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A tale of three Raspberry Jams

In today’s post, I’m going to share the tales of three Jams: how and why they got started.

Norwich Raspberry Jam

Norwich is a place where I’ve always hoped there would be a Jam. It’s a tech city in the East of England and there’s plenty going on there, but so far no one has been running a Jam. I met Archie Roques at the Jam I run at Pi Towers, and was thrilled to discover that he was planning to set one up with Claire Riseborough.

I wanted to start the Norwich Jam for a few reasons. Firstly because I really love visiting other Jams (CamJam and Pi Towers Jam) and wanted something closer to home. Also because there’s a great tech community in Norwich, so we want to use that to help encourage more young people into tech and digital making. As one of the founders of the Young Makers’ Tech Club, I’ve seen how much tech potential Norfolk’s young people have. It would be great to have a place where we can have more of them getting involved, and somewhere where those who are interested can learn more skills and show them off to others.

I had the idea brewing in my mind for a while. I visited a few Jams and Pi Parties, and started by helping out at the Pi Towers Jam to get a feel of what running a Jam involves. Then Sarah, who works in education at the Forum (a big public building in Norwich, which amongst other things houses the main library and does lots of tech stuff) got in touch, as she’d heard about the idea and wanted to have a Jam as part of their Norwich Gaming Festival. We got a few other people on board and it’s been all go from there!

Finding a venue can be tricky, but sometimes you find the  perfect place, with a vested interest in running a community interest event, especially if it’s for young people. And you never know, they might lend a hand with organising it, too.

The Forum has been really helpful in getting us a venue. They couldn’t host the Jam themselves as they’ve got other events on that week, but they booked us another venue, the fantastic OPEN Norwich.

The Forum has also helped with the organisation – they are overseeing the ticketing, and helping to promote the event (which is good, as they have 33,000 more Twitter followers than I do!). They also are helping with some of the less exciting stuff like insurance and safeguarding, and organising some events for schools and educators to go alongside the Jam, which is great. Claire Riseborough, who has founded a social enterprise with the aim of helping kids to reach their tech potential, has also been instrumental in getting people in the tech community on board and getting the word out. Lots of other people have helped in their fields of expertise, which is great!

I asked Archie how he planned the Jam’s activities, and how he decided what to put on.

We knew that we wanted to have some talks, stalls, vendors and workshops: when we’d been to events like the Pi Party, those were the bits we liked best. We did a quick social media call for volunteers and we’ve had a pretty good response (though there’s always room for one more!).  We’ve got a nice selection of talks and workshops, and we aim to have some more informal general activities for people who don’t want to do anything too formal. The most important thing for us is having as many awesome people there as possible, whether they are visitors or volunteers.

I’d really like to see the Jam continue, probably on a quarterly basis, as there are lots of other more frequent tech events in Norwich. The Norwich Science Festival is coming up in the Autumn, so it’s possible that a science-themed Jam will be on the cards for then!

The first Norwich Jam takes place on 27 May. Tickets are free from Eventbrite. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Raspberry Jam Berlin

James Mitchell is a Scotsman living in Berlin. I first met him when I gave a Raspberry Pi talk in a furniture showroom, and somehow that led him to start a local Jam.

After owning a Raspberry Pi for a few months I started to search for tips, tricks and tutorials online. I then started to notice Raspberry Jams being set up all over the UK. We didn’t have these events in Berlin, so I decided to start a Jam of my own. Thankfully I had loads of support from Jam leaders and even got the chance to meet Ben Nuttall when he visited Berlin shortly before he joined the Foundation. He was a great inspiration!

After getting started with the Jam, lots of things started to fall into place. I started to build a lot more projects, mainly using the Camera Module. I have a little obsession with photography, and I am particularly fond of time-lapse. My kids also started to get involved with the Raspberry Pi. They are still a little young yet but I love that they stay enthusiastic.

James felt that he was missing out on the Raspberry Pi community vibe.

It really was the lack of events in and around Berlin that got the Jam going. I wanted to attend one of the UK Jams, as it seemed full of like-minded people willing to help each other and learn new things – something we sorely lacked here.

