The Lotter brothers reach Cairo, first ARM/Raspberry Pi workshop in Africa a success!

The Lotter brothers have reached Cairo on their epic overland 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!

If anyone is interested in attending or hosting an ARM/Raspberry Pi workshop in Africa in the future, please send us an email or visit our Facebook page.

You can track our current location here.

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