Seasonal hacking inspired by Les Pounder is now officially a thing. Invent:Advent asks you to spend no more than a tenner in pound shops and add that to crafty/makery things you’ve already got lying around to make festive Christmas hacks.

So here’s my go. I bought a wooden Father Christmas with a spinning panel in his belly to let you to show whether you’ve been naughty or nice, several strings of LEDs powered by 2 AA batteries and a sparkly reindeer. I decided to make Father Christmas a bit more high-tech in his approach to declaring your behaviour status, and to give him a less binary choice. The plan was to press a button and see just how you’ve behaved appear on a screen.

For this hack I’ve used the Father Christmas and a set of the LEDs (although a second set was sacrificed to some careless snipping). I raided my box of making bits for a USB power bank (I could easily have afforded to get one at Poundland, but I knew I already had this at home), a Raspberry Pi Zero W with Pico HAT Hacker, a PaPiRus Zero e-ink display which formerly ran a Twitter display, one small button with a red cap, hook-up wire, some left-over transparent red Perspex and lashings of hot glue.

I took the spinning panel out of Santa’s tummy and found the PaPiRus Zero was a good fit vertically, but left a gap of about a centimetre at each side. I used the left-over acrylic to fill the gap and create a mounting plate I could bolt to Raspberry Pi onto. I drilled a hole through Father Christmas’ nose (sorry) to fit the button. Signal and earth wires for the button were soldered to the Pico Hat Hacker and then to the button. The LEDs were also soldered on here, after I’d worked out which lead was positive and which was negative and shortened the train of LEDs to fit.

Everything (the transparent red acrylic holding the Pi Zero and Papirus Zero, the USB power bank, and all the LEDs) was hot glued into place. I’d already written the code and tested it while I was prototyping the hardware so all I had to do was fire up the Raspberry Pi and press the button – err, nose, to set Santa into action. I’ve made about ten statuses that Father Christmas might give you, but you can have as many as you like. They’re all delivered to the screen as black and white bitmap images which are 200 x 96 pixels.

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