Mathematica 10 – now available for your Pi!

Liz: If you use Raspbian, you’ll have noticed that Mathematica and the Wolfram Language come bundled for free with your Raspberry Pi. (A little boast here: we were only the second computer ever on which Mathematica has been included for free use as standard. The first? Steve Jobs’s NeXT, back in 1988.) 

Earlier in July, Wolfram Research announced a big update to Mathematica, with the introduction of Mathematica 10. Here’s a guest post announcement from Arnoud Buzing at Wolfram about what the new Mathematica will offer those of you who use it on your Raspberry Pi. Over to you, Arnoud!

In July, we released Mathematica 10a major update to Wolfram’s flagship desktop product. It contains over 700 new functions, and improvements to just about every part of the system.

wolfram-rasp-pi2

Today I am happy to announce an update for Mathematica and the Wolfram Language for the Raspberry Pi, which bring many of those features to the Raspberry Pi.

To get this new version of the Wolfram Language, simply run this command in a terminal on your Raspberry Pi:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wolfram-engine

This new version will also come pre-installed in the next release of NOOBS, the easy set-up system for the Raspberry Pi.

If you have never used the Wolfram Language on the Raspberry Pi, then you should try our new fast introduction for programmers, which is a quick and easy way to learn to program in this language. This introduction covers everything from using the interactive user interface, basic evaluations and expressions, to more advanced topics such as natural language processing and cloud computation. You’ll also find a great introduction to the Wolfram Language in the Raspberry Pi Learning Resources.

This release of the Wolfram Language also includes integration with the newly released Wolfram Cloud. This technology allows you to do sophisticated computations on a remote server, using all of the knowledge from Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Knowledgebase. It lets you define custom computations and deploy them as a “instant API” on the cloud. The Wolfram Cloud is available with a free starter account, and has additional non-free accounts which enable additional functionality.

Check the Wolfram Community in the next couple of weeks for new examples which show you how to use the Wolfram Language with your Raspberry Pi.

Introducing Raspberry Pi HATs

Just over two weeks ago, we announced the new Raspberry Pi B+ with immediate availability. We’ve been very pleased at the response from the community and press about the B+, and most people seem to appreciate why we decided to evolve the Model B in the way we did – lots of you have been in touch to tell us how much you’re enjoying your new B+.

There are many great new features built into the B+, but today we want to talk about one new feature we are particularly excited about.

One of the brilliant things about the Raspberry Pi has always been the ability to attach physical hardware to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) connector. There are so many third party add-on boards that attach to the Raspberry Pi and extend its functionality: motor controllers, LEDs, buttons, sensors, microcontrollers, LCDs, ADCs and DACs; you name it, someone has almost certainly created an add-on board that makes it usable with the Raspberry Pi.

PiB-Bplus-GPIO

Model B’s 26W vs Model B+’s 40W GPIO connectors

On the Raspberry Pi models A and B, the GPIO connector has 26 pins. Users attaching an add-board to the model A or B Pi usually have to work out which drivers are required for their specific board, and then edit the relevant Linux files to make them load at boot time before the board is usable (or load them by hand from the command line). The Raspberry Pi has no knowledge of whether it has a board attached or not, and the various drivers, when loaded, will simply assume that they can make exclusive use of the GPIO interface. Most of the time this all works OK, but it can be a bit challenging for new users. Linux drivers blindly assuming GPIO pins are available can also occasionally cause confusion.

The Raspberry Pi B+ has been designed specifically with add-on boards in mind and today we are introducing ‘HATs’ (Hardware Attached on Top). A HAT is an add-on board for B+ that conforms to a specific set of rules that will make life easier for users. A significant feature of HATs is the inclusion of a system that allows the B+ to identify a connected HAT and automatically configure the GPIOs and drivers for the board, making life for the end user much easier!

