Oliver is five, and has produced this lovely bee box for school. He did the modelling, the painting and some of the soldering, and had lots of help from his very talented big sister Amelia, who is seven and did all the programming for this project in Scratch.
The bee is made of clay, and has a magnet inside his body. His location is determined by some reed switches inside the box, which are connected to the GPIO pins on a Raspberry Pi, as are the LEDs in the flower and the hive. Amelia’s Scratch program, running on the Pi, then uses a TV to display what the bee’s up to (and, to a very enthusiastic Oliver’s great pleasure, emits a buzzing noise).
I mean it about the enthusiasm. Seriously. If you could bottle this stuff you’d make a fortune.
Full instructions on how to make your own bee box (it’s a really enjoyable project for parents to set up with their kids, and I’m sure you can think of a million ways to customise it) are available at Dad Stewart’s website, along with the Scratch code you’ll need, some GPIO instructions and a costed parts list.
Thanks to Oliver and Amelia from all of us at the Foundation – we are flapping our arms and shouting “BUZZ” right along with you.
Liz: I was going to post this tomorrow, but it’s so good I just couldn’t wait. We’ve just had some mail from Geert Maertens, from Anzegem in Belgium. He’s been working with a small group of volunteers to raise money to bring computing to a school in a remote area of Cameroon. I’ll quote him in full: what he’s got to tell us is fascinating, and makes us feel very, very proud. Thank you Geert, Kristel, Griet and Hans - please keep us posted!
I am a volunteer in a group that provides the funding to build a secondary school (Saint Marcellin Comprehensive College, or SAMACCOL) in a small village in Cameroon. The village is called Binshua and is located close to Nkambe in the Northwest region of Cameroon. This is a relatively poor region of the country, with no reliable water and electricity supply. Also, at present, the nearest internet connection is found in a town called Kumbo which is a three hour drive from Binshua, not so much because of the distance but rather because of the quality of the road.
Ever since we learned about the Raspberry Pi, we were dreaming of a computer lab equipped with these little wonders. And so we pursued this dream. For the necessary funds, we found a generous partner in Rotary International. Thanks to the efforts of the Rotarians in Waregem, Kortrijk and Kumbo and of the Rotary International Foundation, we have the money to provide the essential infrastructure for the school.
And so last month, we travelled with a group of four Pi enthusiasts (Kristel, Griet, Hans and myself) to Cameroon with 30 Pis in our suitcases. Also, we bought HDMI to VGA convertors here in Belgium because we knew it might be hard to find HDMI screens over there. Furthermore, the network equipment (router, switches, hard drive) and a small load of books all came along from Europe. The screens, keyboards and mice were bought in a local computer shop in Bamenda, Cameroon. Currently, it is not possible to connect the school to the public power network, so the class needs to be powered by a small generator of Chinese manufacture.
In the lab, we installed 25 Raspberry Pis. The remaining 5 RPis are currently unused. They certainly play a role in our plans for the future, but currently serve only as spare parts. All of the systems run on the Raspbian image from December, with LibreOffice and CUPS installed. The Pis are currently used to teach the children the basics of working with an Office suite. But we made sure that we gave the teacher a little introduction (and a good book) on programming in Scratch. So, now we are hoping that this will get Scratch introduced in the school curriculum as well.
The computers are all connected in a network. The central point of the network is a router that’s ready to be connected to a WAN modem. We hope to be able to provide a connection to the internet in the near future, which would certainly bring a small revolution into this rural area. Even without an internet connection, we believe that we created an advanced computer lab in this underdeveloped area. Giving the children in the area a chance to work their way to a better future. And that is our motivation.
I met Tom Dubick about a year ago at Hackerspace Charlotte, NC. He teaches engineering to the girls at Charlotte Latin School, and we believe his class was the first to be using the Raspberry Pi in the United States.
He and a group of his 13-year-old pupils have just given a TEDx talk called How Girls Should Serve Raspberry Pi. The girls here are presenting the projects they’ve made with Raspberry Pi over this semester, but there’s another important message here: we know that STEM subjects are not just for boys, but we should recognise that not all girls are the same, so our teaching approach is doomed if we decide that the only way to get girls into engineering subjects is to “shrink it and pink it”.
