Introduction: Lunch Box Computer With Raspberry Pi

Picture of Lunch Box Computer With Raspberry Pi

This is a quick and easy project to build a portable Raspberry Pi computer that fits right in a lunch box. It's a good first Pi project since it requires no coding, soldering or tooling of any kind. All you have to do it acquire the parts, plug everything in and secure it in the lunch box.

The Raspberry Pi isn't a very fast machine, but it IS extremely versatile and easy to use. This rig will have all the functionality of a wifi netbook, if a slow one with a very small screen.

There are lots of ways to do a project like this so feel free to deviate from my plans. All of the parts are modular and you can change its abilities a bit by using different parts.

EDIT: While I used a Raspberry Pi model B in this instructable, I would advise folks to use the Model B+, it uses less power than the Model B which sometimes can't run both the Wifi and Bluetooth dongles.

Step 1: Parts List

Here is the list of parts I used. Please note, these are the first one's I found for each item, if you shop around you can probably pay a bit less. Also, feel free to swap out components, like different size batteries or screen. All of the bits are modular.

Custom Lunchbox $6.50:

10,000 mAh USB Battery $50.00:

Raspberry Pi Model B+ with preloaded SD card OS $35:

Raspbian OS Micro SD Card $12:

Clear Pi Model B case $10:

Composite 5" LCD $26:

AZIO Bluetooth Keyboard $30:

6,800 mAh 12v Rechargable Battery /w charger $20:

1 Micro USB Cable $1:

Edimax Wifi Dongle $10:

If Using Pi Model B: RCA adapter (male to male) $4:

If Using Pi B+:3.5mm to RCS cable $6.30:

Note: The Pi Model B and B+ use different composite video ports. The B uses a traditional RCA jack, and the B+ uses a 4 pole 3.5mm jack that outputs video and stereo sound.

Total Price $200 + shipping with these items.

Step 2: Putting It Together

As for the How-To, it's pretty easy:
1. Charge both batteries, the 12v comes with a charger, the USB charges from any USB chargepoint

2. Put the Pi in it's case

3. Put the Pi's SD card in it, this is your OS and storage

4. Plug the dongles for the Keyboard and wifi into the Pi

5. Use the RCA adapter to plug the screen into the yellow port on the pi

6. Plug the 12v battery into the screen

7. Plug the USB Battery into the Micro USB power jack on the Pi

Once you plug the power into the Pi it will boot up. Check it out, make sure everything works. You might need to configure the wifi dongle or change the screen size. If it defaults to a res that is too high it'll be hard to read the text, so you can always plug an HDMI monitor into it while you configure it. I won't go into the details, there are a TON of easy to follow Raspberry Pi tutorials on the web.

Finally, once you know everything works, use some foam tape to mount everything in the lunch box. I only used tape on the front edge of the keyboard so I could swing it up to turn it on and change it's batteries. Make sure that you arrange things so you have room to get into it to charge stuff later and also make sure there is room to unplug the Pi when you are done using it since the Pi doesn't have an on/off switch.

That should cover it I think. Good luck and have fun with your lunchbox computer!


dbess (author)2017-08-13

Have you swapped out the Pi with a newer one yet?

Hoshiki (author)2017-05-01

I plan on making this using a Raspberry Pi 3 and possibly this 5" LCD:

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can mount a screen like that to the lunchbox itself? Or if there is a case/panel these kinds of screens can fit in so that foam tape can be placed onto the back? This would be my first Pi project

D10D3 (author)Hoshiki2017-05-01

Foam tape works in a pinch, or you can screw the hardware to some thin board (ABS, plywood,etc) and glue those to the inside of the lunchbox.

Nondescript_Pixel made it! (author)2017-01-18

I made a few modifications (Moved the screen to the lid, put the keyboard and mouse in such a way that they could be stored in the lunchbox when not in use, etc), and it turned out quite well. This was a fun project to build.

D10D3 (author)Nondescript_Pixel2017-01-18

I love it! Nice build.

SrBlank (author)2016-12-24

The lcd screen link does not work can you please link me to a working link?

inventer18 (author)2016-10-15

Would a Raspberry Pi 3b work for this project?

remiborlet (author)inventer182016-12-01

Yes, of course! It will be even better since it has built-in WiFi.

rayvittum made it! (author)2015-10-01

Thank you so much for all of your help. I am hooked to Ras Pi now!

D10D3 (author)rayvittum2016-08-07

Love it!

EllieL3 (author)2016-03-14

This is all that shows up. Lasts a second and then goes black

D10D3 (author)EllieL32016-08-07

Sorry I missed this one earlier. If that screen shows up then goes black it means that the screen isn't getting a signal. Make sure you are using the right cable and that your Pi is set to use composite video in the NOOBs configuration file.

DavidP524 (author)2016-07-28

Hi! I really want to make this but I don't know much about electronics- I have a few questions - why do you need 2 batteries? Is it essential (meaning do I NEED to order 2? Can I do without?

Thanks in advance!

