Pi Zero projects

Pi Zeros are still selling out as fast as they go on the shelves. If you’re still looking for one, keep polling Adafruit, Micro Center, Pimoroni and The Pi Hut – they’re all getting stock hot from the factory. We hope supply and demand will even out soon!

If you’re holding one in your hot little hands and are looking for some project inspiration, here are some projects we’ve spotted this week. Let us know in the comments if you’ve done something yourself that you think we might like to feature! Follow the links for more details.

First up, here’s ProfExtreme’s musical Tesla coil. It’s playing a MIDI file. Don’t lick the sparkly end.

Stuff with Kirby (more info at this link to YouTube) has made an AirPlay device with his Zero, a Pimoroni pHAT DAC, and Shairport, so he can stream music from his devices to speakers elsewhere in the house. This is a great video tutorial – thanks Kirby!

Matt “Circuitbeard” Brailsford has adapted Frederick Vandenbosch’s USB hub mod, and built a simply gorgeous little USB hub integrated with a case for his Zero. These aren’t for sale, but you can make your own from off-the-shelf parts: he’s provided instructions on his website.


Frederick Vandenbosch didn’t just start off the USB hub idea: he also made this thing of beauty. It’s a connected information display, and it’s just…adorable. Find out how to make your own.

Lots of you have been installing Retropie on your Zeros for a spot of retro gaming. The truly dedicated have been cramming their Zeros into old GameBoys, ancient controllers and so on. (The first thing we did with one here at Pi Towers was to bung one inside a NES controller…which we then used to play Sonic the Hedgehog, which was a bit confusing.)

The neatest and most satisfying Retropie example I’ve been able to find comes from Craig “W3ace” on Thingiverse. This is a 3d-printed NES controller (you can do the same with a genuine shop-bought one) with a very tidy Zero integration. Find out how to make your own here.


Wordclocks are always a favourite in these parts, and this tiny example is the first we’ve seen made with a Zero. Dave Saul shows it off here: there isn’t a full list of instructions, but we’ve other wordclock projects here you can borrow from.


Andrew Mulholland has been working on making the Pi Zero a USB device, so you can program it from another computer. Less glamorous than musical Tesla coils, arguably, but really useful. Read more here.


Les Pounder has equipped a very topical robot with a Pi Zero.

This next project is TOTALLY ILLEGAL in the UK and in some other countries, where the FM spectrum is locked down: please check your local radio authority before you go ahead and make one. But we thought it was really cool for those who live in other jurisdictions: here are Make’s Pirate Radio throwies. Full instructions here.

Finally, ModMyPi has a very nice tutorial on running your Pi Zero off an AA battery pack: especially useful for people making wearables projects.


We’ll be rounding up more projects as they appear – drop me a line at liz (at) raspberrypi.org if you’ve got something you think other Pi users would be interested in.


Les Pounder avatar

Thanks for mentioning my R2D2 project :)
The write up is live on Tech Radar site at http://www.techradar.com/how-to/computing/how-to-build-your-own-r2-d2-with-the-raspberry-pi-zero-1310979

Liz Upton avatar

Thanks Les – I’ll update the post to reflect that!

Frederick Vandenbosch avatar

Thanks for the mentions! Wondering what to build next :)

Liz Upton avatar

Any time! Your little info display’s probably my favourite of all of these projects; there’s just something about the form-factor. Lovely piece of work – thank you!

elParaguayo avatar

I liked this one too. It’s beautifully compact.

I’d also think it would be possible to adapt a number of screens from my own information screen project (https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=121392) to work on this one.

Great work Frederick.

Robert Zwemer avatar

Have been trying to get hold of a Raspberry Pi Zero since their release. Have put myself on the notification of the sites mentioned once again. No luck yet. Live in a small community in northern Michigan, US. Would like to purchase 20 of them to give to students in the local school (Northport PS) in Northport, MI US.

Liz Upton avatar

While there are still shortages because demand is so high, we’re asking stores to limit sales to one per customer, so a classroom set probably won’t be achievable this quarter. TBH, Zero’s probably not the best option for teaching anyway: it’s relatively slow and inflexible next to the Pi 2, and getting started with it is a much steeper learning curve for beginners.

