Hackaday Prize 2022: Soviet Geiger Counter Gets WiFi

[Marek] has an impressive collection of old Soviet-style Geiger counters. These are handy tools to have in some specific situations, but for most of us they would be curiosities. Even so, they need some help from the modern world to work well, and [Marek] has come up with some pretty creative ways of bringing them into the 21st century. This version, for example, adds WiFi capabilities.

This build is based on the STS-5 Geiger tube but the real heavy lifting is handled by an ESP8266 which also provides a wireless network connection. There are some limitations to using an ESP8266 to control a time-sensitive device like a Geiger tube, especially the lack of local storage, but [Marek] solves this problem by including a real-time clock and locally caching data until a network connection is re-established. Future plans for the device include adding temperature and atmospheric temperature sensors.

Eventually this Geiger counter will be installed in a watertight enclosure outside so [Marek] can keep an eye on the background radiation of his neighborhood. Previously he was doing this with another build, but that one only had access to the network over an Ethernet cable, so this one is quite an upgrade.

DIY Retrograde Clock Is 3D Printed

Retrograde clocks are unique, in that they eschew the normal fully-circular movement for the hands. Instead, the hands merely sweep out a segment of a circular arc, before jumping back to their start position to begin again. They’re pretty rare to find, but [Jamie Matthews] decided he had to have one. Thusly, he elected to build his own!

For his build, [Jamie] started with a regular off-the-shelf clock movement you might find in any hobbyist clock build. From there, he affixed his own witches’ brew of racks and gears to the output in order to create the desired semi-circular mechanism. The arcane mechanism enables the clock to tell time over roughly a 180-degree arc.

It’s relatively simple to make one of your own, too. The parts are all readily 3D printable, with [Jamie] reporting it took less than 8 meters of filament to produce the geartrain for his build. You can even print the clock face if you don’t want to CNC cut it out of acrylic.

Overall, it’s a fun look at an often-forgotten part of our horological history. Desktop 3D printing really does enable the creation of some exciting, different clock designs. Video after the break.

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Quirky Complicated Clock Piques Constructor’s Curiosity

The Clock that served as inspiration for the garberPark Clock

Have you ever observed the project of another hacker and thought to yourself “I have got to have one of those!”? If so, you’re in good company with hacker [garberPark], the maker of the unusual chain clock seen in the video below the break.

While on a stroll past the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis, MN, [garberPark] was transfixed by the clock seen to the right here. In the clock, two motors each drive a chain that has numbers attached to it, and the number at the top displays the current time. It wasn’t long before [garberPark] observed his own lack of such a clock. So they did what any hacker will do: they made their own version!

Using an ESP8266, and Arduino, and some other basic electronics, they put together a horizontal interpretation of the clock they saw. Rather than being continuous rotation, limit switches keep things in line while the ESP8266’s NTP keep things in time. Salvaged scanner stepper motors provide locomotion, and what appear to be bicycle cranks and chains work in harmony with cutoff license plates to display the current time- but only if there’s somebody around to observe it; A very nice touch and great attention to detail!

If you enjoyed this, you’ll love the Sprocket and Chain clock we featured a few months back.

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The Warm Glow Of A Luminous Clock

It seems there will never be an end to the number of ways to show the time. The latest is the LumiClock from [UK4dshouse], and it uses the seldom-seen approach of a sheet of luminous paper excited by a strip of UV LEDs that pass over it guided by a lead screw.

At its heart is a micro:bit, which generates the time in dot-matrix digital form as the LEDs are moved across the sheet. It in turn has a real-time-clock module to keep it on time, and it drives a little DC motor via a robotics driver board. The appearance of the whole devices is similar to an X-Y plotter without the Y axis, as a 3D-printed carrier is moved by the lead screw and slides along a pair of stainless steel tubes. The result is an unusual and eye-catching timepiece, whose retro dot-matrix numerals fade away and are refreshed with the new time.

We’ve had a bit of a play ourselves with UV luminous materials, and we can confirm they make an interesting alternative to some other display ideas in dimmer environments. This isn’t the first such clock we’ve shown you.

Network Time Protocol On The ESP32

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is one of the best ways to keep networked computers synchronized to the same time. It’s simple, lightweight, and not only allows computers to maintain a time standard together, but it also allows some computer manufacturers to save some money on hardware costs. The Raspberry Pi is perhaps the most well-known example of a low-cost computer without the extra expense of a real-time clock (RTC). While the Pi sets up NTP essentially automatically, other microcontrollers like the ESP32 don’t, but it is possible to configure them to use this time standard with some work.

For this project the MicroPython implementation for the ESP32 is required. MicroPython is a way of running Python code on microcontrollers or other embedded systems without all of the overhead that Python would normally require. Luckily enough, the NTP libraries are built right in so once MicroPython is running on the ESP32 it’s nearly as easy as calling the library. Of course you will have to make sure there is an internet connection, and then grab the time, sync it to the machine, and then set the timezone.

For a bonus exercise, the project’s creator [Bhavesh] suggests attempting to configure Daylight Savings Time, although this can be a surprisingly difficult problem to solve. In the meantime, there are a few other ways of installing a clock on a microcontroller like this one. An RTC module is an obvious choice, but you can also get incredibly accurate time by using a GPS module as well.

E-Paper Clock Displays Things In A Battery-Friendly Manner

Clock builds are a hacker staple, and many overflow with power-thirsty LEDs and network features. This build from [mattwach] takes quite the opposite approach, sipping away at its batteries thanks to an e-paper based design.

The build relies on a small Waveshare e-paper module which only requires power when the display is actually changing. When static, the display needs no electricity, and this helps save a great amount of power compared to OLED or LCD-based clocks.

An Atmega328p is the heart of the build, running off a 32.768 KHz clock crystal for a combination of precise timekeeping and low power draw. Time is ensured to be both precise and accurate thanks to a GPS module which allows the clock to sync to satellite time when powered up. It’s a common way to sync clocks to a high-quality time source. Most of the time, though, the GPS is kept powered down to save the 30-100 mA that the module typically draws when in use.

Other features include a temperature, humidity, and pressure sensor, with ambient pressure graphed over time. There’s also notification of sunrise and sunset times, along with the current phase of the moon. It’s all wrapped up in a case tastefully manufactured using 3D printed parts and some wooden CNC-cut panels for a nice rustic look.

With the e-paper display and the microcontroller configured for low-power operation, the clock will run for around 6 months on four AAA cells. Overall, it’s a nifty little clock that will provide the time, date, and other information without the need for an Internet connection. Video after the break.

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Tetris Clock Gets Talkative Upgrade

Tetris is arguably one of the most popular video games of all time, and its famous bricks have become cultural icons in themselves, as seen in this clock build from [The Electronic Engineer].

The web interface allows the various sound options to be easily configured.

The basic concept of the Tetris clock is that falling bricks stick together in the shape of numbers to display the time. In this case, the clock is based on the version created by [Brian Lough] which we featured previously. It relies on an RGB LED matrix as a display.

However, the build has had a few upgrades courtesy of [The Electronic Engineer]. With the help of an I2S audio breakout board, the clock can play sounds at various times of day. It’s currently set up with clips from various cartoons announcing lunch and coffee break times. There’s also a web interface added in for configuration purposes, and some text tickers too.

It’s fun to see a popular open project get some upgrades as others dive in to build their own version. We’ve seen some other fun Tetris clocks before, too. Continue reading Tetris Clock Gets Talkative Upgrade”