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!

Apply for Skycademy 2016

Before humans took to the skies in metal tubes powered by jet engines, there was a gentler mode of transport that we used to conquer the skies: the humble balloon.

The Montgolfier brothers' first human-crewed balloon takes off at the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, on November 21, 1783

The Montgolfier brothers’ first human-crewed balloon takes off at the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, on November 21, 1783

After the success of last year’s launches, we are giving you another opportunity to blaze a trail across the sky and become a pioneer of aviation with the return of Skycademy, our High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) training programme.

Skycademy is a FREE, two-and-a-half day CPD event that provides experience of HABing to UK-based educators, demonstrating how it can be used as an engaging teaching tool. We’ll help you take ballooning to a whole new level (literally), where the hot air of Victorian era ballooning is replaced with space-age Helium to send your balloon soaring into the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 35 km. Fun fact: that’s around three times the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747!

IMG_20151009_090006446_HDR

Attached to the HAB is the payload consisting of a Pi-In-The-Sky GPS tracker board (developed by the wonderful Dave Akerman and Anthony Stirk), and a camera module, both controlled by a Raspberry Pi. You will use these elements to capture the balloon’s epic voyage and collect data to use back in your classroom.

Read more about last year’s adventures, mishaps, and balloons that were lost somewhere over the North Sea here.

vlcsnap-2015-09-03-08h25m55s123

See the earth from a whole new perspective.

At this point you might be thinking: “That sounds pretty cool, but I’m new to ballooning and nervous about launching into our airspace. Do we just get the kit and roll with it or do we get training?”

Enter Skycademy. Thirty lucky attendees will be guided through the steps to running a launch and, weather permitting, get hands-on experience of a real flight, so you’ll have all the experience you need before taking it back to the classroom. The event is free to attend and will be held from 8–10 August 2016. While the course is based in Cambridge, launch day will require you to travel to the launch site and then drive to recover your payload.

Training Itinerary

Day 1: Planning and workshop sessions on all aspects of HAB flights.

Day 2: Each team launches their payload, tracks, follows and recovers it.

Day 3: Teams gather together for plenary morning.

Skycademy team

A team prepares their HAB for launch.

Sharing the fun

Attendees are supported throughout the course by experienced HAB enthusiasts and the Raspberry Pi Education Team. However, the 2.5 days of training is only the start of a longer process where educators are expected to run launches at their own schools. Skycademy attendees will therefore receive the support and equipment needed to achieve this as part of a twelve-month programme.  The ultimate aim is to get young people excited and inspired by the project, and about all the STEM skills around it. A great example of this came from a successful launch by Queen Margaret’s School for Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival 2015:

WOW Near Space Programme – WOW 2016

As part of WOW 2016, a girls school will use weather balloons to send a small payload into near space, at altitudes of around 30km, where atmospheric temperature drops to -50C. The satellite carries a Raspberry Pi computer transmitting images of the WOW hash tag and the curvature of our planet.

Launch Day Butterflies

Seeing your HAB ascend majestically into the sky is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Skycademy graduate Sue Gray knows this feeling all too well after she launched at Elsworth, Cambridgeshire in May 2016:

“It was quite scary letting it go! Once it was let loose, there was no turning back.  If anything had been forgotten, it would stay that way! The balloon and payload sailed off into the bright blue sky and grew smaller and smaller as it flew away. A fantastic sight indeed.

Then it was time to pack up the launch box, wish the other teams good luck and set off on the chase.  A quick phone call to Mr Verma confirmed that he was receiving the telemetry from the payload and could see it moving across the map.

We got to Bourne a little ahead of the payload but…something was wrong.  It seemed to be hanging in the air just to the east of Peterborough and we hadn’t received any telemetry for over twenty minutes.  We stopped to take stock (and grab some food and drinks), Mr Verma confirmed that he too was not seeing any movement although he’d seen the balloon change to a parachute on the tracker – indicating a burst!”

After tracking the payload to a general area and searching the surrounding farmland, the team had to give up the search. As luck would have it, someone continued searching on their behalf and tracked it down!

