Peggy 2: Clock Concept Contest!

White LEDs

There are probably thousands of cool ways to build clocks based around an LED matrix, and we’ve seen some neat analog and digital clocks based on our Peggy 2 kit. But we’ve also come up with a few dozen other cool ways to show the time, and realized that we’ve only scratched the surface.

So today, we’re announcing a Clock Concept Contest: Show us your coolest idea about how to build a Peggy clock, and you could win one!

How to enter

First, come up with a cool idea.

Is it analog? Is it digital? Just abstract blinkenlights? Is is receiving a live video feed from the internet? Is it a word clock? A game clock? A binary clock? Or hexidecimal? Is it a world map with LEDs wired up from a Peggy board that tells the time by latitude and longitude illuminated? Or something far more outlandish and never heard of?

Then, figure out how to communicate your idea. There are lots of ways to do this. You might want to use screen shots from the Peggy planner or Peggydraw. Or maybe graph paper, freehand sketching, pastels, or oil paint. Or origami, if that helps. You can show off your mad animated-gif skillz, put up a youtube video where you describe it deadpan or through interpretive dance, post actual working peggy code, build a lego model, render a 3D movie, or otherwise take advantage of whatever your favorite medium is. If it’s not self-explanatory, make sure to explain how you tell the time!

To enter the contest, add your entry (or entries) to the Evil Mad Science Auxiliary pool on flickr. Or, if your idea isn’t visual or won’t fit in that space, sign in and post a comment here on this article linking to where you’ve published it. (Yes, sign in. Please don’t enter anonymously.) Contest tags are: peggyclock or #peggyclock as appropriate.

Clarification added 1: Your entry should show us otherwise convey how the time is displayed, ideally down to the pixels. If it’s not digital, you may need to show more than one picture to convey your idea.
Clarification added 2: Note that we didn’t say “enter by leaving your idea in a comment here.” Hint hint.

This is a fast contest: Entries will be accepted through Tuesday, June 22 June 29. So get cracking!


One First Prize: A fully loaded Peggy Awesomeness Bundle, with your choice of LED configuration.

Plus: an Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories sew-on patch and Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories stickers.

Three Second Prizes: Your choice of a Larson Scanner, a Deluxe LED Menorah Kit, or a Diavolino kit

Plus: an Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories sew-on patch and Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories stickers.

Ten Runner-ups will each get an Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories sew-on patch and Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories stickers.

Just as a reminder, the Peggy 2 is an intelligent, Arduino-compatible (“freeduino” based), multiplexed 25 x 25 LED matrix, supporting up to 10 mm LEDs (or up to 5 mm LEDs in the Peggy 2LE version). It supports single-color LEDs at each point in the matrix, but you can mix and match different color LEDs throughout the matrix, and you don’t have to populate every LED location. Your entry should involve some way to create a nifty timekeeping device with the Peggy.

Contest fine print:

  1. Entries will be judged by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories staff. Judging criteria will include feasibility, ability to tell the time, originality, and awesomeness.
  2. Maximum of one prize per entrant.
  3. Offensive and/or obnoxious entries will be ignored and/or removed to the extent of our ability.
  4. In the case of independent nearly-identical entries, preference may be given to the earlier or better one by judges discretion.
  5. If your entry is a derivative work of someone else’s project or contest entry, or a commercial product, you must give proper credit.
  6. By entering, you give us permission to publish your entry on this blog.
  7. Entries must be received by 11:59 PM PDT, June 29, 2010.
  8. Results will be announced within 24 hours of contest close.
  9. Don’t break any laws, get injured or otherwise do anything stupid to enter this contest.
  10. Judges reserve the right to amend these rules to resolve unanticipated ambiguities.

38 thoughts on “Peggy 2: Clock Concept Contest!

  1. I may have experience in programming, I may be able to build and program robots that do what I want, and I may have years of experience that keep me safe, but I do NOT know how to post things on the internet other than these simple comments. HELP! The sad part is that I am from the generation that knows this stuff.

