The Boy Who Found His Veins

By Alex Moutoux

Imagine the small boy who was always being pushed around by the bigger kids. He came home from school every day with bruises, scrapes and burns. He very badly wanted to be big and strong like the other boys. He needed some muscles but, alas, he could never seem to build anything of substance.

Vein Finder The boy envied the men with vein popping big muscles. His work at the gym eventually produced some small benefits, but he could never achieve true vein popping muscles. He desperately wanted others to be able to see his veins. Maybe if they could see inside they would understand the strength of his character.

That day would come but only through the help of some vein popping electronics.

Click here to build your own Vein Finder Kit.

I set out to build a project I found on Instructables called an LED Vein Finder. While this is a great way for the muscle-challenged to get in touch with their inner veins, it might also be a great project for those who require regular intravenous injections. At a minimum it's a fun DIY project.

Even scarier than getting beat up on the playground was the challenge of building this DIY project as a Jameco intern. While this is a beginner project, my experience building electronics is limited to my AP Physics class in high school.

I began by sifting through the Jameco catalog to find the right products. This was hard for someone whose previous catalog experience was limited to SkyMall. Once I acquired all the materials, it was time to begin drilling and cutting the plastic enclosure for the vein finder. I suggest wearing some kind of mask or cloth around your mouth, along with safety glasses, because my ensuing afternoon created a synthetic cloud. After preparing the enclosure, I went about cutting the tenacious PCB. I chose to do battle with a precision blade – I do not recommend this. While I conquered the PCB in the end, a rotary tool or a jigsaw would have been much better. To my pleasant surprise, I did not have too much trouble soldering the LEDs and resistors, even though it was my first time. My good fortunes did not last long though, as I realized I had put the LEDs facing the wrong way, so my cut-out on the PCB for the switch was also on the wrong side. Everyone told me that this was an honest mistake and I did my best to believe them. In trying to fix the problem by cutting another place for the switch, I snapped the board entirely. One very careful super glue job later, I was back on track. Did I mention that this was my first DIY project?

I managed to finish the circuit relatively easily, but not without several very helpful hints from Jameco product wizard Ryan Winters, who could heal all electronics with the wave of a hand.

With the circuit completed, I assembled the PCB and switch in the enclosure, screwed the top shut, flipped the switch and watched as none of the lights illuminated. I was depressed and confused because earlier I tested the circuit with one AA battery and most of the LEDs lit up, albeit faintly. Ryan arrived on the scene, glanced at my project (and probably asked himself why they ever hired me as a summer intern) and noticed that my battery contacts were not connected. Somewhat condescendingly, he said, "Electricity likes to flow in a circle, you know that, right?"

Feeling a little worse and pondering a future career in accounting, I soldered on a paperclip to solve the problem and finally watched the LEDs illuminate. In a dark room, with the enclosure pressed against my arm, I could see my veins appear a dark red, standing out from the pink glow of my skin.

I had done it. My veins popped right out or at least it looked that way. Who needs big bulky muscles when they could build the vein finder instead!

The first sight of my working creation was invigorating. I now understood the DIY fervor and the drive to create, construct and push the limits of one's creativity. The pride one has in his own creation is unmatched and will spawn a perpetual thirst for creating that keeps the world of invention alive.

Alex Moutoux attends UCLA and is a Physical Sciences major. He is fascinated by science and technology of all sorts, and keeps up to date with recent technological developments.

If you have an electronics story or project you'd like to share, please email [email protected].