The Best Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners

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The Raspberry Pi is a modular computer you can use to learn computer programming and to create technology projects. It fits in the palm of your hand and costs about $35. Advanced Raspberry Pi enthusiasts build homemade, low-cost versions of commercially available products such as wearable technology and retro gaming consoles. Many go so far as to build highly creative inventions such as robots or a “Magic Mirror” that turns your mirror into an interactive smart device while you brush your teeth. Anyone who is eager to start with the Raspberry Pi can begin by honing their skills with the following projects.

The Raspberry Pi Setup

Before you begin a project, you need to set up the Raspberry Pi. Check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s setup guide for help with the necessary hardware and software. You need to download an operating system for the device. The official Linux operating system for Raspberry Pi is called Raspbian, and you can download it free from the setup guide. You can also buy it on a preloaded SD card that includes other operating systems you might need for some projects. Raspberry Pi models 3 and later have built-in Wi-Fi, while earlier models require a Wi-Fi dongle for any projects that rely on wireless internet access. Once the Raspberry Pi is set up, you can operate it using a keyboard, mouse, and a computer or television monitor. Detailed instructions for each of the following projects are available in the References section.

Photo Booth Project

In this project, you create a photo booth in your home to entertain guests. Instead of an actual booth that you sit in, the Raspberry Pi becomes a touch-screen operated camera that you mount to a wall or onto a tripod. Guests control the camera using the touch screen and then pose for a picture. The photos can be uploaded to Google Photos and also emailed to guests. Be as creative as you like when designing the enclosure for the device. For example, you could make your photo device look like an old-fashioned camera, an oversized instant film camera or an abstract art piece. In addition to the basic setup hardware you need for most Raspberry Pi projects, you also need a Raspberry Pi touch screen and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module for this project.

Robot Antenna Project

This project is an easy way to learn skills that will eventually prepare you to build highly functional robots. In this case, you make a drawing of a robot and wrap it around a cardboard tube. You construct the robot’s antenna out of an LED, two jumper wires and a resistor. You then attach the antenna to the robot’s head and connect it to the Raspberry Pi. Then, use a program in the Raspbian operating system that allows you to arrange existing pieces of code, or “coding blocks,” into a simple program. When complete, your robot beeps and its antenna flashes whenever you press the spacebar on your keyboard. Once you master that project, you can play with how many times the LED flashes or make other modifications.

Private Music-Streaming Service Project

Instead of paying for a subscription to one of the various streaming music services, you can turn your Raspberry Pi into a music server that allows you to stream your MP3 collection from any remote device, regardless of where you are. For this project to work, you need to have all the music you want to stream saved on an external hard drive. You assign the Raspberry Pi a static IP address so you can type the same URL into your computer or mobile device every time you want to stream your music. You then install a media streaming server on your Raspberry Pi and a compatible app to the mobile device or computer you’ll be using to listen. Most of these services are free or charge an almost-free fee.

References

About the Author

Rebecca Epstein received a degree in human development and neuropsychology from Cornell University before receiving an MFA in writing. She has an extensive background in cognition and behavior research, particularly the neurological bases for personality traits and psychological illness. As a freelance writer, her focus is science and medical writing. She communicates complex scientific and medical information to the public; conversely, she also uses writing as a form of advocacy to communicate the experiences of patients to healthcare providers. She's written for Autostraddle, The Griffith Review and The Sycamore Review. More information about Rebecca can be found at www.rebeccaepstein.com.

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