A lot of you have had huge success in the last few months using our very own Carrie Anne Philbin’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi as a resource for kids of all ages. It’s engaging, friendly and works really well in getting kids excited and confident about using their Raspberry Pi. So much so that we’ve found schools are ordering classroom sets; so are after-school clubs, and we’ve had amazing feedback from kids and their parents.
Carrie Anne (whose job title here at Pi Towers is Education Pioneer) says:
“I’m totally stunned by the success of Adventures in Raspberry Pi so far. I’m amazed that teachers and after school club mentors are buying it and using it to teach programming.”
We aren’t amazed at all – the book’s brilliant.
Shortly after taking this picture, Carrie Anne tried to saw Ben’s ear off.
We wanted to make Adventures in Raspberry Pi easier for schools to buy (at full price, with shipping, a classroom set can be expensive). So we’ve bought a pallet full here at Pi Towers so we can sell them to you at a much reduced price compared to other vendors (we’ve reduced the margin we take by selling these to almost nothing), with very low shipping costs for bulk orders. If you only buy one book, shipping is £4 (which works out cheaper than buying it on Amazon even if you have Amazon Prime): but it becomes an amazing bargain when you buy more than one, with P&P at only £6 for between 2 and 10 books, so if you’re ordering them for a class or club, or for all your tiny relatives, then you end up paying much less. Here’s a table of prices:
Unit cost including P&P
We are also celebrating the addition of Pimoroni’s PiHUB to the Swag Store – it’s a really handy, super-reliable, powered USB hub for your Pi that works with every USB device we’ve tested on it. If you would like to win a bundle including one of five copies of Adventures in Raspberry Pi, some Raspberry Pi stickers and your very own PiHUB, please leave a comment below telling us what you would like to see us stock in the Swag Store. We’ll pick the five ideas that made us laugh the most or that made little lightbulbs go off in our heads as the winners. The competition is open worldwide to people of all ages, and closes on February 26. Make sure that you use a genuine email address when you comment so we can get in touch with you if you win.
Here is a bonus video of Carrie Anne at the last Cambridge Raspberry Jam. She’s planning on visiting Alex from RasPi.TV with the Minecraft sword unless he adds the bit where she later got the highest score of the day…
(If you’d like a go yourself, you can buy the Seven Segments of Pi kit you need to make this and other games, which comes with some great tutorial materials, from Cyntech. Some soldering required.)
Alex Eames runs RasPi.TV, which we think is probably the best of all the Pi YouTube tutorial channels out there; if you haven’t subscribed already, you should. He dropped by the office last week (it was deeply, deeply weird hearing his voice coming out of an actual human being) to say hi, and to show us this nice little display unit in its homemade case. My first reaction, as with everything, was to tweet a picture of it:
What you see above is the rough prototype of an affordable, mobile HDMI display (complete with homemade case) that Alex is creating with help from Cyntech and Paul Beech from Pimoroni. (Paul designed the Raspberry Pi logo, and wonderful stuff like the Pibow: his job is to make sure that nobody has to suffer through one of Alex’s homemade cases.) Here’s their Kickstarter video:
We think this is a brilliant little project: a portable, affordable HDMI screen for the Pi just isn’t available at the moment, and we know the demand is out there from what you’ve been saying on our forums. Head over to Kickstarter to let Alex and the team know you’re interested. We wish them the very best of luck with getting things rolling!
Here’s a guest post from our friend Pete Wood at RS Component’s community arm, DesignSpark. Pete is one of the organisers of the Oxford Raspberry Jams. This post was first published at www.designspark.com.
Raspberry Jams are now being held all over the world; I’ve been trying to go to about one a month, and am lucky enough to be in Tokyo for some press and meetings while the Tokyo Jam is on later this month. There’s a list of events in each month’s MagPi, and if you’re looking for something near you, it’s worth checking the events page on our forums. If you can’t find a Jam near your home, why not look into setting one up? There’s information on how to get started at the Raspberry Jam website, which Alan O’Donohoe tells me will be getting a redesign in the coming months.
Over to Pete!
This month’s Jam held at DesignSpark HQ in Oxford UK was our biggest turnout yet, with over 30 Pi Geeks crammed into the room!
