The Raspberry Pi Pico is the first microcontroller from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. What makes it unique is the RP2040 chip at its core. Raspberry Pi custom designed this piece of silicon to be both powerful and easy-to-use, which gives Arduino boards a run for their money!
Here are 10 of the best Raspberry Pi Pico projects you can try with the new hobby development board.
1. Raspberry Pi Pico Intruder Detector
Microcontrollers are great for simple tasks that require high reliability. Your burglar alarm doesn’t need to be smart. It just needs to work!
YouTuber cryontech understands this, and they’ve put together a perfect beginner tutorial using the Raspberry Pi Pico as an intruder detector. The video covers how to build the circuit using a PIR sensor and buzzer to make a sound whenever movement is detected.
This is also a great variation on the Arduino version, a common Arduino beginner project, showing just how similar the Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino can be for learning hobby and maker electronics!
2. Bop It Minecraft Controller
YouTuber Seth Altobelli took one look at the Pi Pico and realized it was the key to realizing the dream of controlling Minecraft with a Bop It.
This project takes the popular rhythm game of the late 90s and retrofits it with a Raspberry Pi Pico and an accelerometer. Each of the original Bop It buttons are also wired in, making the whole game into a motion controller.
The Pi Pico’s ability to work as a USB human interface device (HID) means it can plug-in like a regular keyboard and mouse and be used as the most cumbersome, maddening, and mald-inducing Minecraft controller in history.
3. Create VGA Video With the Raspberry Pi Pico
One of the benefits of the Raspberry Pi Pico’s faster clock speed is its ability to drive VGA displays. In a thorough video on their YouTube channel, Robin Grosset takes you through both the software and hardware setup required for creating retro video from scratch using modern technology.
An interesting aspect of this build is the resistor ladder which works in tandem with the onboard digital-to-analog converters (DAC) on the Pi Pico to create the VGA signal.
4. Home Automation on the Raspberry Pi Pico
DIY home automation is a great way to learn about how smart home tech works and can save you some cash too! This tutorial from Nikunj Panchal covers every aspect of creating a Bluetooth lighting setup with the Raspberry Pi Pico, including an easy way to build a mobile app to control it.
This tutorial uses relays to control mains voltage devices, so make sure you take adequate safety precautions as mains voltage can kill. That said, once you know how to use relays safely, you can use them to control almost anything!
5. Make a DIY Midi Controller With the Pi Pico
YouTuber Blitz City Diy teamed up with Adafruit to create the Pi Pico MIDI fighter, a retro Midi controller using buttons typically found in old arcade machines.
This project consists of a Raspberry Pi Pico, a small LCD, and a joystick controller for controlling presets and pads, along with 16 backlight RGB LED arcade buttons. The build uses a stylish 3D printed case with a handle and small window to show off the Raspberry Pi Pico running the show.
The build page on Adafruit, shows a clear step-by-step guide to collecting the parts and building the Pico Midi Fighter, and the Python code needed to get it running.
6. Retro Gaming on the Pi Pico
YouTuber ETA Prime shows how the Raspberry Pi Pico, in combination with a VGA expansion board, can be used as a retro gaming device.
Games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and GameBoy can be loaded one at a time via the Micro SD card, though at present not all games are supported by the Pi Pico emulator.
This setup uses a USB game controller, but there is a way to use your original controller with this setup. All you need is yet another Pi Pico!
7. Raspberry Pi Pico NES to USB Converter
This build on the Print ‘N’ Play YouTube channel teaches you how to convert an original NES controller into a USB controller that will work with modern game systems and PCs.
Most beginner guides to the Raspberry Pi Pico concentrate on MicroPython, but this project uses CircuitPython, a variation designed by Adafruit for educational purposes.
Luckily, CircuitPython comes with several libraries that make converting NES to USB easy, and Print ‘N’ Play provides all the code needed to get it up and running.
8. Raspberry Pi Synthesizer
Eurorack modular synthesizers are wonderful, customizable wallet killers. Rory Allen, also known as Allen Synthesis on YouTube hopes to help soothe the financial pain with their EuroPi modular rack.
Designed to create control voltage (CV) signals for modifying and changing other synthesizers, the EuroPi has completely customizable firmware. Allen sells the EuroPi PCB on its official website, but the project is completely open-source, meaning you could build one from scratch on a breadboard or design your own enclosure.
9. Raspberry Pi Pico Macro Shortcut Keypad
Macro pads are handy for saving you from remembering awkward key combinations and putting your most-used shortcuts at your fingertips. In this video on the element14 YouTube channel, the Raspberry Pi Pico makes up the brains of a macro pad with a difference.
What sets this build aside is the LCD screen showing what each key does what, and a rotary encoder to switch between modes for different software shortcuts. It also comes with a 3d printed case designed using open source code-modeling software OpenSCAD.
10. Raspberry Pi Pico Line Following Robot Car
Autonomous robot racing is becoming a sport in its own right, and the most hotly contested area is in precision line following. To create a competitive robot takes a considerable time and learning commitment, but you can achieve the basics quite simply.
YouTuber RoboCircuits designed a line following robot PCB which uses dual infrared (IR) transceivers, an L298N Motor Driver with hobby motor wheels, and a Raspberry Pi Pico. The two infrared receivers compare their outputs to make sure the robot never strays over the line.
It’s a nice-looking PCB, but this project would be equally well suited to a prototyping board and would make a great intermediate project!
More Than Meets the Pico
Some folks found it a little strange that the Raspberry Pi Foundation chose to release a microcontroller after so many years of creating Linux-only hardware. In reality, the Raspberry Pi Pico is a fantastic hobby board for beginners and experienced makers alike.
Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
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