The Sense HAT is a well-known peripheral (HAT) for Raspberry Pi that contains a multitude of handy input sensors and a fancy 8x8 LED matrix. It ships with drivers for Raspbian OS that make it all just work, but its sensors are useful even if you don't want to use a Raspberry Pi with it.

Since the Sense HAT relies on standard interfaces, you can wire it into any single-board computer and, with a little work, tap into its features. This page contains my notes in using the Sense HAT with a BeagleBone Black, but a similar procedure can be followed for any controller (including Arduino) that supports I2C.

All of the example code here can be found in my BeagleBone/Sense HAT GitHub repository.

Available Sensors

The Sense HAT contains the following sensors attached via I2C:

Model I2C Address Functionality
LPS25H 0x5C measure pressure
LSM9DS1 0x1C, 0x6A accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer
HTS221 0x5F measure temperature and humidity

The above sensors are standard I2C devices and can easily be accessed using only four connections (SCL, SDA, 3.3V, and ground).

The LED matrix is a little more complicated:

Model I2C Address Functionality
LED2472G 0x46 LED display driver

The I2C interface is actually provided by the ATTiny microcontroller which gives a nicer (albeit undocumented) interface into the actual LED2472G circuit. The Sense HAT schematics suggest the LED matrix requires 5V since there's a 5V SN74AHCT245PWR bus transceiver inline with it, but I've found that just using 3.3V is sufficient to drive the LED matrix.

Finally, there is a joystick (Alps Alpine SKRHABE010) and EEPROM (onsemi CAT24C32) as well:

  • The joystick is wired inline with the LED matrix driver and I don't fully grasp why that is.
  • The EEPROM is required by all Raspberry Pi HATs and has I2C address 0x50. However its SCL and SDA pins are not on the same bus as the Sense HAT's sensors, so you have to physically wire these into the same I2C bus going into your BeagleBone to access it. That said, you don't really want to mess with this EEPROM since messing with it will prevent the Sense HAT from working with regular Raspberry Pi.


The full pinout for the Sense HAT's header is published online, but it took a little trial and error with a multimeter to figure out the correct orientation. It turns out that the minimum number of connections you need to use the sensors on the Sense HAT are as follows:

Sense HAT pinout photo

That is, you only need 3.3V, ground, and the I2C clock (SCL) and I2C data (SDA) pins from the hat. Connecting them to the I2C bus on a BeagleBone Black involves:

  • Ground (black) to P9_2 (but any ground pin will work)
  • 3.3V (red) to P9_3 (any VDD 3.3 V pin will work)
  • I2C SCL (yellow) to P9_19 which is I2C bus 2's SCL
  • I2C SDA (blue) to P9_20 which is I2C bus 2's SDA

and it should look like this:

Sense HAT pinout photo

As soon as you apply 3.3V and ground, the LED matrix will light up. You can also verify that the I2C devices are detected by querying with i2cdetect:

$ i2cdetect -y -r 2
     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  a  b  c  d  e  f
00:          -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
10: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1c -- -- -- 
20: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
30: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
40: -- -- -- -- -- -- 46 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
50: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 5c -- -- 5f 
60: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 6a -- -- -- -- -- 
70: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --                         

Referencing the table above, we see that the LSM9DS1's magnetometer (0x1C), LPS25H (0x5C), HTS221 (0x5F), and LSM9DS1's accelerometer/gyroscope (0x6a) are all detected.

Accessing sensors with Python

The easiest way to verify that you can talk to the Sense HAT's sensors is using CircuitPython libraries. First set up a virtual environment with all the necessary libraries:

$ python3 -mvenv adafruit
$ . adafruit/bin/activate
(adafruit) $ pip install adafruit-blinka
(adafruit) $ pip install adafruit_bbio

Then try out each sensor individually.

LPS25 pressure sensor

Following the instructions on the CircuitPython LPS2x Python library documentation, first install the library:

(adafruit) $ pip3 install adafruit-circuitpython-lps2x

Then run this simple Python code, noting that we have to explicitly pass the I2C address because the CircuitPython library expects the LPS25 to be at a different address:

import board
import adafruit_lps2x

i2c = board.I2C()
lps = adafruit_lps2x.LPS25(i2c_bus=i2c, address=0x5c)

print("Pressure:    {:.2f} hPa".format(lps.pressure))
print("Temperature: {:.2f} C".format(lps.temperature))

To test this,

(adafruit) $ python3 
Pressure:    1013.27 hPa
Temperature: 29.06 C

Recall from physics class that atmospheric pressure is 1013.25 hectopascals.

