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!

Inclusive learning at South London Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Grace Owolade-Coombes runs the fantastically inclusive South London Raspberry Jam with her son Femi. In this guest post, she gives us the low-down on how the Jam got started. Enjoy!

Grace and Femi

Grace and Femi Owolade-Coombes

Our Jam has been running for over a year now; we’ve had three really big events and one smaller family hack day. Let me begin by telling you about how the idea of running a Jam arose in the first place.

Around three years ago, I read about how coding was going to be part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools and, as a teacher in the FE sector, I was intrigued. As I also had a young and inquisitive son, who was at primary school at the time, I felt that we should investigate further.

National STEM Centre

Grace visited the National STEM Learning Centre in York for a course which introduced her to coding.

I later attended a short course at the National STEM Learning Centre in York, during which one of the organisers told me about the Raspberry Pi Foundation; he suggested I come to a coding event back at the Centre a few weeks later with my family. We did, and Femi loved the Minecraft hack.

Note from Alex: not the actual Minecraft hack but I’ll be having words with our resource gurus because this would be brilliant!

The first Raspberry Jam we attended was in Southend with Andy Melder and the crew: it showed us just how welcoming the Jam community can be. Then I was lucky enough to attend Picademy, which truly was a transformative experience. Ben Nuttall showed me how to tweet photographs with the Pi, which was the beginning of me using Twitter. I particularly loved Clive Beale’s physical computing workshop which I took back and delivered to Femi.

Grace Owolade-Coombes with Carrie Anne Philbin

Picademy gave Grace the confidence to deliver Raspberry Pi training herself.

After Picademy, I tweeted that I was now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and immediately got a request from Dragon Hall, Convent Garden to run a workshop – I didn’t realise they meant in three days’ time! Femi and I bit the bullet and ran our first physical computing workshop together. We haven’t looked back since.

Festival of Code Femi

Femi went on to join the Festival of Code, which he loved.

Around this time, Femi was attending a Tourettes Action support group, where young people with Tourette’s syndrome, like him, met up. Femi wanted to share his love of coding with them, but he felt that they might be put off as it can be difficult to spend extended amounts of time in public places when you have tics. He asked if we could set up a Jam that was inclusive: it would be both autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly. There was such a wealth of support, advice, and volunteers who would help us set up that it really wasn’t a hard decision to make.

Femi Owolade-Coombes

Grace and Femi set up an Indiegogo campaign to help fund their Jam.

We were fortunate to have met Marc Grossman during the Festival of Code: with his amazing skills and experience with Code Club, we set up together. For our first Jam, we had young coding pioneers from the community, such as Yasmin Bey and Isreal Genius, to join us. We were also blessed with David Whale‘s company and Kano even did a workshop with us. There are too many amazing people to mention.

South London Jam

Grace and Femi held the first South London Raspberry Jam, an autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly event for five- to 15-year-olds, at Deptford Library in October 2016, with 75 participants.

We held a six-session Code Club in Catford Library followed by a second Jam in a local community centre, focusing on robotics with the CamJam EduKit 3, as well as the usual Minecraft hacks.

Our third Jam was in conjunction with Kano, at their HQ, and included a SEN TeachMeet with Computing at School (CAS). Joseph Birks, the inventor of the Crumble, delivered a great robot workshop, and Paul Haynes delivered a Unity workshop too.

Family Hack Day

Grace and Femi’s latest event was a family hack day in conjunction with the London Connected Learning Centre.

Femi often runs workshops at our Jams. We try to encourage young coders to follow in Femi’s footsteps and deliver sessions too: it works best when young people learn from each other, and we hope the confidence they develop will enable them to help their friends and classmates to enjoy coding too.

Inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility are at the heart of our Jams, and we are proud to have Tourettes Action and Ambitious about Autism as partners.

