Ice cream all around

Ten fun Raspberry Pi projects: JAXenter’’s pick of the crop

Lucy Carey

As sales of the tiny computer top two million, we take a look at some of our favourite Pi powered projects to date.


Pocket size, versatile, and cheap as chips, the
Raspberry Pi has enjoyed blockbuster success since its launch in
February 2012. Originally designed to help promote computer science
in schools, the ease at which this British designed, single-board
computer can be ported into other projects has meant that a much
wider demographic has taken the Raspberry Pi into their hearts. It
was revealed last week that sales had crossed two million in the
last week of October – roughly three months ahead of the Raspberry
Pi’s projected target.

Having recently struck up a deal for Java to run

natively in every unit
, the Raspberry Pi continues to go from
strength to strength. To mark this latest sales milestone, JAXenter
has compiled a rundown of ten of our favourite creative uses for
the very little computer that could.

The DukePad

At this year’s JavaOne technical keynote, Oracle devs Jasper
Potts and Richard Bair presented a demo that got heads turning: a
JavaFX-powered touchscreen tablet called the DukePad. This open
source hardware design uses off-the-shelf parts and is entirely
powered by OSS. Alongside the detailed
build instructions
, the team write that they hope it will
provide “a way for kids to learn how computers work and to fire
their imaginations for those things that are not yet built, but
desperately need a builder to dream them up and make them

2) The Raspberry Pi datacentre

Lemon and chicken, the Fresh Prince and Jazzy
Jeff…some things were just supposed to go together. Both built to
foster creativity, Lego and Raspberry Pi make natural partners.
Whilst the multitude of Lego/ Pi projects seem to be based on
making computer casings, by far the most spectacular thing we’ve
seen has to be Hazelcast’s
scale-model data center
. Created to demonstrate a fully
functioning data center environment, this creation combines 48 Pi
units with a tower of Lego, and allows the Hazelcast team to
replicate the effect of their open source software. Apparently, the
next step is to recruit Lego Hazelcast employee people to walk
around inside the data center and support the cluster.

3) Translation glasses

Google Glass may be slowly making the transition from
uber-nerdy bit of kit to chic accessory, but personally, we’re
quite excited about Will Powell’s attempt at making real-time

translation glasses
. These smart specs work by combining
video eyewear
with a few Raspberry Pis and an iPhone and iPad
to allow for one person speaking one language to effectively
communicate with someone speaking a different language, with
translations provided by Microsoft’s Bing. Whilst we can’t vouch
for the veracity of the aforementioned service, it certainly is a
promising effort.

4) Make your own arcade machine

Homemade gaming table tutorials have been doing the
rounds for a while – probably due to the fact that a good deal of
today’s tech innovators were the ones hanging around the game
machines back in the day. There’s a tonne of solutions out there
that allow you to use the Pi to make your very own bespoke arcade
fun – and, once you’ve invested in the initial hardware, you’ll
never have to worry about running out of change again.

5) A Pandora Streamer

With a bit of elementary GPIO, Python, BASH and basic Circuits,
and of course,  the Pi, you too can make your own nifty
standalone Pandora Streamer for browser-free music goodness.

6) Medical monitoring

Medical technology continues to grow at a rate of
knots, and  Raspberry Pi has been harnessed as part of this
evolution. Libelium, a Spanish wireless hardware manufacturer, has
created a Raspberry Pi/Arduino shield that gives easy access to
collecting biometric data like blood pressure, respiration rates,
and galvanic skin response (in a nutshell, how well skin conducts
electricity). This information can be used to monitor in real time
the state of a patient or to get sensitive data in order to be
subsequently analysed for medical diagnosis. Though it’s yet to be
licensed, in theory, this could offer an easy and cheap method of
remote medical monitoring – and no more worrying about cold doctor

Fire hero

If you’re a frustrated pyromaniac, you’ll love this little hack
by Chris Marion, which utilises propane fire poofers, Guitar Hero,
and of course, a Raspberry Pi to make Fire Hero! As the player
strums away, flames shoot up into the air with each corresponding
key stroke. The system is controlled by a Raspberry Pi and an
Arduino, with a server running on the Pi and allowing a remote
computer to control the system. The Pi sends commands over serial
to the Arduino, which switches solid state relays that actuate the
valves. 19 year old Marion says he dreamt up all this up during
class – and, whilst a little less wholesome than the Foundation
perhaps envisioned, proof that kids really are getting excited
about computing with the help of the Pi.

8) Saving rhinos

Conservationists have embraced the practicality, and
diminutive proportions of the Pi to monitor endangered rhinos
in Kenya
. The computers are being used to operate cameras to
help form a cyber ‘safety net’ watching remote areas of the Tsavo
National Park, helping rangers spot both poachers and roaming
rhinos. According to Jonathan Pallant, senior engineer at Cambridge
Consultants, the Pi was chosen because it uses so little power and
will be able to get the most out of the onboard batteries.

9) On-demand pet feeder

Using the same basic principles as a standard
automated pet food dispenser, by incorporating Raspberry Pi, this
hack takes servicing your furry friends a step further. The
Raspberry Pi receives an email over Wifi, and hooks into the main
PCB of the feeder over its GPIO pins to trigger a feeding. It even
incorporates a basic webcam to send you proof that your pets are
sated and not trashing your house. Now, even while you’re on
vacation, you can still treat your Twitter followers to endless cat
pictures. Won’t they be pleased?

10) Rasp-beery Pi

Now that everyone and their grandmother are setting up their own
craft brewing dens, how do you stand out from the crowd? How about
by automating your
fermentation process
 with a Raspberry Pi? Open source
Raspberry Pi and Arduino based project BrewPi is probably the easiest stepping
stone to achieving geekily perfect beer, allowing you to hold your
beer temperature far more steady than usual thermostat-controlled
devices. Cheers to that – and let’s raise a glass for the Pi – we
can’t wait to see what its growing fan base uses it for next.

comments powered by Disqus