Clive: We like wearable computers; we like music; but most of all we like wearing Blake’s 7 style gauntlets, playing air guitar and head banging. So we were delighted when Adam Smith-Kipnis of Team Hackcouture.io, a small team of technologists and designers “passionate about wearable computing”, got in touch to tell us about their recent win at a wearable computing hackathon. We were really impressed by the short development time and the amount of tech they managed to jam in, including RFID, accelerometers and conductive fabrics.
Adam kindly says that the Raspberry Pi was “a core element of our success” and here he tells us a bit more about the hackathon and their winning entry:
Smell the glove (Photo Credit: HackThings.com & Phil Kast)
This past weekend at the Seattle Interactive Conference, AT&T hosted a ‘wearable computing’ themed hackathon competition. On Tuesday night, team Hackcouture.io was awarded first place with our invention of a mobile, gesture detecting fabric glove, paired with our own air guitar iPhone app.
The modular prototype, conceptualized and created in just 18 hours, uses conductive fabric sensors to track gestures and relays them to a Wi-Fi enabled Raspberry Pi mini-computer, mounted to the arm. We even used a prototype headset from Plantronics, equipped with an accelerometer for “head bang detection.” Additionally, the glove was outfitted with an RFID chip in the palm for access control, as well as a gesture detecting Pebble smart watch for display of QR and UPC codes. These are used to share data with mobile apps.
When we think of wearable computing, we think of weaving computing into the fabric and threads you wear. Today, there are too many seams between computers and clothing. We want those connections to be seamless. While we see value in this platform with entertainment, productivity and accessibility, what it could become is anyone’s guess. We’ve seen that when communities come together with the right platform and the right product, some really magical stuff can happen.
The Lotter brothers have reached Cairo on their epicoverland trip to South Africa. (N.B. That’s ‘epic’ as in Odyssean, not as in finishing a really hard boss level or the pizza shop forgetting to charge you for the stuffed crust option.)Fred and Ernest tell their story so far: —
In July this year my brother and I departed from England in a Land Rover Defender. Our mission was to drive back to our home country, South Africa. We selected a route which will take us through Europe, Russia, some Middle Eastern countries, and then down the east coast of the African continent.
We are big fans of ARM technology and specifically the Raspberry Pi. Our car is fitted with networked Raspberry Pi’s which control internal lights and external spotlights. We are both electronic engineers (I had the privilege to work at ARM Ltd. for the last 8 years) so we decided to offer some technical workshops to schools, universities, technology hubs and technical business incubators on the way down, with our focus on Africa.
We created a two day workshop which gives attendees the opportunity to learn how to build a complete Raspberry Pi based Embedded Linux system to control external electronics. The workshop consists of technical training and hands-on practical sessions covering a wide range of topics such as building a custom Linux kernel and root filesystem, GPIO access, networking, multi-threading and Python programming.
Due to the current situation in Egypt, it took us almost two months (and two freight ships) to finally get the car and ourselves from Turkey to Cairo.
On the 25th of October we had our first full workshop in Cairo, Egypt. The workshop was hosted by The District and ICE Cairo, both business incubator hubs helping new start-up companies to get on their feet. We ran the workshop for a group of about 20 people all with slightly different technical backgrounds (we had 10 Raspberry Pi kits available for the event).
We start the day by looking at the company ARM Ltd and discuss topics such as the ARM business model, the ARM ecosystem and typical design cycle of an ARM based System-On-Chip (SOC). We then introduce the ARM based Raspberry Pi and discuss the capabilities of the board, and look at the available peripherals.
Demoing the Raspberry Pi at the Cairo workshop
One focus area of this course is Embedded Linux so we then dive straight into Linux application development and we explain how the GPIO, networking and threading API works under Linux. The practical sessions take them from setting up the SD card to completing their first Python program by which they use the GPIO ports to access a simple electronic circuit which they have built on a breadboard using discrete components.
Learning the basics of GPIO
The second half of the course focuses on the Linux kernel and root filesystem. We discuss some of the Linux kernel default configurations for the Raspberry Pi and then look at the Buildroot environment for compiling a custom minimal embedded root filesystem. Finally, we discuss some of the popular filesystem types and consider the problem of corruption on power cuts. The practical sessions gives each person a chance to build a complete kernel and root filesystem from source and set up the SD card from scratch.
