Raspberry Pi Blog

This is the official Raspberry Pi blog for news and updates from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education initiatives, community projects and more!

Alex’s Nixie Clock

Liz: Alex is ten years old. He lives in Texas. He shared his most recent school project with us. It’s a great project and a fantastically clear tutorial: we thought you ought to see it too.

My Mom wanted a Nixie Clock, and I needed to do a project for school. I had a Raspberry Pi I wasn’t using, so I built a Nixie Clock. It took me about 2 months.

Raspberry Pi Nixie Clock

This is my Raspberry Pi Nixie Clock. It took me about 2 months to build because I had to learn so much. Full details can be found on my blog: http://alex.atomicburn.com

My Dad ordered some Nixie tubes and chips from Russia, and bought a 170V power supply to power the Nixie tubes. The first thing to do was to test them:


To start with I installed a tube, chip and power supply onto a breadboard. The chip has 4 input lines (A, B, C, and D) that are used to tell it which number to light up. For example in binary 7 is 0111, so you need to set input A to high, B to high, C to high and D to low (A=1, B=2, C=4 and D=8) to light up the number 7. I tested the first one by using a jumper cable to connect the 4 inputs to either 0V (low) or 5V (high).

Once I knew the first tube and chip worked, I wrote a program on the Rasberry Pi to test them. I used 4 GPIO pins, wired to pins A,B, C and D on the chip. My program would loop through the numbers 0 to 9, and turn on/off the pins by converting to binary using logical AND’s.

For example – for the number 7:

  • 7 AND 1 = 1, so pin A would be set high.
  • 7 AND 2 = 2, so pin B would be set high.
  • 7 AND 4 = 4, so pin C would be set high.
  • 7 AND 8 = 0, so pin D would be set low.

Once I had the program working, it was easy to test all the chips and Nixie Tubes. Everything worked, except one tube – the 3 and the 9 would light up at the same time. So I used this for the first digit for the hours, since that only ever needs to show 1.

The Program:

When the Raspberry Pi starts up, it automatically starts my clock program.

I wrote the clock program in C using the geany editor.

When the program starts, first it sets all the digital pins to OUTPUT and LOW to make sure everything is off.

Then I turn on pin 0, which turns on the high voltage power supply using a transistor.

Then I test the clock, which makes the hours show 1 to 12, and minutes 0-59.

Then I start the loop. Once every second I do the following:

  • Ask the computer the time (if it is connected to the internet, it will always show the right time).
  • The hours come back as a number between 1 and 23, so if the hour is bigger than 12, I subtract 12 from it.
  • Then I break out the hour into 2 digits, and the minutes into 2 digits. The first digit is the quotient of the hour divided by 10. The second digit it the remainder of the hour divided by 10. Then I do the same for the minutes.
  • For each number, I have to convert it into binary (for example 7 is 0111 in binary). Each number has up to 4 wires, each wire is for a binary digit. If the digit is 0 the pin/wire is set to LOW, if it is a 1 it is set to HIGH. So for the number 7 the wires are LOW, HIGH, HIGH, HIGH.
  • These wires are soldered to the driver chip. The chip has 10 switches in it, one for each number in the Nixie Tubes. These switches are connected to the chips with yellow wires. The chips look at the 4 wires to see which binary number it is, and then switches on the correct light in the Nixie Tube.

The table below shows the wires and their values for each digit.

