First, thank you very much for being such a wonderfully-helpful forum for someone brand new to microcontrollers and electronics in general. While I haven't posted yet, I've gleaned more info from these pages in the past 6 months than I can even begin to repay!
For my first project, I built a Qlocktwo clock copy. Most of you are probably familiar with it, but for those who aren't, the original is from Biegert & Funk (http://www.qlocktwo.com/). I realize that this isn't the most original Arduino project (another permutation of flashing LEDs!!), but I've wanted one ever since I first saw it and the availability of existing code to drive it made it a great project for this mechanical engineer to get his feet wet with.
Pictures of the build-up and a video of the various modes in action, along with a link to my code can be found here: http://students.washington.edu/mikesteb/projects/Qlock_LED_Clock/Qlock_LED_clock.html
My code is just an adaptation of mling's code (thank you very much to him!), available here: https://github.com/mlng/QloneTwo
Qlone (my Qlocktwo-clone) is based on a Boarduino and an RTC from Adafruit, 2 Max 7219 LED drivers from Maxim, a laser-cut acrylic face from Ponoko, and a custom-made frame made out of Home Depot crown-molding.
Thank you for looking, for your comments and suggestions, and more importantly, for your inspiration and assistance!