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10 Great Raspberry Pi Projects To Try When Starting Out

Posted by Brad on December 17, 2018

Raspberry pie is delicious.  It is sweet, tangy, and lingers just a bit on your tongue after tasting it.  Personally, it is one of my favorite pies, but if your child is asking you for a raspberry pie these days, chances are they aren’t after baked goods.  They are likely desiring a Raspberry Pi – a credit card sized mini-computer.

Raspberry Pis are low cost, credit card sized mini computers that can plug into a television or computer monitor using a standard keyboard and mouse.  Using programming languages Scratch and Python, Raspberry Pi devices are designed to teach individuals of any age how to program.

In addition to basic computer functions like web browsing and gaming, Raspberry Pis also have the ability to interact with ancillary devices in the outside world.  Whether you are a beginning programmer or have years of experience, Raspberry Pi devices are a fantastic way to journey into the world of computer programming without breaking the bank on expensive software and supercomputers.

While the capacities of the Raspberry Pi are limitless, we’re going to take a look at 10 great Raspberry Pi projects to try when you’re first starting out with the device.

Alexa-powered Dashboard Camera

Nicknamed the Dride, Raspberry Pi has the ability to work with Alexa and give your vehicle a dashboard camera that can greatly enhance your daily commute while making navigation and Google (or Apple) Map applications safer.  With the Pi, you can program this handly little dashboard camera to warn you of the danger of a front end collision, warn you if you’re swerving off the road, or capture license plates of dangerous drivers.

In addition to the safety of collision warning, this handy little Raspberry Pi project can also sync with Google Maps or Spotify to play music or give you turn by turn directions without ever needing to take your eyes off the road in front of you.

Electric Skateboard

Sticking with our theme of using the Raspberry Pi to enhance your modes of transportation, we bring you our second great use of your new Raspberry Pi.

A very simple starter project featuring a mere 100 lines of code, your Raspberry Pi device has the ability to turn a boring, traditional skateboard into a motorized ride to take you all over town.

Utilizing a Nintendo Wii controller, a motor and battery, you can program your skateboard to ride you anywhere you need to go at a pretty good pace (19 mph).

Media Streaming

While Netflix and Hulu are all the rage, they all require registrations and subscriptions.  You have the ability to program your Raspberry Pi to serve as a media-streaming box yourself using the local movies you have in your personal collection.  Made with a higher powered computer than a Chromecast or Amazon Fire stick, the Raspberry Pi software utilizing Kodi media center will give you a lot more power than the streaming-centric hardware options available at the same pricepoint.

Smart TVs from Dumb TVs

Most televisions these days are smart TVs.  They come with apps installed that allow you to load up web browsers or movie streaming applications right from the television.  Many people still have older televisions that don’t have these features. Your Raspberry Pi device has the ability to give your TV basic computing powers and stream web videos when it never would have dreamed of having those capabilities before.  The other nice thing about this particular project is that while there are Chromeboxes and Computer Sticks designed to achieve the same thing, your Raspberry Pi device can achieve this at a fraction of the cost.

Wireless Network Printers

With the rise of file sharing and cloud servers, printing hard copies of documents doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as it used to – even book publication is starting to take a backseat to the rise of eBooks and Amazon Kindle publishing; so chances are you have an old USB printer in your closet that isn’t hooked up to a PC (if you’re even still using a PC in a tablet-oriented world).  Raspberry Pi gives you the ability with a few basic USB connections to plug your traditionally hardwired printer into the wall in a corner of the house and connect it to your wireless network – even if it’s not equipped with its own wireless network card!

Regardless of whether you are using a laptop, a pdf viewer on your phone or tablet, you can wirelessly send your documents to print without the hassle of pulling it out and rearranging cords for the rare circumstance where printing pages is actually necessary.

Gaming Emulator

One of the most popular (and certainly one of the most fun) uses of the Raspberry Pis since they came around was to utilize their abilities to serve as an emulator for older generation video games.  Chances are you’re not going to be able to program it to run Fortnite or the latest Call of Duty, but many simpler video games like Atari or 8 and 16 bit games like Super Mario Bros can certainly be emulated with ease on your Raspberry Pi.  Some users have gone so far as to hollow out original Nintendo cartridges and install their Raspberry Pi directly into the cartridge to give their gaming emulator a “Classic NES” feel on a much cheaper budget.

Music Streaming

Paired with applications like Volumio and Rune Audio, Raspberry Pis have the ability to turn “dumb” speakers into smart speakers for your music streaming desires.  When used in tandem with your cell phone you have the ability to transform your older speakers into high-fidelity, well performing music streaming devices that are on par with the quality you would expect from a licensed Chromecast Audio device.

Playing Minecraft

Designed for the kids, Minecraft is a popular video game that was created using Python programming software.  Because the makers of Raspberry Pi built it to help get kids interested in the nuts and bolts of computer programming, not only is there a free, Raspberry Pi edition of Minecraft available for download, but it also teaches users how to use the Python programming language as they navigate the world they build around them in the game.

Smart Home Hub

It seems more and more devices inside our home are becoming smart devices.  Refrigerators now come with computer screens that can tell you the weather, remind you when it is time to go grocery shopping again, or function as a message board depending on your need.  Hubs allow you to turn on and off programmed lights, security alarms, or even raise or lower compatible window shades.

Rather than purchasing an expensive smart home hub, your $35 Raspberry Pi can integrate with Amazon Echo or Google Home to control a wide variety of smart home devices.

Robot Construction

What is the point of having the ability to program your own computer the size of a credit card if that same computer isn’t smart enough to build a robot?  There are several different simple robots can can be built relatively simply using your Raspberry Pi. Some of the more popular robot variants include one that has a sensor to follow a line on the floor (useful for painting, gluing lines or potentially marking construction sites or roadways), avoiding obstacles, or functioning as a rudimentary remote controlled robot that can move in any direction via controls in an app on your phone.

Instructions for several different simple robots can be found online, and are a great way to get yourself or child some experience in the world of robotic programming.

Verdict

There are so many fun and exciting ideas that can be made manifest with the pocket computer that is a Raspberry Pi, and it offers the ability to learn the science of programming in a casual, fun way. Not only that, but you can — as we outlined here — create some practical technologies that can save you some money in the long-run, such as being able to turn that old, dumb TV into a Smart TV, but without the high cost!

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