Playing with PiLite and python

Hello everyone – apologies for the lack of posts lately – been a bit busy with “real life”!

Anyway, over the last couple of days, I’ve been playing with the Ciseco PiLite.  This is a version of the Arduino LOL “lots of LEDs” board for the Raspberry Pi.

 The PiLite has a total of 126 leds in a 14x9 grid
The PiLite, fully lit

The board actually contains an Arduino processor, the ATMEGA 328, so it can be programmed like an Arduino using sketches.  By default, however, it comes with a sketch running on it which accepts commands via the serial port of the Raspberry Pi.

Fitting the PiLite

The PiLite fits nicely onto the GPIO connector and the opposite corner of the PCB rests on the Ethernet port on the Pi and is quite stable.

I guess it wouldn’t fit on a B+ but I have no idea, because I haven’t got one to try it on!

Programming the PiLite with python

I’ve had some fun playing with this, but I couldn’t find a nice python module interface to it anywhere – all of the examples on the Ciseco website involved writing the commands directly via the serial port, which I didn’t think looked very nice.

You can find my python module here on github.  It is also available on pypi so you can

pip2 install pilite

Read the documentation on github.

There is also a program there you can run, which outputs the video below.  It’s more of a test of all the API calls than a demo.


The PiLite was a bit of an impulse buy – £24.99 from Maplin for the white LED version, which is a bit steep, I think, but there is a lot you can do with it.

I don’t have a particular application in mind, but now I have written the python library, I’m looking forward to setting some of the ninjas at the local CoderDojo loose on it to see what they come up with!

It appears to have holes for pins for the Arduino’s six analogue inputs as well, so it may be possible to use these somehow, though I haven’t tried yet.

In general, this seems to be a well thought out product.  It physically fits well, the software runs well (once you have set up your Raspberry Pi correctly) and this could be an interesting way into Arduino programming from the Raspberry Pi.

I look forward to trying more of Ciseco’s products.

Future Projects

I also have an idea to somehow translate a pygame surface into the framebuffer string used by the PiLite’s $$$F command, so I can write pygame games, e.g. pong, for the PiLite.

Not much use, but probably good for a laugh!  😀

I see there’s already a pong demo up on youtube, but no guarantee this isn’t just a demo!

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