Digit Black Wire Blue Wire Grey Wire White Wire Binary

Here is the source code in C:

#include       /* These are libraries */

// turns a pin on or off
void nixiePin(int p, int v){

  if (p != -1) {
    digitalWrite(p, v);

// converts to binary and sends values to 4 pins
void nixiePins(int p1, int p2, int p4, int p8, int v){


// splits the time into digits
void nixieTime(int h,int m, int s) {

  nixiePins( 1, -1, -1, -1, h/10);  /* quotient of hour / 10  */
  nixiePins( 2,  3,  4,  5, h%10);  /* remainder of hour / 10 */
  nixiePins( 6,  7, 21, -1, m/10);  /* quotient of minute / 10*/
  nixiePins(22, 23, 24, 25, m%10);  /* remainder or min / 10  */

// makue sure all the digits work
void testClock(void){
  int i;
  for (i=1; i<=12; i++) {
  for (i=1; i<=59; i++) {

// set up the pins we will use
void initPin(int p) {
  pinMode(p, OUTPUT);
  digitalWrite(p, LOW);	

// this is the main part of the program
int main (void) {           
  time_t now;         /* its a variable that holds time info */
  struct tm *ntm;     /* it is a variable */
  int i;
  wiringPiSetup();    /* set up pins 0-7 and 21-29 to use  */
  for (i=0; i <=7;i++) {
  for (i=21; i <=29;i++) { 
  digitalWrite(0, HIGH);            /* turn on high voltage power */ 
  testClock();                      /* test all the digits */ 

  while (1) {                       /*starts and infinite loop */ 
    now=time(NULL);                 /* ask the computer for the time */ 
    ntm=localtime(&now);            /* it formats the time */ 
    if (ntm->tm_hour > 12) {        /* if hour is more than 12 - 12 */
      ntm->tm_hour = ntm->tm_hour-12;

    /* it tells it to write that number to the nixie tubes*/

    delay (1000);   /* wait for 1 second */


The Circuit Board:


My dad drilled a piece of plastic for me for the Nixie Tubes to sit on.

The circuit board has 4 Nixie tubes, and 4 chips (one for each).

The chips are wired to the Nixie Tubes with yellow wires.

Black wires are used for Ground, and red wires for 5 and 12 Volts. 5V and Ground was wired to each chip.

The Nixie Tubes require 170V DC to work, so in one corner I have soldered a high voltage power supply. This takes 12V and turns it into 170V. All 170V wires are green.

The Nixie Tubes need resistors attached to them, so they don’t take too much current and burn out. The resistors limit the current to 2mA.

There is also a Transistor with 2 more resistors to limit the current.  This transistor acts as a switch, and lets my program turn the High Voltage Power Supply on or off.

I also added a USB port, and wired it so it has 5V and Ground. This lets me use it as a power supply for the Raspberry Pi.

Then the inputs to the chips were wired to pins on the Raspberry Pi GPIO (see code for pin numbers).

Soldering took a very long time. Before we turned it on, my Dad checked over everything, making sure the 170V was safe. He found a couple of shorts that had to be fixed.

When I turned it on the first time, the tubes just half glowed and flickered. However if I took two chips out of the sockets, then the other two would work. This was because the 170V power supply wasn’t powerful enough. I double checked the datasheet, I should have been using about 1.5W, well under the 5W the power supply should be able to make from 5V. Instead of running the high voltage power supply on 5V, I tried 12V (it is rated up to 16V input), and that solved the power problem.

The Case:

I made a box out of wood and plastic. I got to use a big circular miter saw with my Dad supervising to cut the wood. The plastic is cut by using a sharp blade to cut into it, and then snapping it. Then everything was screwed together:


What’s Next:

I was very nervous about taking it into school – the last boy that took an electronic clock into school in Texas got arrested, so my Dad contacted the school first to let them know. I think my teacher was impressed, I had to explain everything in detail to her.

This is only the start of the project. I want to put it in a nicer case with my Dad’s help before I give it to my Mom. I want to add an alarm. I also want to add a hidden camera, microphone and speaker, so it can run voice/face recognition. Then I can turn it into J.A.R.V.I.S. from Ironman. That may take me a while, but I’ll add more posts on my blog as I do things to it.

Liz: Have you made a school project with the Pi that you’d like to share with us? Leave us a note in the comments!


GPIO Zero: a friendly Python API for physical computing

Physical computing is one of the most engaging classroom activities, and it’s at the heart of most projects we see in the community. From flashing lights to IoT smart homes, the Pi’s GPIO pins make programming objects in the real world accessible to everybody.