I did later manage to attend the Raspberry Pi Birthday Party in Cambridge. While the event was considerably larger than most Jams I had heard about, it was totally amazing to meet the community. It reinforced the sense of belonging I had been looking for.

I held the first Raspberry Jam Berlin in a co-working office that offers their space at weekends for free if you don’t charge for tickets. I had some Pis set up with various add-on boards and we also gave a few talks about the Raspberry Pi.

My favourite thing about the Raspberry Jam is meeting different people and seeing those projects that are getting pushed beyond my own understanding, but also being able to help new people get interested in the Raspberry Pi. It’s very satisfying to know someone has left the Jam inspired!

I asked James what advice he would have for someone setting up a Jam in their area.

Start small, and have a clear outline of what you want from your Jam. Invite a few friends and maybe the local school’s computing teacher. Find your like-minded corner of the community, and with their help expand if you want.

Don’t be intimidated by the size of other Jams. They come in all shapes and sizes and some can be really large. Just keep in mind you are in it to have fun!

You never know how many people will show up to a Jam. Will it be too many, or too few? Here’s James’ take on the dilemma:

It can get a little stressful when you have low numbers, but the key is to ignore the numbers and just enjoy the moment. If one person shows up and they walk away inspired, it’s a job well done.

Wimbledon Raspberry Jam

Cat Lamin went to Picademy in July 2014. She got really excited about the teaching possibilities of the Raspberry Pi, but didn’t know where to start, so she reached out to the community to create local networks for teachers to share their skills. She started a Coding Evening in Twickenham, and helped organise the Wimbledon Raspberry Jam.

Albert Hickey, who organises the Egham Jam, approached me to see if I was interested in helping him run the Jam in Wimbledon. He had been offered a venue and wanted me to be involved from the start. Wimbledon is close to the school I taught in and I knew this would be an excellent opportunity to give some of the children from school the chance to help develop their passions. What I really enjoyed about the Jam was seeing all of the families there. Several parents asked if we could let their children’s schools know about the next one because they were keen to bring more families down!

I was really lucky with Wimbledon Jam, as loads of helpful people were really keen to offer up their time as volunteers. If I’m honest, I took over a little bit, but Albert seemed quite happy to let me handle the actual event while he dealt with the venue. By the end of it, I felt that we had been the perfect team. While Albert negotiated the space, I took on the role of organising the timetable of events. I had to figure out timings for workshops and who was available to run them. We were really lucky that so many people offered their help almost straight away, and it was great having Ben along as a representative from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It added a sort of official stamp of approval to the day.

I really like having workshops, talks and show-and-tells going on, and we were really lucky that loads of people were interested in doing everything. One of my highlights from the day was watching the Mums creep over to Whack-a-Pi and sneak a go while their children were taking part in workshops – it was very funny!

Cat and Albert have run three Jams at Wimbledon library now. It’s great to see it continue on from the initial event I attended.

Why do people run Jams?

People run Jams for many reasons. I started the Manchester Jam so that I would have a group of people to learn about Raspberry Pi with, and it ended up benefiting hundreds of other people. While organising an event can be a lot of work, it is good fun. It all seems worth it in the end when you see how you can positively affect people you’d never otherwise have met. Here are some more insights from other Jam makers:

Read more in this excerpt from the Guidebook.

If you want to run a Jam, wherever you are, just remember that all these people were once where you are now. If they can do it, you can do it. Find some helpers, share ideas, make arrangements for your first event, and have fun. Be sure to check out the Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips from other Jam makers, and lots of practical information on organising an event.

There are plenty of Jams coming up in the next month, including Oklahoma, Bogotá, Virginia and Melbourne, as well as lots in the UK, from Egham to Blackpool, Huddersfield to Belfast. Check out the Jam calendar for more.

I’ll be back next month with another Jam round-up, so if you have a Jam story to share, please get in touch! Email ben@raspberrypi.org. I really want to hear about all your experiences.

