25 Powerful Raspberry Pi Projects: part II

By PJ Evans. Posted

What happens when a maker gets ambitious and decides to go all‑out on their new Raspberry Pi project? Part II of our advanced builds showcase demonstrates why physical computing and the arts are a very good match.

Creative pursuits

Etch-a-Sketch Art With Python

Maker: Sunny Balasubramanian

A classic toy featuring in many people’s childhoods, the Etch-a-Sketch allows you to draw pictures without making a mess, then wipe the board with a satisfying shake. Sunny used servos and a Raspberry Pi to take control of the dials, then used edge-finding image filters to create an Etch-a-Sketch ‘camera’.

Emulate amazing images using an Etch-A-Sketch, servos and a Raspberry Pi


Maker: Lorraine Underwood

A beautiful 8×8×8 structure of ping pong balls, each containing a NeoPixel to create amazing colour patterns, and you can even play 3D Pac-Man. Of particular interest is Lorraine’s blog and talks on the project, where she is brutally honest about the difficulties of making such a unique object.

Cubert is an incredible ping pong ball and NeoPixel art installation

Network Knitting Machine

Maker: Sarah Spencer

One of the must-see exhibits at 2018’s Electromagnetic Field camp was ‘Stargazing’ by Sarah Spencer. This map of the universe measures a colossal 4.6 by 2.8 metres and was knitted on a hacked Brother mechanical knitting machine, controlled by an Arduino and Raspberry Pi. It’s even networked.

The 'Stargazing' star map was created on a Raspberry Pi-programmed knitting machine

True Compact Camera

Maker: Martin Parker

Raspberry Pi Zero can fit into some tiny places, but how about a vintage 110 format compact camera? Martin replaced the internals with a Raspberry Pi Zero and Camera Module. Don’t worry about film running out when your camera can take thousands of high-res snaps.

True Compact Camera replaces film with Raspberry Pi

Pi Clock 2

Maker: Tim Richardson

Tim’s clock is made up of two 64×32-pixel displays and displays information being relayed from a Raspberry Pi-controlled weather station. It features some clever energy-saving extras, such as a motion sensor to only update the screen when someone is in the room. It’s been to Parliament as part of the one-millionth Raspberry Pi celebrations.

Pi Clock 2 displays weather information as well as the time

Take photos from space!

Maker: Surrey Satellites & University of Surrey

Space is hard. Space, when you’re not SpaceX or NASA, is extremely hard, but that didn’t stop Surrey Satellites. Having secured a slot on Soyuz, they launched the DoT-1 satellite, which had a Raspberry Pi and camera on board supplied by the University of Surrey. It had a simple task: take a photo from orbit using commercially available off-the-shelf parts. We spoke to Surrey Satellites’ Director of Engineering, Rob Goddard.

What inspired this project?

Whilst the primary objective of the DoT-1 (Demonstration of Technology) mission was to fly the company’s next-generation avionics, there was space for some additional experimental payloads, hopefully stimulating the interest of our younger engineers. One of those experiments, designed and implemented in conjunction with the University of Surrey Space Centre, was to capture an image from space using a commercial-grade Raspberry Pi Zero computer and camera, store the data, and downlink it via a new data handling system on board the satellite.

DoT-1 satellite internals complete with Raspberry Pi Zero and camera

What challenges did you face?

It was a surprisingly easy project! We performed some screening tests on three Raspberry Pi Zero computers to select the best performing over-temperature, and then packaged the computer and camera into a metal box. The standard camera lens was changed for a fish-eye lens. The remaining electronics were completely untouched.

Are you happy with the result?

We were certainly pleasantly surprised by the quality of both the still imagery and video capture from Raspberry PI Zero and camera. There could be some credible applications for low-cost computers and cameras of this type. We’re considering flying them as inspection cameras to confirm deployment of solar panels, or to view robotic arm movement.

Surrey Satellites with the Raspberry Pi-touting DoT-1 satellite

From The MagPi store