If you’re wondering about introducing your kids to Scratch, but aren’t quite sure where to start, here’s a handy resource for you. Sean McManus, one of the authors of Raspberry Pi for Dummies, has sent me a link to a couple of sample chapters of the book, including the first chapter on Scratch. You’re welcome to download it to find out whether the book’s for you.
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.
Wherever you are in the world, you’ve probably heard something about the recent horsemeat adulteration scandal in Europe, where cheap beef mince products like lasagna and frozen burgers turned out to be anything up to 100% horse. In Abattoir! you’ll be making sure that only delicious cow makes it into the mincer. Have a look at this video for some gameplay.
A few notices: if you’re at BETT this week, come to Stand B240 to meet one of the Robs, Clive and a bunch of impaled Jelly Babies.
Pete Lomas is at Campus Party in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He’ll be giving a talk on Friday at 5.30pm; if you’re in town, go and hear what he has to say!
Finally, Eben and I are flying out for some meetings in the US today; we’ll be incommunicado until the weekend.
Update, Feb 1: I just had mail from the folks at No Starch Press, who say:
We heard from a couple customers that they were a little stretched by the price of the books and the international shipping costs, so we decided to bump the coupon value to 40% off to make it easier on everyone. We’re applying the 40% discount to anyone who already used the code, so they’ll have the best price, too.
We enjoyed both books, but in particular, we really think the authors of Super Scratch Programming Adventure are on to something: what kid doesn’t enjoy pyramids full of treasure; and what kid doesn’t want to write a game about them? As well as introducing them to Scratch itself, and to programmatic thinking, the book’s a great introduction to game design. Kids will start building games from the first page. And we loved the presentation; this thing is part comic, part storybook.
No Starch have an offer for Raspberry Pi users: if you enter RPi at the checkout on their website, you’ll get 30% off both of the books (either purchased separately or together). Print book purchases come with free ebook editions, and the code will work for ebooks alone, too, so you don’t need to fork out for shipping if you don’t want to. Click on the books to order.
You might remember that we mentioned last year that a team of UK teachers from Computing at School (CAS) was working on a Creative Commons licensed teaching manual for the Raspberry Pi, with recognition and encouragement from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. That manual is now available at the Pi Store (which you’ll find on your Raspberry Pi’s desktop) as a PDF. If you’re not a Pi owner, there’s a link to a copy at the bottom of this post.
You’ll find chapters here on Scratch, Python, interfacing, and the command line. There’s a group at Oracle which is currently working with us on a faster Java virtual machine (JVM) for the Pi, and once that work’s done, chapters on Greenfoot and Geogebra will also be made available – we hope that’ll be very soon.
We want to say an enormous thank you to the whole CAS team, especially Andrew Hague, who corralled everything (and everyone) together as well as editing much of the document and writing a couple of the chapters. Thanks also to the team at Publicis Blueprint (beware! This link autoplays some video), who did more copy-editorial, production and typesetting work, all on a volunteer basis. Thank you to Graham Hastings, Michael Kölling, Ben Croston, Adrian Oldknow and Clive Beale, who wrote chapters of the manual; thank you to Bruce Nightingale, Brian Starkey and Alan Holt for the digital content. And thank you to the army of CAS members who worked so hard on reviewing and proofreading everything. Everybody who worked on this manual gave freely of their own time to make it happen, and we’re very, very grateful to you all.
The manual itself? It’s brilliant, and we think you’ll find it really useful. Head over to the Pi Store from your Raspberry Pi’s desktop to download a copy directly to your Pi, or, if you don’t have a Raspberry Pi, download it here. We’ll be hosting the manual on this site too, once I’m in front of the right computer – I’ll update again this evening!
I’m starting to think we should be giving this kid a weekly spot. Now, I’m having to rush around a bit today, so won’t have time for a screed of text for you; instead, here’s Philip’s third game in Scratch.
What we’re really enjoying about Philip’s videos is the way the games are getting a little more sophisticated each time. I’ve encouraged him to submit his code in our Summer Programming Competition – there are only a few days to go for you to get your entries in, and a lot of you seem to have been spending your summer writing stuff for us. Get cracking with the entry form if you haven’t already!
Eben and I are travelling to Edinburgh today for the Turing Festival, a technology festival that runs at the same time as the Edinburgh Festival. Eben’s giving a talk on education and technology on Saturday; we’re very excited to be at the same event as Steve Wozniak, and hope to be eating many square sausages and black puddings.
So we’ll be rather absent from the internet today, because Edinburgh’s a long way away from Cambridge. Here are some bits and pieces to keep you occupied.
Maplin Raspberry Pi bundle. Click image to pre-order.
Maplin, the UK electronics company, are selling a Raspberry Pi bundle, which includes a Raspberry Pi and all the peripherals you might need to get started, from September. You can pre-order now if you want to get ahead of the crowd (orders are first-come, first-served), and they’ll arrive in stores next month. We think the kit will make a great Christmas present, especially if you know any young people who might have trouble rustling up things like wi-fi dongles and USB hubs on their own. For £69 you’ll get a Raspberry Pi, keyboard and mouse, an SD card pre-loaded with Raspbian, a powered USB hub, HDMI and USB cables, a power supply and a wi-fi dongle.
