First Pi in space

Recently you may have seen some of the awesome things that Dave Akerman has been doing with Raspberry Pi and Balloons. For the eclipse he was able to capture this image from his high altitude payload.

Dave who’s been doing high altitude flights for some time has racked up some pretty impressive bragging rights including the first Raspberry Pi (B, A and A+) in near space.

As many of you will also be aware we will be sending a pair of Raspberry Pi B+ to the International Space station later this year as part of our Astro Pi competition.

We felt a little sorry for the Pi B 2, as it’s never even been close to space! Having recently joined the education team, and with a little experience in launching a near space flight with my school, I wanted to do something about this. So for the last few weeks I’ve been working on launching a Pi 2 with a helium balloon and a Pi In The Sky (PITS) board. Here you can see the PITS+ board stacked on my Pi 2 ready for launch.

IMAG0380

This morning around 6:00am we launched our payload and sent it soaring to near space! However something quite remarkable happened….

The first part of the flight went well, the payload ascended rapidly and sent back some early flight images.

However, we then we lost contact with the payload at around 10,000m…

About 15 minutes later we re-established contact and were shocked to find it was at 37,000m above ground level! This is a much faster rate of ascent than we’d expected, roughly 6x quicker!

In fact it didn’t stop there, and appears to be rising still, the last piece of telemetry data we received put the payload at around 113,000m (that’s technically outer space!)

scene00146

We don’t know how but the payload appears to have reached escape velocity and is continuing to ascend. We’ve received a couple of images from the flight and are hoping they keep coming!

Wow! This is the first Pi in Spaaaacceeee……

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MagPi Issue 32 – out now!

In case you hadn’t noticed, Issue 32 of The MagPi, the Raspberry Pi magazine, came out at the end of last week – and we think it’s terrific.

magpi32

This month’s issue is packed with tutorials, reviews, features about your Pi projects, and much more. As always, you’ll find lots and lots of content from the Pi community. Build an IoT door lock with Dr Simon Monk! See if Willem Koopman can gurn so extravagantly that Open CV won’t recognise his face as a face! Dr Sam Aaron will walk you through some Sonic Pi tips and tricks, and we continue the series on writing games in Python.

You can win a Raspberry Pi model A+; learn about some of the Raspberry Pi crowdfunding projects that shot for the moon (and find out which ones missed); and have an in-depth look at our distributed weather station project, the work Naturebytes is doing with the Pi, UNICEF’s Raspberry Pi work with Syrian refugees, and much, much more.

As always the MagPi is a free download. (If you’d like to support us by buying a copy on Google Play or the Apple App Store so you can use the magazine on your tablet, we’d be really grateful – but we are committed to making sure a PDF will always be available for free.) This is Russell Barnes’ second month as editor; we think he’s doing an amazing job.

Head over to www.raspberrypi.org/magpi/ to get your copy!

 

 

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The Young Innovators’ Club in Ulaanbaatar

The Young Innovators’ Club is a new initiative to promote engineering and tech education for school-aged children in Mongolia. It’s currently piloting a Raspberry Pi-based after-school club in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, with support from the National Information Technology Park, where activities take place:

Scratch and Python are on the menu, and electronics features prominently, with students using Raspberry Pis to control LEDs, sensors, motors and cameras. Club Coordinator Tseren-Onolt Ishdorj says,

So far the result of the club is very exciting because parents and children are very much interested in the club’s activity and they are having so much fun to be part of the club – trying every kind of projects and spending their spare time happily.

The idea of introducing Raspberry Pi-based after-school clubs was originally put forward by Enkhbold Zandaakhuu, Chairman of the Mongolian Parliament and himself an engineer by training; a group of interested individuals picked up the idea and established the Club in late 2014, and it has since attracted the interest of peak-time Mongolian TV news and other local media. The Club plans to establish After-School Clubs for Inventors and Innovators (ASCII) across the country with the help of schools, parents and other organisations and individuals; this would involve about 600-700 schools, and include training for over 600 teachers. They’re hopeful of opening a couple of dozen of these this year.

We’re quite excited about this at Raspberry Pi. It was lovely to see our Raspberry Jams map recently showing upcoming events on every continent except for Antarctica (where there are Pis, even if not, as far as we know, any Jams), but nonetheless there’s a displeasing Pi gap across central Asia and Russia:

Jams everywhere

Raspberry Jams on every continent except Antarctica (yes, really: the one that seems to be on the south coast of Spain is actually in Morocco)

It’s fantastic to know, then, that school students are learning with Raspberry Pis in Ulaanbaatar. We’ll be keeping up with developments at the Young Innovators’ Club on their Facebook page, where you can find lots of great photos and videos of the students’ work – we hope you’ll take a look, too.

