5 Beginner Raspberry Pi Projects

Photo by Harrison Broadbent on Unsplash

Introduction

A freshly baked Raspberry Pi is something that delights many tech enthusiasts. Makers of all ages and skill levels love Raspberry Pis because of how flexible they are and how many projects there are.

Raspberry Pi comes in many different flavors.

If you are looking for something small and affordable, the Raspberry Pi Zero is for you. A Zero is great. Despite its affordability, it has a fair bit of compute and a ton of well-documented projects.

In short, tons of projects can be completed with a Raspberry Pi Zero.

You should also be on the lookout for the Raspberry Pi Zero W. The Raspberry Pi Zero W also has wifi built-in, which expands the number of projects you can complete.

Sometimes, you need a little more heft and computing power than a Zero. In that case, you will want to be on the lookout for a Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 since they have built-in wifi. These Raspberry Pi models are still easy to use and affordable while opening a whole new world of projects.

At the time of writing, there is a chip shortage. Due to this, finding a Pi is a little more difficult, so some of these projects will be on a do later list. You may also try your luck in the second-hand market on eBay or other online marketplaces.

PiHole

Image from Pi Hole’s Website

I’m sure many of you use adblocker, but did you realize that you can have an ad blocker for all devices attached to your wifi?

Without going too into the details, PiHole works on the DNS level, blocking all advertisements on all devices connected to your network. PiHole allows for peace of mind when browsing the internet.

All you need for this project is a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a little bit of patience. While there are several tutorials online, I found this tutorial by Linus Tech Tips to be accessible and fun.

Things you’ll need:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Power supply
  • Micro USB to Ethernet
  • Keyboard, Mouse, and Display

Game Server

Image by allinonemovie from Pixabay

A game server is slightly more involved, but the rewards are worth it. You can host private instances of several popular games to play with friends and family.

When you host your server, you learn the basics of server maintenance and networking. While these skills can be fun in their own right, they are also valuable to know if you want to land an entry-level job in tech.

For a more fleshed-out list of the games you can host, this article does a great job of laying out a variety of games and hardware requirements.

Things you’ll need:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B or 4B
  • Micro SD Card
  • Power Supply
  • Keyboard, Mouse, and Display
  • A Case For Your Pi (Optional)

NAS server

Image from Reddit User

For those unfamiliar, NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. You can think of a NAS server as a place to back up important information you don’t want to lose. A Raspberry Pi combined with a cheap external hard drive can be a serviceable NAS.

The advantage of this method is that you can quickly trial if you like a file backup that you can access over your wireless network. Setting up your own NAS can also be a gateway to a media server.

Admittedly, Raspberry Pi is not the best solution for a NAS. Although a Raspberry Pi is not ideal, a NAS is still a great beginner project that has a lot of online documentation.

One of the best tutorials is this one by NetworkChuck. His content is exciting and easy to follow, and his experience shines through his videos.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B or 4B
  • Power Supply
  • Micro SD Card
  • Keyboard, Mouse, and Display
  • An External HDD or SSD

Retro Style Digital Clock

Image from Instructable

A digital clock is something that many people could use and is easier than it may first appear. Aside from looking cool, it is also practical. Unlike the previous projects listed, this Retro Clock requires a 3D printer for completed assembly.

If you do not have a 3D printer, there are several options for obtaining 3D printed parts. One option is to visit your local makerspace. For a nominal monthly fee, you often get access to tools like a 3d printer.

Alternatively, you can use a print-on-demand service. You’ll have to search for the best service to meet your needs, but this can be a way to get 3D printed parts without owning a 3D printer.

This item can be assembled by following this tutorial on Instructables. It walks you through the wiring, code, and hardware assembly with minimal pain.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Red LED
  • Power Supply
  • SD Card
  • 3D Printer or 3D Printed Parts

Home Assistant

Image from Home Assistant Website

Everyone loves the idea of a smart home. If you watched Smart House on Disney, then the idea of a fully automated house may scare you a bit. Fortunately, there is not an all-powerful AI for our home yet.

Instead, you can use our Pi as the hub of our smart home. Not only is a Pi a more affordable and compact option than many off-the-shelf solutions, but you are also more in control of the software and hardware.

Although setting up a home automation system may sound involved, this tutorial makes the process fairly straightforward. Soon you’ll be using your Pi to turn on your kitchen lights!

Main Things You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 or 4
  • MicroSD
  • Power Supply
  • At least 1 smart device (Chromecast, weather station, light, etc.)

E-Ink Display

Image from Project Page

E-Ink Displays are easy to look at and just have a neat aesthetic. E-Ink is also low power, which is a nice bonus.

Some cool E-Ink display projects have shown things like a YouTube subscriber count, the current Bitcoin prices, and a daily affirmation. E-Ink projects are perfect for beginners. Not only is the result satisfying, but they are often light on components and programming.

In the spirit of a fun and easy project, this project is an e-ink display project that only requires a handful of components and pairs nicely with a project earlier in this list. If you want to see just the basics of your PiHole server, then this is just the thing.

This project gives you most of what you need. It is not as fully detailed as the others by design. Successful completion of this project will help you bridge the gap between beginner and intermediate.

Learning how to troubleshoot projects is critical if you want to start developing your own. Although the experience may be a little frustrating, the reward of figuring it out will be worth it.

Main Items You’ll Need:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • InkHat Display
  • MicroSD Card

Wrapping Up

Raspberry Pi projects can feel scary at first. Hopefully, this list helped you find a project that interested you.

Many of the resources linked also are great for inspiration. HackaDay, Network Chuck, and Instructables always have projects for you to make and remix. Reddit is another place that is full of inspiring projects to create.

So, which of these projects are you most excited to start? Let me know in the comments below.

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Dallas Blowers

Dallas Blowers

I’m a nonprofit professional who’s deeply passionate about effective learning, self improvement, and chasing my curiosity wherever it leads.