People are fascinated by miniaturisation and magnification. From oversized replicas of everyday objects to intricate miniature versions of famous landmarks, we have a profound interest in huge models of small things and tiny models of big things. But why do we find ourselves drawn to these seemingly unnecessary oddities? I decided to make a giant Raspberry Pi to find out.
When I was younger, I spent time backpacking around the world, visiting many big things along the way. These are especially common in New Zealand, for some reason, where they have everything from a 7.5-metre-tall carrot to a 12-metre-long salmon. Thousands of people travel far and wide to see these things, and I still have the picture of me standing beneath a giant lobster.
As a contrast, seeing a Statue of Liberty sculpture in an eye of a needle or a beautiful work of art on a single grain of rice is fascinating. Ultimately all these things appeal to our innate sense of curiosity, our appreciation for detail, and the allure of experiencing the world from a different perspective. Also, they’re just good old-fashioned fun.
If you build it, they will come
There’s a lengthy history of giant boards and I’m certainly not the first to make a big Raspberry Pi. Michael Castor and Christian Moist made a 10x normal size Raspberry Pi for Maker Faire Bay Area back in 2016, and Zach Hipps of Byte Sized Engineering built a 12x scale Raspberry Pi 3B.
I built mine for the Grand Discoveries event at the Grand Arcade shopping centre, home to the Raspberry Pi Store. Grand Discoveries is an exhibition that will celebrate the iconic discoveries and inventions made here in Cambridge. The giant Pi is going into a glass display case, so space was limited, which means I can’t claim it is the biggest Raspberry Pi out there (boooo!). But at six times normal size, I think it’s the first big Raspberry Pi Model 4B.
The process involved 3D printing, laser cutting, and etching, as well as woodworking. I adjusted individual component parts using CAD software to make them easier to 3D print, and mounted everything on a 9mm-thick piece of MDF wood. A lot of sanding and painting then followed.
I scaled up the lettering and logos to make laser-cut stencils out of masking tape. I even did this to “print” onto a giant SD card; since you can’t even see this when the card is inserted into the board, it’s completely pointless, but it’s firmly in keeping with the spirit of the project.
The first thing every maker needs to do with a new single board computer is blink an LED. It’s actually the law. It turns out you can buy a 10x scale LED, but not a 6x scale one. So, off to the 3D printer again I go. I ended up using twelve NeoPixels with an obligatory fake 470 ohm resistor (yes, I know, it looks like a blue line and it should be a violet one — I didn’t have any violet paint, OK?). The LED is controlled by a Raspberry Pi Pico running a MicroPython script to fade the NeoPixels on and off in green.
I revealed the board to the folks here at Pi Towers and they loved it. They can be a tough crowd for this sort of thing, which is hardly surprising seeing as they are the literal geniuses who make the actual Raspberry Pis.
“What about a miniature Raspberry Pi?” I hear you say. Well, seeing as you ask so nicely, I made this especially for you.
If you want to see my Big Pi for yourself, then please do come along to the Grand Arcade in Cambridge, UK, if you can. It will be on display on the ground floor from 22 July – 24 September 2023. Don’t forget to visit the official Raspberry Pi store on the first floor while you’re there.