Raspberry Pi Camera
I kicked off the event by showing the new Raspberry Pi camera module, which will be available from RS Components later in May. In the picture is a pre-production module, the production version is a couple of millimetres taller. The camera gives stunning HD video from a 5MP sensor at 30 FPS.
Next up was one of my RS colleagues, Pete Milne, who showed us his Digital Signage application. Pete has connected up a network of Raspberry Pis to flat screen TVs here at the RS Oxford Offices and at our main facility in Corby, Northamptonshire. The Pis run a libreoffice slideshow in a continuous loop and display Health and Safety messages for RS employees. He’s been running these continuously for over 8 weeks without having to re-boot, so it’s very robust. The Pis runs without a keyboard or mouse and the content can be updated remotely over the network.
If you want to create your own Digital Signage Application, Pete has shared how to do it on GitHub. Just follow the INSTALL file for setup details.
Wii Controller Car
Oxford Raspberry Jam regular Alex Eames presented another cool little project using a Wii controller and Nunchuck. This one was for controlling a remote control car that has an on-board Raspberry Pi with Bluetooth dongle. It also allows the control of brake lights, headlights and indicators and also drives an aircraft propeller. Alex plans to build all this into the car itself, which would need to accommodate the Pi, the electronics hanging of the GPIO, some model aircraft batteries and the motor and fan. Alex, I think you need a bigger car… how about a Monster Truck?
Our next demo was one that has been featured on the Raspberry Pi site a few weeks ago for a Raspberry Pi powered video wall. Alex and Colin from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) have built this system in C and some Python Code. It has clever features like bezel compensation to accommodate different styles of screens. They showed a 4 screen setup, but have also run a 9+4 configuration. The software is scalable to any size or shape. Each screen needs a Pi, and one separate Pi is used as the master. This is a classic example showing that you can build your own video wall for a fraction of the price of a commercial solution that would certainly cost a lot more! Chaps, I can see a business opportunity here for screening big screen sporting events on a budget down my local pub. ;0) They expect to licence the software/design at some point. More details are available on their website.
Motion Detected Camera
Another Oxford Jam regular, Dave R, showed his Pi with a webcam motion detection system and linked to a DSLR. Dave created this for his bird table, to capture pictures of birds when they land on the table, I think I need to build a similar solution to stop my kids from stealing my Haribos…
Touch Screen Display
Paul had two projects to show. The first was a simple touch screen for the Pi to allow control and display. Paul was reading and displaying temperatures. The screens are semi-intelligent, storing screen images and having a sound output available. The screen images are loaded via a Windows app and USB connection. The Pi can then control the display of those images.
Sky Remote Controlled LED Lighting
The second demonstration was a programmable LED strip and infrared receiver, controlled by a Sky TV remote control. A simple Python script reads the codes from a remote control. He could the use this to flash the LEDs in various patterns and colours. The LEDs are driven by SPI and can be daisychained up to 1024 LEDs.
Paul M and Annierei L, showed us their ChiPhone box. ChiPi is an Electronic messaging system for children allowing them to send and receive voice messages. They have designed a child friendly box with large buttons and microphone. With simple record and ‘To/play’ buttons it makes for an easy messaging system connected to the internet via WiFi. You can find out more about their project on their website.
Pi Keyword Cruncher
Pi Jam regular and Data Geek John finished off our live demos by showing us his Pi based RSS feed collector and keyword analysis tool. The Pi collects data from various RSS feeds every 30 minutes and stores the results in a MySQL database. The data is then used to monitor trends in keywords, which over time show either peaks of activity or trends of ‘chatter’ about specific topics. The advantage of John using his Raspberry Pi Instead of his 50W laptop, is that it the Pi only takes 2W and can be left on all the time. It also frees up his laptop to do other tasks.
RaspBMC Toddler In-Car Entertainment System
The final presentation of the evening from one of my Jam co-hosts Alex Gibson, who in true Hollywood awards winners style couldn’t attend in person so sent a video message! Alex’s video featured his project for a Pi based RaspBMC In-Car Toddler entertainment system. One of the most impressive bits was a headrest bracket he had printed out on his Raspberry Pi-based 3D printer.