Tourettes Action on Twitter

All welcome to this event in London SAT, 12 DEC 2015 AT 13:00 2nd South London Raspberry Jam 2015 Bellingham… https://t.co/TPYC9Ontot

Now we are taking stock of our amazing journey to learn about coding, and preparing to introduce it to more people. Presently we are looking to collaborate with the South London Makerspace and the Digital Maker Collective, who have invited Femi to deliver robot workshops at Tate Modern. We are also looking to progress to more project-based activities which fit with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Pioneers challenges.

Femi Astro Pi

South London Raspberry Jam has participated in both Pi Wars and Astro Pi.

Femi writes about all the events we attend or run: see hackerfemo.com or check out our website and sign up to our mailing list to keep informed. We are just about to gather a team for the Pioneers project, so watch out for updates.

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Using Pi to experience another’s reality

Have you ever fancied being part of a real-life version of Being John Malkovich, without the danger of becoming trapped in a portal into the mind of an actor? This project helps you experience just that.

European telecoms operator Tele2 recently relaunched their phone and internet service with a particularly hefty data plan offering 100GB that customers can use across nine different devices, and they asked creative agency Your Majesty to market the new offering. The agency had a novel take on the brief:

In Sweden, a lot of discussion around connectivity tends to be negative, especially when it comes to controlling our exposure to media that can alter our outlook on our surroundings and the world. What if we made a campaign to show limitless connectivity in a way that changes our perspective?

Striving to alter that negative viewpoint, they didn’t focus on anything as simple as nine devices all working at once, but rather went in a very different direction.

Tele2: Settle For More – Case Film

Tele2 is a Swedish telecom company that provides phone and Internet services. They are re-launching in a big way to become the best data provider in the country and asked us to create a campaign to showcase a killer offer.

The final outcome was an immersive online experience, allowing viewers the chance to ‘step inside the minds’ of nine Swedish celebrities, including actor Joel Kinnaman and our favourite Queen of – ahem! – shoddy robots, Simone Giertz.

Users of the Pi-powered device

A custom backpack housed a 3D-printed rig to support a Raspberry Pi 3 for collection of sensor data, and a colour-grading box for footage recorded by a GoPro-equipped helmet.

Image of components

“Wait: did she just say ‘collection of sensor data’?” Yes. Yes, I did. Along with the video and audio streams from the on-board GoPro and microphone, the system collected data on heart rate, emotional state, and even sweat. Delicious.

screenshots from the device

The brain sensor data collected from the EEG then controls the colour of the footage as it’s relayed back to the audience: green for calm, yellow for happy, red for angry, and blue for sad. We can confirm that Simone’s screen turned a deep shade of purple on more than one occasion, and her heart rate actually shot up when she thought she had burned out some servos.

Videos from the various participants can be viewed at the Tele2 YouTube channel, including Joel, Simone, entrepreneur Cristina Stenbeck, and altitude instructor Anna Lundh.

Working with marketing agency Edelman Deportivo and digital studio Wolfmother Co., Your Majesty documented the impact of the campaign on Bēhance, so check it out.

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The MeArm Pi

Encouraged by the continued success of the original MeArm kit, a pocket-sized robot arm that quickly became one of the most successful of its kind for budding Raspberry Pi enthusiasts, the Bens (Gray and Pirt) are back with a new Kickstarter project: the MeArm Pi.

MeArm Pi Kickstarter Video

The Kickstarter video for the MeArm Pi – check it out at http://mime.co.uk/r/mearm-pi-kickstarter

Here’s Ben Gray with more:

The original MeArm project was designed to be simple and open-source, requiring just three ingredients: servo motors, screws, and the laser-cut parts. This allowed the design to spread around the world, quickly appearing on every continent except Antarctica! It was massively successful, and is still popular. Children loved it, but we could see that many parents were scared by the complexity of the build.

