In the iPhone ad “Powerful,” actors launched a group of model rockets with an iPhone. You can view the ad here. I thought this was insanely cool, but in typical Apple fashion, I couldn’t find out how they did it. I decided to take matters into my own hands and build my own system from scratch using a Raspberry Pi, Web IO Pi Framework, Relay Board and a modern smartphone.

The software portion of this project isn’t too hard. I used the WebIOPi framework to control pin 17 on the Raspberry Pi. I chose this framework because it made it very simple to control a GPIO pin. You can download the html and python file from my github. You can also learn more about configuring WebIOPi here.

I attempted to build my own relay board, but I ended up using a relay board I already had. The one in the video is an eight channel because that is all I could acquire for this project but all you need is a single channel board. The relay board completes the circuit between the 9V battery and model rocket starter. The Raspberry Pi and Relay board were powered by a USB battery.

Finally I used this pocket router to provide the wi-fi hotspot. I picked this because it is easier to power than a full-sized router and the hotspot on my phone didn’t work.

I’ve got some more ideas for my next video, like a pedal under my workbench to take pictures as I solder. What would you like to see? Let me know in the comments.

Lewis Callaway

Lewis Callaway

I am the host and producer of the Make it Great video series. I love to make videos and cool projects. In my spare time, I like to run cross country and play soccer.


  • 4ChanApologist

    This is the coolest kid I have ever seen.

    • Lewis Callaway

      Thanks!!

  • JamesFloydKelly

    I’ve been looking at doing something similar with the Belkin WeMo device. It does require WiFi, however. Oh, and it’s AC powered, so might not be super-safe. But still… the WeMo app can turn on and off the device easily.

    • Lewis Callaway

      If you plugged a 9V wall wart into the WeMo it would probably work.

  • Firstname Lastname

    Nice job. Great to see others starting to build launchers based off of the raspberry pi. I received one of the first pis that were shipped, and soon after that also built a fireworks launcher.

  • http://aerospike.com/ Brian Bulkowski

    It would be great to see, in the github repo, enough information to actually run the project. The supplied HTML page and single python script leave all the hard bits of configuring a web server to run with enough privs to launch the script, wiring everything together, the choices of IO library, to the reader.

    Check out our Pi-controlled cheesecave software. It controls temperature within a band, from any web page (mobile or static), and keeps JSON formatted temp data for later offline analysis. We’ve included the web pages, the daemons that run the minute-to-minute temp control, instructions on the GPIO libraries we chose, descriptions of the sensors we used and why.

    http://github.com/cswales/CheeseCave

    We haven’t finished the project – our homebrew 120v relay controllers aren’t spec’d, and we’re still not doing humidity control – but you can find more end-to-end make than I see in other similar projects.

    Cool stuff, and inspirational.

  • Alberto

    Hi, I have read your article and its very interesant for me. But I have a question, where do you buy the rockets? Because I´m interested in the project. Regards.

  • Sidney Chen

    This is an amazing and funning project!

  • Michał Pasternak

    LOVELY, thanks for sharing that. For the last 20 yrs or so I’ve been programming stuff knowing nothing about electronics, webpages like yours help me start with RPI prototyping. THANKS.

  • Chaitanya Krishna

    Hey these projects are really innovative, great kid.

  • Jonathan

    Nice project. I am thinking of implementing the same wireless system using Bluetooth. Have you considered something like that?

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