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Raspberry Jam round-up: April

In case you missed it: in yesterday’s post, we released our Raspberry Jam Guidebook, a new Jam branding pack and some more resources to help people set up their own Raspberry Pi community events. Today I’m sharing some insights from Jams I’ve attended recently.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Preston Raspberry Jam

The Preston Jam is one of the most long-established Jams, and it recently ran its 58th event. It has achieved this by running like clockwork: on the first Monday evening of every month, without fail, the Jam takes place. A few months ago I decided to drop in to surprise the organiser, Alan O’Donohoe. The Jam is held at the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire. The format is quite informal, and it’s very welcoming to newcomers. The first half of the event allows people to mingle, and beginners can get support from more seasoned makers. I noticed a number of parents who’d brought their children along to find out more about the Pi and what can be done with it. It’s a great way to find out for real what people use their Pis for, and to get pointers on how to set up and where to start.

About half way through the evening, the organisers gather everyone round to watch a few short presentations. At the Jam I attended, most of these talks were from children, which was fantastic to see: Josh gave a demo in which he connected his Raspberry Pi to an Amazon Echo using the Alexa API, Cerys talked about her Jam in Staffordshire, and Elise told everyone about the workshops she ran at MozFest. All their talks were really well presented. The Preston Jam has done very well to keep going for so long and so consistently, and to provide such great opportunities and support for young people like Josh, Cerys and Elise to develop their digital making abilities (and presentation skills). Their next event is on Monday 1 May.

Manchester Raspberry Jam and CoderDojo

I set up the Manchester Jam back in 2012, around the same time that the Preston one started. Back then, you could only buy one Pi at a time, and only a handful of people in the area owned one. We ran a fairly small event at the local tech community space, MadLab, adopting the format of similar events I’d been to, which was very hands-on and project-based – people brought along their Pis and worked on their own builds. I ran the Jam for a year before moving to Cambridge to work for the Foundation, and I asked one of the regular attendees, Jack, if he’d run it in future. I hadn’t been back until last month, when Clare and I decided to visit.

The Jam is now held at The Shed, a digital innovation space at Manchester Metropolitan University, thanks to Darren Dancey, a computer science lecturer who claims he taught me everything I know (this claim is yet to be peer-reviewed). Jack, Darren, and Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder and Trustee Pete Lomas put on an excellent event. They have a room for workshops, and a space for people to work on their own projects. It was wonderful to see some of the attendees from the early days still going along every month, as well as lots of new faces. Some of Darren’s students ran a Minecraft Pi workshop for beginners, and I ran one using traffic lights with GPIO Zero and guizero.

The next day, we went along to Manchester CoderDojo, a monthly event for young people learning to code and make things. The Dojo is held at The Sharp Project, and thanks to the broad range of skills of the volunteers, they provide a range of different activities: Raspberry Pi, Minecraft, LittleBits, Code Club Scratch projects, video editing, game making and lots more.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Manchester CoderDojo’s next event is on Sunday 14 May. Be sure to keep an eye on mcrraspjam.org.uk for the next Jam date!

CamJam and Pi Wars

The Cambridge Raspberry Jam is a big event that runs two or three times a year, with quite a different format to the smaller monthly Jams. They have a lecture theatre for talks, a space for workshops, lots of show-and-tell, and even a collection of retailers selling Pis and accessories. It’s a very social event, and always great fun to attend.

The organisers, Mike and Tim, who wrote the foreword for the Guidebook, also run Pi Wars: the annual Raspberry Pi robotics competition. Clare and I went along to this year’s event, where we got to see teams from all over the country (and even one from New Mexico, brought by one of our Certified Educators from Picademy USA, Kerry Bruce) take part in a whole host of robotic challenges. A few of the teams I spoke to have been working on their robots at their local Jams throughout the year. If you’re interested in taking part next year, you can get a team together now and start to make a plan for your 2018 robot! Keep an eye on camjam.me and piwars.org for announcements.

PiBorg on Twitter

Ely Cathedral has surprisingly good straight line speed for a cathedral. Great job Ely Makers! #PiWars

Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers

As well as working on supporting other Jams, I’ve also been running my own for the last few months. Held at our own offices in Cambridge, Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers is a monthly event for people of all ages. We run workshops, show-and-tell and other practical activities. If you’re in the area, our next event is on Saturday 13 May.

