Cover image for Bluetooth Remote Control Custom PCB


Watch the associated video here:

Building a Custom Raspberry Pi Pico W Game Controller for Robotics

The landscape of hobbyist electronics and robotics has witnessed an explosion of innovation over the past few years. Leading this charge is the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which, with the introduction of the Raspberry Pi Pico, added another feather to its cap. This article dives deep into an exciting project: a custom-made game controller using the Raspberry Pi Pico W. Read on to know more about this enticing journey from idea to execution.

1. The Vision

Our goal was to create a game controller that not only resembled the ergonomic design of popular controllers, like that of Xbox, but was also capable of seamlessly connecting to and controlling robots. From the outset, there were a few must-haves:

  • Ergonomics: The design had to be user-friendly and familiar.
  • Connectivity: It needed Bluetooth capabilities for wireless control.
  • Power Efficiency: A JST-PH connector to support LiPo batteries, ensuring longevity.

2. Key Components

  • Raspberry Pi Pico W: The brain of our operation. This microcontroller, a wireless variant of the popular Raspberry Pi Pico, has Bluetooth functionality integrated. Its compatibility with MicroPython makes it apt for this task.

  • Controller Buttons: Two sets of buttons were incorporated. One set for movement (up, down, left, right) and the other for action commands (A, B, X, and Y). These momentary switch tactile buttons provide tactile feedback, ensuring a responsive gaming experience.

  • JST-PH Power Connector: For flexibility in battery choices and ease of charging.

3. Design & Assembly

The PCB layout was designed mimicking the curves and edges of well-known game controllers. Components were strategically placed to balance weight, aesthetics, and functionality. The Raspberry Pi Pico W was situated centrally, acting as the heart of the device, with button arrays on either side.

To learn more about the PCB design behind this project, watch this video:

4. Power Management

LiPo batteries were the choice for this project, owing to their energy density and rechargeable nature. Coupled with the JST-PH connector, it ensures that the controller remains powered for extensive gaming and robot control sessions. It’s always recommended to integrate a charging circuit and protection if using LiPo batteries to maintain safety.

5. Software and Connectivity

MicroPython was the obvious choice for programming the Raspberry Pi Pico W. Not only is it beginner-friendly, but it also provides a rich library for Bluetooth connectivity.

A simple script was written to detect button presses and translate them into Bluetooth signals. For instance, pressing the “up” button would send a signal to move the robot forward. With MicroPython, the task was not only straightforward but also modifiable for various robotic applications.

The MicroPython code is available here:

6. Applications

While initially envisioned for robotic control, this custom controller’s applications aren’t limited. Think of DIY game consoles, home automation, or even controlling drones. The possibilities are endless.

7. Final Thoughts

Building a custom game controller powered by Raspberry Pi Pico W has been a rewarding experience. It’s projects like these that highlight the versatility of Raspberry Pi products and the ever-expanding potential of hobbyist electronics.

For those interested in embarking on similar adventures, remember: the beauty lies not just in the final product but the process itself. Happy building!

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