Have a Raspberry Pi board and don’t know what to do with it?
Raspberry Pi boards, and single-board computers in general, are super versatile devices, equipped with enough computing power to rival an old laptop and many interface ports. As such, they can be used in tons of different DIY electronic projects, from a 3D printer server to a robotic arm.
Today, I’ll be going over some of the best projects you can make with a Raspberry Pi board or other single-board computer. And, don’t worry about your experience level or skills with electronics because I’ve split the different projects into groups based on how much experience you should have.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is a Raspberry Pi Board?
A Raspberry Pi board is a single-board computer (SBC) developed by The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing open-source computers for consumers and hobbyists. However, today, the term “Raspberry Pi” is tossed around to refer to any brand of SBC (e.g. Orange Pi 4B), and not just those made by The Raspberry Pi Foundation. As such, try not to be confused if the words “Raspberry Pi” and “SBC” interchangeably.
Raspberry Pi boards and SBCs are all-in-one computers that are based on a single circuit board, usually the area of a credit card or smaller. In other words, SBCs are like all of the internals of a PC, but at a much smaller scale and integrated into one board.
The main purpose of SBCs is to perform computing processes, like crunching numbers in a Python program or organizing IoT data. Most Raspberry Pi boards and SBCs also feature a handful of interface options, like USB ports, a Micro-SD card slot, and ribbon cable ports (e.g. for a camera or LCD). Because of this, SBCs are widely used for DIY electronic projects, like making a weather station or retro gaming rig.
Examples of official Raspberry Pi boards include the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Pi 4 Model B, and Pi Zero W. You can find a full list of the official Raspberry Pi boards on their website. You can also check out our article on the best single-board computers and Raspberry Pi alternatives to learn more about the options.
Top 10 Raspberry Pi Projects That You Can Make
In the sections below, you’ll find the top 10 projects that you can make with a Raspberry Pi Board. To help you choose a project that you can actually make, we’ve divided the projects into three categories based on the skill level required. Enjoy!
In our beginner section, we’ve gone over some of the more basic projects. Some basic knowledge of computers and some intuition when it comes to setting up programs are required, but nothing too difficult.
1. 3D Printer Server (OctoPrint)
First up is my favorite Raspberry Pi project: an OctoPrint 3D printer server. If you haven’t heard of OctoPrint, it’s a server that runs on a Raspberry Pi board (or other SBCs) and connects to the motherboard of a 3D printer.
With OctoPrint connected to your 3D printer, you can remotely control and monitor your 3D printer through an online interface, accessible via a web browser. Some of the controls available through OctoPrint include starting and stopping prints, manually sending G-code commands, moving the printhead and bed, and monitoring temperatures.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that you can also add a camera to your OctoPrint server if you want to remotely watch your printer. Just note that, if you want to do this, you’ll need to use a Raspberry Pi board with either a USB or CSI port for the camera.
To make your own OctoPrint server, check out our article all about the setup process with a Raspberry Pi!
2. Desktop PC
Always wanted a PC, but don’t have $500+? Don’t worry, you can make your own mini desktop PC with just a Raspberry Pi and a few inexpensive accessories.
While you might be thinking “a Raspberry Pi isn’t power enough”, a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B can have as much as 8 GB of RAM and as much storage as you want. And, although its processor isn’t anywhere near as powerful as an Intel i7, it’s more than capable of running web browsers, social media apps, 3D slicer programs, and other low-medium-intensity applications.
To make a desktop PC with a Raspberry Pi, you’ll need a few items. First, and most importantly, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi or other SBC board. It’s recommended that you use relatively large and more powerful boards, like a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Pi 4 Model B, or Orange Pi 4B, as these will have the computing power and interface ports that you’ll need to use the device.
Besides the heart of the PC, you’ll also need a case, a heat sink, and a fan. The heat sink and fan will cost no more than $10 each, and you can even 3D print the case.
So, if you want a light desktop PC but don’t want to break the bank, this Raspberry Pi mini PC is a great option that can be used for a variety of basic tasks, like writing an essay, searching the web, and streaming YouTube!
3. Retro Gaming Setup
Are you ready to take a trip down memory lane with some classic video games? Well, with the help of a Raspberry Pi board (or another SBC), you can create your very own retro gaming rig!
This is possible through special emulator programs, like RetroPie, which allow you to use your Pi board (and a connected display) to run classic games from consoles like the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. Some of the games you can play include Pacman, Donkey Kong, Tetris, and even Golden Eye 007. No more digging through old boxes to find your favorite games and consoles!
