June 23, 2017 psweeze

Recalbox on Raspberry Pi 3 with 2 GPIO Joystick and Buttons

This was the first year I had been back in the classroom for only the second time in the past 6 years. I don’t have to remind fellow educators about the nervous excitement I felt the first night back before my first day. It definitely took a couple months to truly get my sea legs back, but once I did I needed a project. Every year I’ve taught in the classroom I’ve had a project. I almost find myself rudderless without one (even on a secondment).

Over my decade in education I’ve fostered a PLN that has stretched from Coast to Coast to Coast. The impetus for the Bartop Arcade was thrown my way from the Technology and Science Coordinators from ASD-N. I owe Jamie O’Toole and Joey Savoie a lot of credit for their guidance and support along the way.


This being the first year I started to integrated the magical Raspberry Pi into my classroom I was overwhelmed at first by the number of resources:

The first few weeks were spent collecting and validating all the pertinent resources and websites we could find. One of the biggest hurdles with this project was stumbling across resources and posts from 2013 or earlier. More often than not, the instructions were a little out of date, and used old versions of Retropie that weren’t compatible anymore.

We were able to persevere and find an emulator system that worked for us. Recalbox is similar to Retropie, but actually works if you plan on just wiring your buttons straight to the GPIO pins.

The instructions and blueprints for the cabinet itself were taken from the Wood Whisperer’s website. It was amazing to have a Google Sketchup version of all the pieces. This allowed us to extrapolate our angles and make adjustments for the wood we had available in the shop.

As for using the Recalbox setup, I have included a video below that does a better job of walking you through the process. I have included the map of the GPIO pins and will only add that the top two 5V pins are useful for those that are using LED buttons. Make sure you have a ground running across one side, and another that runs across the other side, straight to one of the 5V pins. Due to the fact that there are two sets of controls, and two 5V pins, I decided to split mine up.

This was easily the most ambitious project I’ve taken on as an educator and I am thrilled with the results. I am still going to try and see if I can get the old joystick driver that was built by DigitalLumberjack to work with either Retropie 3.8… or 4.2… but that will be explored in a later post. If you have any questions, just post them on the Youtube video itself, or leave a comment below.


Also published on Medium.