Ben Nuttall on Twitter

rjam @ Pi Towers

Raspberry Jamboree

In 2013 and 2014, Alan O’Donohoe organised the Raspberry Jamboree, which took place in Manchester to mark the first and second Raspberry Pi birthdays – and it’s coming back next month, this time organised by Claire Dodd Wicher and Les Pounder. It’s primarily an unconference, so the talks are given by the attendees and arranged on the day, which is a great way to allow anyone to participate. There will also be workshops and practical sessions, so don’t miss out! Unless, like me, you’re going to the new Norwich Jam instead…

Start a Jam near you

If there’s no Jam where you live, you can start your own! Download a copy of the brand new Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips on how to get started. It’s not as hard as you’d think! And we’re on hand if you need any help.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Visiting Jams and hearing from Jam organisers are great ways for us to find out how we can best support our wonderful community. If you run a Jam and you’d like to tell us about what you do, or share your success stories, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email me at ben@raspberrypi.org, and we’ll try to feature your stories on the blog in future.

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Supporting and growing the Raspberry Jam community

For almost five years, Raspberry Jams have created opportunities to welcome new people to the Raspberry Pi community, as well as providing a support network for people of all ages in digital making. All around the world, like-minded people meet up to discuss and share their latest projects, give workshops, and chat about all things Pi. Today, we are making it easier than ever to set up your own Raspberry Jam, thanks to a new Jam Guidebook, branding pack, and starter kit.

Raspberry Jam logo over world map

We think Jams provide lots of great learning opportunities and we’d like to see one in every community. We’re aware of Jams in 43 countries: most recently, we’ve seen new Jams start in Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras! The community team has been working on a plan to support and grow the amazing community of Jam makers around the world. Now it’s time to share the fantastic resources we have produced with you.

The Raspberry Jam Guidebook

One of the things we’ve been working on is a comprehensive Raspberry Jam Guidebook to help people set up their Jam. It’s packed full of advice gathered from the Raspberry Pi community, showing the many different types of Jam and how you can organise your own. It covers everything from promoting and structuring your Jam to managing finances: we’re sure you’ll find it useful. Download it now!

Image of Raspberry Jam Guidebook

Branding pack

One of the things many Jam organisers told us they needed was a set of assets to help with advertising. With that in mind, we’ve created a new branding pack for Jam organisers to use in their promotional materials. There’s a new Raspberry Jam logo, a set of poster templates, a set of graphical assets, and more. Download it now!

Starter kits

Finally, we’ve put together a Raspberry Jam starter kit containing stickers, flyers, printed worksheets, and lots more goodies to help people run their first Jam. Once you’ve submitted your first event to our Jam map, you can apply for your starter kit. Existing Jams won’t miss out either: they can apply for a kit when they submit their next event.

Image of Raspberry Jam starter kit contents

Find a Jam near you!

Take a look at the Jam map and see if there’s an event coming up near you. If you have kids, Jams can be a brilliant way to get them started with coding and making.

Can’t find a local Jam? Start one!

If you can’t find a Jam near you, you can start your own. You don’t have to organise it by yourself. Try to find some other people who would also like a Jam to go to, and get together with them. Work out where you could host your Jam and what form you’d like it to take. It’s OK to start small: just get some people together and see what happens. It’s worth looking at the Jam map to see if any Jams have happened nearby: just check the ‘Past Events’ box.

We have a Raspberry Jam Slack team where you can get help from other Jam organisers. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to join: just email jam@raspberrypi.org and we’ll get back to you. You can also contact us if you need further support in general, or if you have feedback on the resources.

Thanks

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the guidebook and provided insights in the Jam survey. Thanks, too, to all Jam makers and volunteers around the world who do great work providing opportunities for people everywhere!

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Pioneers events: what’s your jam?

We hope you’re as excited as we are about the launch of the second Pioneers challenge! While you form your teams and start thinking up ways to Make it Outdoors with tech, we’ve been thinking of different ways for you to come together to complete the challenge.

Pioneers: Make it Outdoors: Pioneers events

Team up!

In the last challenge, we saw many teams formed as part of after-school coding clubs or as a collection of best friends at the kitchen table. However, for some this may not be a viable option. Maybe your friends live too far away, or your school doesn’t have a coding club. Maybe you don’t have the time to dedicate to meeting up every week, but you do have a whole Saturday free.