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LEGO model smart home

I do love a good demo. The folks at PubNub have been showing users of their software how home automation with a Raspberry Pi works – on an itty-bitty scale, with LEGO.

This little house is rigged up with seven embedded LEDs (representing things like the stove and the fireplace, as well as lights); sensors to measure humidity, barometric pressure, and temperature; and a stepper motor that remotely opens and closes the door. Scale the system up, and you could apply this ability to remotely control appliances in a full-size house.

Joe Hanson at PubNub says:

The project is includes both the hardware (the house, Raspberry Pi, and accessories), and software (an interactive GUI). This blog post is the proof-of-concept and high level introduction to the project, and we’ll dig deeper and give full tutorials in the coming months.

Lego smart home

Home automation, of course, is something you can do without proprietary software (you’ll find plenty of examples on our blog); but we really like the slick user interface that PubNub offers; and…tiny LEGO houses. You can learn more over at PubNub’s own site. And I am reminded that I still haven’t got that PIR sensor for the hall light hooked up to a Pi.

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PiJuice: portable power for your Pi projects

Helen: some Kickstarter campaigns just jump out at you. When I took a look at PiJuice it was obvious it was the real deal – they’ve only gone and sorted out portable power for the Raspberry Pi, with bells on. Their Kickstarter runs until Tuesday, so you’ve got the weekend to jump on board. Here’s Aaron Shaw to tell you more.

I started playing with the Raspberry Pi since the very beginning and after being involved in The MagPi and various other activities I am now fortunate enough to call Raspberry Pi tinkering my “work”. The thing that got me hooked back in 2012 was the hardware and physical computing capability – writing code to do things in real life (probably because of my background in Automotive Engineering) and I still spend a considerable amount of my time just learning new things and playing around with everything the Raspberry Pi has to offer. It has been a fantastic opportunity and I want to share it with as many people as possible.

PiJuice

Around a year ago I met Harry Gee from PiBot and we started by just throwing around our ideas for how we could help to make the Raspberry Pi even better. One of the things that we had both found difficult was creating portable or remote projects – it was of course possible, but it was just a lot harder than it needed to be. This ultimately led us to the idea of making a neat, safe, portable power solution for the Raspberry Pi to allow people to do even more exciting things with their Pi, whilst saving a lot of time and effort in the process.

PiJuice module

We’ve called this the PiJuice and it’s the ultimate product for portable and remote Raspberry Pi projects. The idea with PiJuice was to remove a barrier to entry from portable Pi projects so that beginners and professionals alike could focus on building, making and learning rather than worrying about the complexities of lithium battery charging and other electronics issues, whilst reducing the costs in the process.

 

Maker Kits – Made for Makers

PiJuice is more than just an add-on board. We are passionate about education and are keen to turn PiJuice into a modular project platform – a way to allow people to build their awesome ideas much more quickly and easily.

To kick things off and provide some inspiration we have developed a number of exciting tutorials and projects including a Raspberry Pi games console, a compact camera, a Pocket Pi and more.

Make cool stuff

We are calling these Maker Kits and they are already available to purchase in kit form from our Kickstarter page and are being uploaded as free guides on Instructables.

These guides will soon be turned into high quality step-by-step guides that you can either use with our Maker Kits or to build and make your own.

Free Off-Grid Power To the Pi

Off-grid power

When creating Raspberry Pi projects outdoors we’ve also been interested in using solar power as it is free and renewable. We’ve worked hard to create an efficient and low cost solution that will open up new off-grid and sustainable applications for the Raspberry Pi.

The PiJuice Solar has additional circuitry which adds functionality to enable truly autonomous, self-monitoring operation of the Raspberry Pi – perfect for weather stations, remote camera systems for nature watching and more.

Additionally, we are actively investigating possibilities for affordable wind and thermoelectric power generation with PiJuice Solar for added flexibility.

What would you do with yours?

What would you do with yours?

We are really interested in what you want to do with your own PiJuice. We want to create the projects that appeal to you the most, so please suggest us your ideas in the comments, or on Twitter (@ThePiJuice) using the hashtag #ProjectPiJuice to get our attention. We will turn the best of these into free projects for everyone to enjoy!