    1. That’s one of the reasons that we offer lots of different options. A good way to enter would be to make sketches on paper, take photos of those sketches with a digital camera, and then upload them to You can sign up for a free account there and follow the instructions to upload photos. It’s remarkably easy. :)

      Windell H. Oskay

      1. Well, go to flickr or youtube or vimeo, create an account, and read the instructions about how to upload. If the video is short (under 90 s), I’d recommend flickr. Otherwise, go to youtube or vimeo.

        Windell H. Oskay

          1. We don’t impose any restrictions on what license your entry is filed under, except that you need to give us permission to blog about it here. Feel free to use GPL, CC, BSD, GFDL or your choice of other license.

            On flickr, for example, you can tag the photo as copyright, all rights reserved, and then indicate your choice of license in the photo/video description. Or, you can obviously post on your own independent blog or web site elsewhere if you find that our named example sites do not meet your needs.

            Windell H. Oskay

  2. While I wait for my account email here’s my idea.

    Fuzzy Clock.

    The time will be written in text. e.g. 1/4 past 12, or 5 to 1, using the full width of a 25×25 grid of white LEDs

    .   . .   ... ... ... ...
    .  .  ..  . . . . .    . 
    .  .  ... ... ... ...  . 
    . .    .  .   . . ...  . 
              . ...          
              .   .          
              . ..           
              . ...          
           ...  ... ...      
           .     .  . .      
           ...   .  . .      
           ...   .  ...      

    At that point that text would be in the middle of the screen and fully light.

    Also visible would be the remains of the last update (at the bottom), and the start of the next update (at the top). These would be at a fraction of maximum brightness.

    Every 30 seconds the “writing” would move down line of LEDs, and fade if it is past that time, or brighten if that time has not been reached.

    — cDave.

    1. Hmm. It says I’m already registered, but no "password reset" email arrives.

      Anyway, different version of the above fuzzy clock. The Sands of Fuzzy Time.

      Full text "Quarter past 5" scrolls across the bottom of the screen. Using sub-pixel shading if it works (brightness fades down on one pixel as it fades up on the next one).

      Then there is a bright vertical line across the middle.

      "Grains of sand" (half brightness pixels), "drop" from the top of the board to the line. They fall from a random point. If they fall on top of an existing dot, and there isn’t one at the same level, then it slips to one side and continues falling. They fall at a fixed rate such that the whole top is full in 5 minutes.

      Once the 5 minutes are up, the line splits disappears, allowing the sand to fall through and off the bottom of the screen, wiping out the text. Then the new fuzzy time starts scrolling, the line reapers, and the sand starts building up again. — cDave

        1. Better write up:

          When you ask someone the time, people tend to say thing like "Quarter to Five" rather than "16:45". This concept is known as fuzzy time, since it tend to only be precise to within about 5 minutes. I thought it would be possible to fit this sort of text on the Peggy 2s 25×25 grid, but not very interesting. If it was just set to scroll across the bottom, then that frees up the top of the grid for something more interesting.

          One of the neat things that the Peggy 2 kit can do is run simple cellular automata, like Conway’s Game of Life. One of these models I studied at University was the BTW Sandpile model. Unfortunately, while this would be pretty I didn’t see how this would be useful for visualising time.

          So instead I thought falling sand, like an egg timer, would be a good visualisation. A random top row LED could light up, and pass the light down the screen, following a simple rules to decide where to settle (e.g. fall off to the side of piles). Once the top half of the screen was full (taking 5 minutes), then a simple animation of the sand falling over the clock would wipe out the old scrolling text, ready for the next block to start.

          This way you get the natural language of "Five past eleven", with the an idea of how far through that 5 minute block you are!