Some three years ago, Ben Croston created a Python library called RPi.GPIO, which he used as part of his beer brewing process. This allowed people to control GPIO pins from their Python programs, and became a hit both in education and in personal projects. We use it in many of our free learning resources.

However, recently I’ve been thinking of ways to make this code seem more accessible. I created some simple and obvious interfaces for a few of the components I had lying around on my desk – namely the brilliant CamJam EduKits. I added interfaces for LED, Button and Buzzer, and started to look at some more interesting components – sensors, motors and even a few simple add-on boards. I got some great help from Dave Jones, author of the excellent picamera library, who added some really clever aspects to the library. I decided to call it GPIO Zero as it shares the same philosophy as PyGame Zero, which requires minimal boilerplate code to get started.


This is how you flash an LED using GPIO Zero:

from gpiozero import LED
from time import sleep

led = LED(17)

while True:

(Also see the built-in blink method)

As well as controlling individual components in obvious ways, you can also connect multiple components together.


Here’s an example of controlling an LED with a push button:

from gpiozero import LED, Button
from signal import pause

led = LED(17)
button = Button(2)

button.when_pressed = led.on
button.when_released = led.off


We’ve thought really hard to try to get the naming right, and hope people old and young will find the library intuitive once shown a few simple examples. The API has been designed with education in mind and I’ve been demoing it to teachers to get feedback and they love it! Another thing is the idea of minimal configuration – so to use a button you don’t have to think about pull-ups and pull-downs – all you need is the pin number it’s connected to. Of course you can specify this – but the default assumes the common pull-up circuit. For example:

button_1 = Button(4)  # connected to GPIO pin 4, pull-up

button_2 = Button(5, pull_up=False)  # connected to GPIO pin 5, pull-down

Normally, if you want to detect the button being pressed you have to think about the edge falling if it’s pulled up, or rising if it’s pulled down. With GPIO Zero, the edge is configured when you create the Button object, so things like when_pressed, when_released, wait_for_press, wait_for_release just work as expected. While understanding edges is important in electronics, I don’t think it should be essential for anyone who wants to create a simple interactive project.

Here’s a list of devices which currently supported:

  • LED (also PWM LED allowing change of brightness)
  • Buzzer
  • Motor
  • Button
  • Motion Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Analogue-to-Digital converters MCP3004 and MCP3008
  • Robot

Also collections of components like LEDBoard (for any collection of LEDs), FishDish, Traffic HAT, generic traffic lights – and there are plenty more to come.

There’s a great feature Dave added which allows the value of output devices (like LEDs and motors) to be set to whatever the current value of an input device is, automatically, without having to poll in a loop. The following example allows the RGB values of an LED to be determined by three potentiometers for colour mixing:

from gpiozero import RGBLED, MCP3008
from signal import pause

led = RGBLED(red=2, green=3, blue=4)
red_pot = MCP3008(channel=0)
green_pot = MCP3008(channel=1)
blue_pot = MCP3008(channel=2)

led.red.source = red_pot.values
led.green.source = green_pot.values
led.blue.source = blue_pot.values


Other wacky ways to set the brightness of an LED: from a Google spreadsheet – or according to the number of instances of the word “pies” on the BBC News homepage!

Alex Eames gave it a test drive and made a video of a security light project using a relay – coded in just 16 lines of code.

GPIO Zero Security Light in 16 lines of code

Using GPIO Zero Beta to make a security light in 16 lines of code. See blog article here… http://raspi.tv/?p=8609 If you like the look of the RasPiO Portsplus port labels board I’m using to identify the ports, you can find that here http://rasp.io/portsplus

Yasmin Bey created a robot controlled by a Wii remote:

Yasmin Bey on Twitter

@ben_nuttall @RyanteckLTD pic.twitter.com/JEoSUlHtF6

Version 1.0 is out now so the API will not change – but we will continue to add components and additional features. GPIO Zero is now pre-installed in the new Raspbian Jessie image available on the downloads page. It will also appear in the apt repo shortly.