Sue on Twitter

FANHAB is found!! Our payload stopped completely but it was joined wiv Steve’s & his sprung into action again & he tracked it! @LegoJames

These are just some of the ups and downs you can expect from a launch. Sounds like fun right? Ready to get involved?

People we are looking for:

  • UK-based educators who want to run their own High Altitude project with young people should apply.
  • Community members who want to help or support the educator launches, please comment below.

APPLY FOR SKYCADEMY

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The MagPi magazine #46 is out now!

The June 2016 edition of The MagPi magazine is on sale today with another 100 pages of projects, ideas, and inspiration for hackers and makers of all ages and abilities.

#46 mockup

Click the pic to download the latest issue free!

buy_print_smallIf you or someone you know has never quite got to grips with using the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins then #46 has some excellent advice and starter projects, including Rob’s rather splendid selfie stick:

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

A sneak peek at some @TheMagP1 content from this Thursday’s edition. @RobThez has made a selfie fish slice stick.pic.twitter.com/TZLiAnkU7D

Elsewhere this issue we’re hacking RC controllers with Pi Zero, building IoT weight scales, knocking together night-vision cameras and coding an Asteroids clone (and that’s just for starters). As always, we’ve got a plethora of amazing projects from the community, including this charming coffee roaster:

The MagPi wouldn't be possible without copious amounts of lovely, lovely coffee…

The MagPi wouldn’t be possible without copious amounts of lovely, lovely coffee…

Grab your free Pi Zero!

The other big story from this issue is that we’ve got a brand-spanking new print subscription offer. Subscribe today and you’ll get a brand new Pi Zero 1.3, HDMI and USB adaptors, and a camera ribbon cable with your first issue.

Free gifts don’t come much better than this. Back of the net!

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Marathon man

This Sunday, Lee Bowyer will be running the Liverpool Marathon. He emailed me a few months ago with an idea about doing it with some additional hardware on board.

Lee. Photograph taken while not running.

This is Lee. Photograph taken while not running.

Lee is running to raise funds for a charity called Addaction. He says:

I am supporting Addaction because of all the wonderful work they do with those who have alcohol and drug misuse problems. Thanks to wonderful people like those at Addaction I haven’t touched alcohol for nearly three years.

We got him talking to fellow marathon-runner Pete “Mythic Beasts” Stevens, they subsequently had long discussions about the corrosive nature of sweat, and things went quiet for a bit.

Lee bounced back into my inbox yesterday with a device to unveil. Meet the Raspberry Kiss.

Raspberry Kiss. Note little pancake motor.

Raspberry Kiss. Note little pancake motor.

Raspberry Kiss in sweat-proof housing for marathon

Raspberry Kiss in sweat-proof housing

What’s it do? Dead simple: the device is strapped around Lee’s waist, and allows people to track him on a map as he runs the marathon. There’s a GPS tracker attached to the Raspberry Pi, along with a little portable modem and a battery pack. The modem uploads information from the GPS module to a database on his webserver (hosted on a Raspberry Pi, natch), so you can see where he is on a map on his website.

how-does-it-work-black

But there’s more! You’ll have spotted the little pancake motor in the first picture – it’s the same sort of motor that makes your phone vibrate. Every time someone makes a donation, the motor buzzes to let Lee know – motivating and massaging all at once.

Everybody who donates will be entered into a prize draw. At Raspberry Pi, we don’t normally sponsor prizes like this (simply because we get asked to do so several times a day, and saying yes to everybody would cripple us financially), but we’re breaking our own rule for Lee’s marathon. The winning name picked out of a (sweaty) hat will win a Raspberry Pi 3 with a case signed by Eben, a Sense HAT and a camera board; we might pop some other goodies in the bag too.

We recommend waiting until Sunday to donate (you can fill out a form on Lee’s website that’ll send you an email to remind you when the marathon starts), so that you can motivate Lee with charitable giving. Good luck Lee. We really hope the thing doesn’t chafe.

