Is this Arduino-on-Pi made easy? We dig out a Zero to give it, and its USB hub functionality, a try
Getting Arduino hardware working with a Raspberry Pi is a common goal in the wider maker community. Right now, Arduino microcontrollers can do very specific stuff better than the Pi, and vice versa, so combining the two can be an amazing way to truly power up a project.
This article first appeared in The MagPi 79 and was written by Rob Zwetsloot
This is where the ArduinoPixed comes in. It’s a relatively inexpensive add-on for the Pi Zero (yes, it’s twice as much as a Pi Zero, but that is already extremely cheap) that sits comfortably underneath the latter, connecting via pogo pins and a bit of friction from the supplied screws. This instantly gives you access to three USB 2.0 type-A sockets, but the real magic begins once you install Arduino software on the Pi.
From here, you can start doing simple things: program the LED to blink, have it interact with the button, etc. The on-board chip is an ATmega328, and with the series of A/D extension pins on the board, you can start controlling a little more stuff.
The standard Arduino IDE controls the Arduino side of the ArduinoPixed, meaning you don’t need to learn anything particularly new to get it working – unless this is your first time using an Arduino system, that is.
There are some great example programs to follow along with, to get you used to how the Pixed works on the Pi, allowing for a jumping-off point to control other bits and pieces with the Arduino side of the pair.
The whole board fits very neatly over the Pi Zero, keeping the GPIO pins clear so you can interact with them, with only part of a USB port overhanging the usual form factor. It does add a lot of depth to the Pi Zero’s footprint – while unavoidable, the jump from around 6 mm to 18 mm is significant.
With a few Pi/Arduino combos we’ve seen, the Arduino part can often be used separately from the Pi. Due to the way the ArduinoPixed is powered, you could technically do this, but it’s not as easy as more dedicated Arduino boards with a dedicated power input. Still, none of those interacts with a Pi in the same way.
Speaking of Pi interaction, it’s worth noting that the Pixed does not fit onto a standard-sized Raspberry Pi model. As well as the mounting points only properly working on a Pi Zero, the pogo connectors specifically require the layout on the underside of the Zero. It’s not something a little solder can’t fix if you’re really determined, but out of the box is a different matter.
Either way, it’s one of the best solutions we’ve seen for marrying Raspberry Pi and Arduino – and it works very well to boot, with minimal construction and setup time. We look forward to the next big project that requires it…
A quick build, even quicker software setup, and you’re away with a fantastic marriage of Arduino and Raspberry Pi.