12 May 2016


A Raspberry Pi3 VSTS Build Light–Part 1, the hardware

In this three part series, I’ll walk you through my experience creating a VSTS Build Light using a Raspberry Pi3 and an add-on board from the great folk at Codify, here in Brisbane, Australia.

We’ll walk through setting up the hardware in this blog post. In the second blog post we’ll install Windows IoT Core on the MicroSD card ready to run on the Raspberry Pi 3. Finally in the third blog post we’ll setup our PC for building and deploying the Codify software onto the Raspberry Pi. We’ll configure the software to connect to our VSTS account and let it know which build we want it to show the status of.

Here’s a photo of the finished project showing that the status of my build is happy and healthy (for now) Smile

14 ASuccessfulBuild

Here a list of the parts and tools I’ll be using in this three part blog series. I live in Brisbane, Australia and the closest electronics shop to me is called Jaycar. You can find them all around Australia.

Parts list:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 (Purchased from Newark Element 14 in the US but broadly available)
  • Sandisk Ultra 8Gb MicroSD card (Class 10)
  • Official Raspberry Pi 3 Case
  • Spacer Nylon Tapped Hex M3x9MM Pk25 (Jaycar# HP0922)
  • Washer Nylon M3 Flat Wht Pk10 (Jaycar# HP0148)
  • Screw M3x6mm Phil R/Hd ZP Pk25 (Jaycar# HP0400)
  • 12V DC 1.5 Amp regulated switch mode power supply
  • RGB Light Strip
  • Codify VSTS Build Light Circuit Board

Tool list:

  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdriver (small Phillips head)
  • Sharp scissors for cutting RGB light strip to desired length
  • Soldering iron (for tinning the ends of the braided cable on the RGB power strip only)


Here’s a look at some of our parts as we prepare to get started. Note that the official Raspberry Pi 3 power supply is shown in the photo. I didn’t end up using this as the Raspberry Pi gets its power from the Codify board.

01 Parts laid out

I’m choosing to use a Raspberry Pi 3 for this project primarily due to the fact it has built-in wireless networking which means I don’t need to have a USB wireless adapter hanging out of the device to connect to VSTS. You can easily use a Raspberry Pi 2 if you happen to have one and you can always choose to connect via network cable in the ethernet port if you prefer.

02 RaspberryPi3

Here’s the hero of our project. It is a board that the guys at Codify have created as a project for themselves. Ben Parker kindly gave me a couple of these to use and demonstrate. You can read about the origins of their VSTS Build light on their blog. The custom printed board is certainly much nicer than wires on a breadboard.

03 CodifyBoard

This board is designed to plug directly into the 40 PIN GPIO connect on the Raspberry Pi. Note that it does not use all 40 pins but it is fairly obvious where you line up pin 1.

Ben was kind enough to point out one issue that you’ll need to be aware of. As you can see in the next photo the two pins from the terminal block that you connect to 12 volt power to are at risk of shorting against the metal shield around the HDMI connector. This would be bad Smile

04 SpacersRequired

To solve this problem I purchased a set of both 9mm (Jaycar HP0922) and 12mm (Jaycar HP0924) nylon tapped hex spacers. I found the 12mm spacers were slightly too tall and the 9mm ones just slightly too short. A Nylon M3 Flat washer proved to be just the right answer to this problem.

I screwed the spacer and washer to the Codify board using a M3x6mm Phillips head screw (Jaycar# HP0400) as you can see in the following photo.

05 SpacersOnCodifyBoard

I’m much happier with the space between the pins from the terminal block and the HDMI connector now. You should also note that I am not securing the other ends of the spacers to the Raspberry Pi board. I find the IDC connector holds the Codify very firmly to the Raspberry Pi and by leaving the other end of the spacers open, they’ll line up nicely with the bottom of the official Raspberry Pi case.

06 BetterClearence

The next item on the agenda is to look at the LED light strip. The 12 volt RGB light strips seem to be popping up everywhere. Make sure you get an RGB one as there are plenty of single colour ones out there which aren’t nearly as useful in showing build status.

Most light strips can be easily cut to whatever length you want depending on how and where you’re going to mount your build light. The strips usually have a 3M adhesive strip on the back so they can be stuck to a wall or piece of furniture.

07 CutLEDStripToLength

If you look around you can also find a variety of different aids to help you mount the light strip including clip-on corners and little plastic brackets you can use to tack into place on walls/furniture.

08 LEDStripCorners

Usually both ends of the light strip are terminated with a 4-pin plug. These allow you to easily chain them if you want to create a particularly long light strip. For my build light, I’ve cut the strip to around 80 cms in length. I’ll also cut off the plug as you can see below and then strip the wires back and tin the wire with a little solder. This will make it easy to attach the light strip to the terminal block on the Codify board.

09 WiresFromLEDStrip

Now I’ll go back to the Raspberry Pi and place it into the bottom half of the official Raspberry Pi 3 case. You can see in the photo below why we’re not securing the nylon spacer to the Raspberry Pi. The hole in the PCB lines up with the lug in the bottom of the case and holds it in place.

10 AligningPCBtoCase

You can see now what the assembled project looks like. The Codify board is a great size to just fit on to of the Raspberry Pi. I should point out now that the top of the Raspberry Pi case is not going to fit due to the Codify board. We’ll only be taking advantage of the bottom of the Raspberry Pi case and leaving the top open.

11 Assembled

My next task is to connect the wires from the LED light strip to the terminal block on the Codify board. The labels on the board make it very apparent which wires go where. Make sure you don’t leave any loose wires poking out of the terminal block that might short and cause an issue.

12 AttachLEDStripWires

To power the VSTS Build light we will need a 12volt DC power plug supplying somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 amps. The range will depend on exactly how long you want your light strip to be. The 1.5A supply seems to drive my 80cm LED strip without any problems at all. I had to cut the plug off the power plug so I could strip the wires and tin them with a little solder. Attach these to the Codify board on the appropriate terminal block ensuring your observe the correct polarity.

NOTE: THIS POWER SUPPLY WILL RUN BOTH THE CODIFY BOARD AND THE RASPBERRY PI. You should not plug the standard micro-USB power supply into your Raspberry Pi.

13 12VDCPlugpack

Here’s where we end this first part of my three part series on building the Codify VSTS Build Light.

The next two parts will be as follows;