Don’t stress about it: like you, nobody here has finished their Christmas shopping either. Here’s our annual roundup of the best presents for the Raspberry Pi fan in your life, so you can make them grateful to you all year long.
First, and most obviously, we recommend you buy a Raspberry Pi 2 for any Pi-lover who doesn’t have one yet. They’re our most powerful and flexible model, come in at only $35, and are available on their own or as kits. They’re on sale widely, so shop around for a bare board. If you want a kit, we recommend Pimoroni’s, The Pi Hut’s, or Mod My Pi’s. If you’re in the USA, try Adafruit’s starter kit, which also comes with a handful of prototyping essentials.
This year at Pi Towers, we’ve been preoccupied with space. Last week, two Raspberry Pis were sent to the International Space Station, where British ESA astronaut Tim Peake will be running experiments designed by British schoolkids on them. The Astro Pis are both equipped with Sense HATs, which are bristling with sensors: a magnetometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, hygrometer and barometric pressure sensor. The Sense HAT also has a teeny joystick and a very blingy, programmable LED matrix. You can buy a Sense HAT from all the usual suspects so you can use exactly the same hardware that’s being used on the International Space Station – and we’ve got lots of activities to get you started with one.
The DOTs board is a new add-on board from Rachel Rayns, our Creative Producer. You can program it to run games and activities using conductive paint. A DOTs board will set you back just £5 from The Pi Hut, and a pen full of conductive paint £7.
The RasP.iO GPIO ruler is a super-useful quick reference tool for anybody doing physical computing with their Raspberry Pi’s GPIO. (It’s also enjoyably twangy.) It’s only £5.50, complete with global shipping, from RasP.iO.
We see a lot of electronics kits. Our favourites by a very, very long margin are the CamJam Edukits, which are outstanding value for money, brilliantly flexible, and come with a whole suite of free worksheets. My personal favourite is EduKit 2, at only £7, which contains buzzers, an immersible temperature sensor (for projects involving cups of tea), a PIR (infrared) sensor and an LDR (visible light) sensor, along with LEDs, resistors, breadboard and everything else you’ll need to build a whole host of sensor projects. You can buy all three EduKits at The Pi Hut, which ships globally.
PiBorg are our favourite roboteers. They’ve just come out with their first sub-£100 robot (I got one a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a beautifully robust piece of kit). The 4Borg, which takes an hour or so to build, is pretty special, and pricey enough at £99 to be someone’s main under-the-tree present rather than a stocking filler. It’s a heck of a robot, and makes a wonderful gift for anybody interested in electronics or robot-building.
Seasonal GPIO add-ons for your Pi are always good fun in a stocking. The Christmas Tree from The Pi Hut and the SnowPi from Ryanteck are both great value at under £6, and are great beginners’ soldering projects. Once soldered up, they become beginners’ programming kits – we think they’re some of the best value you’ll see in a stocking filler.
People beginning to solder will need a beginner’s soldering set. This inexpensive kit from Amazon has everything you’ll need to get started.
Every home needs a calendar on the back of the kitchen door. Here’s the Official Raspberry Pi Calendar, so your kitchen door can match mine.
If you want to keep the Christmas giving going all year, how about a subscription to The MagPi, our official magazine?
We weren’t able to choose a single favourite from Pimoroni’s HAT selection. My personal favourite is the £15 Piano HAT (above), with which you can make beautiful music if you have very tiny fingers. But they’ve got lots to choose from: displays, capacitive touch, prototyping platforms and much more. Check out the whole selection.
Books deserve a section all of their own. Our unabashed favourite is Adventures in Raspberry Pi by our very own Carrie Anne Philbin. You can buy the book along with an electronics part kit so you can do all the projects, from Pimoroni. Pimoroni also offer Adventures in Minecraft with an accompanying electronics part kit, which will keep Minecraft fans busy for the whole holiday.
Books we really enjoyed this year include the wonderful Hello Ruby – we don’t think we’ve seen a better (or more enjoyable) introduction to computational thinking for young kids. Lauren Ipsum is a similar sort of concept for older children, based (very loosely!) around Alice in Wonderland. We highly recommend both.
Python Playground has some fantastic projects to take people with a little Python experience to the next level. We really enjoyed the laser show, the stereogram (Magic Eye, for those of a certain age) and Spirograph activities. The publisher, No Starch Press, has some really great programming books in their catalogue – they’re accessible and enjoyable, and the whole series comes highly recommended.
Another projects book we’ve really enjoyed this year comes from Mike Cook (who has a monthly projects column in The MagPi). Raspberry Pi Projects for Dummies will see you fitting out ketchup bottles with accelerometers and building glitter lamps that generate free jazz (really).