If this is the case, you may want to consider running your Pioneers team as part of an event, such as a makerspace day or Raspberry Jam. Over the course of this second cycle, we’ll be building the number of Pioneers Events. Keep your eyes peeled for details as they are released!

HackLab on Twitter

And the HackLab #Pioneers team are off! Hundreds of laughable ideas pouring forth! @__MisterC__ @Raspberry_Pi #makeyourideas

Come together

Maker events provide the chance to meet other people who are into making things with technology. You’ll find people at events who are just getting started, as well as more expert types who are happy to give advice. This is true of Pioneers Events as well as Raspberry Jams.

Marie MIllward on Twitter

Planning new #makeyourideas Pioneers projects @LeedsRaspJam Did someone mention a robot…?

Raspberry Jams are the perfect place for Pioneers teams to meet and spend the day planning and experimenting with their build. If you’re taking part in Pioneers as part of an informal squad, you might find it helpful to come to your local Jam for input and support. Many Jams run on a monthly basis, so you’ll easily find enough time to complete the build over the space of two months. Make sure you carry on sharing your ideas via social media and email between meetings.

The kindness of strangers

If you are a regular at Raspberry Jams, or an organiser yourself, why not consider supporting some teenagers to take part in Pioneers and give them their first taste of making something using tech? We encourage our Pioneers to work together to discover and overcome problems as a team, and we urge all event organisers to minimise adult participation when overseeing a Pioneers build at an event. You can offer advice and answer some questions; just don’t take over.

HullRaspJam on Twitter

Any 11 – 15 year old coders in #Hull we will happily support you to #MakeYourIdeas – Get in touch! https://t.co/ZExV4mWLJx

There are many other ways for you to help. Imagine the wonderful ideas you can inspire in teens by taking your own creations to a Raspberry Jam! Have you built a live-streaming bird box? Or modified your bike with a Pi Zero? Maybe you’ve built a Pi-powered go-kart or wired your shoes to light up as you walk?

Pioneers is a programme to inspire teens to try digital making, but we also want to create a community of like-minded teens. If we can connect our Pioneers with the wonderful wider community of makers, through networks such as makerspaces, Coder Dojos, and Raspberry Jams, then we will truly start to make something great.

HackLab on Twitter

Are you 12-15yo & like making stuff? Come to @cammakespace 4 the world’s 1st @Raspberry_Pi #Pioneers Event! #FREE: https://t.co/UtVmJ9kPDM

Running your own Jam and Pioneers events

For more information on Pioneers, check out the Pioneers website.

For more information on Raspberry Jams, including event schedules and how to start your own, visit the Raspberry Jam website.

Oh, and keep your eyes on this week’s blogs from tomorrow because … well … just do.

 

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Pioneers: the second challenge is…

Pioneers, your next challenge is here!

Do you like making things? Do you fancy trying something new? Are you aged 11 to 16? The Pioneers programme is ready to challenge you to create something new using technology.

As you’ll know if you took part last time, Pioneers challenges are themed. So here’s the lovely Ana from ZSL London Zoo to reveal the theme of the next challenge:

Your next challenge, if you choose to accept it, is…

MakeYourIdeas The second Pioneers theme is here! Wahoo! We’re looking for UK-based teams of two to five people aged 11-16 to make something ‘outdoorsy’ with tech. Are you up for the challenge? Head to the Pioneers website for more details and to register your team: http://www.raspberrypi.org/pioneers

Make it outdoors

You have until the beginning of July to make something related to the outdoors. As Ana said, the outdoors is pretty big, so here are some ideas:

Resources and discounted kit

If you’re looking at all of these projects and thinking that you don’t know where to start, never fear! Our free resources offer a great starting point for any new project, and can help you to build on your existing skills and widen your scope for creating greatness.

We really want to see your creativity and ingenuity though, so we’d recommend using these projects as starting points rather than just working through the instructions. To help us out, the wonderful Pimoroni are offering 15 percent off kit for our Getting started with wearables and Getting started with picamera resources. You should also check out our new Poo near you resource for an example of a completely code-based project.