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that there are obviously a lot of add-on boards designed for the original model A and B boards (which interface to the original 26 way GPIO header). The first 26 pins of the B+ GPIO header are identical to those of the original models, so most existing boards will still work. We are not breaking compatibility for existing boards; we’re creating a specification that B+ add-on board designers can follow (if they so wish), which is designed to make end users’ lives much easier.

So what is a HAT?

HAT-Pi-Flexis

B+ sporting a (mechanical sample of a) HAT and showing camera and display connections

In a nutshell a HAT is a rectangular board (65x56mm) that has four mounting holes in the (nicely rounded) corners that align with the mounting holes on the B+, has a 40W GPIO header and supports the special autoconfiguration system that allows automatic GPIO setup and driver setup. The automatic configuration is achieved using 2 dedicated pins (ID_SD and ID_SC) on the 40W B+ GPIO header that are reserved for an I2C EEPROM. The EEPROM holds the board manufacturer information, GPIO setup and a thing called a ‘device tree‘ fragment – basically a description of the attached hardware that allows Linux to automatically load the required drivers.

What we are not doing with HATs is forcing people to adopt our specification. But you can only call something a HAT if it follows the spec.

So why are we bothering with all this? Basically, we want to ensure consistency and compatibility with future add-on boards, and to allow a much better end-user experience, especially for less technically aware users.

The HAT specification is available on GitHub for those wishing to design add-on boards for the B+. As previously explained, there is no requirement to follow the HAT specification, but we encourage people to think about following it if possible, as it will make the world a better place for end users.

One final bit of good news:  we have used a surface mount connector on our internal prototype HAT which works very nicely. As you can see from the pictures it solders to the top of the board and then fits over an extension header (the extension header pins push through the HAT from underneath). As the extension headers push through like this it is possible to either use a short, flush mounting extension or a version with longer pins that poke out above the HAT and allow further access to the GPIO pins for debugging.

HAT-longpins

HAT using extender with longer pins

For HAT designers wanting to use these connectors, we have secured discounted pricing through Toby Electronics. The connector part numbers are:

Toby tell us they are getting stock in now, which should arrive for the 5th August.

Please post technical questions about the specification to the forum.

Sonic Pi Competition

Coding music on a Raspberry Pi with Sonic Pi has quickly become a great way to learn programming concepts and to pump out some thumping beats. Last year I worked with Dr Sam Aaron, live coder and academic at the University of Cambridge, to teach KS3 pupils text-based programming on Raspberry Pis as part of their ICT & Computing lessons. Since then Sonic Pi has proved incredibly popular in classrooms worldwide. The scheme of work we used is available for free in the ‘Teach’ section of our resources for any educator wanting to teach computer programming in a fun way.

sonicpi2

Since our classroom collaboration, Sam has been busy working on Sonic Pi version 2.0 and together we have been wowing attendees of Picademy with the potential of Sonic Pi for the classroom. We have also been working on Sonic Pi: Live & Coding, a digital research project to turn a Raspberry Pi into a musical instrument with Sonic Pi, working with schools, artists, academics and the Cambridge Junction, which will culminate in a Sonic Pi: Live & Coding Summit this November. In fact, this week at the Cambridge Junction, 60 children have been participating in the project, having coding music battles, and jamming with musicians.

Sonic Pi

Push Sam’s buttons and watch his eyes pop at Sonic Pi Live and Coding!

To coincide with the summit, we will be launching a Sonic Pi: Live & Coding competition in September to find the best original sonic pi composition created by a child or young person in three age categories. We will have a significant number of Raspberry Pis to give away at random for those who take part, and the semi-finalists of the competition will be invited to perform their original work live at the summit in November in front of an audience and panel of judges to potentially be crowned the first ever Sonic Pi Competition winner!

So what are you waiting for? Download Sonic Pi version 2 for your Raspberry Pi by following these instructions, and then take a look at the Sonic Pi 2 article by Sam in the MagPi magazine, and our new Sonic Pi Version 2 Getting Started resource. Take this opportunity to practice and get a head start on the competition!

