Make a Climate Clock
12/10/2021 updates and strikeouts from in italics:
Ahoy makers and those who have found themselves here at the vanguard of climate messaging! Be warned aware that our tech team is hard at work on a new custom circuit board design that we will launch around COP26 that will deprecate this hardware and software. We were able to test our prototypes in the field at COP26 in Glasgow, and we took away many lessons, however, one of those lessons was that this custom board is not yet reliable enough yet for prime-time work in the field.
In short: for the moment we are proceeding with the same Raspberry Pi powered Climate Clocks that these directions explain how to build. Thus, if you are ready to build a clock now, we recommend you continue to follow these instructions and we salute you!
A custom PCB will replace the Raspberry Pi and Adafruit hat. These instructions WILL still work! While we cannot guarantee that every future update will be available for the Raspberry Pi setup, at the very least all the most important updates to data and lifelines will be available over the API.
The LED modules, the wires (hub75 and power delivery for the LEDs) for the LED modules, and the screen in general (and thus most cases) will remain unchanged but all other components will no longer be applicable.
Looking forward to sharing our progress with you soon! Please don't hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.
Sincerely, Greg Schwedock he/him Head of Product greg[a]climateclock.world P.S. If you have programming especially Arduino skills or any PCB design experience and the time to support our work please reach out!
The #ClimateClock is an open-source project. Our team in New York that put together Greta’s mobile climate clock used inexpensive electronics (programmable Raspberry Pi circuit board, RGB LED matrix panels, etc.), a wooden casing, and the scientific methodology outlined here by Berlin’s MCC climate research institute — and so can you!
STEPS:
The table of "contents" on the top right of this page (if viewing on a desktop) outlines the main steps you'll take in the process of building your climate clock and are clickable so you can jump to a specific section.

Gather materials

We used off-the-shelf parts to build our CLIMATECLOCK. Here are the physical parts needed to build yours.
Note these instructions do not cover instructions to build or materials to construct a case/housing for your clock.

Materials that will be part of your clock:

  1. 1.
    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (other recent models may also work)
    1. 1.
      As of December 2021, with the chip shortage and holidays most Pis are hard to come by or overpriced your best best is Raspberry Pi 4 2gb currently in stock at adafruit.
    2. 2.
      We hope to shortly (Jan 2022 the latest) have wifi working which would allow you to use the Raspberry Pi 3a+ which is cheaper but does not have an ethernet port.
  2. 4.
    Three 64x32 RGB LED Matrix panels (3–6mm pitch)
  3. 5.
    Power Supply one or more of the following:
    OR paired with a male USB A to male DC Barrel you can use (search for "usb to DC wire") you can use: b)On the go: Any powerbank with "fast charge" capability (5v 2amps or more from a single usb port ) (aka a phone charger) c) Best of both worlds: Mini UPS option by Talentcell to have both permanently on wall charging and a battery charged and ready to take on the go.
  4. 7.
    MicroSD memory card, 4GB or larger (make sure you don't need its contents!)

Tools & supplies required for the build process

These are only needed temporarily:
  1. 1.
    Soldering iron
  2. 2.
    Rosin core solder (also called flux core solder)
  3. 3.
    Computer running Mac OS, Windows, or Linux, with a MicroSD card reader or slot
  4. 4.
    Ethernet cable connection to the internet

Assemble the RGB Matrix HAT

Materials:

The RGB Matrix HAT is a purpose-built circuit board for powering and controlling LED matrix panels. HAT stands for Hardware Attached on Top, but before we can attach the HAT atop your Raspberry Pi it must be soldered together.
Soldering: If this is your first time using a soldering iron, check out the Adafruit guide to excellent soldering before continuing. Practice a few solder joints to make sure you're up to speed. If you don't have spare electronics stuff at hand you can try paperclips, coins, keyrings, or other metal objects (avoid aluminum because its oxide layer makes it hard to solder).
  • Solder the 40-pin GPIO header to the underside of the board, and the 16-pin HUB75 header to the top. Make sure the notch on the HUB75 header aligns with the notch drawn on the board. Use a PCB holder, tape, or picture hanging putty to hold the parts in place if needed.
  • Solder the screw terminal block to the top of the board, making sure the terminals (where you will attach power wires) face outward. Use plenty of solder to attach this part.
  • If you'd like to see this explained in more detail you can view Adafruit's instructions here.

