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Hexagons are cool — they have six sides, they tile a plane, they have a structure like the carbon atoms in graphite, each cell has six neighbors, and there are six cardinal directions. But mostly, they are not square when so many computer things are. So I wanted to make a project using a display made of hexagonal pixels (hexels). I wanted the display to do something useful in addition to looking interesting, so I made it a clock.

The clock has 13 columns with either four or five LEDs, a total of 58 hexels that mostly fills a 17”x10” picture frame. It runs standalone keeping time via a battery-backup real-time clock, or can be connected via USB to a host computer that can push bitmaps, change color schemes, or most importantly set the internal clock. It definitely has some quirks, but I have learned to enjoy them.

Just for fun, it makes a transition at the end of each minute, which is sometimes an appreciation of John Conway’s “Game of Life”. For more information on Conway, see this article in the NYTimes or enjoy this cartoon by XKCD.

Addressable LED strip (Adafruit NeoPixels, 2 meters of 30 pixels per meter)
Microcontroller (Adafruit Metro Mini 328)
Shadow-box picture frame. I used a 17”x10” picture frame meant to display multiple smaller photos. The dimensions are the area of the glass.
Smoke-tinted window cling film (I used Gila Smoke Glare Control film) — or smoked plexiglas
Battery-backup real time clock (a DS3231 module I got on Amazon)
(optional) Light sensor (Adafruit VEML7700 Lux Sensor)
100 microfarad (or larger) electrolytic capacitor
220 ohm Resistor
Wires, solder, soldering iron
USB cord for power/communications”

Link to article