Introduction: HackerBoxes 0019: Raspberry WiFi

Raspberry WiFi: This month, HackerBox Hackers are working with the latest Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless platform as well as Surface Mount Technology and Soldering.

This Instructable contains information for working with HackerBoxes #0019. If you would like to receive a box like this right in your mailbox each month, now is the time to subscribe at and join the revolution!

Topics and Learning Objectives for this HackerBox:

  • Configuring Raspberry Pi Single Board Computers
  • Installing Operating Systems for the Raspberry Pi
  • Loading Software Projects on the Raspberry Pi
  • Exploring Network Security and Management Software
  • Understanding Surface Mount Technology (SMT)
  • Soldering Various Types of SMT Device
  • Assembling an LED Sequencer using 50 SMT Devices

HackerBoxes is the monthly subscription box service for DIY electronics and computer technology. We are hobbyists, makers, and experimenters. And we are the dreamers of dreams.

Raspberry Pi and the Raspberry Pi Logo are trademarks of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. HackerBoxes supports the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its educational mission and encourages its members to consider doing the same.

Step 1: HackerBoxes 0019: Box Contents

  • HackerBoxes #0019 Collectable Reference Card
  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Raspberry Pi Zero Case Set
  • MicroSD Card Programmed with NOOBS Lite
  • SD/MicroSD 8-in-1 Card Carrier Case
  • Pi Cobbler Plus with Ribbon Cable
  • MiniHDMI Adapter
  • MicroUSB Adapter
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • Raspberry Pi GPIO Pin Header
  • SMT Soldering Kit: PCB and 51 Components
  • SMT Tweezers
  • Wooden Swab Set
  • Exclusive Raspberry Pi Lapel Pin
  • Exclusive RetroPie Decal

Some other things that will be helpful:

  • Soldering Iron, Solder, and Basic Soldering Tools
  • Lighted Magnifier
  • 9V Battery
  • Monitor or Television with Digital Input
  • USB Keyboard and Mouse
  • 2A USB Power Supply

Most importantly, you will need a sense of adventure, DIY spirit, and hacker curiosity. Hardcore DIY electronics is not the easiest hobby, but when you persist and enjoy the adventure, a great deal of satisfaction may be derived from persevering and getting your projects working. Just take each step slowly, mind the details, and don't hesitate to ask for help.

Step 2: Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless

The recently launched Raspberry Pi Zero W has all the functionality of the original Pi Zero but with more W (Wireless Connectivity). More W includes:

  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Like the Pi Zero, the Raspberry Pi Zero W still features:

  • 1GHz, single-core CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • CSI camera connector

Antenna Hacking
While the Raspberry Pi 3 used a ‘chip’ antenna, the Zero W uses a PCB antenna. The PCB antenna is the trapezoidal shape between the mini HDMI and micro USB sockets on the bottom edge of the board. The Zero W antenna is a resonant cavity which is formed by etching away copper within the PCB structure. Radio waves resonate this cavity within the ground plane and the two capacitors at the lower part of the cavity capture the radio signal. For some extra gain, the PCB is also set up to support adding your own external antenna with just a little SMT soldering.

Step 3: Pi Zero Case

The Official Raspberry Pi Zero case is injection-molded. It includes three interchangeable tops:

  • A blank one
  • One with an aperture to access GPIOs
  • One with an aperture for a camera

The case set also includes a short camera adapter flex circuit, and a set of rubber feet to make sure your Pi Zero or Pi Zero W doesn’t slide off the desk.

Step 4: Interfacing With the Raspberry Pi Zero W

POWER SUPPLY: There are two MicroUSB form-factor ports on the Pi Zero W. One port is marked "USB" and the other port is marked "PWR IN". The MicroUSB Cable should be connected to a good quality, beefy (2A or more) USB power supply and then plugged into the port marked "PWR IN".

USB: The MicroUSB Adapter should be connected to the port marked "USB" which can then support things like keyboards, mice, jump drives, and pretty much any other USB device. Obviously, a USB hub will be required to use more than one USB device at a time.

VIDEO: The MiniHDMI Adapter can support connecting the Pi Zero W video output into a television with HDMI or to most computer monitors with digital inputs, such as HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort. The "TV" pins beneath the GPIO pins can support a composite (RCA) video signal for legacy televisions and monitors.

GPIO: The General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins along the top edge of the board can be programed to interact with the physical world. The Pi Cobbler Plus breakout board and the ribbon cable can be used to jumper the GPIO header onto a solderless breadboard for simplified experimentation. A great deal of additional information regarding the GPIO header can be found here.