 

 

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Astro Pi Coding Challenges: a message from Tim Peake

Back in February, we announced an extension to the Astro Pi mission in the form of two coding challenges. The first required you to write Python Sense HAT code to turn Ed and Izzy (the Astro Pi computers) into an MP3 player, so that Tim Peake could plug in his headphones and listen to his music. The second required you to code Sonic Pi music for Tim to listen to via the MP3 player.

Astro_Pi_Logo_WEB-300px

We announced the winners in early April. Since then, we’ve been checking your code on flight-equivalent Astro Pi units and going through the official software delivery and deployment process with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Crew time is heavily regulated on the ISS. However, because no science or experimentation output is required for this, they allowed us to upload it as a crew care package for Tim! We’re very grateful to the UK Space Agency and ESA for letting us extend the Astro Pi project in this way to engage more kids.

The code was uploaded and Tim deployed it onto Ed on May 15. He then recorded this and sent it to us:

Tim Peake with the Astro Pi MP3 player

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s message to the students who took part in the 2016 Astro Pi coding challenges to hack his Astro Pi mini-computer, on the International Space Station, into an MP3 player. The music heard is called Run to the Stars composed by one of the teams who took part.

In total, there were four winning MP3 players and four winning Sonic Pi tunes; the audio from the Sonic Pi entries was converted into MP3 format, so that it could be played by the MP3 players. The music heard is called Run to the Stars, composed with Sonic Pi by Iris and Joseph Mitchell, who won the 11 years and under age group.

Tim tested all four MP3 players, listened to all four Sonic Pi tunes, and then went on to load more tunes from his own Spacerocks collection onto the Astro Pi!

Tim said in an email:

As a side note, I’ve also loaded it with some of my Spacerocks music – it works just great. I was dubious about the tilt mechanism working well in microgravity, using the accelerometers to change tracks, but it works brilliantly. I tried inputting motion in other axes to test the stability and it was rock solid – it only worked with the correct motion. Well done to that group!!

“That group” was Lowena Hull from Portsmouth High School, whose MP3 player could change tracks by quickly twisting the Astro Pi to the left or right. Good coding, Lowena!

Thanks again to everyone who took part, to our special judges OMD and Ilan Eshkeri, and especially to Tim Peake, who did this during his time off on a Sunday afternoon last weekend.

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Home-made CNC milling machine

For the uninitiated, a CNC milling machine is basically the opposite of a 3D printer. With a 3D printer, you’re adding medium from a nozzle to a blank space to create an object. A CNC milling machine starts with a chunk of medium and removes parts of it to create an object, drilling out parts of the medium with great precision while moving its spindle on more than one axis.

CNC milling machines (the CNC means Computer Numeric Control) are really expensive.

Screengrab from eBay today

Screengrab from eBay today

So Colin May did what any thinking engineer would do to bring the price down. He built his own, using a Raspberry Pi for its brains.

CNC machine

Colin says:

My friend and I thought about building a CNC Machine for a while. But we didn’t want it to be just an ordinary CNC Machine. We wanted to make a very unique machine that could have very unique attributes. We set out to make a CNC Machine that could do different types of Machining. For example, routing, laser engraving, 3D printing, drag knife, etc. We took about a few months to design the basics of the machine. For example, what kind of linear motion we would have for each axis, what kind of material we would use for it, what kind of style to make it, etc. We chose our build area to be 24″ X 24″ X 7″. After those few months of finalizing everything, we took our first step into physically making the machine. Note: This is made for the average consumer, for home use, and for someone who doesn’t have the money to invest in a $1000 CNC router or 3D printer.

Colin’s machine is still a work in progress, but it’s showing great promise, and we’re very interested to see where he takes it next. Here’s some prototype output:

chillipepper logo

First test of the machine

test output

Second test

And here’s some video. (Turn the sound down if you’ve got a dentist phobia.)

Raspberry Pi CNC Machine Test Pt: 2

Uploaded by Colin may on 2016-04-24.

Colin is intending to add extra functionality: 3D print capability, and some other machine tools – to the setup. You can follow his build and replicate it over at Instructables. Thanks Colin – we’re looking forward to seeing more!

