There are lots of general purpose microcontrollers out there that just give you the bare bones to get a project started, but there are also a few that come ready to go for specific applications. The WHOA Board makes the often tricky job of running EL wire easy and packs an extra surprise.
So I have to admit, when I first got the WHOA Board, I was excited to try it out and didn’t bother to read any real info before plugging it in the first time, thinking “it’s just an arduino that runs EL Wire, right” (well not really). The EL Wire started to blink and I picked it up and moved it and a strand went out. I checked to see if I bumped a wire loose and it came back on, but another wire went out, ahh it must be on a timer flashing the different included strands that I had plugged into it. So I set it back down and nothing happened. What was I doing wrong, I went to the docs… it’s capacitive touch sensitive!!! Not only does the WHOA Board make it easy to control EL wire, it turns them into capacitive touch sensors, way too cool.
The board has 4 JST connectors along the bottom edge that allow you to plug in lengths of EL Wire or EL panels and the necessary AC driving circuitry to make it all work. Along the top edge circling the Atmega 32u4, you have a few sewable or solderable connectors to break out serial pins or to be used as general digital pins for your sketch.
The board comes preloaded with a sketch to turn on the EL wire on all ports and turn it off/on when it is touched. If you want to change that sketch, say to disable the capacitive feature and make it blink in a pattern, you can download a supporting hardware package and set the board up to be used in your Arduino IDE. This package also includes the base sketch and a few other demo sketches. You can buy the WHOA Board on it’s own but if you are getting started, consider picking up the starter pack which comes with four 3 feet sections of EL wire to start playing with.
In the past I’ve used bulky shields to control EL wire, but the fun little WHOA Board pulls it all into one tiny package, ready to light up your next project.