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!

Join us for a day of making!

Hello all! Raspberry Pi would like to ask you out for the day. We have a day of making, hacking, bikes, bird boxes, picnicking, and filming lined up. All we need now is some good company! I’ll let Owen explain all…

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This day of tinkering shenanigans is in preparation for our brand new programme for young people, which will be launching soon. If you’d like to apply, you need to be aged between 12 and 18, living in the UK, and free on Tuesday 23rd August 2016. You also need to be comfortable in front of a camera. We’ll be catching all the action throughout the whole day and making videos to share with the world, so we need smiley faces! If you love tinkering and getting creative, then this is for you. You don’t need any experience with computers or electronics; this is for anybody who enjoys making things.

We’ll cover your travel costs, and if you are coming a really long way we can provide accommodation for you and a parent or guardian. Accompanying adults will get the day to themselves to do whatever they please around Cambridge: it’s a beautiful place with lots to see.

Raspberry Pi Makers Day

Makers make!

In order to bag an invitation, you’ll need to send our judges a mini video about yourself. This video is your chance to shine, so get creative! (Don’t worry about special equipment – we’re expecting most of you to shoot on your phones.)

The video should be no longer than 30-60 seconds. It should introduce you and give us a little run down of what you like making and doing. That can be making cake, videos, clothes, robots, or even just making a mess. Please include anything else you think will entertain us. If you are entering in a group with friends, then feel free to get together for your filming session, but remember that each person must submit an individual video of themselves. Group videos will not be accepted: you all need to have your own 60 seconds in the spotlight.

Applications must be received by midnight on Sunday 7th August.

Submit your video and details to us via the Digital Making Day form.

If you have any questions email digitalmakingday@raspberrypi.org.

Don’t forget to spread the word to anyone else who may want to take part!

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The gif that never grows old!

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Formula Pi – the latest from PiBorg

Formula Pi is the latest Kickstarter project to come from PiBorg, the team responsible for the ZeroBorg motor controller, the wonderful DiddyBorg robot, plus a bunch of other wonderful Pi creations. We’re big fans.

Formula Pi

Allowing backers from across the globe to participate, the Formula Pi project consists of two race events. Competing in either the Summer or Winter Series (or in both if they want), participants modify code to run the autonomous Pi Zero-powered cars around 23 laps of the course.

Formula Pi - Self-Driving Robot

The team at PiBorg have done the majority of hard work, building the cars and writing the basic code. Entrants then have the chance to add to the code before it’s inserted into their car via SD card, to give their robots an edge – and the race begins.

Claire, Tim and the PiBorg team aim to continue the Formula Pi experience, expanding on the races to allow for different classes, speeds, and coding challenges. They also plan to include a battle series in which a MeArm is attached to their YetiBorg, creating the ultimate fighting ArmyBorg.

Simpsons fighting robot

Both Summer and Winter Series races will be broadcast live for everybody to watch. (We’ll be covering them here.) If you want to take a active part, entry will cost £35, which includes a customisable ‘lid’ for your car, giving you the chance to make your racer stand out from the competition.

Formula Pi Self-Driving Robots

Code will be made available to all racers once the Kickstarter campaign ends on August 22nd, allowing time for modifications before race day. Rewards for backing the Formula Pi campaign include having your logo placed upon the track, owning your own YetiBorg racing robot, and the chance to name the first corner of the track.

Formula Pi

For more information on the PiBorg Formula Pi campaign, plus a few chuckles at the outtakes of making a car ‘driverless’, check their Kickstarter page out now.

Now. Now, now, now, now, now!

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Batinator – spot bats in flight

Even you live somewhere heavily endowed with bats, you’ve probably never had a good look at one on the wing. Bats fly so fast – in poor lighting conditions – that if you’re lucky you’ll get a glimpse of something flashing by out of the corner of your eye, but usually you won’t even notice they’re there.

Enter the Batinator.

bats

The Batinator is a portable Raspberry Pi device with an Pi NoIR camera board and a big array of IR lights to illuminate the subject, which means it can see in the infra-red spectrum. Martin Mander has set it up to record at 90 frames per second – enough to capture the very fast flappings of your neighbourhood bats in slow-mo. And it’s powered by a recycled 12v rechargeable drill bat-tery, which makes it look like some sort of police hand-held radar bat scanner. (Which it is not.)

batinator

Here’s the Batinator in action (bats start doing bat stuff at about 1:30):

The Raspberry Pi Batinator

The Batinator is a portable Raspberry Pi that uses a PinoIR (No Infrared Filter) camera module to record video in the dark at 90 frames per second, 640×480 resolution. It features a 48 LED illuminator lamp on top and the power is provided by a 12v rechargeable drill battery.