  3. Owing to the Peggy’s high rate of refresh, it would be easy to display messages subliminal messages by flashing them for short amounts of time, say 1/50 of a second at a time. For instance, at 8am, "EAT BREAKFAST" could show up reminding us to consume the most important meal of the day. Similarly, "EAT LUNCH" and "EAT DINNER" messages for other meals.

    During the work day, "GET TO WORK" could be displayed, while a "STOP WORKING" or "PARTY!" messages would mark the end of a work day. And most importantly, a "GO TO SLEEP" message reminding us to stop. Place in highly visible area for maximum viewing of messages. Can also be used as an add-on to many Peggy projects.

    * Warning, effectiveness of subliminal messages is not proven, your mileage may vary. Not responsible for any side-effects. *

  4. I am lame and don’t have pictures.

    I really would like to see a loading bar clock with programmable parameters, something like:



    Football Season

  5. Instead of displaying the time, the current time is treated as a 3 or 4 digit number and factored. For instance, 3:14 would show up as 2 * 157 and 6:30 would show up as 2 * 3 * 3 * 5 * 7.

    Inspired by this comic strip.

    The current time is 2 * 577

    1. And switches between 12h and 24h modes at the press of a button. Definitely a must have feature.

  6. how about a hi-def bulbdial. 180 leds for the analog face and a 25×17 array for a digital display.

    … or 2 or 3 analog faces.

    or a really hi-def second hand.

  7. The clock is comprised of several concentric circles of different colors – the center (3×3) would be always on (blue), while the next 2 circles (5 deep each) would be red and green and would be lit in a sweeping motion to show the time.

  8. Previous comment from Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, June 20 2010 @ 08:27 PM PDT is by Rafa S.

  9. I’m hoping my sketch will work. "Model Power" had a HO scale kit of "IRS on Fire", but was just flickering lights.

    1. This was meant to be under my account. I think the peggy 2 can handle it. How do I mark photos on flicker as read/old?

        1. when I look at the photos in the group, it always says "new" even though I’ve already seen them.

  10. Several clocks have used mathematical expressions in place of numbers for the hours. However, sometimes 12 expressions for a day isn’t just enough. With a Peggy, hundreds of new expressions can be used, ranging from simple to complex. Math fun for the whole day.

  11. Windell-

    I’ve looked through the schematics and whatnot (though I haven’t looked at the PCB file, owing to the fact that I’m at work), but I can’t quite determine the on-center spacing of the LED locations on the Peggy2. It appears from some of the closeups that they are approximately 11.5-12 mm on-center, since the datasheet for your 10mm LEDs shows that they are actually 11mm including the base, and there appears to be a gap between the LED bases of around 1mm or so. I know for sure that the hole spacing is .1", but it’s hard to extrapolate from there on the assembly PDF.

    Can you offer any insight about this? I’m trying to put together a concept using some non-standard layouts and different-sized LEDs, but wanted to make sure that it was properly to scale, since the PeggyDraw and PeggyPlanner both only use a single LED size.

    Thanks! :)

    1. You should be able to get the spacing from the fact the board is 11.320" wide, and seamlessly tiles side to side, and has 25 LEDs across. So each LED fits in a square that is 0.4528 = 11.5 mm to a good approximation.

      Windell H. Oskay

  12. If given access to a Ethernet shield and an internet connection to JPL’s HORIZONS database (, I wonder if we could turn Peggy into an Orrery?

    You could have an occasional pan and zoom to a random planet (like in David Lynch’s 1984 rendition of Frank Herbert’s Dune). It could have a sample image of the planet and then show the calendar day and time for that planet.

    Some might complain that it’s not a clock but in reality it would be a clock of the Solar System.
    Come on, you can’t get cooler than that! :)

  13. Here are two videos demonstrating a Morse Code (Pong) clock. This is an entry for the contest. :-)

    The idea is that the time is read by 4 morse code numbers, read clockwise (of course!) from top left. Here is a youtube video showing it.

