USB Etch-a-Sketch-Style Mouse is More Analog Than You’d Think

[Mitxela] wanted to build a different kind of mouse, one that worked like an Etch-a-Sketch toy with one X knob and one Y knob. Armed with some rotary encoders and a microcontroller, that shouldn’t be hard. But when you use a pin-limited ATtiny85, you are going to need some tricks.

The encoders put out a two-bit Gray code and close a button when you depress them. Plus you need some pins for the V-USB stack to handle the USB interface. [Mitxela] decided to convert the encoders  to output analog voltages using a simple resistor DAC. That would only require two analog inputs, and another anlaog input could read both switches.

One problem: there still wasn’t quite enough I/O. Of course, with AVRs you can always repurpose the reset pin as an analog pin, but you lose the ability to program the device at low voltage. And naturally, there’s a workaround for this too, allowing you to keep the reset pin and still read its analog value. You just have to make sure that value doesn’t go below about 2.5V so the device stays out of reset. Once that was in place, the rest went easy, as you can see in the video below.

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Automated Etch-a-Sketch Re-Produces Famous Artwork

Unless you’re some incredibly gifted individual with more dexterity than a fighter jet pilot, making anything on a Etch-a-Sketch is hard. So [Evan] decided to motorize it, and cheat a little bit.

She’s using an Arduino Uno to control two stepper motors that she has bound to the Etch-a-Sketch knobs using a short piece of rubber tube and Gorilla Glue. She 3D printed some custom motor mounts to allow the motors to be positioned directly above the knobs, and a ULN2803 to switch the 12V required for the steppers.

After she had the hardware all setup, she coded a simple Python script to take in .PNGs and produce vector art to be sent through the Arduino. In case you’re wondering, an Etch-a-Sketch has approximately 550 x 370 pixels, or about 500 x 320 for the “safe zone”.

Due to the limitations of the Etch-a-Sketch, like its inability to stop writing, some images might require some editing before sending it off to your new Etch-a-Sketch printer.

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An Etch-A-Sketch to Fetch the Time

For someone who has never used stepper motors, real-time clocks, or built anything from scratch, [Dodgey99] has done a great job of bending them to his will while building his Etch-A-Sketch clock.

He used two 5V stepper motors with ULN2003 drivers. These motors are mounted on the back and rotate the knobs via pulleys. They are kind of slow; it takes about 2 1/2 minutes to draw the time, but the point of the hack is to watch the Etch-A-Sketch. [Dodgey99] is working to replace these steppers with Nema 17 motors which are much faster. [Dodgey99] used an EasyDriver for Arduino to drive them. He’s got an Arduino chip kit in this clock to save on the BOM, but you could use a regular Arduino. He left out the 5V regulator because the EasyDriver has one.

[Dodgey99] has published three sketches for the clock: one to set up the RTC so that the correct time is displayed once the Etch-A-Sketch is finished, some code to test the hardware and sample the look of the digits, and the main code to replace the test code.

The icing on this timekeeping cake is the acrylic base and mounting he’s fashioned. During his mounting trials, he learned a valuable lesson about drilling holes into an Etch-A-Sketch. You can’t shake an Etch-A-Sketch programmatically, so he rotates it with a Nema 17. Check it out after the jump.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll realize we just saw the exact opposite of this project a few hours ago: a CNC tool (laser cutter) controlled by turning Etch-A-Sketch knobs.

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LED Etch-a-Sketch built without a microcontroller


This project is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished with a rather complicated logic circuit. It’s an Etch-a-Sketch made from a 16×16 LED grid. That in itself is only somewhat interesting. But when hearing about the features and that it is driven by logic chips we were unable to dream up how it was designed. There’s no schematic but the video commentary explains all.

The thing that confused us the most is that the cursor is shining brighter than the rest of the pixels. This is done with two different 555 times and a duty cycle trick. When you turn the trimpots the cursor position is tracked by some decade counters. Pixels in your path are written to a RAM chip which acts as the frame buffer. And there’s even a level conversion hack that let’s the display run at 15v to achieve the desired brightness. Top notch!
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Logging temperatures with an Etch-a-Sketch

What do you do if you’re given a gigantic ancient printer? If you’re [IronJungle], you throw that printer on your workbench and salvage all the parts you can. After coming across a few stepper motors in an old Oki printer, [IronJungle] decided to automate an Etch-a-Sketch with the help of a PIC microcontroller and H-bridge chip to log the ambient temperature on an Etch-a-Sketch display.

After [IronJungle] was finished figuring out his stepper motor circuit, the only thing left to do was to add a thermometer. For this task, he chose a very cool one-wire digital thermometer that carries power and data over the same wire.

In the video after the break, you can check out [IronJungle] playing with his new Etch-a-Sketch temperature logger with a shot glass of hot water and a cold can of holy water. There’s no scale or graph lines drawn on this Etch-a-Sketch temperature logger, but [IronJungle] has a few more things planned for this rig. We can’t wait to see those plans come to fruition.

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Robotic Etch-a-Sketch Draws Grayscale Images

[Patrick] decided to make a computer controlled etch-a-sketch. While the idea is not that new, there is always a different way to accomplish a goal. An Arduino is used to control a pair of stepper motors which were sourced for pretty cheap, and even came with their own driver. Next a stand was mocked up using foam board, which helps determine where all the parts should live.

Next was a way to attach the steppers to the knobs, gears would be used and a collet meant for model airplanes was sourced to make the mechanical connection between gear and shaft. With everything set in place via foam board and paper printouts, it is off to get some thin plywood. The plywood is sent though a laser cutter creating most of the stand and gears. Now its all software, a program was whipped up for OSX which converts low res pictures into squiggly lines perfect for the etch-a-sketch to draw on its screen.

The results are quite impressive, join us after the break for a quick video.

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Etch-a-Sketch automatically draws a tribute to Hack a Day


We have seen quite a few automated Etch-a-Sketch machines in our time, but when [Jason] wrote in to share his take on the subject, it came with a nice bribe attached. We are vain. It’s not something we are proud of, but when it comes to seeing the Hack a Day logo drawn out by a robot, consider us sold.

[Jason] has several CNC router builds under his belt, and thought it would be fun to automate his Etch-a-Sketch, a toy he loved as a child. He cut some gears and a face plate for the toy with his new CNC machine, then got busy programming his Propeller microcontroller to do his bidding.

A piece CNC software handles the conversion of a bitmap image to an outline, which is then converted to a CNC cutting path. The cutting path is translated into x/y coordinates by a bit of C++ code, before being fed into the microcontroller, which is running a small SPIN application he calls RoboSketch. The Propeller takes care of the rest, quickly drawing the image or pattern to the Etch-a-Sketch.

Continue reading if you would like to see a video of [Jason’s] tribute to Hack a Day, and don’t miss some of our previous automated Etch-a-Sketch coverage if this is something on your to-do list.

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