Sense HAT – how to get your Sense HAT working


Always fit the Sense HAT while the R Pi is switched off – and ‘power off’ before removing it.

When you fit your Sense Hat on your R Pi2 or R Pi3 all the LEDS should light up but they should not stay that way. Once your Pi has booted up the LED lights should go out. HAT – What it means? Read: HATS – No, I’m not wearing one!

  1. If you don’t get any lights lit at all, the Sense HAT is probably not connected to the Pi properly. Make sure all the pins are going into the female header on the Sense HAT and press down firmly.
  2. If, as I got, all the lights are lit but don’t go out at all, there are several things that could be wrong:
  • The Sense HAT still might not be connected properly to the Pi.
  • The Sense HAT software might not be installed. In LX Terminal use:
    • sudo apt-get update and let it do its stuff
    • sudo apt get upgrade and ditto
    • sudo apt-get install sense_hat
  • The R Pi might not be recognising the Sense HAT. If so, go back into the Terminal and alter config.txt with the instructions below:
  • sudo leafpad /boot/config.txt
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the config file and type:
  • dtoverlay = rpi-sense then Save and reboot your Pi. The syntax here is vital. Don’t add any spaces or it doesn’t work!


  • You need to have I2C enabled. This is automatically done on newer operating systems, such as Raspbian Stretch. If not :
    • Go to the main menu,
    • choose Preferences,
    • choose Raspberry Pi Configuration,
    • choose Interfaces
    •  and ‘Enable’ I2C and choose OK.


  1. Now you have a Sense HAT that lights up when you power up then becomes unlit during boot up. Try the Sparkles Activity ‘Make random sparkles on the Sense HAT’ from
  2. If this works alright, you are now in business so start sensing temperature, etc. and think about getting some groups of children to do Mission Zero!





10 thoughts on “Sense HAT – how to get your Sense HAT working

  1. Installing the sense hat software should be:
    sudo apt-get install sense-hat

    and not:
    sudo apt-get install sense_hat

    Also I found that the sense will not work if you have the GL (Full KMS) OpenGL driver setup in advanced raspi-config.

    Just an FYI…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Anne,
    as many new comers to Sense HAT, I’m stuck in the middle regarding communicating with LEDS and Joystick (see forums).
    RTIMULibDrive11 shows without any other tool the P/T/Hygro/Roll/Pitch/Yaw measures given by the three sensors of the Sense HAT.

    LEDS and Joystick are both accessed by the Atmel ATTINY88 chip (I2C address = x046 ). The communication is obviously broken somewhere between the LEDs and Joystick and the Pi.
    Before using the “hard way” which could be flashing the EEPROM of the Sense HAT, could you pls. give me/us your opinion regarding this situation?

    I use a Pi3B. I2C is enabled and I added at the end of /boot/config.txt the following line
    dtoverlay = rpi-sense


    Best regards


    1. Hi Roger, I could only borrow a Sense HAT, when we did Mission Zero, so I’m not an expert. I guess you’ve tried the forum but, if you haven’t, I’d go there first. If you still don’t have any luck, I’ll copy your msg into a forum for people who run Raspberry Jams and I’m sure one of them will be able to answer your query.


  3. Hi Anne,
    I’ve just posted a message there regarding the same error :
    And also found a usefull link:
    This seems to be the solution for flashing the Sense HAT v1.0 with teh right eeprom file in order to get access to LEDs (and joystick as well, because they are both managed by the same Atmel component).
    I’ll let you know soon if it worked for me.
    Thanks again for your pertinent pointer!


  4. Very latest news:

    1/ I flashed the Sense HAT EEPROM, thanks to the RPI-sense resources at but it failed:

    $ make flash

    avrdude: error: AVR device not responding
    It looks like the AVR component does not answer (Atmel ATTINY88) .

    This was some kind of HW test.

    2/ I got a new Sense HAT from a shop.
    It displayed rainbow immediately at startup which was a good sign (that SHOULD be told on Getting started with Sense HAT : “Rainbow on Sense HAT at startup = OK / No rainbow = HW problem, pls. return it to the shop”).
    Then I could have the very first Hello World! example working and pygame_joystick.pi as well.

    Now I have a simple question:
    How can we fully test the HW of a Pi or a HAT? (get HW components state and EEPROM configuration).
    In my case, flashing the EEPPROM could have been enough if the AVR answered.

    Let’s see what the Astro Pi group will answer.

    Anne, do you know how to do this?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s