Petrifying Pico pumpkins

Forgive the hyperbole — these pumpkins are closer to “cutesy” than “petrifying” — but it’s my second-favourite holiday of the year today, and I get to celebrate by littering the blog with all the alliteration I want.

I’ve been sitting on this project from the GurgleApps kids for ages now, waiting for just the right time to post it, and here we are.


  • Raspberry Pi Pico
  • Two 8×8 LED matrixes
  • Jumper wires to connect those two things together
  • Battery pack
  • A pumpkin (any large enough gourd will also work)
Two pumpkins on a desk in a darkened room with their LED eyes glowing in different colours. The LED matrices make the mouth on one pumpkin glow too

How does it work?

You can probably tell from that spookily sparse hardware list that this is a relatively simple build. You just need to wire up one LED matrix to the other and then to the Pico’s GPIO. The battery pack is also wired directly to the Pico. There are instructions on

A close up of one of the gourds in a room with the lights on

Designing what will display on the LED matrixes is where you can flex some coding creativity. You could make the eyes blink at the same time, or have them display different patterns in tandem. If you’d rather keep both the hardware and software sides of this build simple, then fear not: GurgleApps has created a simple tool for you to automatically load shapes for display. They’ve got a few major holidays covered, with six types of ghosts to choose from, as well as hearts, bunnies, and Santa hats.

Motion detection upgrade

We’re so late to this Pico pumpkin party that the project has already been through an upgrade. The makers added a PIR sensor inside the nose of their pumpkin, giving it motion detection powers. Now the LED matrix eyes sleep when the pumpkin is alone, and blink into life when someone walks in front of it.

This would be an amazing doorstep decoration to dazzle trick-or-treaters but it rains all the time here so we can’t have nice things.

Call for Halloween costume ideas

Before you go, tell me what you’re dressing up as this year in the comments. I need easy ideas I can pull together without having to shop for anything between now and about three hours’ time when I will be putting said costume on. You’re all going as Barbie and Ken, aren’t you? So basic.

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