Will Jessop is a systems administrator for 37signals and he runs the North West Ruby User Group in Manchester. I bumped in to him recently and discovered he was working on a personal project with a Raspberry Pi. The aim of the project is to solve the problem of ping pong balls on the floor at the 37signals office in Chicago. The solution is a web-enabled robot with mounted camera allowing people to collect balls in to a basket.
The original version of the robot used the Custard Pi breakout, and then I suggested he looked at the MotorPiTX motor controller developed by Jason Barnett. He ordered one and joined Manchester Hackspace and began working on building or otherwise sourcing all the parts needed for the robot.
An early mains powered version using the MotorPiTX
Finding the new motor board much neater sitting on the original chassis, Will proceeded to design and 3D print motor mounts, caterpillar track mounts, a new base, a ball basket, and then added a mounted picamera with fish-eye lens.
3D printed parts
The underside, showing the pi
With a neat little camera robot, Will looked at options for battery powering it so it could roam free. Looking at power requirements and testing its usage while running the motors and streaming video over wireless, Will opted for a 5000mAh 7.4V lithium battery. He also added a lifter arm to the chassis, controlled independently of the robot itself.
Pi camera board with fish-eye lens
All the software on the Pi is written in Go, which Will sees as a great language for the Raspberry Pi as it creates small, efficient, statically compiled binaries that easily fit within the resource limits of the Pi. This runs alongside Will’s gamepad library (in C, available as a Ruby gem) on a laptop. Will also wrote a power control script to aid clean Pi shutdown via the MotorPiTX.
With the robot roaming free on its new battery, controlled by an xbox controller, the camera feed streaming over wifi, and the lifter arm functional, it was ready to present at the 16th Manchester Raspberry Jam! On a tour of the Manchester Hackspace during the Jam, Eben, Liz and Pete got to see it in action. Eben got hold of the controller and took it round picking up ping pong balls by watching the video stream on the laptop.
Playing at Madlab
Liz, Eben, Pete and Will at Manchester Hackspace
Eben – moustache and all – examines the robot
Eben gets a go
Will then took the robot to Miami to show it off at RubyConf, where many Rubyists got to have a play with it.
In action at RubyConf
Robot picking up ping pong balls:
Robot’s eye view:
Check out the series of posts on Will’s blog. Thanks to Manchester Hackspace and Jason Barnett for helping to facilitate the project. The robot’s not been placed in the 37signals office yet, but when web access to it is available, we’ll be sure to post the link so you can all have a go!
Will also wrote a Go library for the Pimoroni Piglow: github.com/wjessop/go-piglow. Go and take a look, have a play, and let us know what you think!
Gordon Hollingworth, our Director of Software, has been Googling himself, and mailed me to let me know about this video he found from Richard Ibbotson. Richard came by Pi Towers last month and filmed this little interview with Gordon and Eben – it’s worth a watch if you’re interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Enjoy!
The Raspberry Pi User Guide, co-authored by our very own Eben Upton with Gareth Halfacree, is your complete guide to the Raspberry Pi, from setup and installing software to learning how to use the Pi to play music and video, using it in electronics projects, learning your first programming language, learning about networking – it’s a complete guide to everything you need to get going, and even if Eben wasn’t involved in this book, it’d be our first recommendation for adults and older kids interested in getting started with the Raspberry Pi.
This second edition is a much, much fatter book than the first – there’s almost half a book’s extra content in there. The first edition only covered the earliest revision of our hardware, and much of the software we now take for granted hadn’t been written back when it was published: this new edition is bang up to date, with new chapters covering use of the camera board, how to use NOOBS to set up your Pi, the introduction of the Pi Store and much more.
We’ve got the Raspberry Pi User Guide for sale in the Swag Store: it’s a great gift for anybody you know who might be getting a Raspberry Pi this Christmas. If you’d like to support our educational mission and help us produce free learning materials and more schools equipment, we’d love it if you could buy from us. It’s also available in the usual places: Amazon currently have it on sale, but it’s been so popular that it’s out of stock there at the time of writing. We hope you buy a copy: and we hope you enjoy it as much as we have.
December’s MagPi was released this morning, and it’s full of Christmas cheer. This month you’ll learn how to make your Pi sing carols with Sonic Pi; and you’ll find out about environmental monitoring, so you can keep your electricity bill down without having to turn off the tree lights.
We’re very taken by the first in a new series on building your own quadcopter: and by the second installment from Project Curacao, where a Pi is dangling from a radio tower twelve degrees north of the equator working on environmental monitoring, which makes us feel the cold and dark in Cambridge something rotten.
There’s plenty for beginners, with a continuation of Jake Marsh’s button and switch tutorial (if you’re looking for the earlier part of any of these series, they’re all available for free in back-copies of The MagPi); an OpenELEC tutorial and a tour of the Pi Store. And, of course, that Sonic Pi tutorial, where you’ll be able to program your Pi to play Good King Wenceslas with ease, even if this is the first time you’ve plugged a Raspberry Pi in.
One of our favourite projects this month is the electronic painting tutorial using XLoBorg, where you’ll find yourself Pollocking the night away. And on the practical side of things, you’ll find out how to add an LCD display to your projects via GPIO, and use it to scroll text.
The MagPi is a magazine produced by the Raspberry Pi community for the Raspberry Pi community. It will always be free to download; but if you prefer a physical magazine you can also buy print copies, thanks to the team’s successful Kickstarter. All the back issues are available for you to download, and they’re full of tutorials, interviews, type-in listings and everything you’ll need to get started with a Raspberry Pi.
Team MagPi is always looking for people to join them: at the moment they are particularly in need of volunteers to help with layout (you should be a Scribus user), and testers. You can get in touch with them via the MagPi website – tell them we sent you!