Seven-year-old Philip, whom you may remember from last week, has spent another week programming in Scratch with his Raspberry Pi and has another game to show us. Dad tells me that Philip’s plush parrot, who features heavily in this video, doesn’t have a name yet: please leave suggestions in the comments!
We can’t get enough of videos and pictures like this at the Foundation. If you’re a proud parent with a Raspberry Pi-wielding kid, or if you’re a kid yourself, and you’ve got video or pictures you’d like us to share on this website, please mail me at email@example.com – we really like to remind ourselves and everybody else that this sort of thing is what the Raspberry Pi project is all about.
And some grown-ups have been working on stuff too…
You may have already read about Dave Hunt’s DSLR hack – it went viral last week. He’s embedded a Raspberry Pi in a camera battery grip, which allows him to wirelessly tether his camera to…well, whatever he’s got on his network. He’s been automatically pushing pictures to other devices, controlling the camera with networked objects (a smartphone, a PC), making it respond to a remote trigger, auto-saving pictures to a USB drive – the Raspberry Pi also works as an intervalometer, and he can use it to program aperture and exposure settings. He’s got big ideas for further development, too, with plans for an additional screen and an internal power supply. Here’s a videoof the camera sending images to an iPad, with some example Perl script.
Off-the-shelf DSLR cameras with these kinds of functions typically run into the many thousands of pounds. Dave’s done it all with a $35 Raspberry Pi. More power to your thrifty, imaginative elbow, Dave.
And have you come across Nixie clocks? These cold-cathode tube clocks have been a bit of a web fetish for a little while now, but this one, from Martin Oldfield, is the first one I’ve seen being driven by a Raspberry Pi. I’m going to hack one of these together myself when I get some time; it’s a lovely looking thing, and putting one together at home is simpler than you’d think.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a Cherry G80-3000 keyboard (one of those fabulous mechanical keyboards with a lovely clicky action, like my now-deceased IBM Model M but from this decade) has been hacked to contain a Raspberry Pi, hidden in some space under the function keys – a whole computer in a keyboard. I feel like we’ve seen this kind of thing before.
Please spread this Jam
The Raspberry Jams continue around the world – Milton Keynes, Bristol and Melbourne, Australia (which happened very shortly before I wrote this post on Tuesday night, so I don’t have any bloggy links about it yet), have seen Jams in the last few days. These events are a great way to meet other Raspberry Pi users, get a start if you’re a kid or just a grown-up who wants to learn about programming and electronics, and to show off your projects.
Raspberry Pi and something much bigger. (It's an evaluation board from Heber, who sponsored the Bristol Raspberry Jam.)
Our good friend Alan “Teknoteacher” Donohoe, who does a phenomenal amount of work organising and promoting the Jams, maintains a page describing where and when all the Jams across the world are being held. We’re seeing venues as small as local cafes and venues as large as university auditoriums being used for groups of all sizes, and people aged from 14 to 70 setting the events up. The list is growing all the time; if there isn’t one near you yet, why not set one up yourself?
A little reminder of what it’s all about. Philip, who is seven years old, reviews the Raspberry Pi and shows off the first game he’s ever written in Scratch. Dad Spencer says proudly that Philip had very little help with this. We’re really impressed and very proud too; well done, Philip, and thanks, Dad!
A picture post today; I thought it was time to remind you all what this project’s really about. Thanks to all the proud parents who sent photos in!
Emma, age 4
Ben, age 11
Robin, age 8, who set the Raspberry Pi up very competently on his own using the Quick Start guide.
Peter, age 65, and Sam, age 10 - and some LEGO
Mikey, age 4. Dad says: "Mikey is more excited than me (only just). Now I know how my father felt when he brought home the ZX." Mikey wants to be a software developer like his Dad when he grows up.
Megan, age 5
Lexy (10) and Margaret (9) - a couple of friends making games in Scratch after school.
Lautaro, age 3 (in blue), and his brother Joaquin, age 2 (in red)
And Lautaro again, with a very fine case made from Rasti, a LEGO-alike from Argentina.
James, age 10
Jac, age 7.
Here's Jac again. He is writing a game called "Animal Fury", and says it will be "Like Monkey Quest but awesome because you can choose polar bears and they shoot guns." Thanks Jac (and thanks Dad!)
Harry, age 15, using a Raspberry Pi at school.
Sophie, 6, and Emma, 4, demo their Raspberry Pi for Granny.
Sophie and Emma's first bit of Python, constructing nonsense sentences. Sophie has also written a two-player noughts and crosses game.
Emily, age 5. There's something funny about this one, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
Ella is 2 and a half. She's using GCompris, which is a great educational software choice for really little kids; it's designed for children aged 2-10. Click the picture to visit Ella's Dad's blog, with lots more Ella pics.
Daisy, age 4
Cohen, age 8
Ameera, age 10
Thanks again to all the parents who let us use these pictures, and especially to all the kids!