Review: GrovePi Plug-and-Play Sensor Board

After experiencing how incredibly easy Dexter Industries made it to build a robot car, I decided to try out their add-on board called the GrovePi. Dexter makes a ton (supposedly over 100) of sensors that can be easily plugged in and instantly played with using their pre-written scripts.

You can get a GrovePi sensor board along with 12 different sensors in their starter kit:

http://www.dexterindustries.com/site/?product=grovepi-starter-kit-raspberry-pi

If the GrovePi made adding sensors to your Pi as easy as it sounded, it would open up much more workshop time and let us focus more on the code and data.

Initial Impression

The GrovePi and sensors came in a super fancy plastic box. I’m keeping that for parts.

Everything was packed very neatly and conveniently labelled.

The GrovePi uses the Pi’s I2C interface to communicate. It has 15 connector ports that receive the universal 4 pin connector cable. It also leaves more than half of the Pi’s GPIO pins available and accessible. You can read a more detailed description of how the ports work here.

All that you really need to know is that you can basically just plug any sensor in and immediately access it. No soldering and no breadboards. The sensors themselves are also very compact. You can see that the temperature and humidity sensor is barely wider than the 4 pin connector.

 

In 2 minutes I had assembled a system that could measure temperature, humidity, light and sound while outputting to an LED and an LCD screen for display.

After installing the GrovePi module, it took me no time at all to add some code to an existing script and get my LCD displaying my sensor data.

GrovePi-LCD-GIF

Awesome Things About the GrovePi

    1. Setup couldn’t be easier
      You plop the board on top of a Pi and plug in your sensor of choice with a satisfying ‘click’. Definitely easier than building an IKEA shelf.
    2. Reading from the sensors is a piece of cake
      Dexter Industries does a phenomenal job with resources for their products. Even their modules are well-ordered enough to navigate without any sort of direction. Scripts are named after what they control/access.
    3. You don’t have to sacrifice data for saved time
      If I had done everything all at once, it probably would’ve taken half an hour or less. And after that half hour or less I was collecting more types of data than I ever had before. It was extremely gratifying and informative.

Mediocre Things About the GrovePi

  1. The Starter Kit contained things that weren’t really “sensors”
    Honestly, I was hard-pressed to think of a downside to the GrovePi Starter Kit. The only thing I would’ve changed is some of the starter kit sensors. Trade me a flame or gas sensor for all of those LEDs.
  2. The documentation/scripts are great for beginners but frustrating when trying to do anything more advanced
    While the GrovePi can’t be beat for getting up and running immediately, once you want to do anything beyond their examples/stitching together example content, the documentation becomes sparse and confusing.

Overall, the GrovePi is amazing. It does an incredible job of matching the Pi’s ease-of-use. And you can create your own weather station or house environment monitor with no need for circuits or a deep wallet since the starter kit is only $89.99.

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