Get your pratice in for the Sonic Pi version 2 competition with our new resource.

Get your practice in for the Sonic Pi version 2 competition with our new resource.

Submit your application to the Raspberry Pi Education Fund

Got a great idea or project to teach kids about computing?

Need some help raising the finance to make it a reality?

We have some good news: the Raspberry Pi Education Fund is finally open for applications. As a reminder, thanks to all the Raspberry Pis bought by the community over the past 2 years, we have been able to put together a £1 million education fund to help fulfil our charitable mission.

Applications are invited from organisations looking to fund projects that encourage young people to learn about computing or illustrate how computing can be used enhance education in STEM or the creative arts.  You can find more details on the eligibility criteria and submit your application here.

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Coding Marathon at the Cambridge Centre of Computing History sponsored by Raspberry Pi Foundation

Go on, what are you waiting for? This is your chance to make a difference.

100 years since World War I: build a Morse code virtual radio

On this day 100 years ago, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. As the dominos began to tumble Russia mobilised against Austria-Hungary, causing Germany to declare war on Russia. Germany then invaded Luxembourg and declared war on France; and on the 4th of August the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. So began one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, that would draw in all of the great economic powers of the world, lasting until November the 11th 1918.

A century later the effect of this war is still with us. Every one of us has some kind of connection to it, whether it be an impact on our family history or on the place we live. This year events are taking place all over the world to commemorate and remember the millions of people who lost their lives. You can visit www.1914.org to find out more.

QST May 1942

The cover of QST magazine showing a call for women radio operators.

We expect lots of schools will be taking part in these events, and in the spirit of commemoration we have put together an educational resource called the Morse Code Virtual Radio. This allows you to simulate and experience the main form of radio communication that was used back then, using your Raspberry Pi. If you have an ancestor who was an ex-telegraph operator or world war serviceman, you may have an old Morse Code key in your attic which you could use.

antique key

An antique Morse Code key.

Invented by Samuel Morse in the year 1836, Morse Code is a method for sending and receiving text messages using short and long tones. It was adapted for early radio communication, before it was possible to send or receive voice, and was used extensively during both world wars.

Morse Code is also a really great skill to have. There is a very human element to it which is difficult to quantify and describe. Human skill is required to key in Morse Code correctly which takes only minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Skill is also required to listen to the tones and decode them. Our educational resource provides learning opportunities for both aspects.

Want to have a go? You’ll find everything you need here on our resources pages.

Pi in the Sky: hardware for high-altitude balloonists from Dave Akerman

Liz: Regular readers will be very familiar with the name Dave Akerman. Dave has been sending Raspberry Pis to the stratosphere under weather balloons since we launched the Pi in 2012, and his work in helping schools develop their own in-house space programs has been fantastic to watch. He and his friend Anthony Stirk have just produced a telemetry add-on board for the Raspberry Pi to help schools (and everybody else) reproduce the sort of spectacular results you’ve seen from him before. Here he is to introduce it: over to you, Dave!

High Altitude Ballooning is an increasingly popular hobby (I nearly said that interest has been “ballooning”, but fortunately I stopped myself just in time …), bringing what is termed “near space” within the reach of pretty much anyone who is willing to put in the effort and spend a moderate amount of money.

moon and sky from stratosphere

 

Although it’s possible to successfully fly and retrieve a balloon with a simple GSM/GPS tracker, the chances are that this will end in failure and tears. GSM coverage in the UK is nowhere near 100%, especially in rural areas which is where we want (and aim) the flights to land. The next step up, in reliability and price, is a “Spot” tracker which works solely via satellites, but those don’t work if they land upside down. Also, neither of these solutions will tell you how high the flight got, or record any science data (e.g. temperature, pressure), or indeed tell you anything about the flight until they land. If you’re lucky. A lost flight is a sad thing indeed.

pic from stratosphere

 

For some countries (e.g. USA, but not the UK), if you are a licensed amateur radio operator you can fly an APRS tracker, in which case the flight will be tracked for you via the ground-based APRS network run by other radio hams. Sadly UK laws prohibit radio hams transmitting from an airborne vehicle, so APRS is out for us.

