Make a neopixel-style LED board for under £1!

Make a neopixel-style LED board for under £1!

Tanya Fish
Tanya Fish

You Will Need

  • Roll of WS2182 LEDs (this one is 30 LEDs per metre, 5m was £24)
  • Card
  • Scissors
  • Colouring pens/pencils
  • Copper tape or foil and glue
  • A paperclip
  • Snips
  • Solder and soldering iron
The components you will need for this tutorial

From one 5m reel of LEDs, you can make 30 of these boards, useful when you have limited funds and a bit of spare time. It takes me 2 minutes to make one board (but I’ve had a lot of practice)! They work with the neopixel library in block code, MicroPython, and with other non-micro:bit devices and neopixel libraries.


Step 1:

Cut a section of LEDs off the roll. Make sure you cut through the centre of the gold contacts on the tape. I am using 5 LEDs for this tutorial.

Step 2:

Look at the ends of the tape. There should be labels and arrows. The arrows pointing at the end of the tape should be at the top end of your card, as shown.

Step 3:

Peel off the backing on the tape and stick it down firmly to a piece of card, making sure there is a space at the bottom for adding the contacts.

Step 4:

Next, take a paper clip and unbend it. If you have some bare wire you can use that instead.

Step 5:

Cut the paper clip using snips, into 3cm long pieces. You will need three of these. Put them to one side.

Step 6:

Use copper tape to make three contact pads at the bottom of the card. Press the tape down, bend it around the card, and press down on the other side of the card. This makes a good pad for the crocodile clips to grip onto.

Step 7:

Your paperclip pieces are the joins between the pads and the end of the LED tape. First solder the tape ends, melt the solder and push the paperclip in.

Step 8:

Next, solder the other end of the paperclip pieces to the metal tape. The metal tape (or glued down foil, if you used that) protects the cardboard from the heat of the solder. If you need to push the paperclip piece down, use the flat end of a pencil and not your fingers!

Step 9:

Finally, colour either side of the contacts to help people with the connections. I used red for power, black for ground, and green for data.

Step 10:

Connect your crocodile clips to join the board to the micro:bit. You can also label the pixels if you want.

Step 11:

Note that although these LEDs are labelled 5V, they will work at 3.3v from the micro:bit. Five LEDs is enough for learning how to code neopixels, and not so much that it will draw too much power.

I have a set of these that I have used in several workshops so far, totalling 14 hours (worth the hour or so it took to make the set), and they have not had to be repaired yet. To improve the durability, you could mount them on a stiffer card, and tape over the soldered connections.