Alex Eames from RasPi.tv has really outdone himself this time: he’s using a Wiimote and a Gertboard to make his Pi control a splendid array of motors and solenoids, complete with little flags and metal teacups that go ping. More flap-whizz-ding-vroom to your elbow, Alex. This is one of the best Gertboard demos I’ve seen so far. You can read more at RasPi.tv.
Gertboard is, of course, produced by Gert van Loo, one of the volunteer engineers who has given a huge amount of his spare time in doing Pi work over the last couple of years; he designed the large beta boards we used to develop the final Raspberry Pi that you’ve got on your desk right now, he works on the camera board, and he knows more about stepper motors than is strictly healthy. (Because Gert is not employed by the Foundation, you’ll occasionally find him in the comments and the forums here saying stuff like: “I am not part of the Foundation! I just help.” This is total nonsense; we wouldn’t have a Pi without Gert, and I’m pretty sure he knows it.)
The Gertboard is an expansion board for physical computing-types, making your Pi a powerful piece of kit in the real world: you can use it to detect and respond to external physical events, detect and output analogue voltages, drive powerful motors, detect switch presses, flash LEDs and drive relays.You can buy one from element14. (It also comes with a very fine manual which you can download for free from the product page.)
Farnell have just announced that they have stock of assembled Gertboards. We’ve seen them on element14 and on Farnell: at the time of writing, 1600 of them were available for £30. For more about Gertboard, see our previous posts. Then head on over and order one!
RS weren’t the only people with Pis at Electronica: Farnell were there too, so we had representation from 100% of our core distributors. Pete Lomas (you should know who Pete is by now) and Gert (ditto) were there with them, and took the time to give some interviews to our good Farnell buddy Mike Powell. Here’s Pete:
Gert’s had a haircut! (And has some interesting stuff to say about the pre-built Gertboard…)
There’s more from Gert at Eetimes – it’s in an unembeddable format, so you’ll have to click through.
Andrew Robinson from Manchester University, who is behind the group making the Pi-Face breakout board was in attendance too:
And there was a Pi-powered talking chicken.
I’m *so* going to have to try to make next year’s event.
Mike Cook, a regular Raspberry Pi contributor and electronics Superman, videoed himself building a Gertboard. Mike claims that it’s time-lapse (or GertLapse to use Mike’s phrase, although this sounds like something unspeakable has happened to poor old Gert). But we all know that it’s actually real time and that Mike used a gimmicked clock just to make us mortals feel better about our soldering skills.
I’ll let Mike introduce it: I’ve got to finish waxing the floors of Raspberry Pi Towers. And the hallway goes on and on–if I didn’t know better I’d suspect that it was infinite.
“While the future of the Gert Board as a kit might be in doubt at the moment I thought I would have a go at videoing my attempt to construct a Gert Board. When it arrived I deliberately did not open it until the filming began. First I have to modify an old video camera so that it would take images automatically at set intervals, I found that the fastest I could do this was 3.25 seconds per frame. Then I tipped out the contents of my package and began assembling it. I was surprised that the packets of surface mount components contained only the Farnell part number and not the component’s value.
Unfortunately on the first part of the video the camera malfunctioned so you miss the surface mount and LED soldering. However, the rest of the construction was not too error prone and the camera worked. There is a clock showing the time in one corner and I did take some breaks during construction. The music was something by son composed years ago when he was at school and adds to the urgency of getting it built. I wish I could solder as fast as that in real life.”
If you’re a regular on this website, you’ll be familiar with this name. Gert van Loo, an all-round good egg and upstanding gentleman, designed the original alpha hardware that the Raspberry Pi Model B is based on. Many of you will be aware of the Gertboard, a little add-on board designed by Gert for the Raspberry Pi, which expands the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins and will allow you to interface with the outside world.
Gertboard (left) and a Raspberry Pi - photograph courtesy of element14
If you want to use your Raspberry Pi to drive motors to open doors, lift things, or power robotics; if you want to sense temperature and switch devices on and off; if you want to flash lights; if you want to teach it to play the glockenspiel; or if you want to learn about electronics from scratch, then Gertboard is for you. (This is the stuff I’m talking about when I blither on about physical computing here.) It comes with an assembly manual and a user manual (both of the above are direct download links to PDFs), which also act as a pair of teaching guides, bundled with plenty of programs to show you how to put things together.
Gertboard is packaged as a kit. It doesn’t come preassembled; you will have to solder it together yourself. Soldering is easy, as we’ve said before (seriously – if I can solder, so can you), and we encourage you to have a go. If you make mistakes they’re easy to correct, and once you’ve finished building your Gertboard you’ll have a very useful piece of hardware, a new skill, and a lovely warm sense of achievement.