Remember – since the release of Raspbian Jessie, you no longer need to run GPIO programs with sudo – so you can just run these programs directly from IDLE or the Python shell. GPIO Zero supports both Python 2 and Python 3. Python 3 is recommended!

Let me know your suggestions for additional components and interfaces in the comments below – and use the hashtag #gpiozero to share your project code and photos!

A huge thanks goes to Ben Croston, whose excellent RPi.GPIO library sits at the foundation of everything in GPIO Zero, and to Dave Jones whose contributions have made this new library quite special.

See the GPIO Zero documentation and recipes and check out the Getting Started with GPIO Zero resource – more coming soon.


Hour of Code 2015

Hour of Code is a worldwide initiative to get as many people as possible to have a go at programming computers.

Each December for the past couple of years, educators, tech businesses and non-profits alike have made a big push to get kids and adults to try their hand at writing a few lines of code. This year there’s a huge number of resources and projects available online, and schools all over the world will be taking part in what promises to be the biggest Hour of Code ever.

"Hour of Code" banner with children coding and egg timer

Here at Raspberry Pi Towers, we’re thrilled to play our part with a cracking selection of digital making projects for beginners and intermediate programmers.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we’re about to send Raspberry Pi computers to the International Space Station as part of Astronaut Tim Peake’s Astro Pi mission. You can find out all about the mission, and how you can get involved, on the Astro Pi website. As a special treat, we’ve included a selection of awesome space projects in our Hour of Code offering.

You don’t even need a Raspberry Pi computer to enjoy them. Our Gravity Simulator and Astronaut Reaction Time games both use the visual programming language Scratch, and while that works brilliantly on a Raspberry Pi, it works just as well on any old PC or Mac you’ve got lying about.

Two children wearing space suits play the Astronaut Reaction Time game, while floating in zero gravity!

Make a game in Scratch to test your reaction skills and see if you could become an astronaut

If you’re one of the 10,000 or so people who have got their hands on one of our lovely Sense HATs (that’s the add-on board with lots of sensors that we’re sending into space), then there are lots of cool projects for you. There’s a Minecraft Map and the wonderful Flappy Astronaut, which is not at all related to another game with a similar name (honest).

My personal favourite this year has to be the Interactive Pixel Pet project, which uses the Python programming language to transform your Sense HAT into an interactive companion. My eight-year-old son Dylan had no trouble completing it in an hour, although he’s spent a lot longer than that showing it off to his mates.

Dylan’s Hour of Code project

No Description

If none of those projects gets you excited, or perhaps when you’ve finished them all, head over to our resources section where there are dozens of excellent project ideas, lesson plans and much, much more.

You should also check out our community magazine, The MagPi, which brings you 100 pages of projects every month, and is always free to download as a PDF.

Whether you’re in a classroom or a bedroom, our job is to provide you with the tools, inspiration and support to learn about digital making. What are you waiting for?

Part of our Hour of Code page, showing a selection of Beginner and Intermediate resources

Hour of Code is a really important initiative, but anyone who tells you that you can teach someone how to code in an hour (or a day) doesn’t know what they’re talking about. What Hour of Code can do is help demystify computer science and spark an interest in learning more.

Initiatives like Code Club translate that interest into something more substantial, giving young people the knowledge and confidence to shape their world through code.

If Hour of Code inspires you, then why not get involved in setting up or running a Code Club at a primary school near you? Whatever your level of skills, giving just an hour a week of your time will make a huge difference.


The Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book is out now!

Rob from The MagPi here again! Two posts from me in one week? You’re a very lucky bunch.