We really hope to help as many people as possible create awesome portable Raspberry Pi projects as well as continuing to create beautiful guides for cool projects! We’re currently coming to the closing stages of our Kickstarter and would appreciate any support to help make PiJuice even better – http://pijuice.com.

– Aaron & The PiJuice Team

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Our 1000th blog post!

We recently noticed that we were soon to be approaching our 1000th post since our blog began in July 2011, and thought we ought to curate some stats and share some of our proudest moments from this incredible journey with you!

Eben set up the blog to let people know about developments of the Raspberry Pi and its use in education. This is what the website looked like back then:

first-post

We’ve come a long way since that first post: the blog has seen two (2013, 2014) major redesigns (as well as that joke one), and it’s brought you eight product launches (Model B, Model B rev2, Model A, Camera module, Pi NoIR camera, Compute module, Model B+, Model A+ and Pi 2 Model B); we’ve announced Picademy, free learning resources, our million pound education fund, we announced we’re sending Pis to the International Space Station, we’ve run several competitions and many more education initiatives as well as featuring countless amazing Raspberry Pi projects.

Some stats

In the 1000 posts to date, there have been:

  • 1691 images
  • 51,974 comments in total
  • 1702 tags
  • 5370 links

These 1000 posts have all come from just 15 authors (though some are guest articles posted by one of the team). Liz has written (by far) the most:

liz-is-pacman

Pi chart

The most common tag is education (57).

Dave tends to write the longest posts with a 9313-character average, and the longest post was Ben’s Mega USA Tour.

Our first post was on 24th July 2011. Here’s what we posted on 24th July in subsequent years:

Top 10 commented posts:

  1. Raspberry Pi 2 on sale now at $35 (837)
  2. And breathe… (706)
  3. We’ve started manufacture! (635)
  4. Model B now ships with 512MB of RAM (586)
  5. Ladies and gentlemen, set your alarms! (554)
  6. New product launch! Introducing Raspberry Pi Model B+ (552)
  7. Raspberry Pi Compute Module: new product! (509)
  8. Competition: name our bear! (492)
  9. The Raspberry Pi User Guide is here! Win a signed copy (543)
  10. Pricing updates (good news!) from Element 14/Premier Farnell and RS Components (449)

You can browse the entire history of the blog in our Archive page.

And this is what the homepage looks like today:

website-1000th-post

www.raspberrypi.org – 25 March 2014

I look forward to seeing what it looks like on the day of our 2000th post, expected Wednesday 23 January 2019.

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A Pi’s eye view of the solar eclipse

Last Friday morning I got up at an unfamiliar hour to board a train to Leicester, where BBC Stargazing were broadcasting a special live show to coincide with the partial solar eclipse over the UK. Regular readers will have seen Dave Akerman write here last week of his plans to launch two Model A+ Pis with Pi in the Sky telemetry boards on a weather balloon as part of the BBC’s event, with the aim of capturing stills and video of the eclipse from high above the clouds. As we’ll see, Dave was far from the only person using Raspberry Pis to observe the eclipse; to begin with, though, here’s a downward-facing view from one of his Pis of the launch, done with the help of a group of school students:

I caught up with Dave a bit later in the morning, by which point the payload had been recovered after a shortish flight.

Dave, John and Helen

Dave explains to my three-year-old son that the balloon payload has come down in fields by Leighton Buzzard

BBC Radio Leicester interviewed Dave, making for a really interesting five-minute introduction to what a balloon mission involves. BBC Television filmed several interviews, too, including this one, broadcast on BBC Stargazing live the same evening, featuring images of the eclipse captured by the Pis:

My favourite moment is when the balloon bursts, having reached a diameter of about eight metres. Despite the lack of air, as Dave points out, the pop is clearly audible:

Dave later posted this image of the eclipse captured by one of the Pis:

Solar eclipse, captured by high-altitude Pi

If you watched right to the end of the BBC Stargazing interview, you’ll have heard Lucie Green mention another project, this one with the involvement of BBC Weather’s Peter Gibbs. The Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading is running a citizen science programme, the National Eclipse Weather Experiment (NEWEx), to collect data to study small weather changes expected to accompany an eclipse, such as a drop in temperature and changes to clouds and wind. They particularly encouraged schools to join in, and we sent one of our weather station prototypes to the National STEM Centre in York so that they could help a local primary school take part. They installed it on their roof:

Weather station prototype on National STEM Centre roof

Matt Holmes from the STEM Centre displayed data from the weather station alongside a webcam image of the eclipse:

If you’re in the UK and you’d like to watch the (very) brief interview with Peter Gibbs that followed the one with Dave Akerman, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer, starting at 29m40s.