Keep watching – the projects get better and better. (Rolling backpack indicator lights FTW!)
Liz: Do you remember those snippets of film from factories they used to show on educational kids’ shows when we were little? I have a very lucid memory of an episode of Playschool which (via the arched window) took you through the making of a rubber glove, and another segment featuring the manufacture of chocolate biscuits.
The manufacturing process is fascinating for us grownups. It’s even better if you’re a kid. So Code Club took a group of kids from Saint Saviour’s School in Paddington, London to the Pi factory in South Wales. Here’s how they got on. Thanks to Nick Corston for this post, which you’ll also find at http://sscodeclub.blogspot.co.uk/.
To do our bit for National Science Week we took a trip to the Sony factory in South Wales where they make the Raspberry Pi computers – in fact they make 18,000 a week. A real success story for British manufacturing.We met at Paddington and, not to waste a school day, got stuck straight into a Code Club lesson using the programming language Scratch.
Thanks to Clare and Linda at Code Club HQ for lending us a a pile of netbooks with Scratch on them. We had enough for half the group - - so while they were waiting the other half got stuck into some worksheets to prepare them for the visit.
We were delighted when a passenger getting off the train, said how perfectly well behaved the children were, which, while not the be all and end all, made us very proud of them as they’d had lots of fun on the journey but also worked very hard.
We had a quick change of train at Cardiff station, before getting a much smaller train to Pencoed, where taxis were waiting to take us to the factory (if you ever do the trip, don;t even consider walking the short distance as the dual carriageway is UNCROSSABLE and dangerous).
Then we were at the Sony factory, a massive building in the countryside where Sony used to make televisions. Now they make the best TV cameras in the world as well as Raspberry PI’s and servicing Sony electronics devices from TVs to PlayStations, PSPs and camcorders providing much needing employment for the local community.
We then had a briefing all about Sony and the Raspberry Pi sat round the Sony Director’s board table.
Before entering the factory we had to put on special shoes that make sure that any static electricity in us went to the ground and not into any thing we touched, as it can damage the sensitive electronics in the factory.
We saw the Raspberry Pi production all the way through the process. We learned how the circuit boards are coated in solder and saw then the tiny pin head size components put on the boards really quickly by a robot arm.
Some parts still have to be put on by hand and there is a line of ladies who do that job.
The boards then pass on to a solder bath on a conveyor belt where these components are fixed in place.
Here one of the groups poses for a photo with Mr Corston who organised the trip and was helped on the day by Ms Bennett and Mr Lee.
A real bonus of the day was a visit to a company called Wales Interactive, who Sony are helping by letting them use some of their office space. They are a games development company and we saw how they create games for the PlayStation and iPhones and Android devices. They had some great free and paid for apps – we think Ms Woodford might particularly like their cat and dog calculator app!
Dave Banner who runs the company showed us how they create illustrations that get turned into computer graphics to go into the games.
A really interesting aspect of this was the role of coding and computer programming in creating games. We saw the software they use, which uses flow charts a bit like Scratch to bring the games to life. We saw how important maths is to create the equations and physics formulas to make the games as realistic as possible. Dave said they only consider employees who have worked really hard at school and been to university.
Finally on the way home the children completed a quiz sheet based on what they had learned on the day and six lucky winners got a Code Club t-shirt as a souvenir of the day.
Thanks to all the children for being so well behaved, their parents for letting them come. Mr Corston, Ms Bennett and Mr Lee for their help and Sony TEC Pencoed for their amazing hospitality. Code Club for loaning us a bunch of netbooks with Scratch on and the prize t-shirts.
More photos in a slideshow here and watch this space for exciting news re a movie of the day.
Last week’s Cracking the Code had a segment featuring a very familiar little computer, and a guy with a weather balloon whom you might just recognise. Isn’t it interesting how much more technical detail this kids’ show goes into compared to some of the adult tech news coverage we see on TV? Thanks to everyone involved – especially Dave!
[Update: looks like this video isn't available for viewers outside the UK - sorry if you're affected!]
