Drachenbox One – My Semi-Failed Quest to Game

Part of the driving force behind the decision to get my own 3D printer was discovering the PiGRRL project from Adafruit.

I could build my own GameBoy… WHAT?!

Prior to this moment, I had heard of the Raspberry Pi, but had not thought seriously about getting acquainted with one.  As a mechanical engineer, my brain operates primarily in the tangible.  Computers and electronics are voodoo magic, but at this point in my life, I felt it was time to start understanding these things better.

Adafruit had a wonderfully put-together tutorial on the parts list, set-up, and assembly of the project, and in my ambition, I decided it wouldn’t be too difficult to ‘improve’ on the design using RetroPie software and designing my own housing with more buttons.


My original intent was to use a 3D printing service to make the parts for me, but quickly realized that it would be more cost effective to buy my own machine, especially if something didn’t turn out exactly as planned the first time around (seriously, when does anything go perfectly right away?).

Because the Printrbot Simple Metal’s build area is 150 x 150 x 150 mm, I had to break the build up into smaller parts that would easily fit, which brought us to version Mark II

The screen is slightly off... because I don't know...

At this point, all the components had arrived and I got right to work on snipping, splicing, and soldering.

What a tangled mess of ingenuity...

And I learned that while adding a few extra connections electrically was not a big deal, I was completely out of my depth when it came to getting the thing to function with a different software.  In my naivety, I thought RetroPie would ‘just work’ with a few tweaks as long as I could Google the right ones.

At this point in time in my project, all search results came to the conclusion that the screen I had could not run the graphics engine that is used in RetroPie…

This… was a bit of a setback, but also a valuable learning experience: Research, THEN purchase (essentially ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’ translated to all other areas of life… have I mentioned that electronics are voodoo magic?).

All was not lost though!  I could obviously still run RetroPie, it just wouldn’t be in a hand-held form factor.  No problem.  Information on that is everywhere.

To simplify things, I decided the battery components were no longer needed, and learning that abrupt shut-downs on the system will eventually nuke the SD card (see… research first!), found a safe shut-down solution at Mausberry Circuits.

I dubbed the final product the ‘DrachenBox One.’

Works great and my nephews love it!

Adafruit has since updated/upgraded their PiGIRRL project to a more-compact version that can now run RetroPie.  The screen size is smaller than the one I currently have, but I have found that this is not an issue any more…

So: To be continued…

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