ESP32 Alarm Clock Doesn’t Skimp On The Features

The ESP family of microcontrollers is absolutely on fire right now, with a decent chunk of the projects that come our way now based on one of the impossibly cheap WiFi-enabled boards. In fact, they are so cheap and popular that we’ve started to see a somewhat unexpected trend; people have a tendency to use them as drop-in replacements, despite the more modern boards being considerably more powerful than required. The end result is a bunch of projects in which the ESP is simply underutilized. It’s not a big deal, but somewhat disappointing to see.

But we can assure you this ESP32 alarm clock created by [Pangodream] is absolutely not one of them. He’s packed an impressive number of features into this unassuming little timepiece, and it’s really an excellent example of how much these boards are capable of without breaking a sweat. From DIY touch sensors to the Android application used to configure the clock over the network, this project is overflowing with neat hardware and software tricks worth taking a closer look at.

Inside the 3D printed case, the clock features a BH150 light sensor, the very popular DHT-11 for detecting temperature and humidity, as well as a ILI9341 2.8 inch LCD for the display. In a particularly clever touch (get it?), [Pangodream] used three coins connected to the digital pins of the ESP32 as capacitive sensors. These allow him to interact with the click just by tapping the top of the case, and saved him the trouble of adding traditional switches or buttons. We might have put some indentations in the top case to make identifying which of the three “buttons” you’re pushing, but we suppose the invisible interface does make things look a little more futuristic.

But if even that is too much physical touching for you, then [Pangodream] has come up with a fairly robust system for controlling and interacting with the clock over the network. It’s not just a convenient way of setting the time, a good number of the clock’s functions can be polled and configured in this manner; everything from the sensitivity of the touch sensors to how many times it will beep when the alarm goes off. To make things easier, he’s even wrapped it all up in a handy Android application for on the go configuration.

If this clock doesn’t offer you the level of over-engineering you require, check out this build that uses no less than five ESP32s to get the job done. Or maybe this one that hooks into NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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Weather Forecasting Clock Makes An Almighty Racket

The old-fashioned alarm clock was a staple of cartoons in years past, with loud clanging bells and slap-to-shutoff functionality. Despite being an excellent dramatic device, these classic timepieces began to lose favor to the digital clock radio, and, in more recent times, the smartphone alarm. However, [LenkaDesign] has come up with this excellent build that combines the best of the old and the new.

The build starts with an old alarm clock. The clockwork internals are removed, but the bells remain, powered instead by a brushed DC motor. An Arduino Nano is the brains of the operation, interfacing with the now-ubiquitous temperature, humidity and barometric pressure sensors. Time is displayed on a Nokia 5110 LCD screen of the type popular a decade ago when options for small hobby project displays were significantly more limited then they are today.

As a nice touch, an old circuit board lends a new face to this clock, with a trio of big chunky buttons to act as controls. The LCD uses attractive icons to help convey information, making the most of the graphical capabilities available. There’s even a rudimentary weather forecasting algorithm that uses barometric pressure changes to predict the likelihood of rain.

Overall, it’s a tidy build that promises to serve as a great alarm clock, given the high volume of the original bells. Alarm clocks have always been a hacker staple, but if you’re still struggling to get out of bed this fire bell build should rattle your fillings loose on a daily basis. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Suspense Courtesy Of Arduino, Mess Of Wires

The ticking clock on the bomb is a Hollywood trope that simply refuses to die. Adding to the stress levels of the bomb squad and creating great suspense for the watcher, it’s always interesting to wonder why the average bomb maker is so courteous as to supply this information to law enforcement. Regardless, if you’d like to build a dramatic prop and are mature enough to do so responsibly, [Giorgio] has the guide you need.

The build is a straightforward one, relying on an Arduino to run the show. This is hooked up to a classic 7-segment LED display, upon which the countdown is displayed. For extra flair, an MP3 player is fitted to play the Mission Impossible theme. It all adds to the tension as you wipe the sweat from your brow, trying to decide if you’re cutting the right wire.

It’s a build that would be an excellent prop for a film production or a fun game at a holiday party. However, it’s also a build that could easily be mistaken for the real thing by those less technically inclined. Even the most innocuous homebrew projects have caused problems for innocent hackers in the past. Fake bombs can be incredibly dangerous, just like the real thing, so it’s important to be careful.

We’ve seen other takes on this kind of build before, too. As always, build responsibly.

The Nitty-Gritty Of Making A Brass Clock

Among all the timepieces that we feature here at Hackaday, surprisingly we bring you relatively few clocks. That might seem an incomprehensible statement given the plethora of, well, clocks, that appear here, but it’s one that hinges upon the type of clock. Electronic clocks of extreme skill, complexity, and beauty, yes, but traditional mechanical clocks? Not so many.