MeArm Raspberry Pi

We wanted give children a MeArm that was simple enough for them to build by themselves. Twinning the new design with the Raspberry Pi gave us the hardware and processing power to make the whole experience pleasant, fun, and simple. It takes just over 30 minutes to build the MeArm, connect it to the Pi, add that to your WiFi network, and start programming in Scratch, Snap, Python or JavaScript from your browser. A great way to make learning to code a fun experience!

We’ve tried to keep the workings of the MeArm as straightforward as possible. The servos are driven directly from the GPIO pins. The joysticks use an I2C ADC to communicate directly with the Raspberry Pi. There’s an on-board RGB LED, driven directly from the GPIO pins, so that if you want to play around with it, you can. We’ve found that the standard 2A Raspberry Pi power supplies work without any issues, but if you’re plugging more things in you might consider using the 2.5A supply. The HAT has a micro USB power input, so the same power supply will power both the arm and the Raspberry Pi. The HAT follows the reference design for Raspberry Pi HATs. We’ve written a Node.js app to perform a few key tasks, including controlling the servos in the arm via the GPIO pins, and reading the state of the joysticks via the ADC. It’s all open-source. We’ll continue to develop the library, adding new features based on your feedback.

We think this is a great kit for anyone wanting to step into the world of digital making, regardless of their age or experience. We’re not alone: the Kickstarter backing target was met, and doubled, in just a few days. If you’re interested in learning more about the MeArm Pi, visit the Kickstarter page.  The campaign will run until March 8th.

Good luck, Ben and Ben!

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PolaPi-Zero: the tiny thermal-printing camera

Using a Nano Thermal Receipt Printer from Adafruit, a Sharp Memory LCD screen, and a Raspberry Pi Zero, Hackaday.io user Pierre Muth has created the PolaPi-Zero, or as I like to call it, the Oh-My-Days-How-Cute-Is-This-Camera-LOOK.

PolaPi-Zero Raspberry Pi

In lieu of banana, a Euro for scale.

Having gifted his previous Pi-powered camera to a friend, it was time to build a new one. A version 2.0, if you will.

The camera considers itself a makeshift Polaroid, allowing for review of an image via the LCD screen before you press a button to print via the thermal printer.

PolaPi-Zero

Instant-Printing-Point-and-Shoot camera : https://hackaday.io/project/19731-polapi-zero -Raspberry pi Zero -Camera module -Sharp Memory LCD -Adafruit nano Thermal printer

Having designed the case in 123D, he used an online 3D printing service to complete the body of the camera. You can download the case file here.

Code for the camera can be found on GitHub, where Pierre apologises for the less-than-elegant look:

“This project is a good excuse to start learning Python (finally).”

You can also download the image directly here.

PolaPi-Zero Raspberry Pi

Follow the build via Hackaday.io, and if you make one, be sure to share it with us in the comments below. If you’ve made a similar project, again with the comment sharing.

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Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day, which promotes the safe use of digital technology for children and young people. There can be a lot of misconceptions about what is and is not safe in terms internet usage, which is why it is so important that experienced people, like the wonderful Raspberry Pi community, do their bit to highlight positive uses of technology, and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community.

child looking through a magnifying glass

If you teach computing, volunteer in a Code Club, or just want to spread the word about using technology safely and responsibly among the kids you know, why not check these projects out? You might even learn some nifty tricks yourself!

Secret Agent Chat

Secret agent chat

Fancy yourself as a bit of a James Bond? Our Secret Agent Chat resource teaches you how to create and use an effective encryption technique called a one-time pad. You’ll also learn a little about the history of cryptography, and why other forms of cipher are insecure. Remember that Safer Internet Day is all about the responsible use of technology, and try not to provoke any diplomatic incidents with your new-found power…

Username Generator

Wake up, Neo…

If you want to generate a username which is neither insecure nor boringly obvious, have a look at this project. You’ll learn how to generate a range of different aliases, and even make profile pictures to go along with them. Again, be sure to use your powers for good rather than evil!