For these reasons, pretty much everyone involved in the hobby in the UK, and many other countries, uses radio trackers operating in an ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) band where airborne usage is allowed. These work throughout the flight, transmitting GPS co-ordinates plus temperature and anything else that you can add a sensor for. Many radio trackers can also send down live images, meaning that you can see what your flight is seeing without having to wait for it to land. Here’s a diagram showing how telemetry from the flight ends up as a balloon icon on a Google map:

tracking system

 

What’s not shown here is that, provided you tell them, the other balloonists will help track for you. So not only will you be receiving telemetry and images directly via your own radio receiver, but others will do to. All received data is collated on a server so if you do lose contact with the flight briefly then it doesn’t matter. However, this does not mean you can leave the tracking up to others! You’ll need to receive at the launch site (you have to make sure it’s working!) and also in the chase car once it lands. The expense of doing this is small – a TV dongle for £12 or so will do it, with a £15 aerial and a laptop, ideally with a 3G dongle or tethered to a phone.

Traditionally, balloonists build their own radio trackers, and for anyone with the skills or the time and ability to learn programming and some digital electronics, this is definitely the most rewarding route to take. Imagine receiving pictures of the Earth from 30km up, using a piece of kit that you designed and built and programmed! So if you are up to this challenge (and I suspect that most people reading are) then I recommend that you do just that. It takes a while, but during the development you’ll have plenty of time to research other aspects of the hobby (how to predict the flight path, and obtain permission, and fill the balloon, etc.). And when you’re done, you can hold in your hand something that is all your own work and has, to all intents and purposes, been to space.

weather balloon bursting

 

For some though, it’s just not practical to develop a new tracker. Or you might be a programming whizz, but not know which end of a soldering iron to pick up. It was with these people in mind that we (myself and Anthony Stirk – another high altitude balloonist) developed our “Pi In The Sky” telemetry board. Our principle aim is to enable schools to launch balloon flights with radio trackers, without having to develop the hardware and software first. It is also our hope that older children and students will write their own software or at least modify the provided (open source) software, perhaps connecting and writing code for extra sensors (the board has an i2c connection for add-ons).

The board and software are based on what I’ve been flying since my first “Pi In The Sky” flight over 2 years ago, so the technology has been very well proven (approximately 18 flights and no losses other than deliberate ones!). So far the board itself has clocked up 5 successful flights, with the released open-source software on 3 of those. Here’s the board mounted to a model B (though we very strongly recommend use of a model A, which consumes less power and weighs less):

Pi in the Sky board

It comes in a kit complete with a GPS antenna, SMA pigtail (from which you can easily make your own radio aerial), stand-offs for a rigid mounting to the Pi board, and battery connectors. Software is on https://github.com/piinthesky, with installation instructions at http://www.pi-in-the-sky.com/index.php?id=support, or there is a pre-built SD card image for the tragically lazy. We do recommend manual installation as you’ll learn a lot.

By now you’re probably itching to buy a board and go fly it next weekend. Please don’t. Well, buy the board by all means, but from the moment you decide that this is the project for you, you should task yourself with finding out all you can about how to make your flight a safe success. For a start, this means learning about applying for flight permission (which, if you want to launch from your garden at the end of an airport runway, isn’t going to be given). Permission is provided together with a NOTAM (NOtice To AirMen) which tells said pilots what/where/when your launch will be, so they can take a different path. You also need to learn about predicting the flight path so that it lands well away from towns or cities or motorways or airports. I hope I don’t need to explain how important all of this is.

