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!

Steampunk laptop powered by Pi: OMG so fancy!

In this digital age, where backup computers and multiple internet-connected devices are a must, maker phrazelle built this beautiful Raspberry Pi-powered steampunk laptop for his girlfriend.

And now we all want one. I mean, just look at it!

Raspberry Pi Steampunk laptop

There’s no denying that, had Liz seen this before me, she’d have copied the link into an email and titled it INSTABLOG before sending it to my inbox.

This build is gorgeous. And as a fan of quirky-looking tech builds and of making things out of wood, it caught my eye in a heartbeat, causing me to exclaim “Why, I – ugh! – I want a Steampunk laptop?!” Shortly afterwards, there followed the realisation that there is an Instructables page for the project, leading me to rejoice that I could make my own. “You’ll never finish it,” chides the incomplete Magic Mirror beneath my desk. I shush it with a kick.

Winging it

“I didn’t really spec this out when I started building. I knew I wanted a box, but didn’t know how I was going to approach it,” explains phrazelle, a maker after my own “meh, I’ll wing it” heart. He continues, “I started with a mechanical keyboard with some typewriter-esque keys and built out a board for it. This went in a few directions, and I wound up with a Frankenstein keyboard tray.”

Originally wanting a hole for each key, phrazelle used a paint relief method to mark the place of each one. However, this didn’t work out too well, so he decided to jigsaw out a general space for the keys in a group. After a few attempts and an application of Gorilla Glue, it was looking good.

Building a Steampunk laptop

With his father’s help, phrazelle’s next step was to build the box for the body of the laptop. Again, it was something of an unplanned mashup, resulting in a box that was built around the keyboard tray. Via a series of mitred joints, routing, and some last minute trim, he was able to fit an LCD screen from a cannibalised laptop into the lid, complete with an LCD driver acquired from eBay.

All of the Steampunk trimmings

“As I was going in the Steampunk direction, gears and gauges seemed to make sense,” says phrazelle. “I found a lot of cool stuff on Etsy and Amazon. The front battery gauge, back switch plate, and LED indicator housings came off Etsy.” He also discovered that actual watch gears, which he had purchased in bulk, were too flimsy for use as decoration, so he replaced them with some brass replicas from Amazon instead. Hand-blown marbles worked as LED defusers and the case was complete.

Inside the belly of the (beautiful) beast

Within the laptop body, phrazelle (do let us know your actual name, by the way) included a Talentcell battery pack which he modified to cut the output lines, something that was causing grief when trying to charge the battery. He utilised a plugable USB 2.4 four-port powered hub to power the Raspberry Pi and optional USB devices. He also added a bushel of various other modifications, all of which he explains on his Instructables page.

I ran with the Pixel distro for this build. Then I went through and did some basic security housekeeping like changing the default password, closing every unnecessary port on the firewall, and disabling the Bluetooth. I even put the Bro IDS platform on it to keep an eye out for shifty hackers… *shakes fist*

This thing runs like a champ! For its intended functionality, it does everything it needs to. You can get on the internet, write papers, check email… If you want to get nerdy, you can even brush up on your coding skillz.

Instructables and you

As I said, we love this build. Not only is it a great example of creating an all-in-one Raspberry Pi laptop, but it’s also gorgeous! Make sure to check out phrazelle’s other builds on Instructables, including his Zelda-themed bartop arcade and his ornate magic mirror.

While you’re there, check out the other Raspberry Pi-themed builds on Instructables. There are LOADS of them. And they’re great. And if you wrote any of them – ahem! – like I did, you should be proud of yourself – ahem! – like I am. *clears throat even more pointedly*

Have you built your own Pi laptop? Tell us about it in the comments below. We can’t wait to see it!

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Sense HAT Emulator Upgrade

Last year, we partnered with Trinket to develop a web-based emulator for the Sense HAT, the multipurpose add-on board for the Raspberry Pi. Today, we are proud to announce an exciting new upgrade to the emulator. We hope this will make it even easier for you to design amazing experiments with the Sense HAT!