Other people were using Raspberry Pis to take weather measurements during the eclipse too. Cookstown High School in Northern Ireland have set up another of our weather station prototypes; you can see live data from it at www.piview.org.uk/weather/, which you can drag to see older data and zoom for more detail. School staff are also tweeting more photos and information about the weather station as @STEAM4schools. Here are its temperature recordings during the eclipse:

PiView Weather Station - 20 March 2015, morning

As you can see, it’s difficult to separate out effects of the eclipse from other temperature variation, which is where NEWEx’s big-data approach will hopefully prove valuable.

One computing teacher planned his Friday morning class’s eclipse observations in our forums, with help from forum regular Dougie, whose own measurements are here, and others. They held an eclipse party before school, and they and others have shared their measurements in the forum.

School eclipse party

HOW COOL: REALLY COOL!!!

We’ve seen a number of timelapse films of the eclipse captured using Pis, too. Berlin Raspberry Jam organiser James Mitchell used a Raspberry Pi to make a timelapse of the 74% eclipse seen there:

It’s really great to see Raspberry Pis used in such a variety of ways to enhance people’s experiences of a rare and remarkable astronomical event, and particularly to see the involvement of so many schools. Did you use a Raspberry Pi for observations during Friday’s solar eclipse? Tell us in the comments!

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Raspi-LTSP is now PiNet: easily manage a Raspberry Pi classroom

Helen: Over the past year and a half, Raspi-LTSP has become very popular as a simple and easy-to-set-up way of managing Raspberry Pi users and files in a classroom setting. Today its 18-year-old developer Andrew Mulholland launches PiNet, the new incarnation of this very valuable, free, open source project. He’s written us a guest post to tell you more about it.

PiNet

For nearly two years now, I have been working on RaspberryPi-LTSP. The goal setting out was clear: a simple, free and easy-to-use system for schools that allowed them to manage their Raspberry Pis more easily.

So today I am proud to announce PiNet, the replacement for RaspberryPi-LTSP. The idea for PiNet/Raspi-LTSP was spawned out of a workshop I was teaching two years ago in a local primary school. The workshop ran over two days and I had forgotten to install a piece of software on all the SD cards before cloning them. I also had somehow to remember which student’s work was on which SD card so I could hand it out to them the next day. Logistically, managing it was a bit of a nightmare! And I only had one class of kids to worry about.

How can you manage students’ work when you have perhaps hundreds of different students using a set of Raspberry Pis in a week? Does each student get assigned her or his own SD card? And what happens when those SD cards need to be updated with the most recent software update?

After many (many) hours of work researching possible solutions, I came up with a proof-of-concept script. The script used LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) to build a virtual Raspbian operating system on a server, then let Raspberry Pis network boot off it. I released this on GitHub back in September 2013 not expecting much to come of it. Rather surprisingly, people slowly started playing around with it, I started getting emails with new ideas and I discovered there was an interest in the project.

PiNet classroom with lapdocks

A PiNet classroom, using Motorola lapdocks to provide display, keyboard and trackpad

200+ commits and 3000+ lines of code later, the feature list has grown after a huge amount of feedback from educators right across the world.

PiNet’s features include:

  • Network-based user accounts, so any student can sit down at any Raspberry Pi in the classroom and log in
  • Network-based operating system, so if you want to change the operating system (for example, by adding a new piece of software), you just edit the master copy on the server and reboot all the Raspberry Pis
  • Shared folders to allow teachers to share files with students
  • Automated backups of students’ work
  • Automated work collection/hand-in system
  • Super-easy to set up and maintain
  • Completely free and open source.

PiNet is a replacement for Raspi-LTSP, not an upgrade, so if you’re already running Raspi-LTSP, you’ll need a new installation to get PiNet running on your server (PiNet will automatically update your SD cards the first time you boot up your Raspberry Pis after installing it, so you don’t need to make any changes to those yourself). To make everything as easy as possible, a migration utility has been included in every Raspi-LTSP release since November to allow you to migrate user data and files to PiNet; read the migration guide for help doing this.

