How to Get Even More Out of a Raspberry Pi

By Bulent Yusuf on at

No doubt about it, the Raspberry Pi is nothing short of a homebrew phenomenon. Since its release in February 2012, the British micro-mini-computer has enabled legions of amateur inventors to develop projects both weird and wonderful. Here's a run-down of the most impressive applications, ranging from weather stations to retro arcades to a supercomputer array on a Lego rack. See if any of them inspire you to do the same.


1.) Build a Nixie Clock

With their gaudy neon digits and retro styling, a Nixie tube clock would look great in the home or office. Martin Oldfield built a clock that receives Network Time Protocol data from the internet via the Raspberry Pi, and is accurate to ten-thousandths of a second. All you need is a RPi and an SD card, a self-assembly Nixie Clock kit, and a Wi-Fi dongle or ethernet cable. Step-by-step instructions.


2.) Build a Weather Station

Interested in meteorology? Use the RPi to build an inexpensive weather station that can process data in situ. The shopping list for this project would be an RPi, a USB Wireless Touch Weather Station from Maplin, and an ethernet cable. Visit Dragontail Mapping for a tutorial.


3.) Build a Retro Arcade Cabinet

The MAME emulation software is an important preservation project for vintage gaming software. Over at the Raspberry Pi blog, a chap known only as "Darren J" explains how he installed an RPi running MAME into a replica gaming cabinet, complete with working coin slot. Recreate your misbegotten youth by placing it in a darkened garage; cigarette butts and cans of fizzy pop optional.


4.) Build a Better BigTrak

Remember BigTrak? The six-wheeled "tank" was launched by MB toys in 1979, and could be programmed with basic (very basic) instructions to execute in sequence. RPi enthusiasts have embraced the toy as an affordable robot development platform, and Leo White is leading the field with his projects -- remote controlled, a rocket launcher with camera-assisted targeting, a robot arm AND a mobile Wi-Fi station. Details: My Big Ideas


5.) Build a Supercomputer

Engineers at the University of Southampton built a supercomputer using 64 networked Raspberry Pi computers... nested in a rack of Lego. The goal was to show that a cluster of RPis would make a inexpensive, compact foundation for high-performance computing, and the Lego was an effective way to keep them physically manageable. The University has published a complete guide for anyone can do the same at home, and the investment is as little as £2,000.


6.) Build a Brewery

BrewPi is an open source temperature controller for brewing beer or wine, which controls the temperature of the fridge that holds your precious cargo. With a dual setup for both the beer temperature and the fridge temperature, it can hold your beer temperature far more steady than usual thermostat-controlled devices. And if that's not enough beer-related chicanery, there's also the RPi-controlled beercan keyboard.


7.) Build a KindleBerry Pi

This is something of a horror-show; an Amazon Kindle that's been hacked to run as a computer terminal for an RPi. Because of the low-refresh rate for the e-ink screen, the device has limited use except for coding, but it remains an ingenious proof of concept for low-powered, compact computing. Full details of the project (and the rationale behind it) can be found on Studio Ponnuki.

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