Multifunction Digital Thermometer




About: Recently finished a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. Still love creating in my spare time

This instructable will show you how to create a multifunction platform with a thermometer, chronograph (count up timer), count down timer, and light display. It is also intended to be a platform for other analog sensors or any other functions you can think of.

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Step 1: Gather Materials

To build the digital thermometer you will need:
- Wire
- Altoids tin
- Breadboard
- Variable Resistor
- Dual-digit Common Anode 7 Segment Display
- 4 2N2222 Transistors
- 2 220 k ohm Resistors
- Thermistor(preferably linear output)
- 2 Momentary Push Buttons
- 2 2.2 k ohm Resistors
- 5 volt Regulator
- 2 Leveling Capacitors for the Power Supply (I used 220 uF)
- Power Switch
- ATMEGA168 Microcontroller
- 16 MHz Crystal
- 1 k ohm Resistor
- Printable Label (Larger then the front of the Altoids tin)
- Sockets (any you think you may need)

Needed tools:
- Soldering iron
- Desoldering Pump (optional)
- Wire Stripper (optional)
- Wire Cutters

Step 2: Start Building

For this step, use the attached schematic (word or AutoCAD) to build the circuit. I always find it helpful to first build it on a solderless breadboard. This makes it easy to fix any problems that arise before you want to pull your hair out :)

Before you start soldering it is probably best to first cut the breadboard to the final size and arrange all of the larger parts on the board (as seen in the 2nd image below). Don't forget to allow room for the buttons above the board and a power button off to the side.

It should be noted that in the schematic that R5 is a comparison resistor for the thermistor, and it might be included in your thermistor, so you should check your data sheet for how to implement your specific thermistor.

Step 3: Calibrate the Thermistor

To calibrate the thermistor, you need to take readings from the microcontroller at different temperatures (the more the better).

I have attached the hex file to be loaded into the microcontroller's flash to display the analog input from the thermistor. If it reads with a line in the output, it is because the thermistor input is too high to be displayed on two digits (example the output -5 could be from 155 to 105).

The points should then be plotted in excel as a scatter plot, not connected by lines (for an example see my temperature readings attached below).
You then need to right click the data points on the graph and click "Add Trendline".
Next choose the type of equation that is closest to the apparent line created by the sample points (I used a linear equation because my thermistor is made to have a linear output). Next click the "options" tab and select "display equation on chart" and click OK. This equation should be entered in the place of the formula in the source code, where x is "analogRead(tempPin)". The spot to do this is indicated in the source code(found in the intro).

The editor I used for the source code is Arduino 0007. The program also creates the hex files in the applet sub folder of the project when you click the compile button in the program. These hex files can then be loaded into the flash of the microcontroller using any method(such as the AVRIsp mkII).

Step 4: Make the Case

To Prepare the case to hold the electronics, two things need to be done.

The first is to cut the holes for the LED display, variable resistor, two momentary pushbuttons and the power switch. I did this by first inserting the finished electronics into the tin. Next, keeping the tin in the exact same place, I used a laser as a guide to mark the edges of the part, then closing the lid, scratched along the laser line marking where to cut . I then drilled out any corners(such as the display hole). Finally, I used an exacto knife to cut along the lines. Don't worry about deforming the metal around the edges too much, it can easily be flattened later by putting a block of wood under one side, and hitting the edge lightly with a hammer.

The second thing that needs to be done is line the bottom with cardboard (preferably thin) to insulate the electronics from shorting on the metal bottom. This is easily done by pressing the Altoids case on the cardboard so it leaves a depression along the edges. Now just cut along the depression and insert it in the bottom of the tin (see the lase photo).

Step 5: Attach the Label

I created the label by downloading a template for the printable labels I bought. Next was one of the hardest parts for me, making a decent looking design. I used clip art and basic shapes to create it. I have attached the design so you can use or modify it.

Next, print it out and cut along the outer lines (make sure you cut the black outlines right off). Now attach the label. I found it useful to hold it up to a light while doing this, it helps to see where the holes are to line it up. Finally, cut diagonal lines across the holes and fold the flaps under(see picture below) and finish installing the buttons.