 

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Raspberry Pi with cloud vision at Google I/O

Matt visited Google I/O yesterday, and sent back some pretty incredible pictures. This event looks more like a music festival than a tech conference.

Google I/O

He was sending pictures and excited snippets of text back to Pi Towers all through the event, and then, when he got home, shared this video. I’ve been so excited about it that I’ve had it playing on repeat, and we all thought you’d like to see it too.

This is a demo of a Raspberry Pi robot working with Google’s Cloud Vision API – and it’s got such potential for your projects.

What is Cloud Vision API?

Cloud Vision API provides powerful Image Analytics capabilities as easy to use APIs. It enables application developers to build the next generation of applications that can see and understand the content within the images. The service enables customers to detect a broad set of entities within an image from everyday objects to faces and product logos.

The robot is taking pictures and sending them to the cloud, where they’re analysed and sent back in real time. There’s facial detection – along with detection of what emotion is showing on those faces. And cloud vision offers you image recognition, so you should be able get your robot to distinguish limes from green apples. You can then get the robot to act on that data – so you could set it to gather apples and not limes, for example.

Cloud vision on a Pi robot

We’re pretty excited about the opportunities this API offers makers of all kinds of Raspberry Pi devices. You can learn more here – please let us know if you start integrating it into your own projects!

 

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Ring a bell with Node-RED and Twitter

This is a great beginner’s project from Red Reef Digital for those new to Node-RED. Node-RED is IBM’s browser-based, visual tool – looking just like a flow chart – for IoT programming. It seemed to come out of nowhere a couple of years ago, but it’s very easy to get your head around, and we’ve seen some great stuff done with it. (Winner? Probably the dinosaurs.)

Your instructions will end up looking like this:

node-red

The results being that you can ding a physical dinger by sending a command over Twitter.

Node-RED comes preinstalled in Raspbian Jessie, so you’ve probably got it ready to go for your Pi already.

The sales bell is a thing many businesses use as a motivational tool. The story goes that back in the Mesozoic, Amazon staff would ring a bell every time one of them made a sale. This worked well for a while, but eventually it had to be turned off, because a bell droning away constantly doesn’t make for a pleasant working environment.

(The bell approach remains much more effective than one of those Successories posters.)

Motivation

For those businesses selling a human-scale number of items, and who like the motivating tinkle of the sales bell (and who doesn’t like a motivating tinkle?), this is a nice way to implement it, especially in a large office with only one bell. Users can send a message to Twitter, and the bell will tinkle. Motivatingly.

 

Here are Red Reef Digital to show you how.

#RingTheMorningBell for Small Business with Red Reef Digital!

We love Chase Bank’s morning bell campaign for small businesses so much that we built a Twitter-connected bell that will ring every time someone uses the hashtag #RingTheMorningBell. Powered by a RaspberryPi running NodeRED and MeshBlu.

If you’re looking for a getting-started Node-RED project, this seems a great place to begin – and it’s a project that you can start to build on and adapt very easily. (We’re thinking lights. Motors. Sirens.)

Red Reef Digital have made a neat little tutorial, with a parts list, wiring diagrams, code and step-by-step instructions. Let us know if you build this or adapt it; we’re looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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Le Myope – a confused camera

This is very silly indeed.

Salade Tomate Oignon in Paris seems to be making a bit of a habit of doing outlandish things with Raspberry Pi and other people’s photography. You might remember Layer Cam from a couple of years ago, which allows you to point a sandwich box pretending to be a camera at a landmark and serves up somebody else’s picture of the same thing, using GPS coordinates and Google Image Search.

His newest Raspberry Pi hack, Le Myope (for non-Francophones, that’s The Shortsighted), actually includes a camera – but the results are not what you’d expect. Here’s a bit of video to show you more.

