Whoa Machine

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The Whoa Machine is a type of Kaleidoscope that uses color changing LEDs to make an awesome image. This was part of the third kit in the Monthly Make It.

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How It Works

This project consists of a kaleidoscope with a color-changing LED inside. In this case, we’re using a 3-mirror kaleidoscope system, which reflects the light from the LED to create a continuous pattern of triangles. It’s a simple and pretty cool optics demonstration!

3-Mirror System

Mirrors fold together to form a 60-60-60 equilateral triangle

What You See

The illusion is an overlapping system of hexagons with six apparent triangles intersecting at each vertiex.

It’s hard to get a totally symmetrical pattern, since each angle has to be perfectly lined up! See image below.

What You'll Need


1 long thin cardboard shipping tube

3 small rectangular Acrylic Mirrors

1 cluster of color changing LEDs

1 Petri Dish

a handful of beads and bangles

Vinyl Electrical Tape


1 end cap

How To Build It

Step 1: Tape Your Mirror

First step: Build the optics! We’re going to arrange the mirrors so they form a 60-60-60 equilateral triangle. The mirror assembly will go inside the tube and will form the main part of the Whoa Machine.

WM01aMirrors.jpg WM01bTapeMirrors.jpg WM01cTapeTriangle.jpg

Your kit includes three mirrors which will line the inside of your kaleidscope tube. Lay your mirrors face-down roughly 1/8” apart. Tape them together with electrical tape. Fold your mirrors together so they make a triangle with the reflective side facing inward.

WM01dViewThroughTriangle.jpg WM01eWrapTriangleWithTape.jpg WM01fPlaceStickiesOnCorners.jpg

It should look like this! Check the edges to make sure the mirrors are evenly lined up. Wrap the mirrors with electrical tape to hold them in place. Line the edges of the mirror with double-sided tape. We’re going to use this to stick the mirror to the inside of our tube.

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Place three pieces of tape on one end of the tube. This is where we’ll attach the cap. Stick the cap on the end, making sure the hold is lined up with the center of your mirrors. Slide the whole assembly through the far end of the tube and secure the cap in place.

Step 2: Build Your Circuit

Done with your optics? You’re 80% of the way there. For the end-piece you have two different options: a color-changing LED cluster (pictured below) or a petri dish with colored glass (pictured on the next page).

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Flip your tube around and slide the LED leads through the two holes at the end of the tube.

Attach your battery pack! To turn it on, flip the metal switch so it connects the batteries.

LEDs only light up one way, so if it’s not turning on, reverse red and black and try again. LEDs only light up one way, so if it’s not turning on, reverse red and black and try again.

STEP 3: Look through the end of your tube!

It should look something like this! Color-changing kaleidscopes that go through an RGB cycle. Psychedelic and beautiful!

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Step 4: Regular kaleidoscope

If you want to build a regular kaleidoscope -- or combine them! -- follow these instructions to add the glass to the end of your tube. This version uses ambient light. The “WHOA” version is lit by the LEDs.

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Your kit includes a petri dish and some sparklies. Put the sparklies in the dish and close the lid, large side on top. Tape the two halves of the petri dish together with electrical tape. The tape is stretchy, make sure it’s a tight fit! Slide the petri dish into the far end of the tube (in place of the lEDs, or on top of them). Set it loosely or tape it in place.

Step 5: Attach batteries to the tube

The last step is to attach the battery holder to the tube. Take two more squares of Double Sided Tape and stick them to the back of your battery holder. Then just attach to the tube.

WM06aStickiesOnBatteryPack.jpg WM06bBatteryPackOnTube.jpg

STEP 5: Look through the end of your tube!

The sparklies move around inside the tube to create random patterns. Hold it up to the light! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can combine both versions to make a SUPER SPARKLY WHOA MACHINE.