Bursting crackers is (unfortunately) a big part of Deepavali celebration in India. There are numerous arguments against the bursting of crackers. It causes noise pollution and air pollution. The noise is a source of trauma for young children, old people, patients, pets, and anyone who loves peace and quiet. Year after year, we hear about fire accidents during Deepavali that maim the victims, cause blindness or result in death. If there are about 100 million families in India that celebrate Deepavali and each spends around $20 towards crackers, that is about $2 billion that goes up in smoke – money that could have been used for developmental work.
What are you going to do about it?
Educating people about the ill-effects of crackers is certainly an option. Awareness being created in school children has contributed towards some reduction in the sales of crackers. But there is a large percentage of people who consider Deepavali incomplete without crackers.
The real answer may lie in understanding what people find so appealing in crackers. There are two kinds of crackers – those that create a great deal of sound and fury (Type-S) and those that create patterns of light that are pleasing to the eye (Type-L). The sense of danger experienced when bursting a cracker, especially the Type-S cracker, is a big part of the attraction. I would have assumed that computer games that the modern generations of children play would have satisfied this hunger in them! But when I hear those long spell of explosions coming from a chain of those Type-S crackers, I know that I am wrong.
Let there be light!
The Type-L cracker presents more tangible opportunities. Light emitting diodes are available in many colors. Even RGB LED are available which will permit color-mixing. Small motors present interesting possibilities. Low-cost microcontrollers and low-cost development kits based on these microcontrollers are available to control the LED lighting and the spinning of motors. This is how the participants of our Diwali contest must have reasoned!
You may recall my blog (“The DIY in the DIYa”) which I posted last year about our first “Diwali Diya” contest. So spontaneous was the response to this contest that we decided to hold the contest again this year. I am glad to share with you the links to the videos that were submitted this year (see the list at the end of this blog.)
Sharath Kumar (Ambedkar Institute of Technology) and Abhishek (BMS College of Engineering) have a decorative LED wheel  or the Bhuchakra – a Type-L cracker that creates patterns of light when ignited . Their device operates on the principle of persistence of vision and can create beautiful patterns of light. Even messages such as “Happy Diwali” can be printed on the rotating wheel. This is a value-addition for the traditional Bhuchakra! Unlike the real Bhuchakra, the electronic version will go on until switched off or until the power is disconnected! Their solution is based on TI’s MSP430 microcontroller.
Using colored LED, Shashank Hegde’s submission  also tries to recreate the experience of the Bhuchakra. He has used the MSP430 Launchpad to build this project. I suggest that you skip the initial 5 minutes of the video to see the demonstration of his project and then return to the initial part where the working of the LED Bhuchakra is explained. He uses vertically mounted LEDs to display messages at the same time when the colored patterns are displayed in the horizontal plane.
Paril Jain of Nirma University has submitted a project that is based on the TIVA C-series Launchpad. He has also implemented the Bhuchakra. He concentric circles emanating from the center and moving towards the edge are a hallmark of the Bhuchakra and the project has done a good job of imitating them. Again, there is value-addition through the display of a message on the surface of the Bhuchakra. I imagine that different family members can personalize their Bhuchakra and have their favorite colors, patterns and messages!
Anirudh Sharma  and Udit Khanna  of Chitkara University have demonstrated low-cost LED lights that are appropriate for Diwali. Tousif and Preethi have a simple and low-cost set up for an LED Diya. In a stylishly presented video demo, Sudarshan from Kamraj College and Subash from MEPCO Schlenk show off their LED-based decoration that is based on MSP430. Kiran and Pankar  from Tasgaonkar Institute have used color mixing to make their LED-based Diya interesting; their solution is also based on MSP430. Abhishek Kumar  of Vidya College of Engineering has a Diya decoration based on MSP430. Abhishek and Ranjith  from UVCE have used MSP430 to control an LED matrix in order to display a message.
If they make the movie “The Matrix” in 3-D, they may call it “The Cube.” Ha Ha. The LED Cube seems to have become a fixation with the students. We received several projects that used this idea, as you will discover when you view the videos. I will like to particularly mention the 4x4x4 cube built by Rohit Gupta . If you view his project demonstration, you will be impressed by the system-design considerations; he has a neat looking product that can be manufactured in large numbers. Also based on the MSP430, this project will make a nice decoration inside or outside the house. Naveen, Akshay, and Dilip from Cranes Varsity have built an 8x8x8 LED cube  which also makes a nice modern Diwali decoration.
First of all, my thanks to all the students and teachers who took part in the contest enthusiastically. In my view, they have already been rewarded with the gift of knowledge. What is more, they can proudly showcase their projects in years to come.
We got the entries judged by a panel and here are the results!
v Sharath Kumar R, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Technology and Abhishek A, BMS College of Engineering Radieux Tourbillon
v Rohit Gupta, Delhi Technological University, UberCubeX4, A 4x4x4 LED Cube Decoration
v Paril Jain, Nirma University, A Bhuchakra based on TIVA Microcontroller
Consolation Prize Winners
v Shashank Hegde BMS College of Engineering, The LED Bhuchakra
v Abhishek Kumar, Vidya College of Engineering, Meerut. A Diwali Decoration.
v Naveen, Akshay & Dilip, Cranes Varsity. An 8x8x8 LED Cube.
Congratulations and Best Wishes! The University Program Team in India will get in touch with the prize winners soon!
Contest Entries - Watch the Videos and encourage the teams!
The video link for - Paril Jain, Nirma University, A Bhuchakra based on TIVA Microcontroller is www.youtube.com/watch .
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