Le myope: a similar images Raspberry Pi camera

Short-sighted camera based on a Raspberry Pi and Google similar images. Find instruction and code to build your own: http://saladetomateoignon.com/Wordpress/a-short-sighted-raspberry-pi-camera/ Music: Samuel Belay – Qeresh Endewaza Logo: Alice www.alicesawicki.com Images: Charly www.nnprod.com

Salade Tomate Oignon says:

Even more imprecise than a blurry polaroid picture, or than a filter-abused instagram shot.
Using the most advanced algorithms based on machine learning and computer vision, here is ‘Le myope’, a short-sighted camera.
The new iteration of the layercam ‘Why are you taking this picture? It’s already on the Internet!’ is a Raspberry Pi based camera, that takes a picture and returns a similar one from Google similar image search.
Use it in a popular place and chances are that you will get the same picture taken by someone else. (That happened with the mural during one of the tests)
Use it in a remote place and get random roughly similar pictures from all over the internet!

This is an extremely daft project which pleased us out of all proportion. You can find code and instructions to build your own at Salade Tomate Oignon’s website. Go forth and take other people’s photographs.

 

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Your Picademy questions answered

In April 2014 we ran our first ever training event for teachers. We called it ‘Picademy‘, and we selected 24 fabulous teachers to attend and gave them a qualification and a very special badge at the end.

Our aim was to give teachers the skills and knowledge they need to get creative with computing, no matter what their level of experience.

Raspberry Pi Robot built at Picademy

Educators teach, learn and make with us at Picademy

Two years on, there are now over 700 Raspberry Pi Certified Educators around the world working with tens of thousands of young people. We know that many of our Certified Educators have gone on to become leaders in the field, helping to train other educators and build a movement around computing and digital making in the classroom.

Based on the huge volume of questions and enquiries we get from people who want to get involved in Picademy, we think we’re onto something, and we’re developing some exciting plans for the future. For now, I wanted to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about Picademy.

What is Picademy?

Picademy

Picademy offers teachers two full days of hands-on Continued Professional Development (CPD) workshops, and attendees become Raspberry Pi Certified Educators. It’s free, and our friends at Google are supporting us to offer it at their Digital Garage venues around the UK. Watch the experiences of attendees at Picademy@Google in Leeds, then find out more and apply at rpf.io/train.

Picademy is a two-day course that allows educators to experience what can be achieved with a little help and lots of imagination. Through a series of workshops we introduce a range of engaging ways to deliver computing in classrooms all over the world. Highlights include using physical computing to control electronic components like LEDs and buttons; coding music with Sonic Pi; and terraforming the world of Minecraft. On day two, attendees have the opportunity to apply their learning by developing their own project ideas, learning from each other and our experts.

Each cohort that attends contains a mix of primary, secondary and Post-16 educators representing many different subject areas. One of our aims is to create leaders in education who are equipped with skills to train others in their community. Attending our training is the first step in that journey.

Pasted image at 2016_03_18 02_33 PM

When are you bringing Picademy to [insert name of place here]?

This is by far the most common question. There is clearly a huge demand for the kind of professional development that Picademy offers.

So far, we’ve been mainly focused on the UK. The first wave of events were held at Pi Towers in Cambridge. Over the past year, thanks to the generous support of our friends at Google, we have been able to bring Picademy to cities across the UK, with events in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. In the next few months, we will be running events in Newcastle, Liverpool and London. The venues are part of the Google Digital Garage initiative, and we’ll be running Picademy sessions with them until at least April 2017, so we hope to pop up in a city near you soon!

This year, we launched a pilot programme in the USA, with our first ever Picademy training events outside the UK taking place in California in February and April before heading to Baltimore in August.

We don’t currently have plans to launch Picademy in other parts of the world. We’d love to, but we just don’t have the capacity. We are brainstorming ideas for how the Foundation can better support educators globally and as those ideas develop, we’ll be looking for your input to help shape them.

We often get asked whether we will partner with organisations in other parts of the world who want to run Picademy on our behalf. We aren’t currently considering those kind of partnerships, but it is one of the options that we will be looking at for the long-term.

I’m not a teacher, but I want to learn about Raspberry Pi. Can I attend?

Picademy is designed for teachers.  The aim is to equip them with the best possible pedagogy, strategies, tools and ideas to bring digital making into the classroom. It’s also about building a community of educators who can support each other and grow the movement.

It’s not a “How to use Raspberry Pi” course. There are lots of websites and video channels that are already doing a fantastic job in that space (see our Community page for a small selection of these).