We had a fantastic time in Cairo and are looking forward to our next stop in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where we will meet up with people form ICE Addis. Raspberry Pi is sponsoring the practical kits for the workshops we are running – thank you guys!
“This November there is the chance for all school students to enter the UK’s first Beaver Competition for FREE!
I think it is a great opportunity for all groups of students to find out, in an enjoyable way, whether they have an aptitude in Computational Thinking.
I would like to see entries from students of all age groups [for example] it would be great to see a Maths A level group entered and for them to discover that they might like to take CompSci at Uni when they had not thought of this as an option.
France had 90 000 students sit their first year doing this competition last year – it would be good to beat them!”
Registration closes on 27 October and the competition itself is 45 minute during the week of November 11th. There are four categories and the competition is open to students of all abilities. Chris points out that, “entry is only through a school and as such any individual wishing to enter would need to nag their ICT/Computing teacher.” So if that’s you then get nagging!
If you are that teacher then this is a great opportunity to do something a bit different and to introduce your students to computational thinking. The competition is all about using your grey stuff to solve problems — there is no programming and no preparation. You can see some of the past questions here. The solutions show how the problem is related to Computer Science so could even be used for future lessons.
UniversidadGalileo (Galileo University) in Guatemala have launched a free, Spanish language MOOC (Massive Open Online Course**) titled “Introducción a Raspberry Pi“.
The University says (via my rubbish tourist Spanish, sorry):
In this course, students will get to know the Raspberry Pi and learn what it can do; which [Linux] distributions are available; how to develop simple applications using Python; and how to control external devices using the GPIO interface.
The emphasis is on theory first, then demonstrations and ultimately the student is encouraged to reinforce their learning by first replicating and then improving what they’ve been shown.
The course structure looks like this :
Installation, configuration, accessories and other aspects
Installing Wheezy and other distributions
Introduction to Python
Introduction to programming in Python on the Raspberry Pi
A complete example in Python
Raspberry Pi GPIO module for external connections
Hardware basics and using the GPIO
Next steps: projects and community
The content looks excellent and they’ve got a talented and experienced bunch of teachers on board. Interestingly, there are two routes through the course: a ‘light mode’ where you can learn the basics and an ‘advanced mode’ where studetns contribute weekly projects plus a final project. For the light mode you do not even need a Raspberry Pi! This is a stroke of genius: the fewer barriers to learning the better.
We believe that this is the first ever Raspberry Pi specific MOOC and it certainly sets the bar for future courses. If Spanish is your first language and you would like to learn about the Raspberry Pi, what it can do and how to use it then is the ideal route. The course starts October 14th 2013 and registration is now open. Sign up here.
**If you’ve not come across MOOCs before, they are online courses that typically teach discrete topics using a mixture of video, short assessments, quizzes, assignments and exams. Basically, they allow you to access the smarts of world leaders in their fields from the comfort of your home.)
Apologies for the late post today—I started playing about with Coder this afternoon and kind of got side tracked for four hours because it’s quite wonderful. (By ‘playing’ of course I mean carrying out an Educational Evaluative Assessment.)
So why use Coder and not some other environment? It’s a brilliantly simple out of the box solution, perfect for people aren’t sure where to start or for schools where setting up servers and IDEs can be a nightmare for teacher and technician alike. Beyond this it’s an instant hacking environment and a web development sandbox. As well as letting you make stuff it’s also a great introduction to the concept of web servers and some of the main languages that underpin the web.
The interface is clean and simple and you can see the code side by side with the result and change it in real time. The section tabs physically and conceptually separate the HTML from the styles from the script, which is just how it should be. I could go on but instead I’ll tell you how to get started.
How to get started
Full instructions are on the Coder site but here’s the gist:
Download the image file and flash a 4Gb SD card
Pop it into your Pi and turn it on. You won’t notice too much difference to a standard installation whilst it’s booting (Raspbian lurks beneath) but you’ll end up at the prompt ‘coder login:‘ (You don’t need to login.)
Open a browser on any computer on the same network as the Pi and type ‘http://coder.local‘ into the address bar**
From booting to playing around with web pages took less than two minutes. The hardest bit was coming up with a strong password (what the hell is wrong with ‘pooface1′? My bank is OK with it).
A Machine of Doom? I’ll take three.
