Blue Pi Thinking from the University of York

The University of York asked if we could send someone up to judge a Raspberry Pi contest they’d been running for people joining the Computer Science department over the summer break. Our very own Dr Gordon Hollingworth is a York alumnus, so we sent him to revisit his old stomping grounds (in one of his collection of stylish Raspberry Pi t-shirts – you can buy your own at the Swag Store).

Freshers were given a Raspberry Pi when they won a place at the university back in August, and had been spending the time before arriving in York working on two challenges. Blue Pi Thinking challenged them to come up with the most creative use of the Pi they could think of; and BattlePi had them programming their Pis to beat all other entrants in a class-wide Battleships competition.

Gordon mailed me from his phone while he was there:

“I’m amazed by the quantity and quality of entries and the way they’re working together to improve their code as they go through the Battle Pi part of the contest…  I sat down with one guy who was trying to find out why his code had crashed in the middle of a game, and then while describing it to his opponent he suddenly saw the problem! (I obviously explained at this point why people do code reviews!)”

Here’s some video from the day. We’re incredibly impressed at what people were producing; we hope that some of the participants will find time to write their projects up and share them with us.

The eagle-eyed will spot Liam Fraser, one of our earliest and most helpful supporters, in one of the shots. Liam moved to Cambridge after his A levels and spent last year as a gap year working for our hosts, Mythic Beasts, on the back of his work on the Pi; he’s been maintaining our downloads server too. He’s now headed off to study at York. We’ll miss him while he’s away – we hope you enjoy your time at university, Liam!

12 comments

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It’s just so great to see that the Pi is being used by its originally-intended user base in ever-increasing numbers. We’re looking at posing similar challenges for students in our area at the middle and high school, as well as two-year and four year colleges and universities, all tied together with an expanding network of Jams.

All the best of luck to Liam, and much appreciation for the “behind-the-servers” help he’s provided over the past year. We’ll be looking for him to achieve much greater fame in the years to come!

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From now on when anyone says to me, “What’s the point of a Raspberry Pi? EH?!** You can do exactly the same thing on a PC or a tablet!”, I’ll just point them to this. With a big Brother Lee Love Finger of Awesome +3. This video encapsulates everything that we do and why we are here and I love it.

I’m now looking forward to this sort of thing happening in the Summer holidays between Key Stages 2 and 3 in a few years’ time :)

[**They really do make those “EH?!” grunts when asking that question. I’ve never worked out why.]

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> [**They really do make those “EH?!” grunts when asking that question. I’ve never worked out why.]

They do, don’t they? I suspect some sort of blockage.

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They really were an amazing set of projects in the Blue-Pi thinking my favorite was the ultra-sonic helicopter game, although there were lots of other very cool and interesting things done.

As I expected, York is after all the best university for being a proper engineer

Gordon

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So was there an “overall winner” or was it just an experiment to see what the students could come up with?

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Yes the finalists in the Battle Pi competition were James Judd (Who won the final) and Vladimir Daglis

James’ code is

https://github.com/Juddling/BattlePi

The winner of the Blue Pi Thinking competition was Ronan McCann-Jackson who created a TV remote control which took voice translation from his phone, transmitted it to the Pi and used that to search the TV listings for a programme. It would then IR blast the TV to switch to that channel…

So you could just shout “Simpsons” at your TV!

Gordon

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“I sat down with one guy who was trying to find out why his code had crashed in the middle of a game, and then while describing it to his opponent he suddenly saw the problem! (I obviously explained at this point why people do code reviews!)”

That’s why I have a Babbage – you don’t need a code review, you just need someone to talk the problem through with :)

Babbage is perfect as he doesn’t interrupt!

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Rubber Duck Debugging (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging) is one of the most useful tools I do for myself, or in your case Babbage the Bear Debugging :)

It is great to see a uni doing stuff like this I did Computer Studies at LJMU but there was nothing like this, maybe I should have gone to York instead.

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Hmm, a Babbage that can interrupt… sounds like a Pi project to me!

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Is there a proper British voice for text-to-speech synthesis software that will run on the Pi? I think I hear a scathingly brilliant idea (thank you, Halley Mills) for a Babbage the Bear project. A close second voice choice would be Pooh Bear’s from the Disney animated movies that belonged to the late American actor Sterling Holloway (no, it’s not British, but, hey, the Sun has set on half of the former Empire at any given time every day, now – thank you for A. A. Milne, though ;) ).

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Very interesting – well done York! And I enjoyed seeing all those enthusiastic young people starting out on their university education – I wish them well. But there were depressingly few young women among them. Find a way to solve that one and you could almost double the flow of talent into computing.

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Well done York Uni! And to think I gave Dr Will Smith his first raspberry pi, for free! :)

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