PiNet desktop

The Raspberry Pi desktop with PiNet is like the one you’re used to

Here are some of the things that other people have said about PiNet/Raspi-LTSP:

PiNet is already used across the world in over 30 different countries. To give it a go in your school, all you need is an old computer, a router and some networked Raspberry Pis! To get started, head over to the PiNet website at http://pinet.org.uk/ and hit Get Started!

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Piper: Learning electronics with Minecraft

At Raspberry Pi, we’re interested in many of the different ways that computers and education converge. To hear more about a new approach, I’ve invited Mark Pavlyukovskyy to write about his project, Piper, which you can find on Kickstarter now. Here’s Mark:

I was a junior in college when I first heard about the Raspberry Pi. It seemed miraculous that you could have a full Linux board, that could run off of your phone charger, that cost only $35. While I imagined hundreds of different projects that I would want to make with the Pi, I realized that at such a low price point, the board would be perfect for giving kids in all over the world a way to hack and play with technology. It could democratize who had access to creating with technology.

picreate

My first project was to add peripherals like screens and keyboards to the Pi and send these cheap mini-computers to Africa and India for kids to learn about computer hardware and software. Today you can be a software developer from anywhere in the world, and I wanted to use the Pi to serve as an interactive instruction manual to let anyone get started with programming. Not only was it logistically difficult to ship dozens of black boxes with wires and electronics to different countries, but the biggest challenge was actually getting kids interested. For the majority of the students we worked with, the interface or the games we made didn’t interest them as much as putting together the pieces and seeing a working computer as a result of their efforts.

We went back to the drawing board to figure out a way to let kids not only build a computer, but to continue building and creating; to spark their curiosity and show them that they could build real things themselves. After doing dozens of workshops with schools back in the US, we found the hook that would get kids interested – Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual building blocks game that allows kids (and adults) to create anything they want in virtual reality; even if that anything is virtual replicas of Hogwarts, the Starship from Star Wars, or the city of Beijing. And luckily for us, the Pi had a version of Minecraft that we could modify with Python. The other beauty of the Pi was the GPIO pins. These programmable input/output pins allowed us to create a modified Minecraft that kids could alter by adding their own hardware and electronics to the Pi. We could modify the game, so that once kids built the correct hardware and connected it to the pins on the Pi, the Minecraft would react in some way.

Fav 4_00000

We designed and created a storyline, where you were sending a robot to a different planet, and on the way over, his hardware was damaged, so you had to repair his hardware on the Raspberry Pi right in front of you in order to advance through the levels. In each level of the game you would have to physically build a power-up, such as a button, a switch, a row of LED lights, and these power-ups would give an advantage in the game. The switch for example opens hidden doors, while the row of LEDs serves as a proximity sensor for finding diamonds, so the closer you are to diamonds, the more lights light up.

PC100107-sm

And as we started showing this to kids, we couldn’t get them to stop playing. It was really amazing how interested kids were in both the Minecraft and the hardware. For many, they had played regular Minecraft, and were fans, but modifying it by adding your own real gadgets was a novel concept, and excited them. Many kids had never built anything physical prior to Piper, and they got excited because it showed them that the in-game possibilities were endless.

We are currently creating a sandbox platform that will allow players to make their own levels and add custom hardware, and then share their creations with friends. Because as kids see the endless possibilities of what they can create in the game with Piper, we know that they will remember these lessons, and eventually see the whole world around them as full of possibilities which they can create and invent. We want Piper to inspire an entire generation to believe that they are superheroes not just in the virtual world, but in the real world too. Not to see technology as a black box that works on magic, but as something anyone can remix and create. And together with the incredible community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts like you, we can bring this vision to life! Please join us in bringing Piper to inventors and creators all over the world!

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Raspberry Pi Internet doorbell

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Raspberry Pi used to add useful or entertaining features to a doorbell, but it’s probably the most feature-rich doorbell hack we’ve come across. Amongst other things, Ahmad Khattab’s Internet doorbell can call your phone, send you a text, and stream video of who’s at the door:

 

It’s a lovely DIY solution to the problem of missed calls and deliveries, and my favourite thing about it is imagining how much you’d pay for a glossy, boxed-up version of it. Ahmad’s costs £17 plus a Raspberry Pi.

Internet doorbell

This Internet-of-Things device does not come in a fancy case

Ahmad has written some instructions for the benefit of other people who are interested in better living through technology, but not interested in spending a lot of money on things in shiny plastic cases that you can’t open or customise.

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