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with Nate and Yannick
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Raspberry Pi Powered LCD Chalkboard Smart Sign

Whenever technology and art meet in a very useful product, I can’t help but get excited and think about the applications of where a thing can be used. Instructables, yet again provides another incredible idea for something you can build as a life enhancement.

LCD Chalkboard Smart Sign on

Why this is an interesting project

I find the notion of combining a chalk board and a Raspberry Pi Zero into a single unit, can be valuable at so many levels. In this case, using it to present a positive message along with some weather information can be useful in an office, church or perhaps as a message center in your house. Very often the kitchen refrigerator becomes the message center with notes stuck to it, but maybe something like this would be more appropriate and even more efficient.

I have also thought about something like to build into my home education center for my kids. Special notes of the day or maybe their schedule, maybe just their memory work, there are many possibilities with this concept that make me think that there is so much more I could do with this base idea. Especially using a Raspberry Pi W, the whole thing could run off of a Lithium Polymer pack that that could potentially be large enough to power the screen as well and maybe just need to charge periodically.

There are so many bunny trails I can take this down and find quite the variety of uses. public message center for the office, community center, or home can be not only fun but also quite practical. Depending on the location and its implementation some of the other details may need to be tweaked.

Interesting notes about Instructions

The supply list is pretty minimal, really. If you have any significant investment in the Single Board Computer (SBC) world, you may have much of that and if you are a DIY sort, you will also likely have a lot of the tools necessary to make the chalkboard itself.

Electronics Supplies

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W (or similar, the Instructables article has a Zero W with headers attached
  • SD Card
  • Power Supply (provided through the starter kit)
  • LCD Screen (scavenged from an e-waste laptop)
  • LCD Controller board specific to the Screen
  • Power Strip
  • HDMI Cord
  • Wireless Keyboard and mouse
  • Computer to download, image the SD Card and configure the Rasperry Pi

Frame / Chalkboard Supplies

  • Pine board but any board should do
  • Plywood sheet (4 ft x 8 ft)
  • Krylon Chalkboard paint
  • Primer paint
  • Wood glue
  • Wood filler
  • Sand paper
  • Nails or screws
  • Miter saw / Miterbox and saw
  • Caulk

Depending on how you envision your Chalkboard “smart” sign, this can, of course, can be altered. The size of your donor screen will change the shape of the opening and what not.

The construction of the chalk board is pretty straight forward and based on your own personal level of technical skill with hand tools will adjust your comfort here.

The electronics portion looks like the easy part, especially since it is all Linux-y. I do think that there is some opportunity for making this battery backed as well but that is another exploration.

The way the author of this Instructable describes the steps leads me to believe that they are primarily in the Linux world but that is just fine as this would be a great write-up for those that are Linux curious. I especially appreciate this part of the article.

What I would do different to better suit me

As much as I like the artistic value of chalk, I can’t help but think that I would prefer something that was dry erase based. I am thinking, instead of using chalk board paint on surface, flat black, set the screen face to the same surface and place a 1/4″ (6.4mm) plate of glass on top of it and use the markers instead.

The main reason for markers, instead of chalk, is the reduced dust mess. There is also some freedom in the sense that the screen will be better protected from impact and contaminates when it is behind a sheet of glass. I do admit that there can be a loss of artistic flexibility with using markers instead of chalk but the reduction of mess would be worth it to me.

Final Thoughts

There is inspiration all around you and one of the beauties of the Internet is the ability to share ones creativity and inspire strangers you will never meet. The power to inspire is easier than ever and I do think that we, as a “makers” community should find ways, to build up and encourage others as much as possible. I hope that this will inspire you to, maybe not make something exactly like this but something similar that fits your unique case to make your life a little more enjoyable.

There is inspiration all around you, share and encourage others as much as possible. You never know when someone just might need that little boost to get through the day.


LCD Chalkboard Smart Sign on
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Arduino Powered, Dementia Friendly Media Player

A Makers Corner Blathering by CubicleNate

There is seemingly an endless torrent of interesting creations around the web by a multitude of incredibly creative and talented individuals. I have decided that I want to start indexing these interesting projects here so that I can revisit and potentially make one similar to it for myself.

The first project I want to highlight is this fantastic media player encased in a repurposed radio from yesteryear. I don’t currently have a wood grain beauty like this but it doesn’t mean I won’t be able to wrap my fingers around one at some point.


You will need to have a computer with the Arduino IDE. If you are running openSUSE Linux, you can find the instructions for setting that up here. For all others, is a fantastic resource. Familiarity with the Arduino IDE is a plus. This also assumes you have a soldering iron, solder and wire. It may also be a good idea to have solder removing items as well.

If you plan to build this into something, that should be kept in mind too. That is not on the parts list and should be thought about, if not roughly planned out to house the contraption.

Parts List

The parts list for this isn’t extensive at all and all quite affordable. The heart of this creators project is powered by an Arduino UNO. I am quite sure you can other similar controllers just as well.

  1. Arduino single board micro-controller.
  2. DFPlayer compatible MP3 module.
  3. MicroSD card for music storage
  4. Rotary encoder for ‘tuning’
  5. 10K ohm potentiometer for volume control
  6. 1K ohm resistor
  7. Perfboard for assembly
  8. External power supply (9-12V @2A recommended)
  9. Loudspeaker (3ohm @ 5W or similar

The module that is new to me in this parts list is the DFPlayer MP3 module. This is not an expensive thing at all. Compatible units can be purchased in packs of two for $7. Everything else is pretty standard stuff.

Potential Design Improvements

I have not built this yet, I need to seek out a very vintage looking shell to put it in or perhaps make my own but some things I would like to change about the operation is how the files are stored on the SD Card. There are some seemingly strict rules about the folder and file names that would make it difficult for me to manage. I like file names that actually mean something and my other concern is the time it would take to name the files as required would have to be done with a script as anything more than a dozen or so files would take far too long.

I would make to this is a better speaker system. It wouldn’t have to be a High Fidelity level, just something with good quality sound output. I am sure that there are some off-the-shelf solutions that would work very well.

As I noodle this idea around, there is one more change I would make: I would have to have a play/pause button on it someplace. This would, of course, require some additional wiring and perhaps swap out the rotary encoder with a version that has a push button. Being able to pause the music without unplugging it is a necessary feature. The additional code required here would be minimal.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a useful and unique project idea for an Arduino, this is a great choice for one. If you have just a little bit of skill in woodworking, you could potentially create something to house this which, should I not be able to find something at a reasonable price, might be the way to go.

The more I think about this, the more I would like to turn this into a reality. It would be a great gift for a technologically impaired relative that basically listens to the same things over and over with minimal costs to build. Good thing there is to index this for me to return to at another time.

Arduino IDE Installation Instructions for openSUSE
DFPlayer on
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LEGOs, Batteries, and Wooden Desk

Today, the guys have a guest ! Mark Murphy, from The Binary Times Audiocast, talks about his build of the LEGO International Space Station. Then, Nate explains how he frankenstein’d a battery from one brand to make it with the charger from another one. And finally, Yannick goes over the wooden desk he built for his daughter.

LEGO(r) I.S.S:
LEGO(r) I.S.S:

Nate also talked about a LEGO Full-Size Working Commodore 64 !


Wooden desk