One thing we’re very proud of at The MagPi is the quality of our content: articles, features, tutorials, guides, reviews, inspirational projects and all the other bits and pieces that have made The MagPi great for 39 issues and counting. When we went back into actual print in a big way with issue 36, we had people asking us whether we’d ever release issues 31-35 as printed copies; we assume they wanted copies to frame and hang on their walls, or maybe to donate to a museum collection. Either way, we definitely haven’t been ignoring your cries.

A picture of the cover of the Official Raspberry Pi Projects book

200 pages. Dozens of articles. Out right this second.



Instead of releasing these individual issues in the Swag Store like in the old days, we decided to give them the shelf space in bricks-and-mortar shops that they deserved all along. So please welcome The Official Raspberry Pi Projects Book, packed with 200 pages full of the best projects, tutorials, reviews and much, much more, out right now for only £12.99!

You’ll find it in the magazine racks next to (or very near) The MagPi, and to be honest the image doesn’t do the cover justice. It’s beautifully glossy and slightly embossed. It’s definitely worth popping down to WHSmiths just to be dazzled by its glory.

Otherwise, you can grab a copy from the Swag Store, get a copy in our app available for Android and iOS, or grab the free PDF of the whole thing!

A picture of the contents spread of the Official Raspberry Pi Projects book

With almost 100 articles in the book, there are definitely a few things for everyone.
Click for a larger image.

Even if you’re not so bothered about completing your collection of The MagPi (however much it breaks my heart), this is a book with 200 pages of fantastic Raspberry Pi content that’s extremely handy if you want ideas for more awesome stuff to do with your Raspberry Pi. I’d like to point out that it’s a darn good stocking stuffer as well, what with it being only five weeks until Christmas and all.

We hope you all enjoy this book, however you plan to use it. And don’t forget to look out for our very exciting issue 40, out next Thursday. You absolutely will not want to miss it.

Anyway, on Monday I put a Picard gif at the end of the post. So here’s another. [This is a thing with Rob; we’re humouring him. Tell us in comments if you want us to make him stop – Ed.] See you next time!


University of York: Raspberry Pi Challenge 2015

For the last three years I’ve been visiting the University of York Computer Science building on the last day of Freshers’ Week to see what the new entrants have been doing with Raspberry Pi.

York is using the Pi to help get the students started with computing (for those whose contact has been limited to tablets and desktops!) before they get to university: every year, they send a free Raspberry Pi to their new undergraduates who are about to start a Computer Science course, and support them to prepare for the Raspberry Pi Challenge. It also forms a great social event which gets the computer science students together (along with beery delights) to fight it out in the Pi Squared arena!

Raspberry Pi Challenge at York 3.0 2015

We’ve just held our third Raspberry Pi Challenge at York. Our new undergraduates receive a free Raspberry Pi when they confirm their place at York and have a month to do something creative or take part in our knock out competition. Here’s what happened in 2015. Would you like to take part in 2016?

Last year they used a version of Battleships to compete, but this year they’ve changed to Squares. One of the great things about this game is that the simplest few lines of code can make a huge difference over the random player (simply iterating through all possible ‘walls’ and drawing one if it closes a box is a big improvement on drawing walls at random), but there is much more that can be done to improve and optimise the strategy (there is a time limit per move, so you are a little limited!).

If you’re interested in playing the game and writing an implementation yourself (or if you’re another university and you’d like to compete against York’s outstanding undergraduates), the code and documentation is all freely available on GitHub:


PiSquare – This is a python template allowing two Raspberry Pis to play against each other in a variant of the classic game “dots and boxes”. The game was used in the University of York Raspberry Pi challenge 2015.

As an alternative challenge, there is also the chance to compete in Blue Pi Thinking, which is an opportunity for the students to create something ingenious using a Raspberry Pi. The results from this project have been quite amazing.

One student created a tabletop food ordering system using the Raspberry Pi touch display. The idea is that the screen is embedded into the table at a fast food restaurant, and you can order your food and pay for it using NFC without actually having to leave your table! I can’t wait to see the first fast food joint with fully integrated Raspberry Pi shopping!

