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!

My Top 5 Maker Moments of 2014

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I spent this year making things, learning things, and having fun with things. With the last project of the year out in the wild (Light Show 7), I wanted to do a little recap by picking out five things I’ve posted on the blog this year. The only reason I’m not calling it “My Top 5 Projects of 2014” is because some of the items I chose are broad and include many sub-projects or versions, and one of the items isn’t a project at all! Anyways, let’s get started with this list.

5) EERef

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We begin the countdown with EERef. The Electronics Engineering Reference was one of my most elaborate Visual Basic (Windows) programs I have ever made. I enjoy making programs in Visual Basic because putting together the UI with a graphical editor gets me excited to keep going, even when coding gets confusing. I learned a ton of new things from this project that I hope to get back into Visual Studio soon so I can play with it all again.

4) The Box project

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The Box project was also one of my more elaborate projects as I hadn’t really done a lot of Arduino projects outside of my Light Show project or the mobile robots I did last year. This project combined an ATmega328p microcontroller with a real time clock, temperature/humidity sensor, and a LCD to display the information. I also added some diffused blue LEDs on top because I love those LEDs. From this project, I learned a lot about bringing a breadboarded prototype to something more polished and permanent. My new soldering iron I got myself last Christmas certainly helped with that. Getting this project together was good training to get me to plan better, especially when it comes to laying out a circuit on a perfboard.

3) Evolution of the Light Show

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As you saw earlier this week, the Arduino Light Show Project has evolved ever since I got started with Arduino back in 2012. In this year alone, we went from version 3 to 7. The stages being built are getting bigger and more complicated, and I’m happy to say that this year it got to the big goal I had back in 2012: A fountain show. I still hope to continue working on it as it’s not quite at the level that I want it to be at. Still, to see the project grow from something that sits on my desk to a stage that has to sit on the floor because it’s 5 times larger is pretty awesome. I can only hope it continues growing at this rate.

2) Learning Eagle

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This was my biggest learning experience of the year. I downloaded Eagle several times before but never really understood what I was doing. This year, I sat down and actually learned how to use the program properly. I managed to make a few designs to get manufactured, including the shift register breakout board that was used in the newest Light Show. I haven’t opened Eagle in a while, but I have plans to reopen some old design projects, as well as start some new ones.

1) Toronto Mini Maker Faire

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This year, I attended and volunteered at my first Maker Faire. I taught people how to solder over that weekend and it was such a fantastic experience. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to teach so it was a little daunting thinking about teaching people of various ages, down to the age of 5. (A mother mentioned that her son was 5 and I had no idea how to adjust for that.) After the first couple of students, I ended up with a mental script that people understood and it was smooth sailing from there.

As for the Faire itself, it was great to be surrounded by so many creative projects and people. It was an inspiring weekend, even though I did not do a whole lot of exploring the exhibits. I definitely want to volunteer again next year, as well as take part in workshops and explore the Faire a lot more than I did this year.

That’s a wrap on 2014!

To see the development of these projects and more, check out the list of blog categories on the right side-bar.

This was a pretty good year as I feel more experienced and skilled coming out of it. I hope to continue all of this into the new year. Share your Maker Moments of 2014 in the comments!

My blog isn’t done for 2014 just yet! In the next post, I’m going to talk about some things I’d like to do next year: My 2015 Maker Resolutions. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!