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Building the Cylon Eye.


Note: As you go through the webpages and videos of this project, it might seem all confusing to you. I'll admit that there is some degree of confusion due to the method of bringing the project to life, changes and updates that were made, and it's overall complexity. However, if you read the webpages from start to finish - and watch the videos in sequence of the webpages, things should be a bit clearer as you go.


Sports Quiz:

Which TV series occured first?

Battlestar Galactica?


Knight Rider?


If you answered "Battlestar Galactica" you would be correct. It hit the airways in 1978, while Knight Rider didn't come along until 1982, four years later.

In the TV series, the "Cylons" were a race of psuedo-android robots that were hell-bent on taking over the Universe, and eradicating the Human race in the process. They had a Red sweeping "eye" built into their helmet that served as a scanner. This sensor swept from left to right, and back to the left again in a continuous pattern.

In the later series Knight Rider, the Pontiac supercar "Kitt" also featured a similar sweeping red sensor built into the hood.

However, since the Cylon featured this "eye" first, I am paying homage to the more sinister version by naming this project "The Cylon Eye".

Those of you that remember might claim that "Gort" the Android-Robot from the movie "The day the Earth Stood Still" was the first to have such an "eye". However, it was not quite the same eye as (1) it did not sweep from side-to-side, and (2) it shot a death ray that vaporized their adversary. Since I have not figured out how to make the death ray feature, I am going with Cylon.

So if you get the idea this was initally a silly idea, you would be correct (however, it has morphed into something quite useful).


Basic Idea

In the nose of my RV, there is a light strip consisting of 9 LEDs. The light strip is a maintenance/hitch light to illuminate the hitch area at night to assist in connecting the trailer. There is a switch on the RV that turns the light on and off.



A couple of months ago, I started noticing that the clear plastic part of the LED strip began to yellow under the sunlight, so I was thinking of replacing it. But an Idea struck me... instead of just replacing the LED strip, why don't I automate the LEDs with a few light patterns? I could retain the original White maintenance/hitch light function of the LED strip, but when that function is not needed... for example, setup at the RV park; why not automate the strip into a Cylon Eye?

So my original thoughts about this project was to provide the following functions:

  • White hitch light (original function).
  • Cylon Eye
  • Marquee
  • Rainbow
  • Demo (runs through Cylon, Marquee, Rainbow effects then repeat)

To accomplish this, I will be using addressible WS2812 equivalent RGBW leds. And the Marquee and Rainbow effects are simply because I have enough space in the microcontroller, and it is a nice demo of the capabilities of the addressible LEDs.

So over the last couple of months, I have been designing circuits, ordering circuit boards, and constructing the project. But at the 11th hour - just when I am ready to install the project into my 5th wheel, that darned idea lightbulb went off in my head again.

I did not stumble upon the idea until I took the above photo in preparation of this webpage. I realized, why not add an accelerometer to the circuit board, and construct an electronic version of the "spirit level" (that thing below the LED strip in the photo marked Acculevel) so I can see how level the trailer is at night? If you have never used one of these levels, they work great as you can drive around the campsite with the trailer attached to the truck, and by looking out your rear view mirror, you can tell at which spot the trailer is the most level left-to-right.

Next, I happened to be camping near another 5th wheel RV that the owner's had hung a bucket over their pin-box with a green light inside. In the evening it became obvious that they had done so to keep from running into the pin-box at night. I then realized that "hey, the various CylonEye light patterns do the same thing as that light in a bucket". So maybe this is not such a dumb idea afterall.

So the final version of the CylonEye has the following functions:

  • White hitch light (original function).
  • Spirit Leveler (optional Version C only).
  • CylonEye (night light to keep from walking into pin box).
  • Rainbow (night light to keep from walking into pin box).
  • Demo (night light to keep from walking into pin box).

You can build the CylonEye project with or without the level function. And if you have a Golf Cart, you can build a matching version for your Golf Cart as well. So part of the complexity of this project stems from the various versions you can build. But what it all comes down to is choosing one CylonEye LED display (Version 1 or 2), and one Driver board (Version A, B, or C). Any combination of displays-to-driver board will work.

The LED display is available in 2 versions. Functionally they are the same. The major difference is if you are only building 1 CylonEye, Version 1 is more economical. However, if you are building several (say for your RV, Golf Cart, and want a spare), then Version 2 is no more costly, and is a bit easier to build. Note that the display versions are numerical (1 and 2).

The Display Board versions are Alpha (A, B, and C), and are a Golf Cart, RV, and RV with spirit level version. Again, any version LED can be used with any version driver. The characterics of each version will be layed out in more detail later.




To tackle the UV yellowing problem, I found a similar LED strip but with a black rather than clear bezel. This hopefully will not have the same issue. Besides, the only place I could find the clear strip was from the RV Manufacturer's parts department, and was a painful $40+. I found several of the black versions for under $10.


Unmodified LED strips as purchased


The black LED strip is slightly shorter than the clear one, but not so much that there will be a problem with the mounting. The holes almost align perfectly, and there should be no issue in using them. Besides, they are less expensive and hopefully immune to UV damage, so this is the choice of the strip I will use.

The LED strip is not setup for addressible LEDs as purchased, so whatever you buy must be taken apart and a new circuit board inserted.


Completed RV version (Version B)


A more detailed description of each version:

  • Version A: Golf Cart version. This version has two selector switches for the mode switch. This allows for 4 different modes (OFF-OFF, OFF-ON, ON-OFF, ON-ON). The form factor of the circuit board allows mounting in a plastic box, and the two mode switches are dashboard mountable. If you RV with a golf-cart, it can then be a "sister" to your RV.

  • Version B: RV Version. This version is similar to the Golf Cart version, but includes a rotary switch for mode selector, providing 5 different modes. The additional mode can be used for an extra automation sequence or other similar purpose. The form factor is an aluminum case that allows mounting in a 5th wheel RV's front storage compartment.

  • Version C: Accelerometer Version. This version is similar to the RV version, with the addition of an accellerometer that provides a level function to the RV, similar to having a spirit level. The form factor is similar to Version B, except it is slightly larger to allow for the additional components of the accellerometer. In fact, this is actually the only true "legitimate" (i.e, non-silly) version.



So sharpen your tools and dust off your brain cells... lets get started.





Every precaution has been taken to ensure an accurate parts list. However, the suppliers can often change or delete the link to a certain part.

For example: I discovered a 3rd party seller for the 470 ohm resistor sold via Amazon (for the Cylon Eye board) had changed to 470K ohms... a big difference.

While I try to verify the web pages periodically, please realize this kind of thing happens, so, please try to ascertain each part you order is the proper one from the bill-of-materials rather than relying on the link (actually, Amazon and it's Chinese suppliers are the culprit - so you probably only need to verify parts from that source).





Driver Construction



Last reviewed and/or updated Oct 18, 2017