Home Automation Controller Uses Chalk

Responding to the Rethink Displays challenge of the 2021 Hackaday Prize contest, freelance design engineer [Rick Pannen] brings a retro look to his DIY home automation controller. You could be forgiven for not even realizing it is a controller at first glance. [Rick] built this using a magnetic chalk board and installed all the control electronics on the back. The main processor is a Raspberry Pi 400 running Raspian with IOBroker and Node-Red. Panel lettering and graphics are done free-hand with, you guessed it, chalk.

The controls on this panel are an eclectic hodgepodge of meters, switches, and sensors that [Rick] scored on eBay or scavenged from friends. We are curious about the simple-looking rotary dial that sends a pulse train based on the number set on the dial — this seems to have all the functionality of an old phone’s rotary dial without any of the fun.

But [Rick]’s design allows for easy changes — dare we say, it encourages them — so maybe we’ll see a salvaged rotary dial added in future revisions. Also note the indoor lighting ON/OFF switch that must be a real joy to operate. We wonder, is there any way the controls could be magnetized and moved freely around the board without permanently attaching them? Maybe an idea for version 4 or 5.

This design has a lot of possibilities, and we look forward to any upgrades or derivative versions of this unique home automation controller. Let us know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for expanding upon this idea.

10 thoughts on “Home Automation Controller Uses Chalk

      1. Me too! A whiteboard might be more practical. I’d actually quite like that even without any home automation integration if it could just “screenshot” the contents of a board, so you can use it and some storage partly in place of paper.

        1. Imagine it coupled with a projector.
          So it operates a bit like an augmented reality pool table.
          You could write a sum and it would display the answer. Maybe draw an electronic circuit and have it create a spice simulation and graph the output.
          Do ocr and autocorrect spelling errors in real time as you write.
          Project templates for things like circles.
          Plenty of possibilities.

  1. IOBroker looks *really* interesting. I’m not a big NodeRed fan, but I wonder if moving on from my 6-year-old fully custom server might happen eventually, or if I’ve already put in way too much work and deployed it in too many places…

    1. You don‘t have to use node red with iobroker. You can do the programming in other languages – node red just has a raspberry pi gpio node that made this super easy. All switches, analogue meters and the rotary dial are connected directly to pi gpios. You can output PWM and read the values with debouncing.

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