects/construct-giant-led-video-screen/ using controllers for LED strips to make a sign -- except that LED strips don't work here as each box is individually wired not part of a strip.

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The WS2812 series of LEDs with built-in controllers may be a very simple solution for your application. They are most often seen on the LED strips / rolls and in that format come with a controller.

Each LED is connected to positive and negative supply and a data line is fed in one side of each chip and out the other to the next chip. A string of pulses is sent to the chain and each chip accepts 24 bits (8 red, 8 green, 8 blue) and then passes on the remainder of the commands to the next chip. The result is that the hardware is very simple and the complexity - which isn't too bad - is in the code (where you're unlikely to break anything).

There's a tutorial (I'm not sure how good it is) over at Arduino.cc that may be an easy way to get started but if you can't figure it out then do a web search. The devices are very popular.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, that is getting me started. I suppose I could radically simplify what I was considering by using just overhead lighting of each display box by using a WS2812B Led Pixel Strip with 30 LEDs per meter, designing the display so that one is correctly centered over each display. I could even do something with color and illumination levels - much fancier than on-off as I was thinking. \$\endgroup\$
    – user6626
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:38

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