Now that you know our Top 5 Tips for Raspberry Pi Beginners, you’re almost ready to start your first maker project! Among the top challenges for creative makers like you is the task of gathering the hardware you need to build great projects. Of course, hardware requirements vary by project, so once again, we asked veteran makers in our Cayenne community about what hardware they found most useful when starting their maker journeys. We’re excited to present the top five hardware for Raspberry Pi beginners.
You can find great hardware from a variety of suppliers, but since Adafruit is a favorite resource for our maker community, our links below reference their catalogue.
- Analog-to-Digital Converter (aka, ADC): Cayenne makers suggested the ADC as an overlooked, but an often necessary piece of hardware. Many sensors send data back to the Raspberry Pi by voltage, like an analog signal that has a continuous range, but the Raspberry Pi can only accept digital signals. An ADC takes the analog signal and breaks it into specific data quantities that the Pi can understand. To put it simply: instead of weighing a batch of dough on a scale to see how much you have, you can chop it up into equal small chunks and count how many you have. The ADC is required for a variety of analog sensors, like the TMP36 temperature sensor, or a simple photoresistor. If you’re looking for a good ADC, our users suggested the ADS1115.
- Temperature/Pressure Sensor: For many home automation projects with Raspberry Pi, Cayenne users have found the BMP180 sensor useful. It measures barometric pressure (hence the B-M-P) and temperature. Knowing the temperature makes a host of maker projects possible, like automating a pet habitat, or building part of a home weather station. It’s a great opportunity to be creative! With Cayenne’s discovery feature, there are few easier ways to get a sensor connected and operating. For more rugged projects, the DS18B20 is a great waterproof digital temperature sensor.
- Motion Sensor: There are many applications for motion sensors in Raspberry Pi projects. You can set a trigger in Cayenne to turn on a lamp when you walk into a room, or to send an email/text notification if your canine friend visits an off-limits area of your home. Motion sensors are also known as PIR sensors (Passive Infrared Sensors), and run about $10 on Adafruit.
- Breadboards: In the prehistoric times, when cavemen were doing maker projects, connecting hardware meant melting the metal contacts together with a soldering iron. The advent of the breadboard made connecting hardware faster (and much less permanent). A breadboard is a board with many holes in a grid pattern. Generally, all the holes in a row are connected, and likewise for the columns, so that if you stick two wires into two holes in the same row or column, power or data can flow between them as if they had been soldered. Since all hardware on the Raspberry Pi needs to be connected, and since some hardware needs to be attached to the breadboard itself, many of our Cayenne project builders suggested having a supply of large and small breadboards on hand.
- Power Switch Relay: Many home automation projects involve turning a device on or off based on input from another sensor. If you set Cayenne to turn on your coffee maker at 5:30 am, or to turn on your living room lamps when the room gets dark, you’ll need a power relay. The relay connects between your outlet and the device that you want to control, and can turn on or cut off power. There are different types of relays, and they all require careful attention when wiring, but this IoT Relay is a good option with minimal wiring required.
- Bonus: a good soldering iron: Like our last article, we couldn’t resist another bonus. As you become more familiar with maker projects, your growing knowledge will give rise to more inspiration for advanced projects. Complex maker projects often require modifying hardware, like soldering pins onto a board to connect it to your Raspberry Pi, etc. A good soldering iron is always handy as your projects become more complicated. One Cayenne maker suggested the Hakko FX888D. Though it looks like a colorful toy, it’s a reliable workhorse for all sorts of maker projects.
So there you have it: we asked Raspberry Pi makers from our Cayenne community for the top pieces of hardware they would recommend to a Raspberry Pi beginner. If you have an analog-to-digital converter, temperature and motion sensors, plenty of breadboards, a power switch, and a good soldering iron, you will have covered basic needs for many maker projects to come. This hardware will remain useful as you become a Raspberry Pi expert, and your ideas become more creative and complex.
Want to try building a maker project with our free drag-and-drop dashboard for Raspberry Pi? Cayenne can simplify and speed up the building process, whether you’re a new maker or already a pro. You can sign up free here.