Step 5: Getting Started With NOOBS Lite

New Out Of Box Software (NOOBS) is an easy operating system installation manager for the Raspberry Pi.

NOOBS Lite requires an internet connection to install the desired OS selected from:

  • Raspbian
  • Pidora
  • LibreELEC
  • OSMC
  • Arch Linux

Additional information on NOOBS, including full documentation and source code, can be found here.

New to Raspberry Pi or Unix?
A nice beginner's resource is this playlist of 16 video tutorials. These tutorials are a few years old and are not specific to the Zero W, but they still provide a great general overview full of examples to explore.

Step 6: Some Noteworthy Raspberry Pi Projects

Minecraft World Building Game

Kodi Media Center

Mathematica Technical Computing

Sonic Pi Live Coding Music Synth

RetroPie Gaming

Python Programming Language

GPIO Physical Computing

Kali Linux Network Security Platform

NetPi Network Analyzer

The last two projects in particular provide a collection of tools for exploring network security and leveraging the built-in wireless capabilities of the Pi Zero W. Needless to say, only ethical or constructive security activities are appropriate uses for these tools. On that subject, take a look at The Complete Ethical Hacking Course for some useful background, tool overviews, and technical guides. Ethically Hack The Planet!

Step 7: Surface Mount Technology and Soldering

According to Wikipedia, surface mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). SMT has largely replaced the traditional through-hole technology method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be mixed on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as connectors or larger transformers.

Employing SMT speeds up the production process, but increases the risk of defects due to the component miniaturization and denser packing of boards. Accordingly, failure detection has become critical for any SMT manufacturing process.

SMDs can be hand-soldering and reworked with a little practice, care, and the right tools. Learn all about it from Dave in EEVblog #186.

In production, SMT soldering is not done by hand, but lends itself perfectly to solder paste reflow as discussed in EEVblog #415. If you just can't get enough solder reflow, this video features Ben Heck fabricating a DIY reflow system from a salvaged toaster oven.

Step 8: SMT Soldering Practice Kit

HackerBoxes SMT Kit Build Video

Before starting the kit build, carefully review the BOM and Schematic Diagram shown here. Also note the illustration about orienting the diodes. Note that the LEDs are marked on their undersides.

While not specifically related to this particular kit, this tutorial describes the operation of the LED Sequencer circuit.

Definitely keep in mind that this is intended to be a practice kit. Soldering tiny parts takes a lot of practice. This kit is only a tiny part of HackerBox #0019, so don't stress over it. Just meet it at your current skill level. If you have no experience at all, perhaps your goal should simply be to try 10-15 of the 0805 parts with the hopes of getting a couple of them right. Only if you are experienced, or just have a lot of dexterity and good vision, should you go into this kit expecting to come out with a functioning board. The LED Sequencer functionality is just a cherry on top. The primary intention is to practice soldering and get some exposure to SMT.

Step 9: Soldering Tools

Working with SMT could be just the excuse you needed to upgrade your soldering equipment. Here is a list of items to have a look at:

Soldering Iron

Soldering stations are a bit like cars in that everyone likes what they like, so there are many options.

At the very least, this is the inexpensive, but nice quality, soldering iron that we include in the HackerBoxes Starter Workshop.

An 898D Soldering Station is a step up and can be had with or without the hot air rework option.

A 939D Soldering Station is a step further.

For something a little more traditional, you can start with something like this Hakko or this Weller.

Soldering Accessories

If your soldering station does not already include one, consider a Wire Tip Cleaner. Frequently stab your iron in a 3-5 times to clean it off without cooling the tip off on a wet sponge.

Flux can be had in Pen Dispenser or in a Syringe Dispenser.

A nice working surface can be created using a silicone mat or "self-healing" craft mat. This one even has an organizer for small parts (such as SMDs).

An Illuminated Magnifier with Desk Clamp is helpful for improved visibility. In a production or lab environment, you will see technicians using Binocular Inspection Microscopes with Boom Stands and Light Rings. They will also usually have Smoke Suckers running whenever they are soldering.

Step 10: Hack the Planet

Thank you for joining our adventures with the Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless single board computer as well as Surface Mount Technology and Soldering. If you have enjoyed this Instrucable and would like to have a box of electronics and computer tech projects like this delivered right to your mailbox each month, please join us by SUBSCRIBING HERE.

Reach out and share your success in the comments below and/or on the HackerBoxes Facebook page. Certainly let us know if you have any questions or need some help with anything. Thank you for being part of HackerBoxes. Please keep your suggestions and feedback coming. HackerBoxes are YOUR boxes. Let's make something great!