The MSP430 Pirate Boat Lantern

Every year, our children at the kinder garden have the „laternen laufen“ event where they go out when it starts to get dark, equipped with lanterns. And every year my wife and I ask our selfs the same question: „what lantern to give to the kids?“ (the parents are supposed to handcraft the lantern anyway). Since today is the „laternen laufen“ event, my wife and I had an extra shift last night, building a special lantern for this years event: the  MSP430 pirate boat lantern.

The idea was to light the lantern not with a traditional candle but with some LEDs. But only having some steadily lighted LEDs is not much fun at all :-). Fortunately I had an MSP Launchpad from TI around which I decided would fit nicely into a pirate boat lantern. Well the only problem about that was, that I never ever used nor programmed that MSP430 before (and using  my favorite MCU an ARM Cortex-M3 for the lantern seemed a little overkill).

But it turned out that it is fairly simple to program the MSP430 with Linux (and anyway the task was ideal for a starter project. I found a very good description on how to get started with the MSP430 on Linux/Ubuntu on And after compiling the MSP gcc and the MSPDebug I was immediately able to flash a first program to MCU.

The hardware setup is also fairly simple: on each of the eight MSP ports, a LED is connected. For "simplicity" without any resistors 🙂 (good low cost LEDs never let me down so far ). Then the launchpad is power supplied through a 9V battery which is regulated to 3.3V by a 1086 voltage regulator. And thats it for the hardware.

The firmware is based on the example by Mike Szczys (thanks Mike).  I added some mode changing and stuff, but not much (see the download link for the firmware below).

As you can see in the pictures and the video, the result turned out very well. And next time, I use charlieplexing for the LEDs, and then we will haven even more - yess!

Ao after all, it turned out, that the MSP Launchpad is a very handy thing, and one can get started quickly with it! I am impressed TI 🙂

The MSP-Latern Firmware

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