8 creative ways to upgrade or build a calculator

While every smartphone has a calculator, the old-fashioned electronic calculator isn’t going anywhere. It is still widely used in schools and, like most gadgets from that era, has evolved to include more powerful computing features.

However, unlike back then, the bench calculator is now easier to access and you can even build one at home. Open to giving it a shot? Check out these eight creative ways to upgrade or build a calculator.


1. Water Calculator

Water is a great source of energy, and this creative water-powered calculator completed on Instructables lets you put that theory into action. It has positive and negative electrodes made from a carbon rod and aluminum foil that trigger a chemical reaction in the presence of water, generating enough electricity to run an old-fashioned calculator.

With just a few drops of tap water, it produces enough energy to run a calculator for two to three months. When the numbers start to fade, just fill it up again. It’s a cool (literally) way to upgrade an old-school calculator, and it’s eco-friendly.


2. Arduino Calculator

Got a lot of downtime coming up and don’t know what to do? Build an Arduino-based calculator. It’s a bit huge compared to the old-fashioned desktop calculator and lacks a few keys, but it’s a fun and rewarding way to spend your free time.

Plus, it’s a good challenge because you can always take it upon yourself to customize it to a convenient size and incorporate missing keys. The code and all the supplies you’ll need are well covered in this Instructables guide. Here are some other great Arduino projects for beginners.

3. IR Calculator

Want to build a unique calculator? Turn that old speaker’s infrared remote into one. Besides the remote, you’ll also need an LCD, Arduino Uno, some resistors, and this code on Instructables.

When done, just point your infrared remote at the LCD screen and calculate. It’s not only creative, but also a great way to use things you’d otherwise have to throw away while compensating for the ones you don’t have – a keyboard.


4. Plant Powered Calculator

They say nature has everything we need, and that includes clean, renewable energy, which you can turn into electrical voltage. And in case you thought you misread, yes, plants can generate electricity.

In fact, they can produce enough renewable energy to power a calculator, as this Instructable proves. So if you are looking to build an amazingly creative and unique calculator that will have everyone talking, this is one of the projects you should definitely try.

5. LED Calculator Module

Remember how we used to put stickers on calculators back then? It was a nice way to spice up the standard calculator, but you know what’s even cooler? A basic calculator with an LED-lit display. So add some LEDs if you want to go even further.

It will turn your basic calculator from standard to creative and unique very quickly, making it a perfect gift for your niece or nephew who is still in school and incredibly passionate about calculating.

And the best part? You don’t need to be an expert DIYer to complete this project; all you need are small wires, a pair of LEDs, a screwdriver and some tape. The steps are detailed in this easy to follow Instructable. In addition to this project, here are some other awesome robotics projects for students to try at school.

6. Arduino Touchscreen Calculator

If you don’t like using your smartphone calculator because you get distracted every time, but at the same time you hate having to press the physical buttons on your old-fashioned calculator every time, this touchscreen calculator is exactly what you need. It will solve both of your problems: it helps you keep your smartphone away until the end of your working day and sports a large screen to simulate the user experience of a smartphone calculator.


It performs as well as a standard model; it can perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division calculations, including decimal calculations. And it’s relatively easy to build. You will need an LCD screen, an Arduino Uno, a USB A to B cable, and all other supplies listed in this Instructable.

7. Pocket calculator based on Raspberry Pi Pico

Working with numbers on the go? Or are you always in the field and does your work involve a lot of calculations? You would need a pocket calculator if you answered yes to either or both questions. Although you can always buy one, building one is a better option because it will be cheaper and more satisfying to use a gadget you created from scratch every day.

Plus, you don’t have to be a genius to build one because everything you need, including the code and a step-by-step guide, is readily available in this Instructables guide for a pocket-based calculator. on Raspberry Pi Pico. And if you don’t have a single board computer yet, be sure to read this guide to see which is the best Raspberry Pi model for your next project.

8. Cardboard Calculator

Back when there were no electronic calculators and smartphones were far off the horizon of innovation, people used a device known as an abacus for calculations. Although effective, it took a lot of manual work to perform even the simplest calculations. If they had had the creativity to build this easy-to-make cardboard calculator, the calculations would have been very simple.

But those days are over, and now you have a chance to make one. It’s a fun project you can try with the kids, and it’s easy to build. Once complete, you can add three digits to it, but you can customize it to perform any other function you see fit and to include as many digits as you want.

You will need thin cardboard like the one your breakfast cereal comes in, heavy cardboard, graph paper, glue, and all of the supplies listed in this Instructables guide. To be successful in hacking similar woodworking DIY projects in the future, you need to check out the best DIY channels for mastering woodworking, 3D printing, and manufacturing projects.

Improve your calculator with these DIY projects

Electronic calculators may not be as popular as they once were, but they still have a vital place in society. And if you happen to manage a lot of calculations in a day, creating or updating one is a great way to reduce your smartphone usage at work. Moreover, it is always better to use an electronic calculator rather than a smartphone because, with the former, there are no distractions.

From a water version, a handheld option to a cardboard calculator, we’ve filled the list above with a variety of options, so you can try out the one that best suits your situation. So whether you want a fun project to try with the kids, a handheld project to take on field trips, or an eco-friendly project, there’s an option you’ll find interesting for your next project.

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