DIY Digital Clock: Take 2!

What time is it?

Time to make a new clock!

About a year ago, I designed and assembled my own custom made clock. You couldn’t say it was in an enclosure since its guts were spilled out on both sides of a piece of foam core. I felt like, a year later, it was time to redo it and put it into a proper enclosure.

So, what time is it? Time to build us a new clock!

The Guts

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I tend to get carried away and too focused to take proper progress pictures. This is literally the first picture I have from the electronics part.

Soldering all of those LEDs and components took a full day. I used hot glue to try to keep multiple wires in place to solder as fast as I could but it didn’t do the best job to hold them in. At time, the glue would fall away from the PCB. Still, it’s better than fiddling with one wire at a time.

The only difference from the prototype build is a lower resistor value for the LED resistors.

Putting Together a Box

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Foam core is a favorite in my “lab”. It’s all I use these days because all it takes is a knife to cut and it’s inexpensive and accessible (Dollarama rocks). I built a simple black box with a white cover place. I was hoping with a lower resistor value on the LEDs, they’d be able to shine through the white foam core.

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With the soldered parts and the enclosure ready, it was time to put it all together.

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I glued a piece of foam core behind the control board to isolate the connections on the back with the display connections. I ended up mounting the two display panels on it’s own piece of foam core anyway so I guess that wasn’t really necessary. The display foam core backing fits tight with no need for pin or glues to hold it in place.

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The white foam core was still too think for the LEDs so I ended up going back to a plain white sheet of paper. It’s not noticeably brighter than the original prototype with the paper.  The piece of paper is held up by two strips of foam core on either side.

I didn’t like the look of it at this point but it was the end of the weekend so I left it for now.

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I still like how sleek the black foam core looks, even with a few imperfections here and there from a not-so-sharp knife.

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After a few days to think about it, I realized simply turning around my diffusing screen pulled the look together.

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Time to pull the plug on the prototype and enjoy something new.

Thanks for reading!

Revisited: Desk Lighting Project (v3)

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with adding LED lights to my desk. The first time, I basically scattered 5mm LEDs all over my desk. The second time, I used a decorative LED string of lights. Now, I’m onto 12v LED strips! For this revisit, my workstation next to my computer desk will also get some lighting too.

IMG_20160810_191527I took the switch enclosure and enlarged the hole to fit two new switches. I used hot glue to fill any gaps and black paint to make it blend with the color of the enclosure. There’s something about this process that’s just so satisfying!

IMG_20160811_154919The switches basically open and close the positive connections of the two LED strip segments. All of the grounds are connected together. It’s a very simple circuit that did not take very long to put together.

20160811_163944The longest part was organizing the cables and strips. The switch panel is in a lower position so it doesn’t exactly blend in quite as well as it did before. The reason that it’s so low is that the cord for the power supply is much shorter so it wouldn’t comfortably reach the power strip outlet.

20160811_163928 The LED strip is much brighter than any of my previous attempts at adding lights to this desk.

20160811_163936This is my workstation with the LED lighting. This has actually had the LED strip installed for a while now but I was using the lab power supply to power it, which was noisy. It had a hand in motivating me to get this project done.

20160811_172920My battlestation’s getting better.

Thanks for reading!

Revisited: Bluetooth Speaker

20160804_172458 In the last little while or so, I found myself using the Bluetooth speaker I made last October. There were a few minor things that I wanted to address so I went ahead and made the modifications.

20160804_173243The main technical modification was adding an on/off switch to the power supply. I would have to keep plugging and unplugging the unit which got a bit annoying after a while having to do that almost daily whenever I wanted to use it. It was very easy to do since the electronics are completely accessible from the open underside. I simply cut the positive power line and soldered a switch in place.

20160804_175950The other modification was purely aesthetic. I removed the label and painted it all grey. My original choice was blue but I didn’t have that color paint. Either way, I think it looks good.

It’s always nice to revisit old projects with new techniques and materials. Stay tuned as I’ve revisited another project as well!

The BIG opening update for the next Fountain Show

If everything works out in the very end, this will be one of my best projects to date. And really, with everything that has happened so far, it has been one of my best projects to date even if nothing actually works yet. I’ve experimented and learned a lot and, even with the bouts of wanting to quit, I really want this project to work because, again, it will be my best.

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I made a pool for the fountains out of scrap polypropylene sheets I got from work. I painted it all black because I thought it would benefit the lighting effects, as well as hide any imperfections better.

The white support beam running through the pool is where I would mount the fountain nozzles and LEDs.

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I’m trying my best to keep things organized and clean. I drilled holes for the pump wiring so that there wouldn’t be any excess wiring sitting in the water. I also used a silver marker to label them.

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Things started coming together as I had imagined. I used transparent tubing from the pumps to nozzles mounted on the support beam. The nozzles were made out of tubing that’s slightly more rigid. There’s also a smaller diameter tubing that I hot glued to the end to reduce the opening.

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Looks good so far…

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Heat shrink and electrical tape was good enough insulation with all of the water splashing every where. I decided to try another method of waterproofing certain connections which was to use short pieces of tubing and flooding it with hot glue on both ends. The connection in the picture is the splicing of the fountain wires to my own solid-core wire which is a likely point for failure.

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Once I was satisfied with the tubing, I threw on some more black paint.