We know that there are lots of people who aren’t formal teachers who help young people learn about computing and digital making, and we are working hard to support them. For example, we have a huge programme of training for Code Club volunteers.

For Picademy, our priority is to support the people at the chalkface, where access to professional development is problematic and where up-skilling in digital making is needed most.

The first Picademy USA Cohort! © Douglas Fairbairn Photography / Courtesy of the Computer History Museum

The first Picademy USA Cohort – our largest ever, totalling 40! © Douglas Fairbairn Photography / Courtesy of the Computer History Museum

We have accepted applications from people in other roles, like teaching assistants and librarians, who work with children every day in schools or other community settings, but the vast majority of participants have been qualified, serving teachers.

If you want to learn about Raspberry Pi, one of the best places to start is a Raspberry Jam. There are now hundreds of Jams happening regularly around the world. These are community events, run by brilliantly talented volunteers, that bring together people of all ages to learn about digital making.

Can I have access to the course materials?

All our Picademy sessions are based on resources that are available for free on our website. Some of the most common sessions are based on:

Our focus is on collaboration, making, project-based learning, and computing – similar to most Raspberry Jams, in fact. If you are super-interested in STEAM, project-based learning, and digital making (the pillars of Picademy), then I’d recommend the following reading as a starting point:

The materials and reading is part of the recipe of a successful Picademy. What’s harder to share is the energy and atmosphere that is created.

Miss Grady on Twitter

Using code we have created a funfair! All components triggered by #Python codes we have written ourselves #picademypic.twitter.com/J5spWvoQom

Our trainers all have experience of teaching in formal contexts, have good subject knowledge and a super-supportive manner. They share their expertise and passion with others which is inspiring and infectious. The educators that attend are open-minded, imaginative and curious. Together we have a lot of fun.

Who can I speak to about Picademy?

The teacher training team at the Foundation consists of three full time people: Picademy Manager James Robinson, Code Club Teacher Training Manager Lauren Hyams, and Education Team Co-ordinator Dan Fisher. Do reach out to us via the forum or social media.

We’re supported from across the Foundation and our wider community by an awesome team that helps us design and deliver the events.

Without the support of all these people, we would not be able to run the volume of events that we do – a huge thank you with bells on to all our helpers from me!

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Zero grows a camera connector

When we launched Raspberry Pi Zero last November, it’s fair to say we were blindsided by the level of demand. We immediately sold every copy of MagPi issue 40 and every Zero in stock at our distributors; and every time a new batch of Zeros came through from the factory they’d sell out in minutes. To complicate matters, Zero then had to compete for factory space with Raspberry Pi 3, which was ramping for launch at the end of February.

Happily, Mike was able to take advantage of the resulting production hiatus to add the most frequently demanded “missing” feature to Zero: a camera connector. Through dumb luck, the same fine-pitch FPC connector that we use on the Compute Module Development Kit just fits onto the right hand side of the board, as you can see here.

Caption

Raspberry Pi Zero, now with added camera goodness

To connect the camera to the Zero, we offer a custom six-inch adapter cable. This converts from the fine-pitch connector format to the coarser pitch used by the camera board. Liz has a great picture of Mooncake, the official Raspberry Pi cat, attempting to eat the camera cable. She won’t let me use it in this post so that you aren’t distracted from the pictures of the new Zero itself. I’ve a feeling she’ll be tweeting it later today.

Cable

FPC adapter cable

To celebrate our having designed the perfect high altitude ballooning (HAB) controller, Dave Akerman will be launching a Zero, a camera and the new GPS+RTTY+LoRa radio board that he designed with Anthony Stirk, from a field in the Welsh Marches later today. You can follow along here and here, and in the meantime marvel at the Jony Ive-quality aesthetics of today’s payload.

Give me blue styrofoam and a place to stand...

Give me blue styrofoam and a place to stand…

You can buy Raspberry Pi Zero in Europe from our friends at The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at your local branch of Micro Center. There are roughly 30,000 new Zeros out there today, and we’ll be making thousands more each day until demand is met.

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