IMG_0690-e1404813775746-768x1024

 

There’s lots more to learn about too, for example:

  • How to track the flight
  • How to fill a balloon
  • Where to buy the balloon
  • What size balloon? What size parachute? How to tie it all together?

None of this is complicated (it’s not, ahem “rocket science”), but there is a lot to know. Don’t be surprised if the time between “I’ll do it!” and “Wow, I did it!” is measured in months. Several of them. In fact, worry if it’s less than that – this research takes time. We will be producing some teaching materials, but meantime please see the following links:

As for the board, it provides a number of features borne out of a large number of successful flights:

  • Efficient built-in power regulator providing run time of over 20 hours from 4 AA cells (using a model A Pi)
  • Highly sensitive UBlox GPS receiver approved for altitudes up to 50km
  • Temperature compensated, license-free (Europe) frequency agile, 434MHz radio transmitter
  • Temperature sensor
  • Battery voltage monitoring
  • Sockets for external i2c devices, analog input, external temperature sensor
  • Allows use of Raspberry Pi camera
  • Mounting holes and spacers for a solid connection to the Pi

The open-source software provides these features:

  • Radio telemetry with GPS and sensor data using UKHAS standard
  • Radio image download using SSDV standard
  • Multi-threaded to maximize use of the radio bandwidth
  • Variable image size according to altitude
  • Stores full-definition images as well as smaller transmitted images
  • Automatically chooses better images for download
  • Configurable via text file in the Windows-visible partition of the SD card
  • Supplied as github repository with instructions, or SD card image

Finally, anyone interested in high altitude ballooning, using our board or not, should come to the UKHAS Conference on 16th August 2014 at the University of Greenwich. Anthony and I will be presenting our board during the morning sessions, and will run a workshop on the board in the afternoon. For tickets click here.

Exploring computing education in rural schools in India

Earlier this year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation supported a University of Cambridge team of two researchers, Dr Maximilian Bock and Aftab Jalia, in a pilot project exploring the possibilities of providing computing access and education in rural schools in India. Working with local organisations and using an adaptable three-day programme, they led two workshops in June 2014 introducing students and teachers to computing with the Raspberry Pi. The workshops used specially designed electronics kits, including Raspberry Pis and peripherals, that were handed over to the partner organisations.

Karigarshala students connect Raspberry Pis and peripherals The first workshop took place at Karigarshala Artisan School, run by Hunnarshala Foundation in Bhuj, Gujarat; the attendees were a group of 15-to-19-year old students who had left conventional education, as well as three local instructors. The students started off with very little experience with computers and most had never typed on a keyboard, so a session introducing the keyboard was included, followed by sessions on programming, using the Raspberry Pi camera module and working with electronics.

Karigarshala students mastering hardware control of an LED via the Raspberry Pi GPIO

Karigarshala students mastering hardware control of an LED via the Raspberry Pi GPIO

Students chose to spend their evenings revisiting what they had learned during the day, and by the end of the course all the students could write programs to draw shapes, create digital documents, connect electronic circuits, and control components such as LEDs using the Raspberry Pi.

Chamoli students practise on their own using a TV as a monitor

Chamoli students practise on their own using a TV as a monitor

The second workshop welcomed six- to twelve-year-old pupils of the Langasu Primary School in the remote Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, along with three of their teachers. This younger group of students followed a programme with more focus on activities featuring immediate feedback — for example, Sonic Pi for live-coding music — alongside programming and electronics tasks. As they learned, students soon began teaching other students.

In an Ideas Competition held at the end of the workshop, entries reflected students’ engagement with the Raspberry Pi as a device with which to build solutions: an inverter system to deal with frequent power outages, a weather station that gives warnings, a robot to assist with menial chores.