For this cycle of Pioneers, thanks to our friends at the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund, we are making bursaries available to teams to cover the cost of these basic kits (one per team). This is for teens who haven’t taken part in digital making activities before, and for whom the financial commitment would be a barrier to taking part. Details about the bursaries and the discount will be sent to you when you register.

Your Pioneers team

We’ve introduced a few new things for this round of Pioneers, so pay special attention if you took part last time round!

Pioneers challenge: Make it Outdoors

We’re looking for UK-based teams of between two and five people, aged between 11 and 16, to work together to create something related to the outdoors. We’ve found that in our experience there are three main ways to run a Pioneers team. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll proceed when it comes to your participation in Pioneers.

  • You could organise a Group that meets once or twice a week. We find this method works well for school-based teams that can meet at the end of a school day for an hour or two every week.
  • You could mentor a Squad that is largely informal, where the members probably already have a good idea of what they’re doing. A Squad tends to be more independent, and meetings may be sporadic, informal or online only. This option isn’t recommended if it’s your first competition like this, or if you’re not a techie yourself.
  • You could join a local Event at a technology hub near you. We’re hoping to run more and more of these events around the country as Pioneers evolves and grows. If you think you’d like to help us run a Pioneers Event, get in touch! We love to hear from people who want to spread their love of making, and we’ll support you as much as we possibly can to get your event rocking along. If you want to run a Pioneers Event, you will need to preregister on the Pioneers website so that we can get you all the support you need well before you open your doors.

#MakeYourIdeas

As always, we’re excited to watch the progress of your projects via social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. As you work on your build, make sure to share the ‘making of…’ stages with us using #MakeYourIdeas.

For inspiration from previous entries, here’s the winner announcement video for the last Pioneers challenge:

Winners of the first Pioneers challenge are…

After months of planning and making, the first round of Pioneers is over! We laid down the epic challenge of making us laugh. And boy, did the teams deliver. We can honestly say that my face hurt from all the laughing on judging day. Congratulations to everyone who took part.

Once you’ve picked a project, the first step is to register. What are you waiting for? Head to the Pioneers website to get started!

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Tinkernut’s do-it-yourself Pi Zero audio HAT

Why buy a Raspberry Pi Zero audio HAT when Tinkernut can show you how to make your own?

Adding Audio Output To The Raspberry Pi Zero – Tinkernut Workbench

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is an amazing miniature computer piece of technology. I want to turn it into an epic portable Spotify radio that displays visuals such as Album Art. So in this new series called “Tinkernut Workbench”, I show you step by step what it takes to build a product from the ground up.

Raspberry Pi Zero audio

Unlike their grown-up siblings, the Pi Zero and Zero W lack an onboard audio jack, but that doesn’t stop you from using them to run an audio output. Various audio HATs exist on the market, from Adafruit, Pimoroni and Pi Supply to name a few, providing easy audio output for the Zero. But where would the fun be in a Tinkernut video that shows you how to attach a HAT?

Tinkernut Pi Zero Audio

“Take this audio HAT, press it onto the header pins and, errr, done? So … how was your day?”

DIY Audio: Tinkernut style

For the first video in his Hipster Spotify Radio using a Raspberry Pi Tinkernut Workbench series, Tinkernut – real name Daniel Davis – goes through the steps of researching, prototyping and finishing his own audio HAT for his newly acquired Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The build utilises the GPIO pins on the Zero W, specifically pins #18 and #13. FYI, this hidden gem of information comes from the Adafruit Pi Zero PWM Audio guide. Before he can use #18 and #13, header pins need to be soldered. If the thought of soldering pins to the Pi is somewhat daunting, check out the Pimoroni Hammer Header.

Pimoroni Hammer Header for Raspberry Pi

You’re welcome.

Once complete, with Raspbian installed on the micro SD, and SSH enabled for remote access, he’s ready to start prototyping.

Ingredients

Tinkernut uses two 270 ohm resistors, two 150 ohm resistors, two 10μf electrolytic capacitors, two 0.01 μf polyester film capacitors, an audio jack and some wire. You’ll also need a breadboard for prototyping. For the final build, you’ll need a single row female pin header and some prototyping board, if you want to join in at home.

Tinkernut audio board Raspberry Pi Zero W

It should look like this…hopefully.

