How to Build an LED Etch A Sketch With a Motion Sensor That Lets You Shake to Erase

The Etch a Sketch toy has gone more or less unchanged for over 60 years, but if you’re handy with a soldering iron you can build an upgraded version that swaps aluminum powder for glowing LEDs. You’re still stuck with the challenge of drawing using just two spinning knobs, but when you screw up, a motion sensor lets you vigorously shake the toy to erase your mistakes.

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If you head over to Hackster.io you’ll find a complete tutorial on how to create one of these yourself, including a complete parts list (you’ll need a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, an Arduino Nano R3, a pair of rotary encoders, and a 64 x 64 RGB LED panel, among other things), the requisite code to make it all work, and even the models for 3D-printing a custom frame to make the final product look professional.

The implementation of the shake to erase functionality might be the best part of this build. When a six-axis motion sensor detects the device is being shaken, it randomly turns off five illuminated pixels, so as with the original toy, the more elaborate your drawing is (and the more aluminum powder you’ve etched away) the longer you’ll have to shake the device to completely erase it.

One of the many reasons to upgrade a classic toy like this is to add some shortcuts. So if you can’t muster the energy to vigorously shake it (let alone get out of bed) a button on the front can be held for two seconds to blank the screen and reset the location of the origin to the bottom left corner. How many times as a kid did you go to the effort of erasing the original Etch A Sketch only to discover the drawing tip was in the wrong place when you started to turn those dials? No one needs that kind of stress after getting through 2020.

DISCUSSION

ImALeafOnTheWind
ImALeafOnTheWind

Kudos to the tinkering ingenuity of this build!

But, I’m lazy AF and also a busy Dad - so I’ll stick with the browser version: https://itchaskitch.com

Also, Spirograph is much more satisfying for me: https://nathanfriend.io/inspirograph/