NEW Solder Step:

If you are using three LED panels our disk images now require an additional solder step to jump the i/o terminals 18 and 4:
In case you haven't soldered a wire to a boards i/o terminal before:
  1. 1.
    Take a piece of wire, strip both ends
  2. 2.
    Twist wire ends and add thin layer of solder.
  3. 3.
    Insert wires through PCB headers as shown in the picture.
  4. 4.
    Optional: Bend the exposed wire on opposite side so it stays in place
  5. 5.
    Solder as you did the other header pins on the board
  6. 6.
    Clip extra wire.

Attach the HAT and battery

Materials:

The Raspberry Pi does not, by itself, have a way to remember the date and time while switched off, but the HAT provides this capability with a small quartz crystal clock powered by a battery. When attached to the GPIO pins of the Pi, the HAT will also supply the Pi with power.
  • Screw the optional standoffs to the HAT for stability and plug its 40-pin header to the 40 GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins on the Raspberry Pi. Insert the coin cell battery with its + side facing up.

Attach the RGB Matrix panels

Materials:

  • Raspberry Pi with RGB Matrix HAT
  • 1–3 64x32 RGB LED Matrix panels (3–6mm pitch)
  • 1–3 16-pin ribbon cables (1 per matrix panel)
  • 1–2 RGB matrix power harnesses
HUB75 RGB matrix panels, which can be purchased from a number of manufacturers, use a standard interface which allows them to be chained together. These panels vary in their manner of using the 16 pins to carry information, so if you use a type other than those sold by Adafruit, your clock's software may require tuning.
  • Attach the fork terminals of the red (+) and black (-) wires on the power harness to the screw terminals of the HAT, and the 16-pin ribbon cable to the HUB75 header. Attach one of the connectors on the power harness to a matrix panel. Attach the ribbon cable to the matrix panel. Be sure to connect it to the side of the panel which has an arrow pointing toward the panel's center.
  • If using more 2 or 3 matrix panels, connect the power harness's other connector to a second panel, and bridge the two panels with a ribbon cable, again guided by the directionality of the arrows.
  • If using 3 matrix panels, connect an additional power harness to the screw terminals of the HAT. Be certain that the fork terminals cannot come loose and cause a short circuit by touching opposite-colored wires.
    Because of the limited space at the screw terminals, you may wish to instead splice the same-colored wires of both harnesses together so that a single pair of fork terminals can be used. Another option is to insert the fork terminals of the second power harness into a power connector of the first power harness, and use the second power harness to power the second and third panels.
    Chain the third panel's ribbon cable in the same manner as the second.

Prepare the software

Materials:

  • MicroSD memory card, 4GB or larger
  • Computer running Mac OS, Windows, or Linux, with a MicroSD card reader or slot
  • balenaEtcher for writing memory card images
  • CLIMATECLOCK memory card image (see below)
This software includes a Linux operating system based on Raspbian, the official operating system from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. We've modified Raspbian in a couple simple ways to work with the HAT. If you're interested in further customization, have a look at our code for building the system on github.
The software also includes a Python program for controlling your CLIMATECLOCK. This program follows a simple methodology for calculating the 1.5°C global carbon budget, and clockmakers who have basic experience with the Python programming language should find it easy to customize.
  • Download a CLIMATECLOCK memory card image to your computer from: https://cclock.org/update. If you are only using one or two 64x32 pixel panels these are the old images but do not have the latest data or features. 1 64x32 RGB matrix panel 2 64x32 RGB matrix panels
  • Install balenaEtcher, a tool for writing images to memory cards. If you prefer to use other tools (like dd), go right ahead and skip the following step. Be aware that just copying the image file onto the memory card, like by dragging the image file to the card's icon, will not work! It's important to copy the image with an appropriate tool.
  • Copy the image:
    • Connect the MicroSD card reader with the card inside, or use your computer's MicroSD card slot.
    • Open balenaEtcher and select from your hard drive the CLIMATECLOCK .img file you downloaded
    • Select the card you'll write the image to
    • Click Flash!
  • Safely remove or eject the MicroSD card and insert it into the slot on the underside of the Raspberry Pi.

Turn it on!

Materials:

  • Your brand new CLIMATECLOCK
  • Ethernet cable connected to the internet (plugging into a WiFi router, or the box from your ISP should work, anything that automatically gives out IP addresses with DHCP should do the trick)
The CLIMATECLOCK needs to connect to the internet at least one time to set its clock. And if climate change predictions change, we'll update our numbers on github, and connecting to the internet will update the clock (TODO: not yet implemented).
  • Plug the internet-connected ethernet cable into your CLIMATECLOCK, then plug in the power supply. The clock should take 15-20 seconds to boot.
  • Plugin the USB gamepad to controll the dislpayed lifeline and brightness. See Getting Started