Martin’s made a full writeup available on Instructables so you can make your own, along with some video he’s taken with the same setup of a lightning storm – it turns out that the same technology that’s great for bat-spotting is also great for storm-filming. He’ll walk you through the equipment he’s built, as well as through building your own bat lure, which involves soaking your socks in beer and hanging them from a line to attract tasty, tasty moths.

sad bat

Thanks Martin – let us know if you take more footage!

 

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Plan Bee

Bees are important. I find myself saying this a lot and, slowly but surely, the media seems to be coming to this realisation too. The plight of the bee is finally being brought to our attention with increasing urgency.

A colony of bees make honey

Welcome to the house of buzz.

In the UK, bee colonies are suffering mass losses. Due to the use of bee-killing fertilisers and pesticides within the farming industry, the decline of pollen-rich plants, the destruction of hives by mites, and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), bees are in decline at a worrying pace.

Bee Collision

When you find the perfect GIF…

One hint of a silver lining is that increasing awareness of the crisis has led to a rise in the number of beekeeping hobbyists. As getting your hands on some bees is now as simple as ordering a box from the internet, keeping bees in your garden is a much less daunting venture than it once was. 

Taking this one step further, beekeepers are now using tech to monitor the conditions of their bees, improving conditions for their buzzy workforce while also recording data which can then feed into studies attempting to lessen the decline of the bee.

WDLabs recently donated a PiDrive to the Honey Bee Gardens Project in order to help beekeeper David Ammons and computer programmer Graham Toal create The Hive Project, an electric beehive colony that monitors real-time bee data.

Electric Bee Hive

The setup records colony size, honey production, and bee health to help combat CCD.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is decidedly mysterious. Colonies hit by the disease seem to simply disappear. The hive itself often remains completely intact, full of honey at the perfect temperature, but… no bees. Dead or alive, the bees are nowhere to be found.

To try to combat this phenomenon, the electric hive offers 24/7 video coverage of the inner hive, while tracking the conditions of the hive population.

Bee bringing pollen into the hive

This is from the first live day of our instrumented beehive. This was the only bee we spotted all day that brought any pollen into the hive.

Ultimately, the team aim for the data to be crowdsourced, enabling researchers and keepers to gain the valuable information needed to fight CCD via a network of electric hives. While many people blame the aforementioned pollen decline and chemical influence for the rise of CCD, without the empirical information gathered from builds such as The Hive Project, the source of the problem, and therefore the solution, can’t be found.

Bee making honey

It has been brought to our attention that the picture here previously was of a wasp doing bee things. We have swapped it out for a bee.

 

 

Ammons and Toal researched existing projects around the use of digital tech within beekeeping, and they soon understood that a broad analysis of bee conditions didn’t exist. While many were tracking hive weight, temperature, or honey population, there was no system in place for integrating such data collection into one place. This realisation spurred them on further.

“We couldn’t find any one project that took a broad overview of the whole area. Even if we don’t end up being the people who implement it, we intend to create a plan for a networked system of low-cost monitors that will assist both research and commercial beekeeping.”

With their mission statement firmly in place, the duo looked toward the Raspberry Pi as the brain of their colony. Finding the device small enough to fit within the hive without disruption, the power of the Pi allowed them to monitor multiple factors while also using the Pi Camera Module to record all video to the 314GB storage of the Western Digital PiDrive.

Data recorded by The Hive Project is vital to the survival of the bee, the growth of colony population, and an understanding of the conditions of the hive in changing climates. These are issues which affect us all. The honey bee is responsible for approximately 80% of pollination in the UK, and is essential to biodiversity. Here, I should hand over to a ‘real’ bee to explain more about the importance of bee-ing…

Bee Movie – Devastating Consequences – HD

Barry doesn’t understand why all the bee aren’t happy. Then, Vanessa shows Barry the devastating consequences of the bees being triumphant in their lawsuit against the human race.

 

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Mod Minecraft Pi with our latest Essentials books

We’re back again with yet another amazing book in our Essentials series. We know you love them, and we also know that a lot of you love Minecraft. So here is Hacking and Making with Minecraft, the best place to learn about how to mod Minecraft Pi using the power of code.