I would also love to see pictures of the thermometers you made, or even the labels if you didn't make the thermometer =)

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    49 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 2

    Can i get an exact parts list? Im buying from Sparkfun. For example, I wanted to know the exact thermistor i need. Is it a10k thermistor or a LM series temperature sensor?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    One word ingenious!!!
    I misread the title thought it read "malfunctioning" thermometer.

    do you have an instructable on how to make this but without a thermometer? I'm new to all of this and I'm wanting to learn how to make these for pinhole camera I make.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like the treatment you did on the Altoids box. I've been looking over Arduino projects, and your Altoids box treatment looks good.


    11 years ago on Step 2

    another noob question. The comparison resistor, if I have a 10k thermistor would that imply at 10k comparison resistor? I have the datasheet, but I guess I'm being dim. Thanks for the information.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 2

    If the thermistor is 10k at room temp, then yes. You want to choose the comparison resistor so that it roughly equals the average of the varying resistor (it creates a 'voltage divider', if you want to look up how it works). This is because the voltage at the measurement point is in the middle of the measurement range, allowing the most sensitivity.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I supposed that you had used LM35 as the thermal sensor but i wonder what is the need for variable resistor? And according to the schematic the 7-segment was connected as in common-anode...but u mentioned it is common-cathode so i wonder if u can explain it? Lastly i wonder will it be a problem if i programmed atmega168 using 4Mhz crystal? (The programmer that i use is the following link: )
    thanks :)

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I also forgot to mention that the program will need to be changed and recompiled depending on that type of LED configuration you use(it is currently set for common anode).


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    i think that you are using arduino to program atmega168 through the board. may i know the hex file that i should burn my chip is "calibration.hex" ? Can i compile the code through the arduino software and download the hex file through another hardware programmer? thx again ; )


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    You should probably re-compile the program using the latest Arduino software, and the .hex you should look for is whatever the file name is .hex. I use AVR studio 4 and an AVR ISP mk.II to then load the .hex file onto the chip.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The variable resistor isn't needed, but it is useful. It is there to dim the LEDs, change numbers for input, or change execution speed depending on the current mode. Thanks, for catching about that about the LED display type, it is now fixed (it is common anode). It also shouldn't matter what speed you program the microcontroller at, as long as it uses the faster crystal to run.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Since you've built this, do you know where I can find a DIY for a temperature controller? I'd like to build a controller that will display the temperature with large, say 2" LEDs, be able to set a high and low temperature that will send a signal to a relay or solonoid valve to turn on or off. To purchase one, I'd have to spend over $100 and still not get the large LEDs. The large LEDs are needed to read the temperature from a distance. If you can help, please advise. Thanks, PAPADOC

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not really sure I could find anything faster than you could, but if you know how edit the code you might be able to do that with this.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    sorry man, but you got your terminology mixed up, a chronograph is a precision instrument used for finding velocities of projectiles by use of waves in a controlled environment. nice instructable btw and good idea : )

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That is one use of a chronograph, but as wikipedia puts it: "A chronograph is a timepiece or watch with both timekeeping and stopwatch functions. Pocket watch chronographs were produced as early as the 18th century but did not become popular until the 1820s". What you are thinking of is a gun chronograph. And thanks for the comment.


    11 years ago on Step 3

    You could easily replace the thermistor with a DS18x20 thermometer chip, which is precalibrated and gives a direct digital temperature reading accurate to 0.5 C. A number of people have written about how to use these with Arduino. You can pick up a DS1822 for less than $4 (or sample one for free from Maxim) and save yourself the joy of having to calibrating thermistors.

    Thanks for the details on the microcontroller our only problem now is the suppplies store that we got all of out other materials does not have that specific one we would order it online but we are running out of time and the shipping is too much for the time we need it by Do you happen to have a microcontroller or an extra thermometer that you could sell us that already works and is setup? Please

    2 replies