Another student wanted to create a pill diary system for an elderly relative. Here the central idea was to create a simple schedule for the pills which would beep or flash when it was time to take a pill. It also would have the ability to take a photo or a time-lapse video, so a family member or carer could check they were being taken correctly.

University of York Computer Science Raspberry Pi Challenge: an undergrad works on his entry to recreate photographed objects in Minecraft

The picture above is from one student who connected his camera to the Pi. His system would take a photo of a scene from four sides, and then recreate the object in Minecraft!

University of York Computer Science Raspberry Pi Challenge: an undergrad tests his entry to map the mood of Twitter on a map of the UK

The project shown above was created to map the mood of the UK. It took Twitter feeds from around the country and used various recurring words and phrases to decide on the mood of people from different places, then displayed them on a map of the UK with different colours to indicate the mood.

University of York Computer Science Raspberry Pi Challenge: an entry to use Raspberry Pi to control solar tracking in a solar panel installation

Lastly, a project to demonstrate how a Raspberry Pi can be used to control a solar panel installation and track the sun!

Read more about the Raspberry Pi Challenge from York’s Department of Computer Science. They’re already thinking ahead to next year’s Challenge with a new group of first-year undergraduates – I can’t wait to see what the next lot get up to!


Raspberry Pi at MozFest 2015

A few weeks ago, Dave Honess mentioned that there would be lots of brilliant Raspberry Pi activities at MozFest this year, thanks to a huge amount of organising effort from Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist Andrew Mulholland – Andrew, we’re really grateful for all the hard work you put in to make everything run smoothly! MozFest 2015 took place in London on 7-8 November, and Andrew has written about a really successful weekend of activities there.

Thanks to an awesome army of 20 volunteers from the Raspberry Pi community, we successfully pulled off 15 Raspberry Pi workshops for kids and adults alike using 45 Raspberry Pis at the Mozilla Festival in London earlier this month.

Young people at a Scratch workshop with Raspberry Pi at MozFest 2015

Scratch workshop with Raspberry Pi at MozFest 2015

The Mozilla Festival (also known as MozFest) is an annual, hands-on festival that is dedicated to forging the future of the open web. This year, following a successful pilot in 2014, there was a dedicated YouthZone: this wasn’t a zone for young people only, but rather an area focused on seeing through the eyes of the makers, inventors and developers of tomorrow.

There was a whole stack of awesome sessions besides the Raspberry Pi workshops, including virtual reality, Minecraft hack jams and projection mapping workshops. There were even non-techie parents and grandparents running sessions on merging craft with digital electronics, at which our Pi volunteers helped: they included making paracord friendship bracelets, which uses the same part of the brain as coding! You can see a full list of what was going on in the 2015 Mozfest schedule.

Girls making a pixel pet with a Raspberry Pi and a Sense HAT at MozFest

Making a pixel pet with a Raspberry Pi and a Sense HAT at MozFest

We ran our workshops back-to-back over the weekend. They were aimed at both children and adults, and covered topics including Astro Pi (thanks to Raspberry Pi Foundation for help with that), Minecraft Pi hacking, electronics with Scratch, Sonic Pi, and even two special sessions just for adults in the evenings. All our resources from the weekend developed by the volunteers can be found on GitHub.

On top of the workshops themselves, we were also running the DOTs board activity over the whole weekend; as usual, this was very popular, and we got through over 400 boards.

A young girl completes our DOTS board activity, drawing on a printed circuit board with conductive paint

A young visitor to MozFest tries out the Raspberry Pi DOTS board activity

Massive thanks to the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Farset Labs for helping out with equipment, and to the awesome army of volunteers and Raspberry Pi team members who helped make it all possible: Frank, Zach, Joseph, Jim, Tom, Cat, Milton, Nic, Bawar, Connor, Yasmin, Polly, Charlotte, Isreal, Bethanie, David, Alan, Carrie Anne, Dave and Helen!

