Best Raspberry Pi Pico projects

Raspberry Pi Pico, the mighty microcontroller board that plays well with other electronics: the latest issue of HackSpace salutes some amazing inventions with our blinder of a board. Here are just a few we’ve plucked from its pages.

Joker phone

Pico might be the newest Raspberry Pi model, but it’s got plenty to offer upcycling and retro-hacking fans. Team DIY Champs took it upon themselves to update a rotary dial telephone in order to bring a bit of light-hearted nonsense to proceedings in the form of groan-worthy Dad Jokes (see the API at icanhazdadjoke.com).

pico phone

The Pico Phone project uses a custom PCB with Notecard and a SparkFun 12-button Qwiic Keypad, along with some CircuitPython code and a Twilio account to connect to the Dad Jokes API. Once assembled, dial the Pico Phone’s number, hold the handset to your ear, and press the # key to hear a terrible pun. 

BBC Micro emulator

BBC Micro B fan and owner Robin Grosset makes use of a BBC Basic emulator ported for Pico (see
hsmag.cc/kilograham), Pimoroni’s Pico VGA Demo Base board to connect a screen, and an audio output so he can enjoy authentic 1980s game sounds while playing his favourite BBC Micro game, Phoenix. Robin then connects the Pico setup to his MacBook, as well as using a 3.3 V serial adapter to connect the keyboard of his BBC emulator. He then downloads specially written BBC Micro emulation code by Graham Sanderson (choose the RP2040 option if you try this project yourself), where there is also code for the event forwarder that allows you to control the game via the keyboard.

BBC Micro and Pico emulator2

The Phoenix game is a version written in 2017 as a retro project and downloaded from bbcmicro.co.uk with controls mapped to a modern QWERTY keyboard – Robin shows off the slightly different key arrangement on his actual BBC Micro B. 

The gaming experience is pseudo-authentic: as Robin’s YouTube video explains, the background sound when he ‘loads‘ Phoenix on his Pico is that of it seemingly accessing its absent floppy disk! 

For those keen to see other 1980s games for the Pico, Robin promises future ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 emulation videos to come.

Pico orrery

Simulating the movement of the planets around the sun is the sort of creative challenge that early astronomers loved. The orrery dates back to around 150 BCE, but is named after the 4th Earl of Orrery, who commissioned one in 1713.

Digital orrery

Dmytro Panin has designs on making his own mechanical orrery someday, and has already got as far as creating a digital version. “Astronomy has always fascinated me, and I wanted something that I could look at and see the planets in the solar system progress over time, so I built a visual reminder,” he told our colleagues at The MagPi. As well as Raspberry Pi Pico, Dmytro’s version has a Waveshare Precision RTC expansion module, since the exact time is critical to all things astronomical. A Pimoroni Pico Display shows off the results of Pico’s calculations of which celestial being is where. 

If you’ve little need to check the current position of Saturn, but wouldn’t mind knowing the time of day, dr-mod (as Dmytro is known on Reddit) has also come up with a Pico-based true binary clock using some of the same code.

Better burger maker

Better burger3

VEEB knows that food and drink rank high among life’s essentials. MasterChef fans get to combine tech and foodie bragging rights with a DIY sous vide known as Heat-o-matic that uses a hotter-cooler approach to cooking burgers and other morsels. Key to it all, of course, is a temperature sensor and switches connected to the Pico.

HackSpace magazine issue 52 out NOW!

This month and every month, HackSpace magazine brings you the best projects, tips, tricks and tutorials. In this issue, you can find out about the other two Christmas PCBs I made, learn about about how makers are using Machine Learning, get started with vinyl cutting, and much more. You can get HackSpace from the Raspberry Pi Press online store or your local newsagents.

hackspace 52

As always, every issue is free to download in PDF format from the HackSpace magazine website.

3 comments

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My first Pico project is a enlarged RC Servo. The state machines are great for reading a rotary encoder at high frequencies.

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Yay… I built the Pico phone. Thanks!

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That is not a picture of a rotary phone…

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