Once the prototype is working to run audio through to a cheap speaker (thanks to an edit of the config.txt file), the final board can be finished.

What’s next?

The audio board is just one step in the build.

Spotify is such an awesome music service. Raspberry Pi Zero is such an awesome ultra-mini computing device. Obviously, combining the two is something I must do!!! The idea here is to make something that’s stylish, portable, can play Spotify, and hopefully also display visuals such as album art.

Subscribe to Tinkernut’s YouTube channel to keep up to date with the build, and check out some of his other Raspberry Pi builds, such as his cheap 360 video camera, security camera and digital vintage camera.

Have you made your own Raspberry Pi HAT? Show it off in the comments below!

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Raspberry Pi Resources: coding for all ages

Following a conversation in the Pi Towers kitchen about introducing coding to a slightly older demographic, we sent our Events Assistant Olivia on a mission to teach her mum how to code. Here she is with her findings.

“I can’t code – I’m too old! I don’t have a young person to help me!”

I’ve heard this complaint many times, but here’s the thing: there are Raspberry Pi resources for all ages and abilities! I decided to put the minds of newbie coders at rest, and prove that you can get started with coding whatever your age or experience. For this task, I needed a little help. Here, proudly starring in her first Raspberry Pi blog, is my mum, Helen Robinson.

Helen looks at the learning resource.

My mum is great, but she’s not the most tech-savvy person. She had never attempted any coding before this challenge.

Coding spinning flowers

To prove how easy it is to follow Raspberry Pi resources, I set her the challenge of completing the Spinning Flower Wheel project. She started by reading the Getting Started leaflet that we use on the Raspberry Pi stand at events such as Bett or Maker Faire. You can find the resource here, or watch Carrie Anne talk you through the project here.

She then made her flower pot (which admittedly is more of a heart pot, as I only had heart stickers).

Helen and her flower pot

My mum, with her love-ly heart pot.

She followed the resource to write her code in Python. Then, for the moment of truth, she pressed run. Her reaction was priceless.

Olivia’s mum makes a motor work

Uploaded by Raspberry Pi on 2017-04-19.

She continued coding. She changed the speed of the wheel and added a button to start it spinning. Finally, she was able to add her flower heart pot to the wheel.

Olivia’s mum completes the spinning flower resource

Uploaded by Raspberry Pi on 2017-04-19.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

Although I sat with her throughout the build, I merely took photos while she did all the work. I’m proud to say that she completed the project all by herself – without help from me, or from “a young person”. I just made the tea!

We had so much fun completing the resource, and we would encourage all those curious about coding to give it a go. If my mum managed to do it – and enjoy it – anyone can!

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Estefannie’s Automated French Press

Why press a French press when the French press can press itself? Here’s Estefannie to explain it all…

Internet Button Controlled Automated French Press

Hey World! What’s better than making coffee? Not making coffee. But still drinking coffee. I decided to make my own automated French Press machine. To automate it, I used a Raspberry Pi, a Photon (Internet Button), two stepper motors, wood, glue, and a lot of imagination.

Okay, okay. I’m sure you get it by now. Here at Pi Towers, we love a good coffee hack. In truth, we love any coffee hack. And we also love Estefannie … so you can see where today’s blog is going.

Building an automated French press

For the build, Estefannie uses the Particle Internet Button to tell a wooden castle when it’s ready to press her coffee. Wooden castle? We’ll get there – hold on.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

Wait, I said hold on … never mind.

The Internet Button houses a Photon, a small programmable WiFi development board for Internet of Things (IoT) prototyping. Alongside RGB LEDs, tactile buttons, and an accelerometer, the Internet Button allows wireless control, via the cloud, to the Raspberry Pi. Perfect for the self-pressing French press.

Esteffannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

Like so…

So, wooden castles? Two wooden castles act as housings for servo-powered screws that raise and lower the French press pressing bar. When the coffee is ready to be pressed, they turn in one direction, lowering the bar. When the press is complete, they turn the other way to raise it, giving access to the perfectly brewed coffee. Everything is controlled using Python code on the Raspberry Pi, triggered by the press of the Internet Button.

Esteffannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

The button has three states. Green indicates that everything is ready to press. Magenta indicates the four-minute brew time, and a rainbow tells you that your coffee is ready for consumption. Beautiful.

Automate your own

Once you have perfected the basic build, the same rig could be used to automate no end of household chores. How about setting a timer to slowly press tofu? Turning the rig on its side to open and close a door? Or how about raising and lowing the bar much more quickly to plunger the toilet? Too much? Yeah, I thought the same as I typed it.

You can find the code for the build on Estefannie’s Github. I also suggest subscribing to her YouTube channel for more fun tech hacks and Raspberry Pi builds.

Afterthought

If Simone Giertz is the Queen of Shoddy* Robots, is it fair to say that Estefannie is rightly claiming her spot at the Queen of un-Shoddy ones?

*Helen made me make this word ‘universally friendly’. No swears. Helen is such a spoilsport. In retaliation, I have incorporated a Mamrie Hart-style drinking game into today’s blog. Take a shot every time I use the word ‘press’. Take that, Helen. TAKE THAT!

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Acrophobia 1.0: don’t drop the ball!

Using servomotors and shadow tracking, Acrophobia 1.0’s mission to give a Raspberry Pi a nervous disposition is a rolling success.

Acrophobia 1.0

Acrophobia, a nervous machine with no human-serving goal, but with a single fear: of dropping the ball. Unlike any other ball balancing machine, Acrophobia has no interest in keeping the ball centered. She is just afraid to drop it, getting trapped in near-infinite loops of her own making.

How to give a Raspberry Pi Acrophobia

Controlling the MDF body and 3D printed wheels, the heart of Acrophobia contains a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Camera Module. The camera tracks a shadow across a square of semi-elastic synthetic cloth, moving the Turnigy S901D servomotors at each corner to keep it within a set perimeter.

Acrophobia Raspberry Pi

Well-placed lighting creates the perfect shadow for the Raspberry Pi to track

The shadow is cast by a small ball, and the single goal of Acrophobia is to keep that ball from dropping off the edge.

Acrophobia, a nervous machine with no human-serving goal, but with a single fear: of dropping the ball.

Unlike any other ball-balancing machine, Acrophobia has no interest in keeping the ball centered. She is just afraid to drop it, getting trapped in near-infinite loops of her own making.

To set up the build, the Raspberry Pi is accessed via VNC viewer on an iPad. Once the Python code is executed, Acrophobia is stuck in its near-infinite nightmare loop.

Acrophobia Raspberry Pi

This video for Acrophobia 1.0 has only recently been uploaded to Vimeo, but the beta recording has been available for some time. You can see the initial iteration, created by George Adamopoulos, Dafni Papadopoulou, Maria Papacharisi and Filippos Pappas for the National Technical University of Athens School of Architecture Undergraduate course here, and compare the two. The beta video includes the details of the original Arduino/webcam setup that was eventually replaced by the Raspberry Pi and Camera Module.

Team Building

I recently saw a similar build to this, again using a Raspberry Pi, which used tablet computers as game controllers. Instead of relying on a camera to track the ball, two players worked together to keep the ball within the boundaries of the sheet.

Naturally, now that I need the video for a blog post, I can’t find it. But if you know what I’m talking about, share the link in the comments below.

And if you don’t, it’s time to get making, my merry band of Pi builders. Who can turn Acrophobia into an interactive game?

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A live-streaming Raspberry Pi nest cam: your essential Easter Monday viewing

It’s Easter Monday, a public holiday here in the UK, and Pi Towers is still and silent. Even the continuous flight augering piler on the massive building site next door is, for a time, quiet. So here is the briefest of posts, to share with you a Raspberry Pi cam live-streaming from a blue tit nest in Alan McCullagh‘s parents’ garden in Kilkenny, Ireland. You’ll need to have Flash installed to watch.

BirdBoxKK1

BirdBoxKK1 @ USTREAM: . Birds

The eggs are expected to hatch 14 days after the last laid egg, and the mother was still laying on Thursday, so check in towards the end of the month to catch a first glimpse of the chicks. Alan’s set-up is based on our Infrared Bird Box learning resource; tell us in the comments if you’ve made something similar, or if you plan to.

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