Amy Mather is thirteen years old. She made a presentation at last week’s Raspberry Jamboree in Manchester, where she explains how she got into programming and why she loves it: “I wanted to make it do what I wanted it to do, not what the people working at Apple or Android wanted it to do”. Amy walks us through Conway’s Game of Life, which she ends up building…well, I won’t spoil it for you. Watch this one all the way through; it’s worth it.
In the week since the Jamboree, I think I’ve had more emails about Amy’s presentation than about anything else – people have wanted to know when the video will be ready (word about this excellent presentation spread very fast on Twitter), and to congratulate Amy.
I’m very struck by the number of different organisations that have been supporting Amy; Codecademy, Young Rewired State, the Raspberry Jams and Manchester Girl Geeks have all helped her on her journey. If you want to see more kids like Amy, there’s something you can do: support these organisations by volunteering or donating. We can’t expect schools to do it all for us; the wider engineering community has, we believe, a responsibility to give kids like Amy all the opportunities to learn she can get her crocodile clips on. The Raspberry Pi is all about putting opportunities in the way of kids, so they have a chance to discover, like Amy, something new that they can quickly become skilled at, and that they love doing.
Alan O’Donohoe, who organises the Jams with the energy of a toddler with a coffee machine, has blogged more about the day on the Raspberry Jams site. Well done Amy – and thanks Alan!
Emma is in the second grade (7-8 year olds). And she’s already well on her way to being a fully fledged engineer.
Every year, Emma’s school runs a State Board project, where each kid in the second grade is assigned a US state to make a trifold poster about. Emma’s already a Maker Faire veteran who knows how to solder and how to use a milling machine. She programs in Python, and she’s very keen on electronics; so with some help from Dad she used a Raspberry Pi to turn her poster into an all-singing, all-dancing interactive Vermont extravaganza.
Here’s a great bit of video of Emma showing off her soldering skills; she’s constructing a Perma-Proto that’s used in the project. She learned how to solder at Maker Faire in NY last year; those adults among you who sometimes comment here saying you haven’t ever done any soldering and don’t feel you have the time to learn should hang your heads. (And then go and buy a soldering iron.) Remember: Soldering is Easy.
When I was Emma’s age, I was glueing fake fur, lentils and macaroni onto a large cut-out ankylosaurus. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t allowed to use the scissors on my own, so someone else did the cutting-out for me. I feel a little outclassed.
Well done Emma – we’re all really impressed by your project and your technological skills, and we hope you’ll let us know if you use a Raspberry Pi in any of your future schoolwork!
Meltwater, who you may know from our forums or from the MagPi, where he’s a regular contributor, has been introducing Phoebe, who celebrates her sixth birthday in February, to electronics engineering. He says:
I’ve been working on producing a RGB LED module to use with the Raspberry Pi, since the bright colours and being able to control something so instant is ideal for playing with. I’m using GPIO, LEDs and Scratch being on the to do list (motors to follow).
Anyway, I was writing some notes out for it and Phoebe wanted to help, so she copied the entire page, asking about what each part was (this is before I’ve even shown her the LEDs switched on). She also drew me a diagram of the circuit they did the other week at school, a “battery”, “tough long wires” and “light bulb” (I think I might have to offer an afternoon there at some point, but is only 1st year).
Meltwater attached some photos to the email, and I thought they deserved sharing. Our suspicion is that Phoebe really, really wants some LEDs, and this is a subtle way of getting the message across.
Meltwater’s original notebook scribblings (click to embiggen)…
…and Phoebe’s remarkably faithful copy. A father/daughter trip to the electronics shop for LEDs is coming up this week. Phoebe has said she wants pink ones. (Click to enlarge)
Careers day at Phoebe’s school is going to be a hoot.
I will leave you with Phoebe’s robot; she’s been doing some paper prototyping with Dad. What have you been doing with your kids over the holiday? Mail me if you’ve got something you’d like to share; we love looking at your kids’ projects!
Phoebe’s robot. She says that next she wants to go to the metal shop (B&Q) for parts.
This is a fascinating five minutes of video from last Saturday’s Raspberry Pi session at the London Games Festival, where kids and teachers spent the day workshopping away at the Google campus. The Guardian were there to record what was going on, and talked to Eben, to Alasdair Blackwell from Decoded, and to Theo Blackwell from Next Gen Skills. Well worth a watch!