Also in my review box from Cytron (along with yesterday’s Edu:Bit) was a Maker Pi Pico. This is a board that houses a Raspberry Pi Pico and measures approximately 95mm x 70mm. The version I’ve got is the ordinary Maker Pi Pico, but there is also a Maker Pi Pico Base which just has a slot for a Pico that you may already own.
The idea of this board is to make it simpler to add components onto a project, but still keep it to a manageable size.
TL;DR – a great add-on home for your Raspberry Pi Pico at a great price. Find out where to buy it at the bottom of the post!
It has the following features:
- 6 Grove-compatible sockets for adding on inputs and outputs via Grove cables.
- An SD card slot (so you can read and write files).
- A 3.5mm audio output jack and a (fairly loud) buzzer for playing simple sounds (and, thank God, a small switch to disable the buzzer!).
- Low-power LEDs on every pin so you can see what’s happening, input and output-wise.
- A socket for an ESP-01 wi-fi module.
- 3 user-defined buttons.
- A RUN (reset) button.
- A single Neopixel-style RGB LED.
- A header that breaks out the debug pins and also allows you to wire up your own RUN/reset button.
- All the Pico pins broken out as pin headers.
That’s quite a list, I think you’ll agree. They also provide lots of demo scripts to use when trying it out, so the software is “there”, too. These scripts come in both CircuitPython and MicroPython flavours, although the board is pre-loaded with CircuitPython. This is a wise choice – CP does give you a much easier way to develop – just drop the files on the “drive” that you get when the Pico is plugged in and away you go.
What I liked about it most initially was that they have been very smart in deciding which pins to break out as Grove sockets. They have chosen lots of I2C but also chosen to break out two of the Pico’s analog pins as a Grove socket. Handy, because that means you can use Grove modules like a potentiometer. It’s an attractive board, too, in its purple colour and everything is well-labelled and well-engineered.
Cytron were kind enough to send me a Grove OLED module and a Grove potentiometer module too, so I had a play with one of their demo scripts that shows the value of the pot on the OLED.
As you can see, the board also comes with a nifty pin reference card – very handy for looking up what pin does what quickly.
I did try and get the SD card reading and writing, but for some reason it didn’t recognise my card. I suspect this is just something to do with the card I was using, so I’ll try a different one at a later date.
The buzzer is certainly loud – the pre-loaded demo code plays the Mario theme immediately upon boot. Fortunately (and I can’t stress this enough), they’ve been good enough to provide a shut-off button for the buzzer! The audio jack is a nice touch for higher fidelity sound playing.
The three user-defined buttons, which are linked to GPIO pins 20, 21 and 22, are satisfyingly clicky and the Neopixel-like RGB LED is appropriately blinky. 🙂
Experiments in Wi-Fi
Cytron also sent over a cheap ESP-01 module which allows you to connect the Maker Pi Pico to the Internet. There is a socket on-board (bottom-right) for the module. They were good enough to give me some support in getting it going and I was soon able to ping an IP address by providing wi-fi credentials in a supplied template “secrets” file.
Quick instructions: The demo scripts are on their GitHub here. I renamed simpletest.py to code.py, uploaded that and the lib folder to the Pico then altered secrets.py to give it my own credentials.
I had a very satisfying experience with this product, overall. The SD card issue I’m sure waseither down to the card, or the way it was formatted, so I will see about that later on. Price-wise, the board is very competitive. On the Cytron site, it’s $9.90 including the Pico. Elsewhere, it can be found on The Pi Hut’s site for £11.50 with the Pico, or £8 for the Base version. It is also available from Kitronik (just the Base version) and you can find other international resellers on the Cytron page, at the bottom.
It’s a great board at an attractive price and it gives you really great options for getting going with the Pico if you don’t want to use jumper cables on the Pico’s pins (although that option is still available to you!). Great features, great price, great idea. What’s not to like?!