Control Your World With Your Pi Without Programming




About: The ThingBox Project - A ready to flash Raspberry Pi image that contains Node-RED and Internet Of Things software for non developers.

This Instructable shows you how to use a simple affordable extension board named PiFace on top of the Raspberry Pi to control the world around you, without any technical skill.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: The Hardware

Get first a Raspberry Pi 2 from any vendor (see here). The Raspberry Pi is a low cost (less than 45$), credit-card sized computer. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do.

Step 2: PiFace Digital

Then get a PiFace Digital board (BEWARE to buy the one for Pi2: here at Amazon) and plug in on the Raspberry Pi.

Step 3: Get the Software

Getting the software is easy and free from web site: just a file to download from here (choose the PI2 version) and to write to a SDCard as explained here. Then insert the SDCard into the Pi, switch on the Pi and launch an internet browser from your PC (windows or Mac).

Alternatively, you can buy an already built Pi 2 here:

Step 4: Access the Pi From Your Internet Browser

Enter the network address "thethingbox.local" of the Pi into the address bar of your browser (see here for detailed instructions) and voila!

Step 5:

Here is the basic editor.

Step 6: Import the Piface Plugin

Select "Import - Node" from the right menu

Step 7:

Fill carefully with the plugin name.

Hit Ok and wait the reboot button to become activ, then use it to reboot the Pi.

Step 8:

Refresh your browser.

Now enter "piface" in the filter box to find the new nodes.

Step 9:

Drag the first one (with the handle right) to the workspace.

Step 10:

Add also a display node from the palette and link the PiFace node to the display node.

Now we have to choose from where to get the information:

Step 11:

Fill the setting dialog as shown.

Now use the activate button to make the flow activ:

Step 12:

Select now the "Display / Debug" tab on the left, if not already in front:

Step 13:

Now press the first physical button on the board and let it pressed: a 0 is displayed.

Now release it: a 1 is displayed:

Step 14:

Step 15: Turn on a LED

As the board contains LEDs, we can turn them on.

Use now the second PiFace node to build the following flow, using the previous node:

Step 16:

Double clic it, fill the dialog as above and then activate.

Step 17:

Now when you press the physical button, the LED turns off, when you release, it turns on.

Step 18: Learn More!

Get more about the software:

Get more about the PiFace:

Learn how to link things together with TimeSquAir ( and IBM's Node-RED (
and discover the other Instructables:

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest
    • Robotics Contest

      Robotics Contest

    11 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Wow, its amazing...But I hope it will inspire people to learn programming after they got the basics. Im pretty sure this comes with lots of limitations. Still great idea and if it gets a smartphone app it would be wonderfull. Like you can design the interface online and scan a QR code to import it to your phone..

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Just to note that Thingbox uses Node-Red under the skin. NR offers a great deal of control using flow-based design and is written using Node.JS. It gives access to JavaScript functions so is easily extensible and a great way to do bits of programming without having to worry too much about the environment.


    Reply 3 years ago

    NodeRED is a marvelous tool to provide technology to non developper, still making all things posible by allowing to add some javascript for missing point.

    We will add more Instructable like this one (enOcean, ZWave...)


    3 years ago

    Would this work with any of the earlier RPi models?

    4 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Ah bummer. Thanks for the reply! Guess I'll have to pick up a new one! Or two, since there are so many great projects for the RPi2!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thingbox is a nice easy way to get into Pi control systems but it only uses Node-Red under the skin. Node-Red itself works absolutely fine on original Pi's You can install it onto your current Pi easily, just start with an ARM version of Node.JS then you can install directly.


    Reply 3 years ago

    True. But "just start with an ARM version of Node.JS" is something 99.99% of people cannot do...


    3 years ago

    Very nice idea! Thanks for sharing this guide.


    3 years ago

    Very nice, this is perfect for quickly prototyping a concept idea!


    3 years ago

    Very nice, thank you for sharing this!