It just keeps on going. Our favorite fruity mini-computer, the Raspberry Pi, seems unable to stop; there’s always something new available, something pretty useful to play with, and new ways of teaching children and newbies about computers.
Forget TFT displays and barometric sensors – these five expansions will change how you use your Raspberry Pi, and teach you something along the way…
What Can You Do With a Capacitive Touch HAT?
A HAT is an expansion for the Raspberry Pi which sits atop the GPIO; it is an acronym for Hardware Attached on Top. Adafruit’s Capacitive Touch HAT adds 12 capacitive touch sensors to the Pi, which will detect when one of the sensor electrodes is touched, and react accordingly.
Take a look:
The possibilities go beyond creating a Python-scripted fruit drum kit, of course. Capacitive touch is used widely in smartphones and tablets, so you can use this hardware to develop projects that react in many different ways, from alarms to human interface devices and beyond.
Design wise, this HAT is really well planned, as the 12 sensors have figure 8 holes perfectly sized for alligator clips to be connected. Touch pads should either be electrically conductive or full of water.
This kit is very affordable at just $20 (£14) and can be ordered from Adafruit or Amazon.
CamJam EduKit 3 – Robotics
Perhaps the must-have expansion for anyone with an interest in robotics, the CamJam EduKit 3 is ridiculously affordable. Available through The Pi Hut, for under $30 (around £17) you’ll be able to buy a kit that comprises two motors, two wheels, a third “wheel” bearing, battery pack, a GPIO expansion and a sensor for guiding your robot along a black line.
Programming of the robot – to which you must add your own chassis (perhaps something built from Lego, or even the CamJam EduKit 3 box!) – is via Python, and instructions are provided as worksheets on the CamJam website.
This is a great project for children to engage with too, and depending on their age they might be interested in building the robot or even typing up the Python script.
Other robotics kits are available for the Raspberry Pi. We’ve previously looked at the PiBorg PicoBorg Reverse, for instance.
Safe Shutdowns with a UPS
The UPS PIco HAT brings uninterruptible power supply technology to the Raspberry Pi! This means that your Pi will never be forcibly shutdown during a power outage, thanks to a 300mAh LiPO battery which aids with controlled shutdown (this basic version is just or $35 or £19.99 at ModMyPi).
For use in longer periods of power outages, you might prefer the 3000mAh LiPO battery, which can be added for around $30 (£14.99) and delivers up to an astonishing 8 hours.
The UPS Pico works by detecting power failure and instantly bringing the battery online in order to continue use or manage an orderly shutdown. Similarly, when voltage is restored, the HAT detects this and switches back to mains electric.
For a free/budget solution, you could build your own portable power supply; although this won’t make for a great UPS, the Pi will be battery powered.
CHIP for Raspberry Pi
Not quite the moving robot of the CamJam EduKit 3, CHIP is nevertheless an interesting option if you’re using the Raspberry Pi to get your kids interested in computing. CHIP is from the Pixel Pals range, and is simple to assemble. In the box you get the cut-out CHIP, two LEDs, two resistors and a PCB to mount CHIP on the GPIO array.
Here’s an overview of the Pixel Pals:
Pixel Pals CHIP for Raspberry Pi is just $20 (£12) from Adafruit. An Arduino-compatible version of CHIP is also available.
Control Servos with Your Raspberry Pi
There’s only a single PWM (pulse width modulation) capable pin on the Raspberry Pi, so if you want to build a robotic arm or maybe smart home projects, you’ll need a PWM HAT expansion for the Pi, a device which makes it possible to control up to 16 servos.
If 16 isn’t enough, meanwhile, this HAT is stackable, which means that you could connect two and control 32 servos… or even stack 62 of them to control a maximum of 992 servos (that should open and close a lot of curtains).
Note that you will have to source your own servos, to use with this 16-Channel PWM/Servo HAT from Adafruit, which will set you back around $20 (£16 UK).
Just like the Raspberry Pi itself, what you can do with these expansions is limited only by your imagination. Do you have a favored expansion, addition or component that you use with your Raspberry Pi? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image Credits:super hero by Tomacco via Shutterstock