Pete avatar

1st £4 Pi Zero
2nd Hens teeth
3rd Rocking horse manure
4th Unicorn
Just listing some things that seam to me to be fabled. … Are you sure Eban isn’t Ebaying a load of zeros on the side for £25 a pop? If he isn’t .. Who is? and how did they get one? is auctioning zeros really the way to go? (some are up for north of 30 odd quid)

Liz Upton avatar

Your logic is scarily close to “I have never seen a wombat, therefore they do not exist”.

Pete avatar

You never know when someone is going to say something profound that changes your day! My screensaver is now mother and baby wombat …ahhh

Zeb avatar

The Zeros disappear as soon as they can when they get in-stock

I was lucky – was checking twitter when they come back in stock at pimaroni – ordered the bundle with adapters and case for around £14, and had it 2 days!

RaspiTrick avatar

Lucky me too. Ordered mine same day the press release went out at Farnell/Element14, and got it yesterday. Nov. 26 to Jan 15, “only” one and a half months delivery time – approaches that of chinese webshops :-/

ProfExtreme avatar

Thanks for featuring my PiZero Tesla coil. More details on the build are here http://www.extremeelectronics.co.uk/pi-zero-tesla-coil/ @extelec

Liz Upton avatar

Thank YOU – we loved it!

Pete Stevens avatar

Please can we attach the Midi-Tesla-PiZero to the PiSynth you had last year for the birthday party?

AndrewS avatar


Toby avatar

I have a Pi Zero from my subscription to the MagPi.
Defiantly inspired by these AMAZING projects

David avatar

Thanks for featuring my word clock, I plan to get some instructions and the Python code on a Github over the weekend.

Tzj avatar

Would the device (gadget) mode be as standard in later raspian versions? And if it does, would there be presets for all compatable modes?

Also some in depth examples would be good, like gpio monitoring/access via usb.

Andrew Mulholland avatar

It is being worked on. Is easier said than done to include it. Can follow developments here – https://github.com/raspberrypi/linux/pull/1239

Nick avatar

Certainly going to try these project on my Pi Zero. IF I HAD ONE.

Paul Collins avatar

I developed a web enabled fish tank on the PiZero.

Monitors water and ambient temperature to a SQL database, with web access. Controls the white & blue LED lights over a 24 hour period. Emails any temperature warnings to my phone.

Had to change to a Pi 2 so we could have streaming video!

Next project is a GPS derived, head up display, speedometer.

AndrewS avatar

“Next project is a GPS derived, head up display, speedometer.”


Paul Collins avatar

Thanks for the pointer.

I’ve got a two digit LED display, just working out the library for mirror image befor the USB GPS comes.

solar3000 avatar

I got my hands on a second pi zero. Both from Microcenter.

I found a ABS box the width of the zero, 1.5 x as deep, and an inch (3cm) high. Just enough space for the zero, an adafruit p910 1.5 inch LCD screen (4cm), and empty space in between for possibly a battery and charger.

It would be portable. So far I have no use for it except that I built it.

The tiny composite screen 160×240 is limiting.

So there I built a portable I-don’t-know-what.

Leo White avatar

I put a little PiZero bot together last month (Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u38X-v4sQzk ). Unfortunately I managed to burn out the AdaFruit PowerBoost last night when testing a new, smaller LiPo battery (oops!).

I picked up a little ‘London Bus’ mint tin in Windsor last weekend that is just big enough to fit the Pi Zero inside that I hope to squeeze all the components into…

Mark Mascaro avatar

I was able to find a HDMI Micro female to HDMI mini male 8 inch cable online, no adapters needed. With that and a home made USB micro female to split USB male I am using a Zero on an Atrix lapdock. Just waiting to see what the battery life ends up at. The PI B+ got 5 hours.

Steve Drain avatar

I have put a Zero in a business card case to mount on a Lapdock:

Chris Murray avatar

I also made a bot with the Pi Zero using the zerobot code from MagPi #40 as the base but adding a flask web interface. Fitted nicely into a desktop sized Henry hoover – http://chr15murray.github.io/henry/

Ash Waytr avatar

I want to try making a smart watch using the RPi Zero. Does anyone know of a screen that I can use for my project? (preferably one that ships internationally)

Frederick Vandenbosch avatar

The Adafruit I2C/SPI OLED displays work really well in combination with the Pi Zero!

