10 killer Raspberry Pi projects (Collection 1)

What you can make with a Raspberry Pi is amazing!

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Pi-ning for more air time

One of the most remarkable things about the Raspberry Pi family of single board computers (other than the devices themselves) is the incredible creativity they’ve stimulated. School kids, makers, scientists, engineers, you name it, are building the most amazing digital machines and in this first round up I’ve collected some of notable and exciting examples of what people are making. If you know of a project that should be included in my next round up, drop me a line, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for my newsletter!

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Tea and Raspberry Pi, anyone?

What drives the technology world? Yep, that would be caffeine. Whether it’s a strong cup of joe, added to soda, or dispensed via teabag, caffeine is the fuel that drives nerddom. But teabags need special treatment because they are, indeed, bags full of tea and there’s a certain amount of steeping and dunking required to extract the essence of bagged tea … thus was the cdtea crafted. Powered by a Raspberry Pi that opens and closes the tray of an old CD/DVD drive which, in turn, dunks and un-dunks the teabag, the cdtea’s software defaults to a two minute infusion that consists of a 10 second pre-soak followed by 11 cycles of dunking. Voila! Tea is digitally served. Magnificent!

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Mirror, mirror, on the Intertubes

The Smart Mirror, created by Evan Cohen, has to be one of the most popular Raspberry Pi projects ever. The hardware is simple: A one-way mirror with an LED monitor behind it that’s driven by a Raspberry Pi. The software, however, has become very slick and sophisticated and even includes movement detection, speech recognition and synthesis, and IoT integration. Finally, a mirror that when I ask in the morning “Who’s the grooviest of them all?” can actually reply, “You, baby, you,” then start the coffee.

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Mark Gibbs

Building a data showoff

The Kiosk Display on Raspbian Jessie was conceived of by Ryan, the author of the reboost blog, who wanted to display a Dashing dashboard (which describes itself as “The exceptionally handsome dashboard framework”) driven by a Raspberry Pi on a television. What’s really cool about this project is that it’s simple, effective, useful, and a great learning tool. It also looks really cool and you can use it to display any data you please.

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SeeMore Pi, much more Pi

Developed by Sam Blanchard, an assistant professor of sculpture at Virginia Tech, “SeeMore is a project that melds Art and Engineering to distill abstract concepts in computing into a tangible experience that informs viewers that computational thinking does not exclusively exist within the preverbal ‘black box’. This kinetic sculpture showcases the inherent beauty of parallel algorithms through the correlating movements of an animatronic 256-node Raspberry Pi computer cluster.” The video is way cool. Want to see more RPi clusters? Check out the RPi index at the end of this slideshow.

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Home automation a la Pi

Home Assistant describes itself as “an open-source home automation platform running on Python 3. Track and control all devices at home and automate control. Perfect to run on a Raspberry Pi.” Home Assistant is really impressive with 536 currently supported services and components including Alexa, Google Home, Netatmo, MQTT, Philips Hue, IFTT, and Nest. You can play with the demo (shown above) and the documentation is very good.

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Ergo Jr., lending a hand

The Poppy project explains that it “is a community-centered robotic project. It targets the needs of a multidisciplinary community where researchers, teachers, artists, and robotic enthusiasts can share their work and ideas.” Driven by a Raspberry Pi, the Ergo Jr. is an open source (hardware and software) robotic arm designed for education. With a 3D printed frame and six motors it comes with three tools: a lampshade, a gripper, and a pen holder. Unfortunately, the kits, made in Europe, are a little pricey starting at around $285.

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The NSA wants you to have privacy (really!)

From the Information Assurance mission at NSA (yes, that NSA) comes goSecure, an open source VPN system that runs on a Raspberry Pi as either a client or a server (x86 computers and Amazon Web Services are also supported as servers). The project explains: “The system consists of a single server and one or many clients. strongSwan is used to establish a Suite B IPsec tunnel with pre-shared keys between the server and client(s). The core crypt implementation has been verified by NSA’s Cryptol tool.” Way cool and, for many of us, an unexpected gem from the outfit that has our backups.

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Environmental monitoring with AirPi

According to the project’s About page: “The AirPi is essentially a Raspberry Pi, a cheap credit card sized computer, hooked up to various sensors with the programming to automatically read them, interpret these readings into meaningful information, and finally upload the data directly onto the internet. We built our AirPi to measure temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, light levels, smoke, and the concentrations of the harmful gas pollutants carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Excluding power, internet, and the Pi itself, building the AirPi with all of these sensors cost around £55. It is, however, intended to be used with different combinations of sensors according to what the user is interested in measuring, so it can be very cheap and easy to set up.”

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Solar power to the max

The Portable 2-Axis Solar Tracker is an ambitious Raspberry Pi-powered project designed to maximize the output of solar power panels, particularly in developing countries. The project’s creator, Jay Doscher, explains: “The concept is not a new one, but rather an existing idea using a novel approach. Solar panels generate much less power when the sun is "off axis" and at an angle to the panels. By pointing the panel at the sun, we get the best power for the given panel.” Started as a Hackaday Prize 2015 entry, the project was abandoned but the plans and code are still available.

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Is the toilet free?

No, really, is the toilet free? In your organization, when you feel the need to answer a call of nature, what are the chances that a stall is actually available when you arrive at the restroom? In many offices where there are a minimal number of stalls, the probability of being thwarted is high. The folks at Made by Many created a Raspberry Pi-based system called Is the Toilet Free? that addresses this vexing problem. Their solution tracks stall door openings and closings using microswitches that communicate with a Raspberry Pi that tracks stall status and there's even has a public wall-mounted status display. On their site you’ll find a detailed explanation of their design process, the electronics involved, and the software they created which even tracks visits and durations. They are flushed with success.

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Mark Gibbs

The Gearhead Raspberry Pindex

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