So once you’re in, what can you do? Unlike many educational resources, the tutorial is actually a good place to start. Comments at the top of each page explain what’s going on and it’s easy to start tweaking and hacking the code—just click on the </>. Personally I went for the eyeball and gave it a huge, red sclera because it was looking at me funny. ‘Space Rocks‘ actually has a ‘Hack‘ button that lets you play about with variables, which is always a great way to explore a program (and who can resist giving themselves hundreds of lives? Cheating at its finest.)
Big red & sclerotic — that’s better.
Coder is what all educational resources should be: focused and fun but with loads of potential. It’s a damn fine piece of software. You can also get involved with Coder directly as it’s open source and the Coder Team would love your help.
Download it and have a play—we love it. I’m off to make huge, monkey headed missiles for my spaceship.
**Note: Windows users will have to install Apple’s Bonjour Print Services first. NOTE: When I tried to install BPS in Windows 8 it fell over, refusing to create the shortcut due to some rubbishly random nonsense about privileges. I fixed this by first manually creating a new folder called “Bonjour Print Services” in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs and then installing. Ho hum.
Glossary for beginners
IDE Integrated Development Environment. Software that brings together a bunch of tools and utilities to assist in software development.
CSS Cascading Style Sheets. A language that is used to tell a web page how it should look.
HTML Hypertext Markup Language. The main language that web pages are written in.
Web server A computer that stores web content (text, images, scripts, video, style sheets etc.) and sends it to other computers when they request it. For example, your browser requested this blog page from the server and then displayed it on the screen.
The first question people usually ask upon meeting me is, “Can you ride a pig?” I’ve never worked out if they mean in Minecraft or in real life. The second question is, “Can you run a Minecraft server on the Raspberry Pi?” The answer to both is, of course, “Yes”.
You can get the original instructions by Jim Bruges here.
This does take some techincal nous — but you’ve had all day to install Raspberry Pi Minecraft and play, you should be experts. What I really liked about Edwin’s blog are his final comments. Whether you are hacking Minecraft or building a media server or sending them into near space or messing about in Scratch, this is why we do what we do:
You really have to admire the whole idea of the Raspberry Pi. They are brilliantly cheap, low power servers and whilst I may not have learned much about coding with them so far, I sure have learned a lot about the world outside of Windows, and just how much you can get out of very low priced hardware. The Pi represents a great deal of opportunity for all sorts of people with the ideas for all sorts of projects. I implore you to think of your own and give it a go, you won’t regret it.
And with that Manic Mineday has ended. Normal service will be resumed shortly. Goodnight.
You thought that we’d finished, didn’t you? You thought that I’d gone to bed to dream of building diamond cubes using nested loops. Think again!Tobias Hübner tells us how he has been using Raspberry Pi Minecraft in the classrooom (including interfacing using the GPIO pins) .
In particular Tobias has produced some fantastic documentation, ostensibly for teachers but in fact it’s a relly good read in general covering topics such as how computers work, binary, logic gates and, of course, the Raspberry Pi and Minecraft programming. It’s in German only at the moment, but it’s Creative Commons so you know what to do
I just read your blog post and wanted to let you know that I use mineceraft with my pupils in a school in Germany and they absolutely love it.
When I bought a case from the guys at nwazet [Nwazet make brilliant add-on stuff for the Pi, check them out - clive] I had the idea to turn it into a joystick and then let my pupils play around with it. They came up with the idea to use it in minecraft. We therefore modified the snake game from stuffaboutcode.com so that it runs in a loop and made a little Raspberry Pi/Minecraft-arcade machine. I recorded a video for Fabien, the founder of nwazet, which shows how it runs. You can download it here: www.medienistik.de/case.mp4.
I met Craig Richardson at Newcastle Maker Faire and we got to talking about teaching using Raspberry Pi Minecraft. For a while I’d harboured a plan to write some proper teaching resources for it and had scribbled a few notes but hadn’t had time to develop it. Craig had had the same idea – yes, it was just like Darwin and Wallace – and we decided to get our heads together. Shortly afterwards Craig sent me what he had been working on. And here it is. It’s so good that I haven’t got anything glib to say. It’s a magnum opus.
Craig’s book is one of best teaching and learning resources that I’ve ever seen for any subject. It follows the Python lessons in Codecademy (one of the best online learning resources out there) and then reinforces these skills using Raspberry Pi Minecraft. It’s contemporary and it’s challenging and it’s fun. It’s got a 225 page student book with exercises plus separate teachers’ notes. It provides differentiation and it references the new Computing curriculum. It’s learning by stealth
If you are a teacher and are teaching Python in September: please go and get this, your students will thank you. (Would you rather teach loops by printing a times table or by fighting trees?)
