The Raspberry Pi Foundation have been busy little bees for the last couple of years producing their own silicon, new boards and now in collaboration with the LEGO Education team a new HAT to connect to the LEGO SPIKE education platform. This new HAT board will work with every Raspberry Pi board with a 40-pin GPIO header.
Based on the RPI2040 microcontroller, it makes an interesting detour away from dumb slave boards, although it looks like the firmware is closed (for now) so you’ll have to make do with the pre-baked capabilities and talk to it with the supplied python library.
According to the documentation, the communication between the Pi and the RPI2040 nestled beneath the HAT PCB is plaintext-over-serial, freeing up the majority of the GPIO pins for other uses. The board uses a surface mount pass-through type header which allows pins from the Pi to protrude through the PCB, allowing stacking more HATs on top. Curiously they decided to mount the PCB with active parts facing down, giving a flat rear surface to park things on. We suspect that decision was made to improve access to the LPF2 connectors, especially if they were surface mount parts.
Compatibility with LEGO hardware is also fully documented, including the Spike Education portfolio, which comprises motors, a colour sensor, force sensor, and a distance sensor amongst others. Some parts from the mindstorms robot inventor kit as are also supported. LEGO have also introduced a new part, that they are calling the ‘maker plate’ which is specifically designed for mounting ‘SBCs’ but doesn’t specify which ones. Clearly it looks like it will take Pi3/4 board, but we’ll leave it to them to clarify other support.
A new higher-power power supply brick is also introduced, which feeds 8V into that barrel jack you may have noticed, as you may be aware, LEGO motors can pack quite a punch and trying to power those from the Raspberry Pi GPIO header will only end in frustration.
We’ve seen an enormous array of LEGO hacks over the years, and this new product is not the first hackable solution we’ve seen. Just checkout this Open Source Evlōno One for starters. This new product however is a nice example of a reasonably open company getting into bed with an established player and producing something cool and that is a good thing.
Thanks [Qes] for the tip!