What’s new?

The original release of the emulator didn’t fully support all of the Sense HAT features. Specifically, the movement sensors were not emulated. Thanks to funding from the UK Space Agency, we are delighted to announce that a new round of development has just been completed. From today, the movement sensors are fully supported. The emulator also comes with a shiny new 3D interface, Astro Pi skin mode, and Pygame event handling. Click the ▶︎ button below to see what’s new!

Upgraded sensors

On a physical Sense HAT, real sensors react to changes in environmental conditions like fluctuations in temperature or humidity. The emulator has sliders which are designed to simulate this. However, emulating the movement sensor is a bit more complicated. The upgrade introduces a 3D slider, which is essentially a model of the Sense HAT that you can move with your mouse. Moving the model affects the readings provided by the accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer sensors.

Code written in this emulator is directly portable to a physical Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT without modification. This means you can now develop and test programs using the movement sensors from any internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world.

Astro Pi mode

Astro Pi is our series of competitions offering students the chance to have their code run in space! The code is run on two space-hardened Raspberry Pi units, with attached Sense HATs, on the International Space Station.

Image of Astro Pi unit Sense HAT emulator upgrade

Astro Pi skin mode

There are a number of practical things that can catch you out when you are porting your Sense HAT code to an Astro Pi unit, though, such as the orientation of the screen and joystick. Just as having a 3D-printed Astro Pi case enables you to discover and overcome these, so does the Astro Pi skin mode in this emulator. In the bottom right-hand panel, there is an Astro Pi button which enables the mode: click it again to go back to the Sense HAT.

The joystick and push buttons are operated by pressing your keyboard keys: use the cursor keys and Enter for the joystick, and U, D, L, R, A, and B for the buttons.

Sense Hat resources for Code Clubs

Image of gallery of Code Club Sense HAT projects Sense HAT emulator upgrade

Click the image to visit the Code Club projects page

We also have a new range of Code Club resources which are based on the emulator. Of these, three use the environmental sensors and two use the movement sensors. The resources are an ideal way for any Code Club to get into physical computing.

The technology

The 3D models in the emulator are represented entirely with HTML and CSS. “This project pushed the Trinket team, and the 3D web, to its limit,” says Elliott Hauser, CEO of Trinket. “Our first step was to test whether pure 3D HTML/CSS was feasible, using Julian Garnier’s Tridiv.”

Sense HAT 3D image mockup Sense HAT emulator upgrade

The Trinket team’s preliminary 3D model of the Sense HAT

“We added JavaScript rotation logic and the proof of concept worked!” Elliot continues. “Countless iterations, SVG textures, and pixel-pushing tweaks later, the finished emulator is far more than the sum of its parts.”

Sense HAT emulator 3d image final version Sense HAT emulator upgrade

The finished Sense HAT model: doesn’t it look amazing?

Check out this blog post from Trinket for more on the technology and mathematics behind the models.

One of the compromises we’ve had to make is browser support. Unfortunately, browsers like Firefox and Microsoft Edge don’t fully support this technology yet. Instead, we recommend that you use Chrome, Safari, or Opera to access the emulator.

Where do I start?

If you’re new to the Sense HAT, you can simply copy and paste many of the code examples from our educational resources, like this one. Alternatively, you can check out our Sense HAT Essentials e-book. For a complete list of all the functions you can use, have a look at the Sense HAT API reference here.

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Build your own Crystal Maze at Home

I recently discovered a TV channel which shows endless re-runs of the game show The Crystal Maze, and it got me thinking: what resources are available to help the younger generation experience the wonder of this iconic show? Well…

Enter the Crystal Maze

If you’re too young to remember The Crystal Maze, or if you come from a country lacking this nugget of TV gold, let me explain. A band of fairly useless contestants ran around a huge warehouse decked out to represent four zones: Industrial, Aztec, Futuristic, and Medieval. They were accompanied by a wisecracking host in a fancy coat, Richard O’Brien.

