MIT student builds real-time MBTA map into wall using LED lights

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MIT student builds real-time MBTA map into wall using LED lights

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MIT student builds real-time MBTA map into wall using LED lights

The makeshift display secured into the wall glows and pulsates, creating a hypnotic aura like a lava lamp for the modern-day engineering student.

But more than that, it pinpoints the whereabouts of the MBTA’s many trolleys and trains.

Inspired by his love of public transit, Massachusetts Institute of Technology junior Ian Reynolds has built onto his fraternity room wall a map of the T that shows real-time locations of the vehicles using vibrant LED lights.

“I do find myself staring at it sometimes,” said Reynolds. “I’ll just turn it on and then zone out.”

For three weeks, Reynolds tinkered with electronics, fiddled with power tools, and manipulated strips of bright bulbs to create the map that stretches across his bedroom wall like a spidered windshield.

The most difficult part of the project, he said, was shaping and soldering the 29½ feet of Adafruit NeoPixel light strips.

“The strips don’t bend laterally, so where there is a curve in the map, I would have to break the strips” and reshape them, Reynolds said.

The strips are driven by an Arduino Uno, a circuit board used for programming that reads information from a Python script. The script runs on a tiny computer called a Raspberry Pi that rests on his floor. The Raspberry Pi is commonly used for such do-it-yourself electronic projects, he said. []

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