This Raspberry Pi project, created by maker Brankly, is just as fun for Fido as it is for us humans. Using a Raspberry Pi Pico, Brankly developed an automatic ball launcher totally from scratch—everything from the 3D-printed housing to the electronic components inside was designed from the ground up.
According to Brankly, the long-term goal is to teach his dog to operate the launcher independently but until then, it’s up to the humans to drop the ball into the top. A sensor detects when a ball has been placed inside, causing the Pico to initiate the ball launching system.
A servo is used to block the path of the ball, turning a bit of plastic out of the way allowing the ball to fall down the channel when it’s time to launch. A randomized timer ensures the launch time is inconsistent and unpredictable. As the ball travels down the channel, two motors are initiated with random speeds that launch the ball different distances in accordance with the speed of their rotation. This keeps things fun for the dog as there is an element of uncertainty through each launch.
The housing was designed in Fusion 360 and 3D printed with a few extra ear accessories in different colors. The Pico is connected to a DC converter which helps manage the power adapter, a VL53L0X Time-of-Flight laser ranging distance sensor, an SG90 servo for the ball stopper, and a L298N motor controller used to control the 775 12V DC launching motors. To see how everything goes together, check out the full tutorial on YouTube.
The best Raspberry Pi projects have a range of applications and this is a notably versatile project—it could easily be applied to something like a batting cage or tennis court. Check out Brankly’s official YouTube channel for more cool projects and any future updates on this one.