Jon Maddison avatar

Currently building a connected wearable badge using a Pi Zero and a scrollphat. Have it showing simple messages plus stock quotes, text translations and tweets to #pibadge, captured using node-red alongside python. Will write it up when I get a chance https://twitter.com/jonmaddison/status/687608376885407745

AndrewS avatar

And for people looking to make their own Pi Zero projects, there’s also ProtoZero:

Pete avatar

Well done Zeb … I think you’ve been really fortunate … can’t wait to catch you up! I’m using a model A to prototype a radio project idea .. I’m hoping that swapping the cables and sdcard over will instantly give me a smaller footprint when completed.

Kirby avatar

Thank you for mentioning my project! I use it daily in my house, its the most used Pi I have

Silviu avatar

I’ve been thinking how expensive ramdrives are.
I want (later when I can buy many Raspberry Pi Zeros) to make multiple ramdrives to use for swap over usb mass storage device (link up in this post).
Then for each of them I would make a usb mass storage device in tmpfs (about 400 MB, only console at boot), and automatically give them a unique repeatable at every boot UUID. Very cheap (Pi Zero 5$ + sdcard 1$ + USB cable 1$)*(how many).
On the main computer that I want to put the swap on, I would put a usb hub with them connected and in it’s /etc/fstab :
UUID=aaa none swap sw,pri=3 0 0
UUID=bbb none swap sw,pri=3 0 0

UUID=xxx none swap sw,pri=3 0 0

AndrewS avatar

Neat idea, but obviously the limited bandwidth of USB will make this *much* slower than just adding extra RAM directly to your main computer.
Reminds me of the “RAID on floppy drives” project ;-)

Silviu avatar

Yes, but very low latency and parallelism means far better than even an expensive usb 2.0 SSD speed (swap is slowed by latency). Did you ever see on a computer with swap on SATA harddisk after closing Iceweasel/Firefox with multiple tabs open how hard the desktop background draws itself from swap ? Clearly not 30 MB/s, more like 50 kB/s due to latency.

Silviu avatar
AndrewS avatar

I guess you could do the “automatically give them a unique repeatable at every boot UUID” by somehow calculating the UUID based on each Pi’s unique serial number, obtained from the output of “cat /proc/cpuinfo”.

Even better, you might be able to use https://github.com/raspberrypi/tools/tree/master/usbboot (possibly in combination with https://github.com/raspberrypi/tools/tree/master/test_code ) to eliminate the need for a SD card in each Pi too? :-)

silviu avatar

Thank you – will try all variants.
My own ideea is:
dd if=/dev/zero of=swappiece bs=1M count=400
mkswap swappiece
tar czvf swappiece.tar.gz swappiece

At every boot:
sleep 8
tar czvf /home/pi/swappiece.tar.gz -C /tmp
sleep 2
…the usb storage module command… swappiece

Carlos Machado avatar

Hello! How I configure a wireless keyboard+mouse in the same micro-usb of the Pi zero?

AndrewS avatar

Either use a “combo set” where both keyboard and mouse talk to the same (single) receiver dongle, or simply use a USB hub.

James Gallagher avatar

Well done with all of these projects and really shows how great the Raspberry Pi is. The information display was my favourite and looked very cool. I need to make one now to look cool :) Thanks for all the ideas, so great to see what others can do.

Rodney Neill avatar

Here’s a liitle project I’ve been working on. I call it Pi Zero Radio and it’s basically a full internet radio station running on the Zero, with music playout, MP3 encoding and Icecast streaming all running quite happily on the little device. Demo here … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77EkUr-MDNk … hope you like it.

DavidMS avatar

After all the interest I got from the initial Post here featuring my WordClock I have now launched it as a Kickstarter – The Tempus Fugit WordClock. I should have a prototype built in time to show on the Sunday at the Big Birthday Weekend for anyone who wants to see it.


Sam avatar


Any idea of how to use USB webcam (usb camera) with Pi Zero?

what drivers we need? I tried for one week and I have no result yet.


Ben Nuttall avatar

It’s quite easy to get started. See the webcam guide in the documentation: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/usage/webcams/

Sam avatar

Dear Ben,

Thank you for your advice, I do it and I got this result;

—Opening /dev/video0…
Trying source module v4l2…
/dev/video0 opened.
No input was specified, using the first.
Error staring stream.
VIDIOC_STREAMON: Operation not permitted
Unable to use mmap. Using read instead.
Unable to use read.

Note: I already enabled camera mode from raspi-config


Sam avatar

I forget to tell you;

The system also was updated and upgrade

Micah Parrish avatar

Have you considered raising the price until you are able to produce enough at $5?

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