The Cambridge team’s “Frugal Engineering” approach, delivering computing education without the need for elaborate infrastructure, proved very successful in both schools. Hunnarshala Foundation has decided to integrate the Raspberry Pi into its vocational training curriculum, while students at Langasu Primary School will not only carry on learning with Raspberry Pis at school but will be able to borrow self-contained Raspberry Pi Loan Kits to use at home. The Cambridge team remains in touch with the schools and continues to provide off-site support.

September 2014 and February 2015 will see the team build on this successful pilot with induction workshops in three new schools, as well as follow-up visits to evaluate the use of Raspberry Pi in past project sites and to provide support and resources for expanding the programmes.

YRS Festival of Code 2014 – around the UK and at Pi Towers

Young Rewired State is a network of coders around the world. Every year an event is held in the UK to give young people the opportunity to collaborate while working on a project to make something interesting with open data, and to learn skills while exposed to new technologies.

yrs-foc-2014

The Festival of Code is a week where volunteer-led centres around the country play host to local kids (18 and under) who work in teams, guided by mentors from industry, to create a software application, a web app, a game, a phone app or even a hardware hack that utilises an open data set to provide a solution to a real world problem. It takes place next week: 28 July – 3 August 2014.

Participants spend most of the week at their local centre where they’re introduced to each other and to the mentors, they’re shown some data sets they have available, they get in to teams and start working on their project. Throughout the week they are introduced to new technologies and given short talks from mentors and other volunteers to help them find the right tech to solve their problems. On Friday all centres travel to Plymouth for the weekend where they present their projects.

yrs4

Last year the overall winners of the Festival of Code were Tom Hartley and Louis Brent-Carpenter, whose hack was a service to provide navigational and other information to cyclists using a series of handlebar-mounted LEDs – powered by a Raspberry Pi – known as PiCycle.

yrs-picycle

Alongside Best in show there are other categories: Best example of codeBest example of design, Code a better country, and the Should exist award. I’d just like to point out that the winners of last year’s Best example of code were mentored by me in Manchester: contag.io.

yrs6

Here’s a video showing my centre’s experience:

Come join us for the best week of your summer! Meet up at local centres, be mentored, introduced to open data, build awesome games, apps, hardware and websites, and show off your hack at the weekend in Plymouth!

from the Festival of Code poster – download from festivalofco.de

If you’re 18 or under and want to participate, sign up at festivalofco.de now. We’re running a centre at Pi Towers in Cambridge – so if you’re local to us you’ll be assigned to our centre and you’ll be lucky enough to spend a week at our offices!

If you’re over 18 (even quite a lot over 18) you can sign up as a mentor - centres can always use an extra pair of hands, and you’ll have a great time!

Oh, and Stephen Fry is a fan:

There are also YRS events in Berlin, New York CitySingapore and elsewhere!

Art Showcase: Escape III

Hey all! It’s Rachel again. I have another amazing Art Showcase for you. This time Neil Mendoza explains how he and Anthony Goh brought these animated bird sculptures to life with the help of a Raspberry Pi, some Arduinos and lots of old mobile phone parts.

I really love this one XD – read right to the bottom if you want to see the birds in action. Over to Neil…

image00

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in today’s society, but often their use has unintended consequences, intruding into and changing social situations, distancing people in in real life by dragging them into the digital world.  They are also a massive source of electronic waste.  A few years ago this inspired Anthony Goh and me (Neil Mendoza) to create an installation that takes cast-off devices and suggests an alternate reality in which these unwanted phones and noises become something beautiful, giving them a new life by creating an experience that people can share together in person.  The Barbican recently asked commissioned us to create a new flock of birds for their awesome Digital Revolution exhibition.  Here’s a little tech breakdown of how they work.

image01

In previous versions, the birds were independent, but this time we decided to have a Raspberry Pi at the heart of the installation controlling them all.  This gave us the most flexibility to animate them independently or choreographed them together.

The exhibition is travelling so we wanted the installation to be as easy to set up as possible to so we decided to make each bird talk to the Raspberry Pi over ethernet.  This means that communications are reliable over long distances and each bird is self-contained and only needs a power and data cable connected to it.

