In 2020, I was fresh into the gaming PC world. I had just completed my first (and current) build1. Although to save money I had bought just "B" for the computer, going with some static blue LED fans to light it up, I wholeheartedly bought into the idea of getting RGB everything to make it look cooler. That's what got me mired into the longest-running non-software project I've ever done, even worse than that time that it took me more than a year to build a balsa airplane called the "One Nite":

Putting RGB Lights in a Switch Controller!

It is late 2020 or early 2021. I take a look at my switch controller and I think wow, there is so much empty space inside of there (foreshadowing)! The case is somewhat transparent, so I bet it would be cool if I picked up some neopixels and a little mcu and whacked them in there for an Epic Gaming Switch Controller!

Image showing supposed empty space in the controller circled in blue.

Look at all that space!

So with that much empty space inside the controller, not just right behind the faceplate but even behind the button pcb, it should be a breeze. I'll pick up some parts on adafruit and we'll be done just like that.

Part 2: it is not a breeze

I got a trinket m0 and some 5050 smt neopixels from adafruit, and set to work. Pretty rapidly found out that the wire I had was far too thick and would be essentially impossible to route inside the controller, not to mention really hard to solder on to the tiny pads on the leds. By this point I had already put wires onto one of the 10 from my 10-pack and tested in a breadboard, and it did work, so I was well on my way (or so I thought).

5050 neopixel in comparison to a quarter.

These things are miniscule (Image from Adafruit)

Soon, however, disaster struck (for the first time) when I ripped pads off of an LED while trying to bend the wires, so I decided to get new wire. The wire used for the rest of this project was harvested borrowed from the insides of some ethernet cable that was just lying around. Armed with much thinner wire and also finally a soldering helping hand clip thingy, I made "quick" work of sticking wires onto the rest of the LEDs.

I ended up having a horrible attrition rate with these LEDs2, so I got some new ones that were "easier" to solder to.

Reverse mount neopixel in comparison to a quarter

Smaller, but with better pads (Image from Adafruit)

As they started to fall into place, routing the wires to all of the LEDs became a huge pain, because as a matter of fact, there is not as much space in there as it looks3. All of the standoffs and stuff on the front panel constantly got in the way and prevented the shell from closing. I was considering cutting them off, but I figured that would reduce the integrity of the whole package too much, so I just fought it a lot. Also, every time I soldered new wires on, since the power and ground had to be daisy-chained because the LEDs do not have a "power out" pin, the existing ones would come unsoldered, which sucked.

Eventually everything was back in, including a new dpad design that I had worked on in the meantime. While reassembling, I had broken the ribbon cable for the shoulder buttons twice, so there was a lot of waiting for shipping. Everything eventually was able to come back together, and it WORKS! There were many struggles in just reassmbling it, but I don't want to spend a bunch of time writing them out. Overall, the controller is a bit distracting to play with, and sometimes when shifting from normal to claw grip during a speedrun I will hit my fingers on the electronics on the back, but it's not as bad as it could be for sure. I'm really happy with the result, and I'm glad the project has finally come to an end.

It probably goes without saying, but I do not recommend that you do this. However, if you want to, contact me and I'll be happy to provide knowledge so that you can maybe take a little bit less time to do it.

Rainbow cycle

Chase cycle

Image of the battery and charge controller on the back of the controller

Electronics on the back

Image of the front of the controller with LEDS off, showing the wiring through the faceplate

The front of the controller

  1. You can see specs for it here

  2. Definitely not the result of overheating them, or connecting power and ground reversed, or ripping off pads, or...

  3. And each LED needed 3 wires going in and 3 wires going out...