Gertboard isn’t an official Raspberry Pi Foundation product, but it’s designed and produced by someone who’s right at the heart of the Foundation, it fits the Foundation’s goals perfectly, and we endorse it wholeheartedly; we hope to see lots of kids using it as a learning platform along with the Raspberry Pi. Go and preorder one now (lead times should be short); they’re only £30, and I predict they’re going to go like hot cakes.
Gert will be answering questions below later today, so pile into the comments if there’s anything you’d like to ask.
Blimey, that was good. We spent Saturday with just under 300 of you at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam. After an afternoon of talks and demos, we staged a takeover of West Cambridge’s pubs; there were enough Raspberry Pis spread out on the tables at The Punter to drive the robotics for a fairly large factory. Actually, there’s an idea…
We'd brought some Raspberry Pis to sell to the crowd; a few teachers bought classroom-sized sets. I'm still not used to the idea that 200 of the things fit on the front seat of the car. (Each of the large cardboard boxes here holds 50 Raspberry Pis.)
Gert brought along a prototype camera board to show the crowd. We're hoping to release the final version, which will have a 5MP sensor, in the next few months.
Andrew Edney from Connected Digital World brought his camera again (thanks to Andrew for all the pictures in this post); he’s got a blog post with more pictures you should go and read as soon as you’ve finished this, and recorded the video below from the question and answer session the members of the Foundation did at the end of the Jam. (You’ll need to turn your speakers up.)
People kept asking us to sign stuff, which is nearly as weird as the way people keep sticking microphones up our noses.
Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC did a quick interview with Eben, in which Eben’s arm got sore.
Gert brought along a Gertboard to demonstrate.
Note name badge.
We watched a presentation from Manchester University’s Pi Face team, who are making an interfacing board for education with the Raspberry Pi. London Zoo sent some technologists along to talk about their EyesPi project, which will be using Raspberry Pis to power camera networks spotting and recognising animals in the wild (we’re going to be talking to them some more about the camera add-on we’re working on at the moment). RISC OS came and did a demo of their port, currently in alpha, running on a Raspberry Pi, which we’re excited about not just for reasons of nostalgia.
I’m particularly pleased to have seen so many teachers in the audience; we love that teachers who are familiar with the Raspberry Pi are sharing their knowledge and experience with teachers who want to become familiar with it. The Teach Meet after the presentations was packed; we’re very grateful to all the teachers who are taking the Raspberry Pi and running with it.
And we finally got to meet Liam Fraser in the flesh. Liam, as many of you will know, is the 18-year-old giant brain who runs our downloads server, who runs the Raspberry Pi Tutorials YouTube channel (he’s recording new tutorials now his A Level exams are finished), and who now has a monthly column about the Raspberry Pi in Linux User magazine. We feel we know Liam really well; Eben and I have been talking to him regularly for over a year now, and I feel I know him well enough that I’d trust my handbag (or, for that matter, my downloads server) to him. It felt like it couldn’t possibly be the first time we’d actually shared physical space: but it was, and it was a real pleasure to grasp him by the paw and thank him in person for all the work he’s been doing (and continues to do) for us. Yes, I recycle a joke from the first video here. Must try harder.
As Alan O’Donohoe, the central Raspberry Jam organiser says: please spread this Jam. There are now Raspberry Jams taking place all over the world, from Portland, Oregon; to Athens; to Melbourne, Australia. They’re a really great way to meet other Raspberry Pi enthusiasts, get to grips with a Raspberry Pi if you’re a bit daunted by the whole thing, learn what you can do with one, share other people’s projects, and boast about what you’re doing with your own Raspberry Pi. You can learn what’s involved in setting a Raspberry Jam up yourself here. Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to James Abela and Alan for organising it all; let’s do it again soon!
Gert has had a lot of requests from you guys for the software used in the last Gertboard video (Gertboard, for those who are new round here, is a GPIO expansion board you can use to get your Raspberry Pi to drive motors, lights, sensors and all that good stuff.)
For now, you can download the Gertboard software here – I’ll get a link added to the Downloads page too later when I’ve had a chance to think about how to structure a new category for software.
(Photo snipped: you can see Gertboard in the linked video, and WordPress is being a bit buggy and won’t allow me to display the photo any smaller than full-size.)
Here’s some video from Gert on the new revision of Gertboard, an expansion board for the Raspberry Pi which brings out the GPIO. There are some lovely demos of Gertboard enabling the Raspberry Pi to work with an analog slider controller and a motor here.
Apologies to Gert, who sent me this last week while I was offline; I only saw it today. The “next week” he mentions is, in fact, this week – hooray! A general rule for everyone: if you want to get in touch with me and it’s important, please email rather than PM me. (Famous last words before being buried in a ton of mail.)
Gert should be able to answer your questions below.