    The Big Idea is to also have a microphone connected to one of the "unused" analog inputs on the Peggy. When the input is low, implying nothing around, the Peggy starts to play pong. 4 player pong, using the "dahs" in the morse code as the bat, and the "dits" as the ball(s). Here is a youtube video with a quick and dirty implementation

    1. Whoops!

      I posted the morse code pong idea, but forgot to log in first.

      You can see that my username here matches my username on youtube. It is me, honest!

  14. I posted my full description to my blog,

    with images, because I couldn’t figure how to get them uploaded here, but the text for the description is below.

    I’m a bit of a clock guy, and I’ve got a bunch in my house and in my office. I’ve got bunches of regular analog clocks. I’ve got my grandparent’s mantle clock that they were given for their wedding in the early 1930s, which we wind with a key and which chimes on the hour in my living room. In my office I have one of those "rolling ball" clocks as well as a ping-pong clock from Adafruit.

    One thing that some clocks show better than others is the passage of time — and sometimes it’s the passage of time that is most interesting to display instead of the exact digital instant that is now.

    Here’s the idea: The front of the peggy is treated like a "pie", except it’s square. It shows the fraction of the last and next 12 hours which are day versus night ( calculated from the wall clock time and the longitude and latitude which are configured by the user ) In essence, the "light" and "dark" parts of the current day rotate clockwise, and at a glance you can see how much of the day

    As time passes, this display will "rotate" in a clockwise direction, with the current "time" being at what would be 12 o-clock on a conventional clock. So, this is a small version of the peggy, with white being "lit" LEDs and black being unlit, and a blue border around the 25×25 pixel field.

    would indicate roughly noon, on a day near the summer solstice, and this

    would be shortly after sunset, again on a day near the solstice.

    Here’s a time around noon on a day in late fall, when the day is about 10 hours long.

    Here’s dawn on March 21st, the spring equinox ( when the day and night are each 12 hours long )

    During the year, as the seasons change, the amount of light and dark will change and along with it the fraction of the clock which is lit up. Near the winter solstice, only about 1/4 of the leds will ever be on, while in the summer 3/4 of them may be lit.

    Other ideas that might be possible ( depending on how much memory code to do the above took to implement )

    – The actual time could probably be drawn, either near the top or bottom of the display, using digits roughly 5 x 5 in size.
    – the brightness of the leds could vary, so that near the time the sun was most directly overhead the leds were full brightness, and the dimmed as the time got closer to sunset, then slowly brightened again the next day
    – perhaps other astronomical stuff — phase of the moon, or the tides — could also be included, although anything terribly complicated probably won’t fit in the memory available



    The design is minimal, and I had hoped to include more. However, just finding about the contest, it was the best I could manage :-)

    Good luck everyone! Some great designs!

      1. After clicking “get real time” after entering a time-based phrase, it should return a result.

        For instance, I got:

        ha come off it s not sleeping until seven thirty in morning time to shower

        Admittedly, I only tried this in Chrome & Firefox. It could be a browser issue?
        I guess it’s the curse of the kludgey javascript demo :-)

  16. The wonderful people at Flickr have decided that, unless you pay for a Pro account, you can’t have animated GIFs.

    Facebook also disables animated GIFs.

    Animated GIFs are the best way to explain some of what I want my clock to do, but my brother made them, and I don’t have the base images, just the final animated GIF.

    What is the best way to submit the animated versions of the GIFs? I have uploaded the files to Flickr and they’re flattened into JPGs, and I have added descriptions to what they SHOULD look like, but I would feel better knowing that my animated versions are available for consideration as part of the contest.

    Any thoughts or suggestions are certainly appreciated in the 11th hour!

      1. Thanks for the imgur idea! It seems to have worked like a charm!

        I have finished uploading the pictures, added the descriptions (which were originally all part of one long three-page single-spaced Word doc), organized the photo set in a semi-coherent manner, etc. Also tagged all of the photos with “peggyclock”.

        Link to the set:

        And, since it’s now the 12th hour here in Iowa, it’s bedtime. :)


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