The Chameleon Bag

In developing this project, I wanted to combine RFID tag technology and RGB LEDs into a fun and delightful experience. When I decided on creating a messenger bag with a reactive front panel, I knew that it would have a very functional aspect too.

Some of my inspiration came from ET (Everything is a Toy) and the Reading Glove. Both show unique ways of using RFID tags in electronics, one for fun and one for education.


I worked with two strips of RGB LEDs to create a 7 by 7 LED matrix. After getting them up and running, I added in the RFID reader. Although I did not find a specific precedence combining these two elements, I did use this tutorial for the RGB LED set-up and this tutorial for the RFID code.


After the code was up and running, I soldered together a Boarduino for the brains of my final bag, and attached my RFID reader to it. 2405_001-1

I designed a messenger bag with extra space in the front flap and back panel to accommodate one inch-thick foam to diffuse the light and protect the electronics, respectively. I put a zipper on the back panel to allow access to the electronics and to the battery pack.


I also created useful pockets, an adjustable strap, and magnetic snaps to hold the LED panel in place.


I laser cut a front panel out of wood to hold the LEDs in place. Above is the final set up for the front flap and back panel. And below is my final bag!

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These pictures show the final, fully functional bag. This video shows my process and end result!

See my Arduino code below the jump!

Continue reading “The Chameleon Bag”


The Octolamp is an octopus-shaped reading light hat made for cephalopod lovers who also like to read in bed.

I began by doing some shape explorations to learn how to make an octopus-head shape.


I also made a full prototype of the octopus hat to see how it could fit onto one’s head.

Once I settled on how to sew the octopus, I started on the tentacles and body. On two of the tentacles are magnetic snaps that complete the circuit of LED lights that run along the rim of the hat.

Inside the bill of the hat are three LED lights; just enough light to read by.

The shape and sewing were very difficult to figure out and execute. Eight is a lot of legs!

The final product is functional and cute. The Octolamp has brass button eyes and gives just enough light to read in the dark!

Octopus Reading Light Hat Progress

I started out with some research into octopuses (octopi or octopodes) by visiting Eataly and checking out their seafood section.
My initial prototype was large, ungainly, and looked too much like a Rastafarian hat or a jelly fish. I did another form exploration before settling on a final shape. The second prototype looks like a colorful, striped hot air balloon, but has a better octopus-head shape.

After deciding on my body shape pattern, I started to sew the tentacles and large body sections. The picture above shows inside of the “chin strap” tentacles. They each have half of the magnetic snap, which is soldered to a long stranded wire for later use.

I will work on my LED circuit and sew the whole octopus together over the next few days!

Octopus Night Light Idea

Every night I read before I go to sleep, and I’m sick of my bendy-arm reading light. It is simple and functional, but its boring design is getting old, and the arm is difficult to get into a good position.

I looked up alternative reading lights, finding some pretty silly devices, and began to think about designing a fun, plush reading light for myself.

After drawing a penguin and a few other animal-themed ideas that could sit next to me, I thought it might be fun to have a plush hat with built-in connecting arms. What better animal to create than an octopus!

The elongated tentacles make a perfect chin-strap, with a magnetic closure that connects the circuit, lighting up LEDs in its head that shine onto the book from translucent panels. I’m thinking about having multiple sets of connectors (I can have up to four total) that would turn on different colored LEDs. Or I could add LEDs to the other legs as their sucker pads. One Instructable I plan on referencing is how to make a clip-on LED reading lamp.