Microcontrollers are becoming increasingly popular for electronics projects, and the Raspberry Pi Pico is an exciting addition to the range of boards available. With its RP2040 32-bit dual ARM Cortex-M0+ chip, it packs a lot of power into a tiny package at a very low price.
The only issue with the Pico is that header pins do not come attached to its GPIO header as standard (unless you get the Pico H version). This means that you’ll need to solder two rows of 20 header pins to the board. The good news is that this process is easier than you think.
Let’s review what you will need before you dive into soldering.
- Soldering iron with a fine tip, a solder iron stand, and a sponge (to wipe off excess solder from your iron)
- Raspberry Pi Pico (or Pico W)
- 2x 20-pin headers with a pitch of 0.1″ (these often come in Pico header kits)
- Solder wire
- Old circuit board to practice on (optional, yet recommended)
- Solder sucker (optional, but useful when fixing your mistakes)
- Sturdy surface to work on
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to perfect your soldering skills is to grab an old circuit board and apply the techniques you’ve researched online, such as our guide on how to solder wires and electronics. Take advantage of the digital content available and review a few YouTube demonstrations until you feel ready to try soldering for the first time.
In this example, attaching the Pico to a Kitronik Inventor’s Kit proved to be a great platform to keep the board from moving about while soldering on the header pins. Any Pico add-on with female headers would work, or you could use a standard electronics breadboard to hold it in place. In addition, if you have a 3D-printed clamp, or another way to keep the board from moving, that is ideal.
If you don’t have a temperature read-out on your solder iron, you can tap the iron tip onto a nearby sponge a few times. Usually, the sizzle is an indication that your solder iron is hot enough to melt the solder wire to the pins.
Place your solder iron tip at approximately 45 degrees to the header pins and ensure that the tip is making contact as well. Hold the solder iron tip in place for 1-2 seconds, and then lower the wire down to just above the soldering iron tip, and let the wire puddle slightly. When you notice that the area around the pin is covered, remove the wire, and then lift the soldering iron with care. Repeat this process until you have completed these steps for all 40 header pins.
Did you make a mistake? Take a break and dive into this guide detailing soldering best practices. That way, you’ll know exactly what to do if something went wrong.
Now that you have the basics of soldering under your belt, all that’s left to do is practice and get to work on creating some great projects. The Raspberry Pi Foundation website offers a range of step-by-step project tutorials to dive into. You can also check out our guide to projects for a Raspberry Pi Pico for some inspiration.
Pico With Pins Soldered
Now you have pin headers attached to your Raspberry Pi Pico, you can connect it up more easily to a wide range of add-on boards and electronic components. What you create next with it is totally up to you. If you have the Pico W version, with built-in wireless connectivity, you can also use it for IoT projects.