Lunch Box Computer With Raspberry Pi

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About: 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 dreamer. I have an insatiable need to build things and modify them. I'm a ...

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.

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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: http://www.lunchboxes.com/Custom-Lunch-Boxes-p/cu...

10,000 mAh USB Battery $50.00: https://www.adafruit.com/product/1566

Raspberry Pi Model B+ with preloaded SD card OS $35: http://chicagodist.com/products/raspberry-pi-mode...

Raspbian OS Micro SD Card $12: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12998?gclid=Cj0K...

Clear Pi Model B case $10: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/281391676058?lpid=82

Composite 5" LCD $26: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free-shipping-5-Hi...

AZIO Bluetooth Keyboard $30: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?g...

6,800 mAh 12v Rechargable Battery /w charger $20: http://www.dx.com/p/1268-12v-6800mah-rechargeable...

1 Micro USB Cable $1: http://www.wholesalecables.com/ProductDetails.asp...

Edimax Wifi Dongle $10: http://www.kmart.com/edimax-computer-edimax-150mb...

If Using Pi Model B: RCA adapter (male to male) $4: http://www.amazon.com/RCA-Male-to-Adapter/dp/B000...

If Using Pi B+:3.5mm to RCS cable $6.30: http://www.rakuten.com/prod/skque-audio-video-cab...

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!

2 People Made This Project!

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149 Discussions

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Lee Wilkerson

Question 3 months ago

So, you are D10D3. Are you bi-polar? :D Love the project, man! Thank you for the work you've done here.

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DavidP524

3 years ago

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!

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D10D3DavidP524

Reply 3 years ago

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:
https://www.amazon.com/Eathtek-Converter-Double-Regulator-Voltage/dp/B00UUTB26W/ref=sr_1_2?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1469733083&sr=1-2&keywords=12v+to+5v+usb

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DavidP524D10D3

Reply 3 years ago

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

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Lee WilkersonDavidP524

Reply 3 months ago

12 Volts DC is 12 Volts DC. It makes no difference if it comes from a battery, a solar panel, or a power supply.
Your choice of 12 V supply is strictly up to you. What works best in your application?

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Lee WilkersonManofa

Reply 3 months ago

The usual OS for Raspberry Pi is a version of Debian called Raspbian. It is a Linux OS for ARM processors (the CPU). It is absolutely free and has far more free software available than you ever dreamed of with Winduhs or Mac.

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D10D3Manofa

Reply 4 years ago

Generally I run Raspbian on my pi systems.

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fruit-salad

4 months ago

Can you link multiple pies together if space is not an issue?

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D10D3fruit-salad

Reply 3 months ago

To the limits of your imaginiation and container size you can add all sorts of things to this build.

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D10D3shubham.g.4945

Reply 3 months ago

Sure, you can run any software that will run on a Pi, and Python 3.7 seems to have a version for Raspbian.

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WhiteTigerTails

1 year ago

That is the most Kids Next Door 2x4 Technology looking thing if I've ever seen it. I love it!

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scoobyjester

Question 1 year ago on Introduction

Does anyone have a new screen link which might work in the UK?

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dbess

2 years ago

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

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Hoshiki

2 years ago

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

https://www.adafruit.com/product/2232

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

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D10D3Hoshiki

Reply 2 years ago

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.