Track your run to the Moon with a Raspberry Pi-powered ladder

Maker Lorraine wanted to motivate her family to up that step count, so she set them the goal of running the distance to the Moon. Totally do-able. She created a Raspberry Pi Pico W-powered motivational tool to let them see their progress and drag them through those last tough hundred thousand miles.

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Early on in the process, Lorraine realised the Moon is very, very far away, so she altered the target destination to the ISS instead. Note the adorable model of the ISS at the top of the multicoloured ladder in the video thumbnail above. She made a whole papier-mâché Moon and everything before changing tack, but hopefully the arts and craft session was enjoyable, if pointless.

close up of the lego I S S with the top part of the ladder connected to it
At least it gave Lorraine an excuse to buy and build this excellent Lego ISS model

I will save you the Google and tell you that the Moon is 384,400km away, whereas the ISS is an achievable 408km jog away.

Ladder to success

Rungs on Lorraine’s rainbow ladder represent a certain amount of distance between Earth and the ISS. As each mileage goal is reached, another rung lights up. The goal is to get the ladder lit all the way up to the ISS by the end of the year.

Look at it go!

The Raspberry Pi Pico W controls two LED strips running down the sides of a metre-long ladder. The strips work together to light up LEDs positioned at the same height at the same time. The rungs, each a piece of acrylic, are lit from both ends by the LEDs.

Running data from Lorraine’s Strava record, as well as her husband’s and her brother’s, is pulled using the platform’s open API. When they’ve racked up enough miles to reach the next rung on the ladder, Pico W tells the LED strips to light another rung.

No need for the massive breadboard – just a few wires connect the Pico W to the LED strips

Lorraine has ambitions to tweak her Lego ISS model so it can alert her when the station is passing over her home country. Sounds like we need to connect her with our friends over at ISS Mimic, who created a scale model that reflects exactly what the real thing is doing up in space.

Where would you run to?

Lorraine next to her finished ladder to the ISS displayed on a shelf in her house
Points to Lorraine for dressing as space to model her space-themed build.
Very much looking forward to wearing a Dolly Parton costume to model my version

Go to Lorraine’s GitHub for all the code you need to create your own motivational ladder. You can tweak it to suit your own fitness goals. I for one would be happy to make it the other side of my village without my knees and/or lower back giving in, so would need to start small, but have ideas as to what I’d set my light-up ladder to count me towards if I ever got fit enough. Disappointingly, the distance from my home to Dollywood in Tennessee is a little over 6,500km, so I’m pretty sure it’s out of my reach fitness-wise.

Which destination would you put at the top of your motivational ladder? Let us know in the comments.

Also, Lorraine has previous with multicolour climbing-from-low-down-to-higher-up builds. Check out her NeoPixel temperature stair lights from yesteryear.

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