Everyone else who would like to learn or improve their Python: please go and get this, it’s not just a classroom resource so don’t be put off. If you don’t want to work your way through it from the start just cherry pick what you find interesting – it’s an excellent reference and I’ve used it as such in workshops, to great effect.
A treasure detector based on an exercise in Craig’s book. The LED flashes faster as you get nearer to the treasure.
The book isn’t quite finished and Craig says:
Right now the book is incomplete, especially in the later chapters. The vast majority of content is there, some bits are missing, and a lot of it needs polishing. I am just about to start teacher training and won’t be able to dedicate any time to the book for the next few months. … I do plan to finish the book, I’m just not sure when I will have the time. If you are interested in helping to further develop these resources please get in touch.
When it is done it will surely be an essential resource for learning Python on the Raspberry Pi, so if you’d like to help then please contact Craig. Oh — and there’s lots of other good Pi-related stuff on his blog too.
Raspberry Pi Mineday is upon us and there’s just time before Liz comes back and kicks me off for messing about to get in a few posts about one of my pet subjects — learning through play. In this case, learning through playing Minecraft. Hurrah! I can sometimes be found playing the Xbox version in a darkened room, rocking gently and mumbling, “Why dig when you can code? Why … dig … when … you …. can … CODE?” Indeed. The Pi version is where it’s all happening.
Hands up who, the moment they saw this, thought, “Rude words! Let’s write rude words!” Shame on you.
I wasn’t going to post anything from Martin O’Hanlon, he has done far too much fantastic stuff in Raspberry Pi Minecraft — hide and seek; 3D-model creator; a working canon etc etc — and if we are not careful with our praises he will withdraw into that land through a kitchen cupboard, Narnia like, and spend the rest of his days riding about on the second hand of a huge clock. But then a Tweet was twote and Martin couldn’t resist:
I was at Young Rewired State‘s (YRS) festival of code this weekend, mentoring a group of young coders from BBC Birmingham, when I saw a tweet from Raspberry Pi about it being Minecraft day on Monday, so I thought, I’m surrounded by coders, we have a weekend ahead of us, we must be able to create something…
Martin’s Python script turns Tweets into chunky airwords in the Minecraft world. It’s a lovely example of interfacing the Web with the Raspberry Pi and a great example to start the day. And if you’ve never seen Martin’s Raspberry Pi Minecraft stuff before, or you have installed Minecraft on your Pi and are not sure where to start, you simply must visit his site Stuff about code, where he has oodles of Pi-related projects and tutorials as well as the Minecraft goodies. It’s one of our favourite Raspberry Pi sites. Thanks Martin!
More Raspberry Pi Minecraft will be coming up at random intervals. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, install it on your Pi! And if you have done anything inspiring, amazing or outrageous on Pi Minecraft please let us know (today only!) on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may be familiar with the Raspberry Pi recipe cards that we developed with the exam board OCR. These are a great way to start using your Raspberry Pi: quick, creative projects — such as traffic light LEDs, singing jelly babies and Twitter-aware doodhas — that teach one or two new concepts and encourage experimentation and hacking. They are a great classroom tool too and we use them at our programming workshops.
I said “sing!” Sing louder you little gelatine chappie or it’s off with your head!
OCR want to make more recipe cards. Because they are nice like that. They know the best ideas for projects are living in your lovely little heads and they want to extract your weird and creative brain juices by means of a Trial of Creative Might.
The challenge is to design your own recipe for Raspberry Pi. You can do this by yourself or in a team. One winner or winning team from each age category will win a Raspberry Pi bundle including a T-shirt and will have their winning recipe featured on the Raspberry Pi blog (this means that you will be fabulously famous!). The three age groups are 12 and under; 13-15 and 16-18.
Your recipe must have fewer than 100 lines of code and cost less than £10 in parts. And no soldering allowed — we want to make this as accessible as possible.
The competition will be judged purely on creativity and imagination rather than technical prowess — you don’t even need to submit any code — so everyone has a chance to enter.
A Wing-ed Helmet of Ingenuity. Available from all good online retailers.
The closing date is 30 August 2013 so you have a few weeks to don those Winged Helmets of Ingenuity + 3 and impress us! Full details and terms plus the entry forms are on the OCR website.