Cytron’s Maker pHAT attempts to solve these issues and make it a lot simpler to get started with physical computing on Raspberry Pi.
The cool-looking purple PCB has some common components already on board and connected to certain GPIO pins. Along with three small push-buttons, there’s an active buzzer and eight tiny LEDs – we were slightly disappointed that they’re all blue and not a range of colours. A nice touch is the inclusion of a fully labelled, 24-pin breakout header for connecting external components when you’re done playing with the on-board ones.
While you can simply mount the board on your Raspberry Pi’s GPIO header – with or without the supplied 40-pin stacking header – and start coding, the pièce de résistance is the inclusion of a USB to serial module. This enables you to connect the board to a laptop and control (and power) it and Raspberry Pi remotely from there, eliminating the need for a separate monitor and keyboard.
A comprehensive online manual explains how to install a special driver and get the serial connection working using PuTTY on Windows, though not on a Mac. For the latter, use Terminal and enter ls /dev/cu.usbserial-* to find the device number, then screen /dev/cu.usbserial-XXXXXXXX 115200 –L to log in (after pressing ENTER repeatedly). The manual includes a Python demo program, which makes use of GPIO Zero, to get you started – it even enables you to safely shut down Raspberry Pi by pressing two of the buttons together.
An inexpensive and well-designed board for physical computing newbies. We particularly like the option to control it from a USB-connected laptop.