Password Generator

Spaceballs bad password

Don’t be like President Skroob: make yourself a password which is actually secure. This project teaches you how to generate random, secure passwords, as well as allowing you to specify how many passwords you want and how long they should be. No roving intergalactic baddies will be stealing the air from the planet Druidia on your watch!

You can find out more about Safer Internet Day 2017 on the UK Safer Internet Centre’s website, which also contains education packs for learners, parents, and carers. You’ll have to furnish the 007-style tuxedo and flying Winnebago yourself, though.

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The Visual Theremin

The theremin.

To some, it’s the instrument that reminds us of one of popular culture’s most famous theme songs. To others, it’s the confusing flailing of arms to create music. And to others still, it sounds like a medicine or a small rodent.

Theremin plays the theremin

“Honey, can you pass me a tube of Theremin? The theremin bit me and I think it might be infected.”

In order to help their visitors better understand the origin of the theremin, Australia’s MAAS Powerhouse Museum built an interactive exhibit, allowing visitors to get their hands on, or rather get their hands a few inches above, this unique instrument.

MAAS Powerhouse Theremin Raspberry Pi

As advocates of learning by doing, the team didn’t simply want to let their museumgoers hear the theremin. They wanted them to see it too. So to accomplish this task, they chose a BitScope Blade Uno, along with a Raspberry Pi, BitScope, and LCD monitor.

MAAS Theremin Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi and BitScope are left on display so visitors may better understand how the exhibit works.

BitScope go into a deeper explanation of how the entire exhibit fits together on their website:

The Raspberry Pi, powered and mounted on the BitScope Blade Uno, provided the computing platform to drive the display (via HDMI), and it also ran the BitScope application.

The BitScope itself, also mounted on the Blade, was connected (via USB) to the Raspberry Pi and powered by the Blade.

The theremin output was connected via splitters (so they could also be connected to a sound amplifier) and BNC terminated coaxial cables to the analogue inputs via a BitScope probe adapter.

We’d love to see a video of the MAAS theremin in action so if you’re reading this, MAAS, please send us a video. Until then, have this:

Sheldon’s Theremin

Sheldon playing the star trek soundtrack on his theremin

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Fake cases for your Raspberry Pi – make sure you don’t end up with one!

If you’re a Pi fan, you’ll recognise our official case, designed by Kinneir Dufort. We’re rather proud of it, and if sales are anything to go by, you seem to like it a lot as well.

Raspberry Pi case design sketches

Unfortunately, some scammers in China have also spotted that Pi owners like the case a lot, so they’ve been cloning it and trying to sell it in third-party stores.

We managed to get our hands on a sample through a proxy pretending to be a Pi shop, and we have some pictures so you can see what the differences are and ensure that you have the genuine article. The fake cases are not as well made as the real thing, and they also deprive us of some much-needed charitable income. As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity. All the money we make from selling computers, cases, cameras, and other products goes straight into our charitable fund to train teachers, provide free learning resources, teach kids, help build the foundations of digital making in schools, and much more.

Let’s do a bit of spot-the-difference.

Fake case. Notice the poor fit, the extra light pipes (the Chinese cloner decided not to make different cases for Pi2 and Pi3), and the sunken ovals above them.

Real case. Only one set of light pipes (this case is for a Pi3), no ovals, and the whole thing fits together much more neatly. There’s no lip in the middle piece under the lid.

There are some other telltale signs: have a close look at the area around the logo on the white lid.

This one’s the fake. At about the 7 o’clock position, the plastic around the logo is uneven and ripply – the effect’s even more pronounced in real life.

This is what a real case looks like. The logo is much more crisp and cleanly embossed, and there are no telltale lumps and bumps around it.

The underside’s a bit off as well:

The cloners are using a cheaper, translucent non-slip foot on the fake case, and the feet don’t fit well in the lugs which house them. Again, you can see that the general fit is quite bad.

Real case. Near-transparent non-slip feet, centred in their housing, and with no shreds of escaping glue. There’s no rectangular tooling marks on the bottom. The SD card slot is a different shape.