To make your own mini retro gaming rig, you’ll first need a Raspberry Pi board, a sufficient power supply, and a Micro-SD card. Once you’ve set the SBC up and loaded the RetroPie OS, it’s time to get creative with your hardware.
I strongly suggest getting a controller to play games on the system as well as a case to protect the Pi board and other electronics. You can purchase these products online, or, if you’re feeling crafty, you can 3D print them. Check Thingiverse and Printables for some great options!
So, grab your Raspberry Pi board and some accessories, and get ready to relive your childhood memories!
In our intermediate section, you’ll find some projects that use Raspberry Pi boards along with some additional hardware. You’ll have to make the hardware work with the computer board, but, don’t worry, no programming is required!
4. Smart Mirror
Smart mirrors are technology-enabled mirrors that not only reflect your beautiful face, but also feature digital projections, such as your local weather, a motivational quote, your calendar, and more. While this technology might seem too futuristic or too expensive, you can actually make your own smart mirror with a Raspberry Pi and some other components.
Compared to the other projects on this list, a Raspberry Pi-based smart mirror is a bit more hardware-intensive, and, thus, more costly. But, if you want an epic piece of home decor that you will use on a daily basis, it’s definitely worth it!
To make your own smart mirror, first, you’ll need to get your hands on a Raspberry Pi board, preferably one that has a decent processor, like the Pi 3 B+ or Pi 4 B. On top of the Pi board and it’s necessary accessories (e.g. Micro-SD card, power supply), you’ll also need a monitor, and a two-way mirror.
Once you’ve crafted your smart mirror, you’ll need to install smart mirror software to the Pi board. Magic Mirror is probably the best option, and it allows you to project tons of different information and diagrams into your mirror, like the weather, YouTube videos, text, and more. It even has an optional voice recognition feature that works with some additional hardware.
It’s also worth pointing out that you should make a frame for your smart mirror to make it look nice and to make it durable. You can make one with some 2 x 4 pieces of wood and 3D printed parts. LED lights are also a nice touch!
5. Web Server
Next, you can use a Raspberry Pi board to make your own web server. This project is a great option for those with some experience with DIY electronics who want to learn more, and it’s also very inexpensive as you don’t need to use a computing-powerful SBC to run the server.
While there are many different tutorials you can follow, I really like The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s LAMP Web Server guide. This project works with almost any Raspberry Pi board and is specifically meant for running WordPress sites, such as this one!
LAMP servers are actually very versatile, though, and hosting websites isn’t their only purpose. With some additional work, you can repurpose the server as a personal cloud storage service, email server, or chat room.
And, what I love about using a Raspberry Pi as a web server is that it costs practically nothing because the only hardware you need is the single-board computer itself (as well as a Micro-SD card).
To set up your own LAMP server, first load Raspberry Pi OS to the SBC’s Micro-SD card. Then, install the server-running software that fits your needs, such as Apache, Nginx, or MySQL. Once you’ve got it up and running, you’ll have full control over your website (or other server-running tasks) and can customize it however you like.
So don’t let the big corporations control your online presence. With a Raspberry Pi web server, you can take control and make your mark on the world wide web!
6. DIY Wi-Fi Extender
We’ve all experienced poor Wi-Fi at some point in our life. Luckily, with the help of a Raspberry Pi board (or another single-board computer), you can create your own DIY wifi extender and say goodbye to weak signals for good!
First, you’ll need to get your hands on a Raspberry Pi board that has an ethernet port, such as the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, 4B, and alternatives like the Orange Pi 4B. You’ll also need a power supply, a Micro-SD card, and a Wi-Fi antenna. Then, you’ll need to install a special software program, like OpenWrt or DD-WRT, so you can properly configure your Pi as a Wi-Fi extender device.
On top of just extending the usable range of your Wi-Fi, a DIY Raspberry Pi Wi-Fi extender also allowed you to add other features, such as increased network security, custom DNS settings, and even a guest network for your visitors (if your router can’t do it).
So don’t settle for weak Wi-Fi signals any longer! With a Raspberry Pi Wi-Fi extender, you can enjoy strong and stable internet throughout your entire home!
7. Weather Station
Our last intermediate Raspberry Pi project is a weather station. A weather station is a Pi board (or other SBC) hooked up to a variety of hardware attachments that take and store weather-related measurements and data. It’s the perfect project for anyone who knows a little about DIY electronics and wants to expand their knowledge and skills.