Hacking and Making with Minecraft is out this very second for you to go and get online.

Make games and mod the world with Minecraft Essentials

Make games and mod the world with Minecraft Essentials

Packed into its pages, which you can download for free as a PDF, are a load of chapters based on articles in the magazine, as well as plenty of brand new tutorials created by the Minecraft Pi Mastermind himself, Martin O’Hanlon. You may have heard of him – he helped get the SpaceCRAFT code working that was run on the International Space Station by Tim Peake!

Here’s some of the amazing things you’ll find in the 13 chapters squeezed into the book:

  • Play the game and write your first program
  • Learn how to control blocks using code
  • Create your first mini games
  • Interact with the GPIO pins through Minecraft
  • Control Minecraft with Node-RED and Sonic Pi
  • And lots more exciting stuff!

We reckon it will help improve your coding skills, which you should remember when your parents start asking why you’re playing a bit more Minecraft than usual.

You can buy Hacking and Making with Minecraft in our app for Android and iOS, as well as grabbing the free PDF. Print versions are coming soon too.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to go try it out ourselves in the Holodeck.

Hacking and Making with Minecraft is freely licensed under Creative Commons (BY-SA-NC 3.0). You can download the PDF for free now and forever, but buying digitally supports the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable mission to democratise computing and educate kids all over the world – so please consider it!

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Rocket Man

James Dougherty, co-founder and owner of Real Flight Systems, was looking at how to increase the performance of his high-altitude rockets…

Rocket Pi High Altitude Rocket

These types of rockets… yeah…

James’s goal was to build a ‘plug and run’ video system within a rocket, allowing high-definition video to be captured throughout the entirety of the flight. He also required a fully functioning Linux system that would allow for the recording of in-flight telemetry.

You can totally see the direction he’s headed in, right?

This requirement called for long battery life, high storage to accommodate up to 1080p video, and a lightweight processor, allowing the rocket to be robust and reliable while in flight.

Unsurprisingly, James decided to use the Raspberry Pi for his build, settling for the model B.

Before starting the build, James removed the HDMI port, composite video output, USB post, audio jack, and Microchip LAN9512. Not only did this lessen the weight of the Pi, but these modifications also lowered the power needed to run the setup, thus decreasing the size of battery needed. This shrunken unit, completed with the addition of a Pi camera, meant the Pi could run for 8-10 hours with the recording quality lowered to 720p60 and no audio captured.

Rocket PI High Altitude Rocket

Slimline Pi, now with 40% less Pi.

Sadly, the first launch had its issues: the rocket suffered a system failure that resulted in the destruction of the micro SD during the Pegasus flight at BALLS 23, an experimental rocket launch event in the Blackrock desert, USA.

Rocket Pi High Altitude Rocket

Ruh-roh, Raggy…

Rockets Magazine managed to record the launch which shows the highlights mid-flight.

ROCKETS Mag Balls 23 James Dougherty Pegasus

James Dougherty Pegasus flight at Balls 23

However, the next launch was far more successful, with close friend Jimmy Franco launching Rocket-Pi within a Dominator 4 to record the following footage.

(This clip comes with a motion sickness warning!)

Dominator 4 L1355 – TCC 02/21/15

Jimmy Franco flies Dominator-4 at TCC’s February Launch (02/21/15 on an L1355.

So what was next?

Aside from a few issues with Windows when trying to upload the footage post-flight, the main gripe was the lack of audio.

Investing in a new Raspberry Pi, making sure to keep more of the original components intact, James also updated the board with a USB microphone, added a USB flash drive to eliminate the Windows issues, and replaced the SD card with a lower storage option, as the footage was now stored in the flash drive.

1/3 Scale Nike L3150 – TCC Nike Smoke Drag Race 06/20/15

Launch and recovery of 1/3 Scale Nike Smoke at Tripoli Central Californias June 20th Launch. The vehicle flight-ready weighed 30 lbs, L3150 produces 800lbs initial thrust so we had about 26.6 G’s (burnt time 1.1440 seconds). Max speed: Mach 1.2; Max Altitude, 8,837′ AGL (GPS).

In the meantime, as James has continued to work on the Rocket-Pi, updating the hardware and code, he’s managed to put the Pi through some vigorous testing. During the most recent flight in Blackrock, the Pi reached 48K MSL (48000 feet above sea level… wow), at a speed of up to Mach 1.8 (1381 miles per hour… double wow).