Raspberry Pi community volunteers pose at MozFest

Awesome Raspberry Pi community volunteers at MozFest

One final huge thanks goes to the unstoppable Dorine Flies and Harry Smith, YouthZone Space Wranglers, who invited us along (and put up with us for three days).

After this massive success, we have been invited next year, so who knows, there might be even more Pi at MozFest in 2016!


The Digital Eagles have landed

Like many institutions, Barclays Bank recognises that digital literacy is an essential component of modern life. It was for this reason that, back in 2013, the bank launched its Digital Eagles initiative. Branch volunteers offered to give up their time and skills to teach members of the community how to get online, perform web searches, use email and video chat, and of course how to use online banking.

The Digital Eagles have since expanded, and the project now includes an initiative to get kids coding, called Code Playground. This is more than just a website, however. Digital Eagles now run monthly sessions at branches and other venues, all over the country, where kids aged from seven to 17 can come along and learn the pleasures of coding.

So what has this to do with Raspberry Pi? Well, where there’s kids and code, the Raspberry Pi is sure to follow. Last week, the Foundation’s education team hauled themselves down to the marble-and-glass palaces of Canary Wharf to deliver workshops to a group of specially selected Digital Eagles, that they might then cascade the training down to their colleagues, and bring Raspberry Pi to Code Playgrounds all over the country.

jodie on Twitter

@Digitaleagles @Raspberry_Pi..looking forward to our training! RaspberryPi is coming to a code playground near you! pic.twitter.com/eNbcucz2sk

It was a spectacularly successful day, as we ripped through sessions on physical computing with Scratch, the new GPIO Zero library, hacking the world of Minecraft, and motion-triggered animations with the Sense HAT.

I should, by now, be accustomed to the excitement and sense of achievement that people get from blinking an LED with the touch of a button and a few lines of Python, yet each time I see it happen it brings a smile to my face and renewed enthusiasm for the Foundation’s educational mission.

Charlotte Snell on Twitter

Loving my @Raspberry_Pi training today just made my traffic light flash using Python & a button @Digitaleagles pic.twitter.com/EozSuI4DfO

The Sense HAT, in particular, went down a storm. The unique combination of sensors and the LED display means that you can jump right into physical computing with ease. Several of the Digital Eagles mentioned that they thought the little device would be a perfect addition to the Code Playgrounds, and couldn’t wait to get using it with the kids who attend.

Charlotte Snell on Twitter

So my bear gets angry when you shake him! @Raspberry_Pi training for @Digitaleagles #CodePlaygrounds pic.twitter.com/bk7kSWUXgp

So now it’s over to the Digital Eagles! Soon, Raspberry Pis, Sense HATs, CamJam EduKits and a variety of other goodies will be wending their way to Barclays Bank branches the length and breadth of the country. There the Eagles will be able to pass on their new-found skills and spread the joys that the Raspberry Pi can bring to the next generation of eager coders. We’ll be sure to report back to you on their progress and successes in the near future, so keep checking the blog for updates, or maybe check out a Code Playground near you!

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Digital, free, forever: the first 30 issues of The MagPi

The MagPi issues one to 30 are now free, forever.

Hopefully that’s caught your attention. Some of you may now be wondering, “hang on, those issues of The MagPi were always free as PDFs, and so are all the newer ones as well!” And you’d be right: every issue of The MagPi has always been released as a free PDF download, and always will be, but we’re talking about our digital platform. Specifically, our app.

Did you know we have an app? It’s really great; it adds an extra layer of readability over the PDFs of the magazine, it remembers your place, and you can subscribe to it so that you always have a copy of The MagPi the moment it’s released. We charge a paltry £2.99 for single digital issues, half the price of our print ones, and £19.99 for a year’s subscription. The best part is, you don’t have to invest in a wheelbarrow to carry all your copies around with you everywhere!