There are many different tutorials you can follow to make a Raspberry Pi weather station. Some use a Pi-specific HAT (add-on board), some use USB-based gadgets, and others use the GPIO pins on the Pi board to connect weather tools. You should choose the specific project for you based on your desired weather data and your budget.
In our advanced section, we’ve gone over some more higher-skill projects. You don’t need to be a genius to make these projects, but it’s best to have some experience working with single-board computers and other electronics.
8. Security Camera System
First in our advanced category is a security camera system. This is the perfect project if you’re worried about theft in your neighborhood or even your wife stealing your snacks!
The project is pretty self-explanatory too: you use a Raspberry Pi board to host a remotely-accessible server where you can view the feed of connected cameras. It’s kind of like CCTV, but less expensive and a bit more DIY.
There are many ways you can set up a security camera system with a Raspberry Pi board, but the general method I recommend is connecting a Raspberry Pi camera, such as the Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2, directly to your Pi board. This will make the software configuration process much easier as you won’t have to worry about connecting the cameras remotely to the Pi’s IP address.
I also strongly suggest getting a sturdy housing for the camera (and Pi board) to make sure the hardware looks legit and to keep the electronics safe. 3D printing is a great option for making a custom housing! You also might want to get a special lens for your Pi camera module to achieve better visibility, depending on the camera placement.
You’ll also need a special software that allows you to stream the camera feed to a remotely-accessible platform. MotionEyeOS is a terrific option and it’s specifically meant for Pi-based security cameras and works on many different SBCs, including third-party options like the Banana Pi. The software is easy to install and features a handful of video feed controls (e.g. quality, frame rate), and, once set up, you can access the camera feed on a web browser.
9. Smart Home
These days, homes are getting smarter and smarter. You can use a Raspberry Pi to host a handful of different internet-of-things (IoT) devices to make your house a total genius.
If you’re confused as to what this project entails, basically you use a Raspberry Pi as the hub for different IoT and automation devices, like a smart light or IoT thermometer. Then, depending on your specific configuration, you can control and monitor your home from your phone (or another remote platform).
For example, you can connect a Pi board to a smart lamp and then set up a software that will turn the light off and on when you send a certain phrase to the server (via Telegram). Other devices you can connect to your smart home Raspberry Pi hub include a thermostat controller, door lock, smart power switch, and more!
Obviously, the hardware you need for this project depends on what specific features you want to have in your smart home. But some basic requirements include a Raspberry Pi board, a sufficient power supply, a Micro-SD card (for OS), and a smart home or automation software, like Home Assistant or MisterHouse.
10. Robotic Arm
Lastly, you can make a robotic arm with a Raspberry Pi board. This is the perfect project for anyone looking to hone their skills with DIY electronics, and it will require knowledge of Raspberry Pi boards, microcontrollers (e.g. Arduino boards), basic programming, and general electronics. Plus, you can use the robotic arm to help you with some basic tasks like holding wires while soldering or repeatedly clicking buttons on your computer.
While this project is a bit more hardware-intensive than some of the other options on the list, you can still feasibly make a robotic arm for under $100. You just have to use a less expensive Raspberry Pi board, like the Pi Zero W, and DIY some of the hardware such as 3D printing the arms.
On this note, to make your own robotic arm, you’ll need an SBC, some sturdy materials (e.g. aluminum extrusion) for the frame, at least two servos for the motion, a microcontroller board, and a sufficient power supply. You’ll also have to either use pre-made software and firmware for making a robotic arm or make your own basic program for the boards.
But, I promise you that the project will be fun if you’re a maker or hobbyist at heart. And what’s the fun in building something without at least a few challenges?
If you have a Raspberry Pi board or other SBC just laying around, don’t let it just sit there! These devices are extremely versatile, with a decent amount of computing power and many interface ports, making many different DIY projects possible.
One of my favorite projects that you can make with just a Raspberry Pi board and a few accessories is an OctoPrint 3D printer server. Of course, I’m a bit biased because I love 3D printers, but an OctoPrint server can really do so much, like enabling you to remotely control your printer’s movement and manually send G-code commands to the motherboard. There are also many optional plug-ins you can install to further enhance your OctoPrint server’s capabilities.
I also really like the Raspberry Pi smart mirror project. While it requires some skills in woodworking for making the frame, a smart mirror is a great addition to any home and is a total flex to anyone who visits.
I hope you found at least one of these projects interesting, and consider building one! Enjoy!