By Super Awesome Sylvia and her dad, James

It’s time to make another kit from Adafruit, the alarmingly awesome Monochron clock kit. Lets go!

For this timely build, we’ll need:

  • Monochron kit from the Maker Shed
  • Soldering iron & solder
  • Wire snips
  • and optionally, our good friends the circuit board vice or helper hands. If you don’t have ‘em, pick ‘em up at the Maker Shed if you want to make all your projects easier to handle.

Subscribe to the MAKE Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube and Vimeo.

monochron2 600x444 Monochron Clock Kit   Sylvia's Mini Maker Show
First, get yourself a nice clear workspace and start emptying the box. There’s a lot in there! It can be a bit daunting at first, but don’t worry, we can do it! Ladyada’s Monochron instructions are so good we don’t need to duplicate them. Some tips to remember while building:

  • Before you clip any leads put on some eye protection!
  • For the DC power jack, use a little solder to tack it in from the top if it doesn’t stay in when you push it, then use lots of solder to anchor it on the bottom. These joints need to be super-strong to take the force of the plug being pushed in.
  • Remember: Diodes, electrolytic capacitors (the ones that look like little tin cans) and LEDs all have polarity, so make sure they go in the right way around when placing them in.

monochron5 600x450 Monochron Clock Kit   Sylvia's Mini Maker Show
Once your LCD is soldered in and the clock works, it’s time to build the case! Pull the protective coating off the plastic, then follow the instructions to carefully mount the case around the main board and LCD. Getting these parts together correctly can be pretty tricky, so it helps to have a friend to give you a hand. Also, the black plastic is pretty delicate, so don’t force it together, or you’ll be reaching for your superglue!

Once your screws are in and all sides are tight, tada! You’ve completed your very own customizable Monochron clock! So what makes this clock so awesome? You can write your very own firmware: the code that makes it work! The things you can do with the Monochron are endless, as long as you’ve got the programming know-how, or the will to start learning.

Some things you could try: make your own clock face, alarm or different mode. Adafruit and the community offer a few custom clock mods for download from the main site.

monochron6 600x450 Monochron Clock Kit   Sylvia's Mini Maker Show
To contribute our own, we put together made a Mario themed clock face. Mario punches the question block to make his coin count (the time) go up! The world is the month and day. It’s nintendoriffic! Get the code for the MarioChron and the immediately uploadable hex file over at our Github repo. With a bit of work, Mario could be programmed to jump on the turtle, collect powerups, change levels, or even be fully playable even on the Monochron’s modest hardware! There are even some people experimenting with getting multiple Monochron clocks at once selectable from the menu, GPS input, and even fully working and controllable 1bit games like Asteroids.

monochron1 600x450 Monochron Clock Kit   Sylvia's Mini Maker Show
You may not be able to get the Monochron to make you breakfast or shoot photon torpedoes, but with your imagination and some programming elbow grease, you can have just as much fun; and you’ll always know what time it is.

That’s all we’ve got this time, be sure and experiment with the code, upload a new clock, try not to force delicate parts, and get out there and MAKE something!

Check out more episodes of Sylvia’s Mini Maker Show.

becky stern headshot Monochron Clock Kit   Sylvia's Mini Maker Show

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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