D10D3 (author)DavidP5242016-07-28

The screen and the Raspberry Pi use different voltages. You can use a single 12v battery, but it's a little more tricky. You'd need to use a voltage regulator to give the Pi something it can use:

DavidP524 (author)D10D32016-07-28

Thanks! Also, does it matter whether the 12v battery is Li-ion or Li-po?

D10D3 (author)DavidP5242016-07-28

Not usually.

Ibrahimomarkhan (author)2016-07-20

also how mutch storage does it have

D10D3 (author)Ibrahimomarkhan2016-07-20

Depends on the size of your SDcard, generally 16, 32, or 64gb. You can also add additional storage with USB thumb drives or even stick an SSD in it. Unless you want to store media like movies, you really don't need very much space. The OS is really small, and the remaining space on the SD is usually more than you will need for general computing.

Ibrahimomarkhan (author)2016-07-19


Ibrahimomarkhan (author)2016-07-19

can you dounload google or any search engines on it

D10D3 (author)Ibrahimomarkhan2016-07-19

You can browse the web and use google. Raspbian is a full OS, like windows but a bit lighter. It's got all your standard stuff like a web browser and word processor and such.

SuperTacoMan (author)2016-05-12

I did this for about half the price

D10D3 (author)SuperTacoMan2016-05-12

That doesn't surprise me, this is sort of a guide on how to go about it, but there are numerous parts you could use instead to achieve the same end. I used this part set because I already had all of them lying around my shop.

lord_of_death (author)2016-05-10

really awesome project, but D10D3 do u mind uploading or sharing link of that wallpaper, its launchbox needs that wallpaper.....

NoahK14 (author)2016-04-07

um I was looking through the materials and some of them do not exist any more

D10D3 (author)NoahK142016-04-07

This will be an ongoing issue for this sort of project. These exact models may not be available but it shouldn't be hard to find equivalents of each piece.

E_C (author)2016-03-25

Would this display work instead of the one you have posted? Is it compatible?

chrisrina (author)2016-03-21


EllieL3 (author)2016-03-14

Midway through making this, but having issues with my composite screen. The pi works just fine with an HDMI (my tv) but does not pick up the composite screen no matter what. I've tried tons of different things and read every forum I could to figure out why, but no luck. The screen flashes blue with 'AV1' in the top corner before going black again, completely unresponsive. Is it supposed to do this? How can I fix it? Any suggestions would be great.

D10D3 (author)EllieL32016-03-15

It sounds like either the Pi isnt configured to output composite, or you might have the wrong composite cable. Take a look at the comments below where both problems are looked at, might be an answer there.

EllieL3 (author)D10D32016-03-15

Already tried all of that. I'm using the B if that clears anything up. I'm using the exact screen and battery listed above, so I'm pretty sure they're not the incorrect ones.

EllieL3 (author)2016-03-14

This is all that shows up. Lasts a second and then goes black

JohnnyDcrypt (author)2016-01-10


totally unrelated, but does anyone know how to get metasploit on kali linux? i downloaded an ARM image of kali that doesnt come with metasploit and i have no idea how to get it.

D10D3 (author)JohnnyDcrypt2016-01-10

apt-get install metasploit kali

JohnnyDcrypt (author)D10D32016-01-11

but wouldn't that mean "install metasploit and kali"?

it says metasploit isnt a real package

D10D3 (author)JohnnyDcrypt2016-01-11

Try this:

ElijahH3 (author)2015-12-19

Awesome lunchbox!

aakashsunkari (author)2015-01-28

Great Project! My friend and I 3D Printed a case for our project. I like the idea of 0% soldering because all the other Raspberry Pi Computer tutorials required Soldering. I also added a 64 GB flash drive for external storage.

does the ras-pi come with a Universal Serial Bus port?

D10D3 (author)JohnnyDcrypt2015-12-08

Yeah, the Pi B+ and 2B have 4 USB ports.

JohnnyDcrypt (author)D10D32015-12-10


Yessss haha yay

and does raspbian OS have a text-based command line?

if so, im DEFINITELY making 1

D10D3 (author)JohnnyDcrypt2015-12-10

you can boot to either command line or the GUI. Both are fully usable.

NoseyNick (author)2014-11-14

I love the way your delete key says "BS" on it. Yes I do know what it REALLY stands for, but it's funny anyway :-)

JohnnyDcrypt (author)NoseyNick2015-12-10

haha lol

TinManMetallica (author)2015-10-26

just wondering, did you have any problems with overheating, and if I make a slightly larger version, will I need to use a computer fan

D10D3 (author)TinManMetallica2015-11-01

No, Pi's run really cool. No need for active cooling. If you are worried about head they sell little aluminum stick-on heat sinks you can put on the CPU and graphics chip.

Manofa (author)2015-10-21

what os did U guys use

D10D3 (author)Manofa2015-10-22

Generally I run Raspbian on my pi systems.

RayV3 (author)2015-07-28

Hello all!

I cannot seem to get the video to output onto the lcd screen. I tried editing the 'config.txt' to set the video output to "sdtv_mode=2" with no avail. Any ideas?

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Bio: Question: Who is this D10D3 guy, and what is his deal? Answer: I'm a Maker, a hardware and software hacker, an artist, and general ... More »
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