The next challenge to overcome was to figure out how to call a bird.  In previous incarnations, each bird included a functioning mobile phone that you could call.  However, as there is no reception in the gallery, we decided to include a different era of phone junk and make people call the birds with a rotary phone from the 1940s.  The system looks something like this…

image03

To make the phone feel phoney, the receiver is connected to a serial mp3 player, controlled by an Arduino that plays the appropriate audio depending on the state of the installation, e.g. dialling tone, bird song etc.  The Arduino also reads numbers that from the rotary dial and if one of the birds’ numbers is dialled it sends it over ethernet to the Raspberry Pi.

The iBirdBrain app running on the Raspberry Pi is written in openFrameworks.  When iBirdBrain receives a number from the phone, it wakes the appropriate bird up and tells it to move randomly.  It then picks an animation created using James George’s ofxTimeline and plays it with some added randomness.  The current state of each part of the bird is sent every frame over ethernet as a three byte message:

Byte 1: Type, e.g. ‘s’ for servo

Byte 2: Data 1, e.g. servo index

Byte 3: Data 2, e.g. servo angle

image02

So the status of the app could be seen quickly without needing to SSH into the Pi we decided to use a PiTFT screen.  To begin with we rendered the OpenGL output of the app to the PiTFT screen, however as the screen runs at 20 FPS this created an unnecessary bottleneck.  In the end, we decided to set the screen up so that it would render the console output from the openFrameworks app.  After that, the app ran at a solid 60 FPS.  Outputting a '\r' character to the console goes back to the beginning of the line, so I used this to create a constantly updating console output that didn’t scroll, e.g.:

cout << ‘\r’ << statusMessage;

The birds themselves each contain an Arduino.  They speak ethernet using an ENC28J60 ethernet module and this library.  To start with I used TCP but running a TCP stack along with all the other stuff we were asking the bird to do, proved a little too much for its little brain so we moved to using UDP as it requires less memory and processor cycles.  An ID for each bird was programmed into the EEPROM of the Arduino.  That way, there only needed to be one firmware for all the birds, the birds themselves would then set all of their data, IP address, peripherals etc based on their ID.

Each bird has multiple parts that are controlled by the Arduino, servos for the wings and heads, piezo sounders, Neopixels and a screen for the face.

Escape III is on display at Digital Revolution until 14th September at the Barbican in London – I’m so excited, I’m going next week!

If you can’t make it, you can see the birds here:

Solar-powered Raspberry Pi school

I heard about plans for a new Indiegogo fundraiser last week. It launches today, and it really deserves your attention. (And, dare I say it, some of your money.)

Seventy-seven percent of schools in South Africa don’t have any computers – and 40% don’t even have access to electricity. United Twenty-13, a South African non-profit organisation, is looking to bootstrap a new model of solar-powered school computer lab, with the intent of scaling and reproducing the lab all over South Africa.

Taskeen Adam, one of the founders, says: “The fact that you are reading this online means that you already have more computer knowledge than the average South African public school student.” It’s a situation she and her colleagues at United Twenty-13 are making serious efforts to change, with the help of a certain small, affordable, low-power computer.

They’ve already raised sufficient funds for the lab design, for teacher training and for a prefabricated building to house it all in. But they’re looking for additional money to buy hardware (all the software they’re using is open source) – not just the Raspberry Pis and accompanying peripherals, but the expensive solar panels too.

Solar-powered learning

A secure, temperature-regulated classroom for 42 learners

Projects like this, democratising access to computing and access to information, are key in making improvements to local and national economies; and they’re key in empowering and changing the lives of the young people who are exposed to them. We wish the Solar Powered Raspberry Pi School project all the success in the world – you can donate to the project at their Indiegogo. If you’d like a full project brief before you consider donating, you can find that too at www.solarpoweredlearning.com.