TV Turned Automatic Etch A Sketch With Raspberry Pi

Considering one of the biggest draws of the original Etch a Sketch was how simple it was, it’s always interesting to see the incredible lengths folks will go to recreate that low-tech experience with modern hardware. A perfect example is this giant wall mounted rendition of the iconic art toy created by [Ben Bernstein]. With a Raspberry Pi and some custom electronics onboard, it can even do its own drawing while you sit back and watch.

At a high level, what we’re seeing here is a standard Samsung LCD TV with a 3D printed Etch a Sketch shell mounted on top of it. That alone would be a pretty neat project, and had [Ben] just thrown some videos of designs getting sketched out onto the display, he could have achieved a similar end result with a lot less work. But where’s the fun in that?

It took hundreds of hours to print the shell.

To make his jumbo Etch a Sketch functional, [Ben] spent more than a year developing the hardware and software necessary to read the user input from the two large 3D printed knobs mounted under the TV. The knobs are connected to stepper motors with custom PCBs mounted to their backs that hold a A4988 driver chip as well as a AS5600 absolute magnetic rotary encoder. This solution allows the Raspberry Pi to not only read the rotation of the knobs when a person is using the Etch a Sketch interactively, but spin them realistically when the software takes over and starts doing an autonomous drawing.

Several Python scripts pull all the various pieces of hardware together and produce the final user interface. The software [Ben] wrote can take an image and generate paths that the Etch a Sketch can use to realistically draw it. The points that the line is to pass through, as well as variables that control knob rotation and pointer speed, are saved into a JSON file so they can easily be loaded later. Towards the end of the Imgur gallery [Ben] has created for this project, you can see the software working its way through a few example sketches.

We’ve seen several projects that motorize an Etch a Sketch to draw complex images, but this may be the first example we’ve seen where everything was done in software. This digital version doesn’t need to follow the traditional “rules”, but we appreciate that [Ben] stuck to them anyway. Incidentally this isn’t the first Etch a Sketch TV conversion to grace these pages, though to be fair, the other project took a radically different approach.

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Global Status Board Keeps Eye On COVID-19 Situation

When it comes to keeping abreast of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are basically two schools of thought. Some people would rather not hear the number of confirmed cases or deaths, and just want to focus on those who recovered. That’s fair enough. But others want to have all of the available data at their disposal so they can form their own conclusions about what’s happening with this virus on a global scale. Looking at this incredible COVID-19 status board, we’ll give you one guess which category [Reuben] falls into.

Note the laser engraved component labels

Constructed out of 2020 extrusion with both 3D printed and laser cut parts, this wall-mounted display is built to last. Clearly [Reuben] believes we’re in this one for the long haul, and taking a peek at the plethora of data points this device can show at once, it’s not hard to see why.

Stats are pulled down every hour from a JSON API by an ESP32 and stored on an SD card. A running total of confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries are shown on several TFT displays located behind the face of the display. On the right, the relative severity of the infection in 32 different countries is visualized with LEDs of varying brightness.

Perhaps the most visually striking element of the display is the large annunciator panel on the left side, which lights up to show various conditions all over the world. We appreciate that [Reuben] has thought ahead and added a light that can be used once a vaccine is deployed for COVID-19, but the inclusion of a “MARTIAL LAW” indicator certainly doesn’t help us shake the feeling we’ve all found ourselves in a proper dystopia.

For those who’d would rather get their information from the source rather than have it filtered through the media, we’ve recently covered a few APIs that will allow you to pull your own up-to-date COVID-19 stats. Whether you’re looking to build something as elaborate as this display, or just want to echo it out to the terminal, making sure you’re seeing accurate data is key to identifying the turning point.

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Steel Pegboard Makes For A Tidy Charging Station

Do you have a bunch of electronic devices that all have different styles of chargers and batteries? Of course you do, so does everyone else. While there’s been some headway made towards standardizing on USB (and more recently, USB-C) for charging, there are still plenty of gadgets out there that march to the beat of their own DC adapter. For all those devices, [Tom Barnes] has a tip for making a cheap and easy centralized charging station.

The idea is to get a power strip, ideally one that has a switch on it, and use zip ties to attach it to a piece of pegboard. [Tom] used a nice black steel board which is obviously very strong and shouldn’t be bothered by any potentially high temperatures, but you could get away with the hardware store MDF variety if you had to.

All your chargers, mounted around the periphery of the board with Velcro hook and loop fasteners, have their individual power cords run through to the back of the board where they are nearly routed and zip tied. This is where using the steel pegboard really helped, as it has a lip around the edge that makes a void for all the wires to be run through when hung on the wall. If your particular flavor of pegboard doesn’t have that space behind it, you’d either have to settle for running the wires across the front or build out your own space in the back using a wooden frame.

Even in our high-tech world, no shop is truly complete without pegboard. Whether you’re using it to vertically mount your development boards, or pushing it around on wheels to keep your tools close at hand, there’s no shortage of ways to use this versatile material.

Building The Slimmest Raspi

slim_pi

[Colin], AKA [Domipheus], was working on a project to monitor a thermostat with a wall mounted Raspberry Pi and a touchscreen. Simple enough, but the Pi has a problem: The plugs are all around the perimeter of the board, and with a TFT touch screen shield, it’s a bit too thick to be wall mounted. What followed is a hack in the purest sense: [Domipheus] removed and relocated components on the Pi until the entire Pi/display stack was just a hair over 10mm tall.

A Raspberry Pi Model A was used for this build, meaning the Ethernet jack was gone, and there was only a single USB port to deal with. Still, the highest components – the RCA and audio jacks – were too tall and needed to be removed; they weren’t going to be used anyway.

After these components were gone, [Domipheus] turned his attention to the next tallest parts on the board: fuses, caps, and the HDMI port. For fear of damaging the surrounding components when removing the HDMI connector the right way, this part was simply hacked off. The large tantalum cap near the USB power connector was removed (it’s just a filter cap) and the large protection diode was moved elsewhere.

Slimming down a Pi is no good without a display, and for that [Domipheus] used this touchscreen thing from Adafruit. Things got a little complicated when the project required the ability to remove the LCD, but you can do amazing things with a DIP socket and a file.

The end result is a Raspberry Pi with touchscreen display that’s just a smidgen thicker than a CD case. It’ll fit right up against a wall in its repurposed enclosure,¬†and the end result looks very¬†professional.

[Thanks Luke via reddit]