Going Pro

Compute with Pi

Raspberry Pi Desktop Computer with Accessible GPIO

DIYODE Magazine

Issue 35, June 2020

Two brothers join forces to create an all-in-one Raspberry Pi prototyping and experimenting platform.

Meet the Team: Samytronix



Samuel “Samy” Alexander (Left) Tech Enthusiast, Maker, & Mechatronics Engineering Student NICHOLAS PATRICK (Right) High School Student, Mathematician and Programmer

We came across your Instagram post about your Samytronix Pi and wanted to get in touch to learn more. Before we get into that, can you tell us about yourself, and what made you start Samytronix?

I’m an international student in Australia, currently studying in my 2nd year Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering at Deakin University.

I have been active in tech talk events, DIY community, and robotics competition since I was in high-school back in Surabaya, Indonesia. In 2018, at age 17, I co-founded Samytronix with my younger brother, Nicholas Patrick. Our mission initially was to introduce STEM and coding to the community around us, and now Samytronix has grown bigger and we have a goal to share our knowledge and love in this field to the broader community internationally and make STEM education more accessible to everyone.

Our business Samytronix (samytronix.com) was founded in Indonesia, but now I’m studying in Geelong, Australia. So, we are operating in two locations. My brother in Indonesia while I’m in Australia.

It’s great that you and your brother share the same interests and are able to combine forces. What first got you both interested in electronics, coding, and 3D printing?

I first knew about Arduino when I saw Massimo Banzi’s TED talk back in 2014. My parents then bought me an Arduino Uno, a soldering iron, and some basic electronic components. After trying some projects available on the internet, I quickly became interested in the DIY community and learned more about electronics, coding, and 3D printing.

For my brother, Nicholas Patrick, he is more interested in programming (he is part of the Indonesian national competitive-programming team). I introduced him to embedded systems programming, he then got interested as well to implement the algorithms he made into an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi and made some projects with me.

It sounds like a great blend of hardware and code to take on the world. Tell us about your Samytronix Pi? What is it, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Samytronix Pi is a Raspberry Pi powered all-in-one Desktop PC that everyone can make. It is open source and using off the shelves components, so everyone can make one. We made this project because we want more people to learn and be able to build their own computer using affordable and easily obtainable components.

While we target the Samytronix Pi to be used for students to get started with coding, it can be suitable for anything else including in education. One of the key features of Samytronix is its versatility, it is basically a Raspberry Pi computer with a built in monitor, speaker, and an accessible GPIO port. An all-in-one Raspberry Pi prototyping solution.

Brilliant! What Raspberry Pi is it designed for and how is it powered?

In the current version, the Samytronix Pi is compatible with Raspberry Pi 2B, 3B, and 3B+. The unit is powered through a 2.1mm DC barrel jack using a 12V 1A power supply. 12V is needed to power the monitor driver, to power the Raspberry Pi a UBEC (universal battery eliminator circuit) is used for supplying 5V.

It’s great that your project supports a variety of boards, and having access to the GPIO on the front is a nice touch, labelled too. Can you tell us more about the UBEC? We notice that some UBEC on the market have a ferrite ring as well to reduce electrical noise. Do you need the ferrite in your design?

The accessible GPIO on the front makes it very easy to quickly toggle a pin from the Raspberry Pi. The accessible port is suitable for making electronic prototypes using breadboard or directly mounting a Raspberry Pi HAT. Combined with the built in monitor, the Samytronix Pi can become a really good prototyping and experimenting platform.

The UBEC is basically used as an efficient step-down voltage regulator. The power supply used in the project is a 12V DC and it is used to drive the monitor. The Raspberry Pi on the other hand requires a 5V DC power input, thus a UBEC is used to step-down the 12V to a 5V. The UBEC used in this project is popularly used for hobby RC vehicles that is why it includes a ferrite ring to overcome noise issues from motors (which the Samytronix Pi does not have).

The ferrite ring is not used for anything in the Samytronix Pi project and it can be removed (we kept it there for no particular reason).

Having a screen in the unit means there’s no dependence on large monitors, etc. What made you choose the 10” LCD for your project?

We chose this monitor because it came in an ideal form factor (10 inch) and it has a high resolution (1280x800). It also has a driver that made it easy to connect to the speakers.

How did you go about designing the enclosure and what, if any, design challenges did you need to overcome?

The 2D laser cut acrylic design was made using Adobe Illustrator. We then sent our design to a local laser cutting service in Indonesia and get our acrylic parts from them.

We had a few trials and errors before everything fit nicely together. Making everything fit perfectly with dimension tolerancing was quite a challenge, but in our final version we manage to overcome all these problems.

The acrylic does give your build a professional appearance. Could someone use a 3D printed chassis instead?

Currently we have only tested our design using laser cut acrylic parts. We haven’t tested using a 3D printed parts since some components will be really big and we cannot fit it using the desktop 3D printer we have. Theoretically if a big enough 3D printer is available, then the design could be 3D printed.

Can you give us some examples of what you have seen people make with your Samitronix Pi?

We have seen programming tutors used it to teach students about physical computing and programming using Scratch and prototyping with a breadboard from the accessible GPIO port. Students can learn about programming concepts easier when they are able to interact with what they make and see their program in action.

Combined with a mouse and keyboard, your project is a great way for hobbyists and students to learn about RPi. What would you have changed if you were to start the design and build again?

We will keep the design similar, using laser cut acrylic, as it is easy for a lot of people to duplicate our design while keeping fine details and precise cut. For the electronic components we will use the same components as they are easy to find and work reliably. The only thing we will change is the case design as we want to develop a newer design with Raspberry Pi 4 and it has a different port layout compared to the previous models.

If someone wants to build one of these for themselves, where do they go for the build instructions and code?

At the moment the project is available on Instructables: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Raspberry-Pi-Desktop-Computer-with-Accessible-/. We might update our design to make it compatible for Raspberry Pi 4 soon as well.

Excellent! What are you working on now?

We are now working to collaborate with more schools and organisations to help us introduce and implement STEM education curriculum to students. By the end of this year we also plan to launch some STEM education products via crowdfunding campaign and make it available to be bought internationally.

We did notice the Samytronix Nano kit on your website. A practical way to teach kids about Arduino. Finally Samy, what advice do you have for our maker audience if they want to turn their ideas into reality?

Start by trying out available open-source DIY projects and tutorials. The projects in the DIYODE magazine are a good place to start as there are plenty of good and interesting projects where you can learn a lot of new stuff. You can then try to modify those projects and make it your own version. By following projects made by others you will learn new stuff and then you will be able to come up with your own ideas.

Great advice. We thank you again for speaking with us, and we wish you all the best with your future crowdfunding campaign.