Thanks to all those who showed their projects. Looking forward to the next event!
Eben met Alex from RasPi.tv earlier this week, and was given this rather fantastic flag-waving kit for our demo table. (If you’ve got something you think we could use in demos at schools, in talks, and when we chat to the press, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re always looking for new kit to show off.)
This demo is something you can very easily set up yourself at home, if you’re interested in learning how to use servos. Alex’s setup means you won’t require any expansion boards – you’ll be ready to go with just a servo (very cheap from your local electronics shop – Alex’s cost him £3), some wire, some batteries and a few bits of wood.
Apparently, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. We have been thinking about what to get for the Raspberry Pi owner in your life. Happily, MakeZine have done the hard work for us, and have come up with a terrific gift guide. Head over and check it out – once, of course, you’ve stopped by our own store and bought your Raspberry Pi fan a branded t-shirt, lovingly hand-knitted from Santa’s beard hair by elves*. All profits on the shirts go to support the charitable work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
*Details about t-shirt production may or may not be strictly speaking true.
Here’s something I’ve been hoping one of you would produce for a while now. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know that many baby monitors are disgustingly expensive bits of kit, whose price remains as high as it is in a pretty unpleasant bit of exploitation of the fear and worry that every new parent experiences. So I was really pleased to see Matt Kaar, a Pi owner from Virginia, make his own networked, high-fidelity monitor from a Pi and a USB microphone. He’s very pleased with the results: “You can hear a pin drop.” You can follow Matt’s detailed instructions on his website if you’d like to make your own. (Thanks very much for responding to my request to write about it, Matt!)
These are all the parts you’ll need to make your own. Matt says the whole setup was “easier than I’d thought” – this is a project that even beginners will be able to approach.
I’m sure that once the $25 camera board is released in the new year we’ll start to see some cheap camera monitors being hacked too.
We’re very pleased to see that Plan 9 has been ported to the Pi. Plan 9 is an open-source Unix-type operating system, which was originally developed at Bell Labs as a research OS. What’s particularly interesting about Plan 9 is that everything behaves like a file, whether it’s a local or a network resource. We recommend you have a play with it!
More than a year ago, people on our forums started talking about using the Raspberry Pi in a very specific piece of cosplay. If you’ve played Fallout, you’ll know that no self-respecting apocalypse survivor goes anywhere without her Pipboy. People were wondering whether a Raspberry Pi could be used to drive a working piece of costume, perhaps with a GPS, and definitely with a small screen and lots of blinkenlights.
I thought that particular thread of conversation had died quietly: I was wrong. Ryan Grieve has made a really nice example using a car reversing panel, a tub of polymer pellets, a handful of leds and an Adafruit cobbler.
His Pipboy has functionality including a world map, local map, radio and a twitter client – or at least it did before some shonky home-wiring caused the whole arrangement to burst into flames. Happily, the Pi survived, and photos were taken before the disaster. Ryan also has code so you can put your own together – just please be more careful with the wiring if you make one yourself. Electricity’s not a toy, kids.
Good luck in fixing her back together, Ryan! We congratulate you on your flameproofness.
Here’s a project with a more practical application. Gasser is a Pi-based, networked, mobile pollutant sensor for detecting nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide, developed in Paris.
Gasser v2 prototype
This self-contained unit’s BOM cost comes in at €255 (the majority of that cost is taken up by the very accurate sensor); this is cheaper and smaller than equivalent devices – and it’s still only a prototype! We wish LaboCitoyen all success with the project; it’s great to see a Pi being used to make our cities healthier places.
Alex from RasPi.tv has some video to show you how to use relays to turn what he calls “useful, real, BIG things” like fans and lamps on and off, according to environmental conditions – too hot and the fan will turn on, too dark and the lamp will turn on. You can also hook the devices up to the network, so you can use a connected device, like your phone, to turn them on and off; and just because he can, Alex has also added some sound effects. This is a great tutorial. If you’re interested in learning about physical computing, it’s well worth watching this video and reading Alex’s blog post. RasPi.tv has plenty of other fun tutorials – I recommend you spend a few minutes browsing through the collection!