The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic computer and the GPIO (General Purpose Input / Output) pins allow for lots of a different hats, or phats (Pi Hats). I have used some of these options in past project (e.g. a temperature project, a countdown display) and installation of the hats is generally very easy, i.e. power off the Pi and push the hat onto the pins.
As the May bank holiday weekend was approaching in the UK, and my son was looking for something new to do with the Pi I decided to invest in a Sense Hat.
The Sense Hat sits very nicely on top of the Pi (in this case the Raspberry Pi 3) and features a very bright 8×8 RGB LED display and sensors for movement (gyroscope, accelerometer), temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. The sense hat also has a small joystick.
The 8×8 display can be used to display lots of different colours, to scroll text or make 8×8 animations. My son enjoyed using the sense hat’s Python library to scroll messages, starting with the classic “Hello, World!” and then to creating flashing animations.
The Raspberry Pi foundation provide an excellent project to getting starting with the Sense Hat at https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/projects/getting-started-with-the-sense-hat with details on how to scroll messages, set orientation, sense the environment and detect movement.
Although the projects we carried out were all in written in Python, my son was also very happy to find out that the Sense Hat supports and interacts with Scratch 2 (on Pi 3) and Scratch 3 (on Pi 4). So any budding programmers out there that prefer Scratch can also join in on the fun.
The MagPi magazine has also produced a book for the SenseHat as part of their “Essentials” series. The book can be purchased at https://magpi.raspberrypi.org/books/essentials-sense-hat-v1 or can be downloaded for free as a PDF (via the same link).
MagPi magazine also had an excellent feature on using the Sense Hat to display hearts and rainbow hearts in support of the NHS (UK National Health Service) in the current Covid-19 crisis. This feature can be read online at https://magpi.raspberrypi.org/articles/make-a-sense-hat-rainbow-display-for-your-window and was used by the team of my wife and son to create heart images.
The sense hat is a great way to get to grips / test projects that are potentially being entered into the Astro Pi competition or to replicate past Astro Pi projects, as it is the sense hat that was sent up to the International Space Station as part of https://astro-pi.org
Want To Know More?
Want to know more about the Sense Hat? Then please check out the Official Raspberry Pi Sense Hat page: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/sense-hat/
Note: I purchased the Sense Hat from Pimoroni for just over £30. It is available from other retailers as well.