LSM9DS1 accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer

Following the instructions on the CircuitPython LSM9DS1 library documentation, first install the library:

(adafruit) $ pip3 install adafruit-circuitpython-lsm9ds1

Then run this Python code:

import board
import adafruit_lsm9ds1

i2c = board.I2C()
sensor = adafruit_lsm9ds1.LSM9DS1_I2C(

print("Accelerometer: x={:7.3f}  y={:7.3f}  z={:7.3f} m/s^2".format(*sensor.acceleration))
print("Magnetometer:  x={:7.3f}  y={:7.3f}  z={:7.3f} gauss".format(*sensor.magnetic))
print("Gyroscope:     x={:7.3f}  y={:7.3f}  z={:7.3f} radians/sec".format(*sensor.gyro))
print("Thermometer:   {:.2f} C".format(sensor.temperature))

Note that the LSM9DS1 exposes two I2C addresses: one for the magnetometer, and another for the accelerometer and gyroscope. We have to specify the addresses for both explicitly here since the CircuitPython library's defaults are not the ones used by the Sense HAT.

To then test this,

(adafruit) $ python3
Accelerometer: x=  5.611  y=-10.551  z= 19.600 m/s^2
Magnetometer:  x=  0.256  y=  0.315  z=  0.173 gauss
Gyroscope:     x= -1.005  y= -3.195  z= -0.805 radians/sec
Thermometer:   25.50 C

HTS221 temperature and humidity sensor

Following the instructions on the CircuitPython HTS221 library documentation, first install the library:

(adafruit) $ pip3 install adafruit-circuitpython-hts221

Then run this Python code:

import board
import adafruit_hts221

i2c = board.I2C()
hts = adafruit_hts221.HTS221(i2c)

print("Relative humidity: {:.1f}%".format(hts.relative_humidity))
print("Temperature:       {:.2f} C".format(hts.temperature))

You should see output that looks like this:

(adafruit) $ python3
Relative humidity: 51.0%
Temperature:       30.23 C

LED matrix display

There is no CircuitPython library for the Sense HAT's LED2472G and 8x8 LED matrix because the Sense HAT doesn't actually expose the LED2472G natively; instead, its onboard ATTiny microcontroller exposes an I2C interface that makes programming the LED matrix much easier.

However, we can still make our own CircuitPython driver for the Sense HAT's I2C interface into these LEDs. It looks something like this:

import board
import busio
from adafruit_bus_device.i2c_device import I2CDevice


class LEDMatrix:
    def __init__(self, i2c_bus, address=DEVICE_ADDRESS):
        self.i2c_device = I2CDevice(i2c, address)

    def clear(self):
        self.pixels = [0] * (8 * 8 * 3 + 1)

    def set_pixel(self, x, y, red, green, blue):
        linear_addr = x * 8 + y
        r_addr = (y * 24) + x + 1
        g_addr = r_addr + 8
        b_addr = g_addr + 8
        self.pixels[r_addr] = int(red * 63)
        self.pixels[g_addr] = int(green * 63)
        self.pixels[b_addr] = int(blue * 63)

    def update(self):
        with self.i2c_device as display:

Put simply, we control the 64 LEDs using the knowledge that I2C registers...

  • 1-8 control the redness of LEDs along the first row
  • 9-16 control the greenness of the LEDs along the first row
  • 17-24 control the blueness of the LEDs along the first row
  • 25-32 control the redness of LEDs along the second row
  • 33-40 control the greenness of the LEDs along the second row
  • etc

The value of each register only holds six bits (0b00111111), so 63 is the highest brightness you can set. If you set the two highest-order bits, (e.g., 0b11000000), you wind up lighting up part of the next LED in the column, the lower six bits are ignored, and the intended LED sits at maximum brightness.

To test the above driver, you can do something like this:

i2c = board.I2C()
display = LEDMatrix(i2c)

print("Use ctrl+d to exit the following loop!")
while True:
    addr = input("Enter x, y (0-7): ")
    x, y = [int(z) for z in addr.replace(",", " ").split()]
    value = input("Enter r, g, b (0.0-1.0): ")
    r, g, b = [float(z) for z in value.replace(",", " ").split()]
    display.set_pixel(x, y, r, g, b)

Enter x and y coordinates (in zero-based indexing) and red, green, and blue values that range from 0.0 to 1.0, and the corresponding LED should illuminate to that color.

You can make this LEDMatrix class as fancy as you'd like for fun projects. To demonstrate, I made a BeagleBone Black scrolling the default rainbow pattern:

Sense HAT LED matrix driven by BeagleBone

You can find the source for this demo in my GitHub repository.