bildr funded project: EL wire Jacob’s ladder

A few months ago we offered to fund user projects in return for good documentation. The idea was that we could promote a bildr user by showcasing their work and paying for the parts to construct it. In return we would get more information for our wiki, more code for the community, and great content for our blog.

So we sent the message out, and Paul over at digitalmisery came back with a rather strange idea… for Halloween, he needed a Jacob’s ladder that would be kid friendly. Paul came up with the ingenious idea of replacing the multi-thousand volt arcs found on the ladder with strips of EL wire.

If you have ever seen a Jacob’s ladder in person, then you know that one of the best things about it is the wonderful “ZAAAaaaappppp” sound that comes from the arcing electricity. Paul wouldn’t have his any other way, but because the EL wire was silent, his would play a recording synchronized to the wire.

We at bildr couldn’t pass up such a cool project, so I asked Paul for a list of parts, sent him some funds, and let him get to work. At the time, I don’t think I could have known how cool this was going to come out. After all, anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? And how do you do something well? You make a custom lego case for it that enhances the entire project. And using Adafruit’s Wave Shield, SparkFun’s EL Sequencer, and an arduino, Paul was able to nail the look and sound of the real deal.

Paul did an excellent job detailing the entire process and has source code available on his site for download, so go check it out.

Thank you Paul for being our guinea pig, and for letting us be a part of this. If you have a crazy-cool or just crazy project you would like to have bildr fund, send your proposal to . Sadly, because bildr is not a company (we would be a sweet one if we were, though), we can’t fund them all. You can read more about the promotion here.

About Paul

Paul is an Electrical Engineer (Illinois ECE ’01) and his website,, showcases DIY projects he and his family have created together. When he’s not working designing or testing electronic systems for aerospace and military applications, he loves to tinker at home with PCB design, programmable circuitry, and the occasional box of LEGO bricks.