5 fun, easy projects anyone can try with a $35 Raspberry Pi

I’m Patrick Norton from TekThing, and I’m here on Digital Trends today to show you some fun Raspberry Pi projects just about anybody can build!

The Raspberry Pi Model 3 just went up for sale, and it brings back a question we’ve been hearing since the first Pi launched four years ago: What can I do with a $25 PC the size of a credit card?

A lot, actually. And we’re going to show you some fun Raspberry Pi projects that just about anyone can build.

Designed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to make it affordable for “people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python,” Pis are used for almost anything you can imagine. They can be used as robot controllers, high-def home theater boxes, crazy DIY projects, there’s even a Pi running student projects on the International Space Station!

So this cheap, credit-card-sized PC can actually do a lot, and not just if you’re a geeky Linux guru. Seriously, if you can download a file and copy it to an SD Card, you can turn a Pi into a bunch of cool things. Here are five of my favorites newbie-friendly projects.

Audio player

I love great audio, and by installing Volumio or Rune Audio on your Pi, you can make a pretty cool box for streaming audio. Add a good USB or HiFiBerry DAC (it’s a “PiHat” that plugs onto the pins on the raspberry Pi) and you’ll have an audiophile-grade player you can control from your smartphone. The interface is fairly sophisticated, and you can even run music services like Spotify!

PiHole

Want to stop ads from clogging your Internet connection and your home network? By typing a few lines into a Raspberry Pi, and changing a setting on your router, you’ve created a Pi-Hole, “A black hole for Internet advertisements” which will automatically block ads from 155,000 domains. Seriously, they won’t come anywhere near your home network. Compared to a pricey monthly service or $150 box, that’s pretty amazing. Just do me a favor and don’t block the ads here on Digital Trends. They pay the bills!

Calendar

Five thousand dollars for Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator sound like a bit much? How about starting simple. For about $4,800 less, bolt a Raspberry Pi to a touchscreen monitor and build a Google Calendar that hangs in the kitchen. OK, it won’t have the built in camera to take pictures of the contents of your fridge like Samsung’s fridge … but, hey, you could just look in the fridge before you head to the supermarket. Or, take the next step and put a netcam inside your fridge!

OpenELEC

OpenELEC might sound like a Star Trek character, or at least its honorary title, but it’s actually a version of Kodi, the open-source entertainment media hub. Download and install it on a Pi, and you’ll have a simple DIY streaming box that plugs into the HDMI port on your HDTV and plays your HD videos, audio, display photos, and even TV shows you’ve recorded.

RetroPie

While we’re talking fun, the Raspberry Pi loaded with RetroPie makes an awesome foundation for a vintage DIY game console you can run on your HDTV or in an arcade cabinet. Be warned if you go the latter route: It will take some work to build your own arcade cabinets and controllers. MAME can run classic arcade games, and emulation exists for NES, GameBoy, SNES, Genesis, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and more. The RetroPie project is a good place to start.

This is just the tiniest dip into the world of Raspberry Pi making. If you search around you’ll find 3D scanners capable of capturing human-sized objects, tools to teach braille, thermal monitors to help brew beer, weather stations, automated cat-feeding systems, all made a bit more possible by a tiny, low-cost computer.

Go play with one today, or get one for your kids. We’ll show you how to get the Raspberry Pi up and running in a video next week.

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