Controlling the Pi's GPIO with Scratch
Linux Format|November 2021
Les Pounder shows how we can use Scratch with simple electronics.
Les Pounder


  • Any Pi model
  • Latest Pi OS
  • 1x LED
  • 1x 220 Ohm resistor (RED RED BROWN GOLD)
  • 5x F2M jumpers
  • Breadboard
  • Push button
  • 1x PIR sensor
  • Get the code: https:// lesp/LXF282ScratchGPIO-Basics/ archive/refs/ heads/main. zip

Scratch is meant for learning to code. It uses blocks to depict code and we can build sequences (algorithms) with relative ease. If something goes wrong we can take it apart and diagnose our code. As we’ve covered in previous issues, Scratch can also be used with the GPIO of a Raspberry Pi to learn electronics and in this tutorial we shall learn how to work with inputs such as buttons and a PIR sensor to control simple outputs such as LEDs.

Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you. Adding the PIR sensor to our robot project (LXF279) and tweaking the code will enable our robot to detect an obstacle, and then move around it. But before we can do that we need to know the basics, so here we go!

Scratch 3 should come pre-installed on your Raspberry Pi OS image, but just in case it’s missing it can be installed from the main menu, under Preferences>Recommended Software. Scratch 3 is found in the Programming category; simply place a tick in the box and then click Apply to install. Once installed, Scratch 3 can be found in the main menu under Programming.

Open Scratch 3 – on first start Scratch may take a little while to open. We’re going to assume that you have an understanding of how to code with Scratch. If not, we covered the basics in previous issues. Before we write any new code we need to click the blue folder icon in the bottom left of the screen to load the Extensions menu. From there select Raspberry Pi GPIO and a palette of new blocks is added to our code.

Reading and control

The Raspberry Pi’s GPIO has at the most basic level two states. It can be on or off. We can replace on with True, High or 1, while off can be replaced with False, Low and 0. When a pin is high, it’s active with voltage and current (power) and it can be used to power a device or as part of a circuit where we read the state of a pin and then react to changes.

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