Screenshot of The MagPi app with a selection of magazines in view

Just scroll down in the app to find the issues in beautiful digital HD glory


While these new issues are £2.99 we’ve also put up the first 30 issues of The MagPi for the low, low price of nothing. Zilch. Nada. Completely free.

We don’t want you to feel like you’re missing out on a complete set in our app, so it’s our promise to you that not only will they remain there, they’ll always be free as an excellent complement to your current and any future digital versions of The MagPi.

You can grab the app on the Google Play Store for Android devices and the Apple App Store for iOS now, and relive some great moments from The MagPi’s history.

Like when we showed you how to make an Engima-style cipher in issue 25:

The cover of issue 25 of The MagPi, showing an Enigma machine

Cryptography is important to know in today’s computer world

Or all the little robots that we made:

Two covers of The MagPi side-by-side, each showing a robot

Robots are cool

And don’t forget the great interviews!

An issue of The MagPi with Lady Ada on the front

We love talking to important people about great things

So grab them all today and make yourself feel like Captain Picard, picking up an (i)PADD after a long day of telling off Wesley, so he can dig into some of his favourite literature of early Twenty-First Century Earth. We’d like to think he’d have given The MagPi a shot between Shakespeare and noir adventures.


Now Available for Download: Processing

I’m a long-time fan of Processing, a free open source programming language and development environment focused on teaching coding in the context of visual arts. It’s why I’m so excited that the latest version, Processing 3.0.1, now officially supports Raspberry Pi. Just as Sonic Pi lets you make your first sound in just one line of code, Processing lets you draw on screen with just one line of code. It’s that easy to get started. But don’t let that fool you, it’s a very powerful and flexible language and development environment.

Screenshot of Processing development environment

We owe a huge thank you to Gottfried Haider, who did the heavy lifting to get Processing running smoothly on the Raspberry Pi and create a hardware input/output library. That’s right, this version of Processing works with the GPIO pins right out of the box. Gottfried says:

I’m excited about having Processing on the Raspberry Pi and other low-cost desktop machines. In the last few years we’ve seen a shift away from easily accessible environments, towards concepts such as mobile platforms, specialized internet-of-things devices and cloud computing. As someone who got into programming by tinkering around with the open and readily available platforms of the time, I believe it’s important to have initiatives such Raspberry Pi and Processing, to promote software literacy and to encourage a future where computers remain a read/write medium.

If you’re new to Processing, please take a look at our newest resource, Introduction to Processing. Not only does it get you started programming with Processing on the Raspberry Pi, but it also covers basic hardware input/output. As with all of our free resources, we welcome you to contribute enhancements and fixes. For those of you who prefer something more in-depth, Processing co-founders Ben Fry and Casey Reas recently released a second edition of their book Getting Started with Processing, published by Maker Media.

If you want to jump right in, you can download and install Processing from the terminal with this command:

curl https://processing.org/download/install-arm.sh | sudo sh

Or go to Processing’s downloads page to download and install it on your own.


Absolute Genius Super Tech with Dick & Dom

Fran Scott is one of our favourite pyrotechnicians. She’s a Science communicator who works with the BBC on amazing demonstrations (usually involving explosions) in an effort to excite and inspire young people.


Fran participated in last year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, using a Raspberry Pi’s GPIO to trigger a series of exploding balloons to burst, she presented her #Error404 show with us at BETT last year and created a miniature version of it as a learning resource for our website: Balloon Pi-Tay Popper.

Most recently Fran presented on the BBC’s Absolute Genius: Live hosted by comic children’s presenters Dick and Dom, during which she explains how computers can use real world inputs and outputs besides the usual keyboard, mouse and screen combination – using a Raspberry Pi connected to switches and exploding balloons.

Screenshot from 2015-11-12 10-38-33

If you’re in the UK you can watch it now (skip to 8 minutes, when the show starts):

CBBC Live and Digital Hull, Absolute Genius: Live, with Fran Scott

Mind-blowing experiments, supersized science & loads of laughs.

Screenshot from 2015-11-12 10-35-44