So [Thonemeister]’s wall-mounted brass alarm clock was a welcome sight on our tips line, and his write-up is a fascinating exposition of the path taken by a novice clockmaker on their first build. He starts by describing his workshop, then steps methodically through each of the constituent parts of the clock.

We see the frame, escapement mechanism, gears, and movement taking shape, and we learn something about clockmaker’s tools from the pitfalls he encountered. He was a complete lathe novice at the start of this build, and it’s fun to follow along with his learning curve. As we see thed finished clock taking shape, we even get to see the little touches like forming the hooks for the weights. He bought the bell for the clock off-the-shelf, not wishing to expend the considerable piece of brass stock it would have taken to machine it himself. But for the most part, this is an engaging scratch build you won’t want to miss.

Many of us will never make a traditional clock. But that need not stop us finding the work that goes into one an extremely fascinating read. We have more for you if this has whetted your appetite: you’ll be interested in the escapement mechanism, and if brass is a bit much, how about wood?

Ask Hackaday: Is Your Clock Tied To Mains Frequency?

Earlier in March we heard about a quirk of the interconnected continental European electricity grid which caused clocks to lose about six minutes so far this year. This was due to a slight dip in the mains frequency. That dip didn’t put anything out of commission, but clocks that are designed to accumulate the total zero-crossings of the power grid frequency of 50 Hz don’t keep accurate time when that frequency is, say 49.985 Hz for an extended period of time.

An interesting set of conversations popped up from that topic. There were several claims that modern alarm clocks, and most devices connected to mains, no longer get their clock timing from mains frequency. I’ve looked into this a bit which I’ll go into below. But what we really want to know is: are your alarm clocks and other devices keeping time with the grid or with something else?

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Wake Up To Fresh Coffee!

Be careful what you say when you are shown a commercial product that you think you could make yourself, you might find yourself having to make good on your promise.

When he was shown a crowdfunded alarm clock coffee maker, [Fabien-Chouteau] said “just give me an espresso machine and I can do the same”. A Nespresso capsule coffee machine duly appeared on his bench, so it was time to make good on the promise.

The operation of a Nespresso machine is simple enough, there is a big lever on the front that opens the capsule slot and allows a spent capsule to drop into a hopper. Drop in a new capsule, pull the lever down to load it into the mechanism, then press one of the buttons to tell it to prime itself. After a minute you can them press either of the large cup or the small cup buttons, and your coffee will be delivered.

To automate this with an alarm clock there is no necessity to operate the lever, it’s safe to leave loading a capsule to the user. Therefore all the clock has to do is trigger the process by operating the buttons. A quick investigation with a multimeter on the button PCB found that the voltage present was 15 V, well above the logic level of the STM32F469 board slated for the clock. Thus a simple circuit was devised using a MOSFET to  do the switching.

Finally, the clock software was created for the STM32F469. The chip’s 2D graphics acceleration hardware and the development board’s high quality display make for a very slick interface indeed.

You can see the resulting clock in the video below the break. It’s an alarm clock coffeemaker we’d be proud to have beside our beds, but there’s one slight worry. On a mains-powered device like the Nespresso the low voltage rails are not always mains-isolated, and it’s not clear whether or not this is the case. Maybe we’d have incorporated an opto-isolator, just in case.

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Wake Up With A NeoPixel Sunrise Alarm Clock

Like many of us, [Lee] wakes up every morning grumpy and tired. Once he decided to try to do something about it, he settled on making a sunrise alarm clock using NeoPixels. Over the course of thirty minutes the clock illuminates 60 NeoPixels one by one in blue mode to simulate a sunrise.

The clock has three modes: 30-minute sunrise, analog time display, and a seconds counter that uses the full RGB range of the LEDs to light up one for each passing second. It runs on an Arduino Pro Mini knockoff and an RTC module for the sake of simplicity. [Lee] chained NeoPixel strips together in five rows of eight, which allowed him to use a 3×5 font to display the time. The only other electronics are passives to protect the LEDs.

NeoPixels are great, but powering them becomes an issue pretty quickly. [Lee] did the math and figured that he would need 3.4 A to drive everything. He found a 3-outlet USB power adapter that delivers 3.4 A total while shopping at IKEA for an enclosure. [Lee] took his first Instructable from beginner to intermediate level by cracking the adapter open and using two of the USB ports wired in parallel to provide 5 V at 3.4 A. [Lee] has the code available along with detailed instructions for replicating this build. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

We love a good clock build around here, especially when they involve Blinkenlights. For those less interested in building an alarm clock, here’s a word clock that pulls time and weather data with an ESP8266.

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