Rocket Pi High Altitude Rocket

But I AM flying! And from way up here you all look like little ants.

Moving on from the build, James aims to upgrade various features. One of the most exciting upgrades looks to be the migration of Rocket-Pi to the Pi Zero, the smaller size allowing for multiple units in one rocket… creating 360-degree coverage of the flight (yes please!).

More of the build information, coding, and flight documentation can be found at the RFS website.

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Hi Fi Raspberry Pi – digitising and streaming vinyl

Over at Mozilla HQ (where Firefox, a browser that many of you are using to read this, is made), some retro hardware hacking has been going on.

vinyl record

The Mozillans have worked their way through several office music services, but nothing, so far, has stuck. Then this home-made project, which started as a bit of a joke, landed on a countertop – and it’s stayed.

Matt Claypotch found a vinyl record player online, and had it delivered to the office, intending to tinker with it at home. It never made it that far. He and his colleagues spent their lunch hour at a local thrift store buying up random vintage vinyl…and the record player stayed in the office so everybody could use it.

Potch’s officemates embarked on a vinyl spending spree.

1-SuvYfwtYQ7xAfUYACc7GtA

1-cx_LPjsu4DmlNoxWdxtEPQ

What could be better? The warm crackle of vintage vinyl, “random, crappy albums” you definitely can’t find on Spotify (and stuff like the Van Halen album above that you can find on Spotify but possibly would prefer not to)…the problem was, once the machine had been set up in a break room, only the people in that room could listen to the cheese.

Enter the Raspberry Pi, with a custom-made streaming setup. One Mozillan didn’t want to have to sit in the common area to get his daily dose of bangin’ choons, so he set up a Pi to stream music from the analogue vinyl over USB (it’s 2016, record players apparently have USB ports now) via an Icecast stream to headphones anywhere in the office. Analogue > digital > analogue, if you like.

The setup is surprisingly successful; they’ve organised other audio systems which weren’t very popular, but this one, which happened organically, is being used by the whole office.

You can listen to a podcast from Envoy Office Hacks about the setup, and the office’s reaction to it.

Mozilla, keep on bopping to disco Star Wars. (I’m off to see if I can find a copy of that record. It’s probably a lot better in my imagination than it is in real life, but BOY, is it good in my imagination*.)

*I found it on YouTube. It’s a lot better in my imagination.

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Useless Duck Company

The Useless Duck Company’s very splendid videos, demonstrating some of their thoughtful and helpful Internet of Things applications, have been making us LITERALLY DIE WITH HAPPINESS (literally!) ever since we discovered them. Even better: we got in touch with the Chief Duck, and he let us know which of his inventions use a Raspberry Pi. Here are two of the most safe-for-work ones.

Sock Removal Robot

Two months ago I made an app for removing socks, but people complained that you need a dog for it to work. I made this robot so everyone can use my app! Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3660602 Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/UselessDuck/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/UselessDuck/ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/UselessDuckCompany/ Music by http://www.bensound.com/

Wireless baby crib

If your baby does not fall asleep after use simply press the button again. Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/UselessDuck/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/UselessDuck/ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/UselessDuckCompany/ Intro music by http://www.bensound.com/

Useless Duck Company, we salute you. Please invent something to clear up the coffee we’ve all spat across our desks.

 

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One small step for Steph, one giant flap for makerkind

I’m Steph, I’m quite new to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and I’m very new to Raspberry Pis. Until quite recently, any mention of pie to me meant that good food was on the horizon – now my horizons are much broader. I’ve been part of the Programmes Team at Pi Towers for about 3 months, and I’ve only just picked my jaw up from the floor in awe of the creative geniuses around me. The things that I’ve seen are mindboggling and I began to wonder how they were created. Well, there was only one way to find out – make something myself.

Steph and her creation

The smile of a happy maker

The time had come for me to get started in the world of digital making. I’ve always been into arts and crafts, and I love to put my own touch and personality on my possessions; sewing buttons and colourful things on to clothes, revamping drawer knobs, applying découpage to any plain bits of furniture, and taking over the world with my glue gun. However, making something digital from scratch was a daunting prospect! I wasn’t going to let it scare me, though; I’ve dived out of a plane before and landed with a smile on my face.