Please let us know if you find any of these fake cases in the wild. (Some resellers will be carrying fake cases but advertising them with pictures of the real thing, so check your case when it’s in your hands.) And be extra-vigilant, if you’re buying somewhere like eBay, to make sure that you’re purchasing the real thing. We also make a black and grey version of the case, although the pink and white is much more popular. We haven’t seen these cloned yet, but if you spot one we’d like to know about it, as we can then discuss them with the resellers. It’s more than possible that retailers won’t realise they’re buying fakes, but it damages our reputation when something shonky comes on the market and it looks like we’ve made it. It damages the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s pockets too, which means we can’t do the important work in education we were set up to do.

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Bringing Digital Making to the Bett Show 2017

The Cambridge office must have been very quiet last week, as staff from across the Raspberry Pi Foundation exhibited at the Bett Show 2017. Avid readers will note that at the UK’s largest educational technology event, held in London across four days, we tend to go all out. This year was no exception, as we had lots to share with you!

Hello World

It was hugely exciting to help launch Hello World, our latest joint publication with Computing At School (CAS), part of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, and sponsored by BT. I joined our CEO Philip Colligan, contributing editor Miles Berry, and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Ian Simpson on stage in the Bett arena to share our thoughts on computing curriculums around the world, and the importance of sharing good teaching.

In our area of the STEAM village, where we had four pods and a workshop space, the team handed copies out in their thousands to eager educators interested in digital making, computing, and computer science. If you weren’t able to get your hands on a copy, don’t worry; you can download a free digital PDF and educators can subscribe to get this year’s three issues delivered, completely free of charge, to their door.

Sharing the Code Club love

Thanks to the support of some enthusiastic young people and our Code Club regional coordinators, we ran our first ever Code Club at Bett on Saturday.

codeclublondon on Twitter

Massive thanks to @TheChallenge_UK @CodeClub volunteers for helping @Raspberry_Pi out at #Bett2017 today :)

There was a great turnout of educators and their children, who all took part in a programming activity, learning just what makes Code Club so special. With activities like this, you can see why there are 5,000 clubs in the UK and 4,000 in the rest of the world!

Code Club South East on Twitter

Here’s @ben_nuttall enjoying our @CodeClub keepy uppy game… https://t.co/bmUAvyjndT

Free stuff

Let’s be honest: exhibitions and conferences are all about the free swag. (I walked away with a hoodie, polo shirt, and three highlighter pens.) We think we had the best offering: free magazines and classroom posters!

Code Club UK on Twitter

It’s our the final day of #Bett2017! Pop over to STEAM village to see the Code Club team & get your hands on our coveted posters! #PiAtBett

We love interacting with people and we’re passionate about making things, so we helped attendees make their very own LED badge that they could keep. It was so popular that after it has had a few tweaks, we’ll will make it available for you to download and use in class, after-school clubs, and Raspberry Jams!

 

The ‘All Seeing Pi‘ kept an eye on attendees passing by that we may have missed, using comedy moustaches to lure them in. We’ve enjoyed checking out its Twitter account to see the results.

Speaking from the heart

The STEAM village was crammed with people enjoying all our activities, but that’s not all; we even found time to support our educator community to give talks about their classroom practice on stage. One of the highlights was seeing three of our Certified Educators, along with their class robots, sharing their journey and experience on a panel chaired by Robot Wars judge and our good friend, Dr Lucy Rogers.

These ARE the droids you’re looking for! Bill Harvey, Neil Rickus, Nic Hughes, Dr Lucy Rogers, and their robots.

Once we started talking about our work, we found it difficult to stop. The team gave talks about Pioneers, our new programme for 12- to 15-year-olds, our digital making curriculum, and Astro Pi.

Bett on Twitter

Well done @Raspberry_Pi for such a good turn out yesterday! Keep up the good work at your stand in STEAM Village.