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Next were the LEDs. They’re WS2812B modules (the little circle PCBs you find on eBay). I put them in little plastic cups to protect them from getting wet. They’re open on the bottomside but the LEDs are held inside of the cup with lots of hot glue anyway. I didn’t have any issues while testing them with water.

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And here’s where things started falling apart…

I barely ever used paint until recently, so I learned the hard way that it’s not very water proof, at least when applied on smooth plastic surfaces. As soon as the water started flying, the paint started peeling.

The other concern I saw was the aim of the fountains. The nozzles are round and are attached to a round support beam, so, while it looks good by eye, it didn’t turn out very straight. The pumps struggle if the fountain streams are exactly vertical so I tend to shoot them slightly backward so they sort of look vertical when viewing the fountains from the front. Anyways, I have some ideas on how to fix this which you’ll see in a future post.

The pump on the far left didn’t seem to respond so it either got through my quick dry tests before building or I fried it while setting up.

Also, no idea where the foam and bubbles are coming from…

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So clearly I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me. Main things on the task list:

  • Scrape off all of the black paint on the inside of the pool. The outside black paint is fine.
  • Double check all of the pumps.
  • Replace support beam and nozzles.
  • Add a drain to the pool somehow.

Thanks for reading!

Maker Festival 2016

Last weekend, the Toronto Reference Library hosted the Maker Festival for another epic event and, for my third time, I volunteered to teach people how to solder. The way this event has grown is astonishing and it really was their best to date.

After I finished a morning volunteering shift, I took a tour around to see what exciting things were on display this year. Here’s a quick video I made of just a few of the things to see this year:

The entrance atrium was full of color this year, with hanging origami and streamers floating above the crowd. In addition, there was a smooth looking LED matrix and chaser LEDs lining the main staircase.

 

There are always grand demonstrations and displays. This year on the main floor was a sphere that just kept growing. I never got to see the final result though.

 

This was a project made by Steam Labs, a local makerspace. It’s like one of those High Striker carnival games where you smack a pad with a mallet as hard as you can. In this project, they used a force sensor and had people press it has hard as they could. I found it interesting because I had a similar concept in mind for a project… 🙂

 

It’s always great to see kids getting their hands dirty and having fun. The build-your-own-boat workshop and the accompanying boat race in the entrance water feature seemed like a hit once again.

For all of my pictures, visit the photo gallery on my website here: http://www.mwhprojects.com/gallery/Maker-Festival-2016

I expect to be back at the Festival next year. It’s become a life goal to have something on display there at some point… 😉

DIY Clock Project – It’s finally alive!

After months of putting this project off, I finally focused for a weekend and put together a first prototype of my DIY real-time clock. To bring you back up to speed, the clock circuit is on a custom designed PCB which will control another set of custom PCBs that form four large 7-segment digits. It uses an Atmega328p microcontroller, a DS3231 RTC IC to keep the time, and some 74HC595 shift registers to control my custom 7-segment display PCBs.

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The boards were soldered without any issue. I’m quite pleased with the look of both of the boards, so much that I wanted the control board to be in plain view in this build.

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Once I got the boards ready, it was time to program. My first test would be to try upload something the microcontroller and to test out the display. It worked as well as I could have hoped.

One thing that I could have done better with the control board was to use an FTDI header instead of the USBtinyISP since you can’t print anything to the serial port to debug. Thankfully, I didn’t need that anyway.

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After setting the time on the DS3231 IC using example from the Sodaq_DS3231 library, I wrote some code to the form all possible digits for each 7-segment digit. Then, with some more code, I was able to print out the hour and minute on the display.

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I thought about putting it into a good enclosure but I’m considering rebuilding this project a second time with a cleaner look.

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I’m not so crazy about using the female-to-female jumper wires in the final build but it does kind of look neat.

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The display is very nice to look at in all lighting conditions. The not-so-bright LEDs and the simple blank white paper diffuser results in a display that is easy on the eyes.

Overall, I’m glad with how the project turned out. Unlike many of my other projects, this is one that I actually use on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading!

A throwback of sorts… The Buzzer Box!

Back when I was around 11, I strolled into a Radioshack and bought some wire, a buzzer, and a battery pack. I had a weird fascination with my elementary school’s fire alarm and wanted to recreate it. Completing the simple circuit by tapping wires together was enough to satisfy me until the project was lost. Fast forward about 15 years later, I’m revisiting the project that started it all.

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This circuit is slightly more complicated than the original, I’d say. I used a 555 timer to get the pulse that would buzz the buzzer on and off at roughly a 50% duty cycle. In the end, I ended up using 9v instead of the original 5v I had planned, but it worked just the same.

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The project was put into this small enclosure. I drilled a hole for the button that is pressed to activated the buzzer alarm.

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Here’s the circuit on a breadboard to test and experiment before soldering the circuit permanently.

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A close-up of the circuit on the perfboard.

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A close-up of my soldering.

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After soldering the components to the perfboard, I soldered the buzzer, battery, and switch into the circuit.

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After some musical chairs with the components, and then some hot glue, everything was set into the enclosure.

Here’s the Buzzer Box in action…

Who needs a life alert when you have this… thing… #diy #electronics #shittyrobots #buzzer #alarm

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It was a simple [and useless] project but I’m the kind of person that likes to revisit the past in ways like this.

Thanks for reading!