So, supported by my team and with that ‘Friday feeling’, I took the plunge and transformed into a digital maker for the afternoon. I was presented with a DIY Gamer Kit, from Technology Will Save Us, as my first project. I opened the box of components and loaded up the online instructions, then I had to take a deep breath and compose myself as I read the word ‘solder’. I was very excited that I was going to need to solder, then realised I didn’t know how to do it. Rachel Rayns, my lovely desk buddy, gave me a soldering tutorial; now, I feel like I can solder most metal things in the world. I loved it.

Steph learns to solder

The soldering skills that earned an Instagram marriage proposal.

I continued the rest of my mission on my own, with the incentive of being able to play Snake at the end of it. I worked my way through the kit, identifying all of the digital ingredients and joining them together in the right places. I soldered push buttons, LEDs, a buzzer, resistors, and many other components to a PCB (printed circuit board). I was amazed at how quickly the parts grew into a device that looked very much like a Game Boy, and I was impressed to see how it matched the photo instructions – very useful!

Following the instructions, I added a brain to my device in the form of an Arduino, and an acrylic accessory to the front and back. This was a great way to protect my game; if I’m honest, I may have dropped it a few times whilst fumbling through the engineers’ tool stash. Luckily, nothing fell apart, which was a testament to my new-found soldering skills. After fixing the spacers, nuts and bolts in place, the only thing left to do was to connect a 9v battery to the game, and then run through the office waving it around when it powered up.

I had made the DIY Gamer Kit, and in that moment I wasn’t sure which thing made me smile the most:

  • How quickly I was able to put it together – even though I stopped to admire my work every 5 minutes
  • The fact that I could now play Snake
  • Knowing that, against all odds, I hadn’t burnt myself
  • The idea of going to make something else straight away

Once my smile had shrunk back down to normal size, I was calm enough to think about doing some coding. I’ve been told that code can be used to solve real life problems, and I certainly needed it when I uploaded the game ‘Flappy Bird’ on to my new game machine and couldn’t survive for longer than 2 seconds. My problem was that my bird was flying far too fast to control – it had to be hacked! Again, with the help of Rachel we hacked the game and adapted the code. I was then able to play Flappy Bird at a much more reasonable flying speed. My problems didn’t quite stop here, though, as I continued to fly my bird into wall after wall, ending the game prematurely. We hacked it some more, and now I’ll never see the words ‘Game Over’ again.

Rachel and Steph go through Coding 101

Coding 101

I’ve been inspired to be more of a digital maker, because I enjoyed every minute of my very first project. I hope that others may find the same inspiration from the amount of joy on my face in the picture below. Go forth and make something, and you too could be this happy.

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The Scratch Olympics

Since the Raspberry Pi Foundation merged with Code Club, the newly enlarged Education Team has been working hard to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.

Among the other work we’ve been doing, we’ve created a set of Scratch projects to celebrate the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The initial inspiration for these projects were the games that we used to love as children, commonly referred to as ‘button mashers’. There was little skill required in these games: all you needed was the ability to smash two keys as fast as humanly possible. Examples of this genre include such classics as Geoff Capes Strongman and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

With the 2016 Olympics fast approaching, we began to reminisce about these old sports-themed games, and realised what fun today’s kids are missing out on. With that, the Scratch Olympics were born!

There are two resources available on the resources section of this site, the first of which is the Olympic Weightlifter project. With graphics conceived by Sam Alder and produced by Alex Carter, the project helps you create a button-masher masterpiece, producing your very own 1980s-style keyboard-killer that’s guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of parents all over the world. Physical buttons are an optional extra for the faint of heart.

A pixellated weightlifter blows steam from his ears as he lifts a barbell above his head in an animated gif

The second game in the series is Olympics Hurdles, where you will make a hurdling game which requires the player to hit the keyboard rapidly to make the hurdler run, and use expert timing to make them jump over the hurdles at the right time.

Pixellated athletes approach, leap and clear a hurdle on an athletics track

You’ll also find three new projects over on the Code Club projects website. The first of these is Synchronised Swimming, where you’ll learn how to code a synchronised swimming routine for Scratch the cat, by using loops and creating clones.

Six copies of the Scratch cat against an aqua blue background form a hexagonal synchronised swimming formation

There’s also an Archery project, where you must overcome an archer’s shaky arm to shoot arrows as close to the bullseye as you can, and Sprint!, which uses a 3D perspective to make the player feel as though they’re running towards a finish line. This project can even be coded to work with a homemade running mat! These two projects are only available to registered Code Clubs, and require an ID and PIN to access.

Creating new Olympics projects is just one of the ways in which the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club are working together to create awesome new resources, and there’s much more to come!

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