A royal visit

We were excited to be visited by a very special attendee, our patron the Duke of York, who spent time meeting the team, learned more about our programmes, and discussed teacher training with me.

Team Awesome

Thanks to everyone who visited, supported, and got involved with us. We ran 43 workshops and talks on our stand, handed out 2,000 free copies of Hello World and 400 Code Club posters, caught 100 comedy faces with the All-Seeing Pi, gave 5 presentations on Bett stages, took 5,000 pictures on our balloon cam, and ran 1 Code Club and 1 Raspberry Jam, across 4 days at the Bett show.

Bett lapse

Time Lapse from the Bett Show, London (2017)

 

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Electronic nose to detect fruit ripening

Concrete Jungle started in 2009 as a volunteer-run, fruit and nut distribution organisation in the city of Atlanta. Utilising the vast number of urban fruit trees, the team, started by Craig Durkin and Aubrey Daniels, collect and deliver neglected fruit to shelters and food banks across the city.

concrete jungle raspberry pi

While some urban trees are located in backyards, easily observed and maintained by their owners, others are less cared-for. And given the different harvest times for the multitude of fruit and nuts, knowing when to take the time (and a team) to pick the delicious bounty can be a bit of a hassle.

Concrete Jungle Raspberry Pi

So for the last few months, Craig Durkin has been working on a Pi-powered means of using tech to notify him when fruit is ripe and ready for picking.

We’ve teamed up with Carl DiSalvo’s Public Design Workshop at Georgia Tech to try to create an electronic nose that can smell fruit ripening in a tree. This way, the tree could let us know when it’s ready to be picked.

The build has gone through several variations, all documented via a Hackaday project page. Titled ‘Electronic nose to detect fruit ripening’, Craig has tried and tested several boards, sensors, and fruits while trying to establish what gases he’s looking for, and how to detect them.

With the project still in the testing phase, it would be interesting to see what our community can suggest to help Concrete Jungle with their build.

What are your thoughts?

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Robocod

Fishbowl existence is tough. There you are, bobbing up and down in the same dull old environment, day in, day out; your view unchanging, your breakfast boringly identical every morning; that clam thing in the bottom of the tank opening and closing monotonously – goldfish can live for up to 20 years. That’s a hell of a long time to watch a clam thing for.

fishbowl on wheels

Two fish are in a tank. One says “How do you drive this thing?”

Indeed, fishbowl existence is so tough that several countries have banned the boring round bowls altogether. (There’s a reason that your childhood goldfish didn’t live for 20 years. You put it in an environment that bored it to death.) So this build comes with a caveat – we are worried that this particular fish is being driven from understimulus to overstimulus and back again, and that she might be prevented from making it to the full 20 years as a result. Please be kind to your fish.

What’s going on here? Over in Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, Alex Kent and friends have widened the goldfish’s horizons, by giving it wheels. Meet the free-range fish.

Just Keep Swimming

Build18 @CMU . . . . . . . . . . . . * Jukin Media Verified * Find this video and others like it by visiting https://www.jukinmedia.com/licensing/view/949380 For licensing / permission to use, please email licensing(at)jukinmedia(dot)com.

Alex K, negligent fishparent, says that the speed and direction of the build is determined by the position of the fish relative to the centre of the tank. The battery lasts for five hours, and by all accounts the fish is still alive. Things are a bit jerky in this prototype build. Alex explains:

The jerking is actually caused by the Computer Vision algorithm losing track of the fish because of the reflection off of the lid, condensation on the lid, water ripples, etc.

Alex and co: before you look at more expensive solutions, try fixing a polarising filter to the camera you’re using.

All the code you’ll need to torture your own fish is available at GitHub.

Of course, Far Side fans will observe that there is nothing new under the sun.

Fishbowl on wheels by Gary Larson

Image from Gary Larson, The Far Side.

If you’ve got any good fish puns, let minnow in the comments.

 

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