A GIF of Crystal Maze host Richard O'Brien having fun on set. Build your own Raspberry Pi Crystal Maze

Richard O’Brien also wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show so, y’know, he was interesting to watch if nothing else.

The contestants would enter rooms to play themed challenges – the categories were mental, physical, mystery, and skill – with the aim of winning crystals. If they messed up, they were locked in the room forever (well, until the end of the episode). For every crystal they collected, they’d be given a bit more time in a giant crystal dome at the end of the programme. And what did they do in the dome? They tried to collect pieces of gold paper while being buffeted by a wind machine, of course!

A GIF of a boring prize being announced to the competing team. Build your own Raspberry Pi Crystal Maze

Collect enough gold paper and you win a mediocre prize. Fail to collect enough gold paper and you win a mediocre prize. Like I said: TV gold.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Here are some free resources that will help you recreate the experience of The Crystal Maze in your living room…without the fear of being locked in.

Marble maze

Image of Crystal Maze Board Game

Photo credit: Board Game Geek

Make the classic Crystal Maze game, but this time with a digital marble! Use your Sense HAT to detect pitch, roll, and yaw as you guide the marble to its destination.

Bonus fact: marble mazes featured in the Crystal Maze board game from the 1990s.

Buzz Wire

Crystal Maze Buzz Wire game screengrab

Photo credit: Board Game Geek

Guide the hook along the wire and win the crystal! Slip up and buzz three times, though, and it’s an automatic lock-in. The beauty of this make is that you can play any fail sound you like: burp wire, anyone? Follow the tutorial by community member David Pride, which he created for the Cotswold Jam.

Laser tripwire

Crystal Maze laser trip wire screengrab

Photo credit: Marc Gerrish

Why not recreate the most difficult game of all? Can you traverse a room without setting off the laser alarms, and grab the crystal? Try your skill with our laser tripwire resource!

Forget the crystal! Get out!

I would love to go to a school fête where kids build their own Crystal Maze-style challenges. I’m sure there are countless other events which you could jazz up with a fun digital making challenge, though the bald dude in a fur coat remains optional. So if you have made your own Crystal Maze challenge, or you try out one of ours, we’d love to hear about it!

Here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we take great pride in the wonderful free resources we produce for you to use in classes, at home, and in coding clubs. We publish them under a Creative Commons licence, and they’re an excellent way to develop your digital making skills. And massive thanks to David Pride and the Cotswold Jam for creating and sharing your great resources for free.

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Tiny LEGO Macintosh Classic with Pi inside

While he and his son played with LEGO, Berlin-based programmer Jannis Hermanns had the urge to build a replica of one of the first computers he remembers using: the Macintosh Classic. Cut to the addition of a Raspberry Pi Zero running Docker, and an e-paper display, and you have yourself the cutest tech build to blow up my inbox in a while.

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

SO SO CUTE, OMG
Image credit Jannis Hermanns

LEGO: for ages four to 99

“I am not 100% sure if it was this exact model or perhaps the Macintosh 128K from 1988, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. All I did with that computer was play Shufflepuck Café,” Jannis reminisces on his website. “But anyway, this isn’t about Shufflepuck nostalgia. It’s about taking things too far while playing LEGO with your kid.”

Building a LEGO Macintosh Classic

To start the project, Jannis ordered a 2.7″ e-paper display from Embedded Artists. He then built a prototype using various colours of LEGO bricks and, well…

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

“Let me tell you one thing: it didn’t look good,” admits Jannis
Image credit: Jannis Hermanns

LEGO Digital Designer

Deciding that the ‘use random bricks and see what happens’ approach wasn’t the way to go, Jannis turned to the free LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) application and, using the rainbow prototype for reference, he created a 3D representation of the classic grey case he wanted.

LEGO Digital Designer

Uploaded by Jannis Hermanns on 2017-03-28.

At this point, he discovered a new issue. The screen’s board was too big to fit into the ideal size of the casing. So with a few tweaks, and some work with a Dremel, he was ready to order the necessary bricks for the build.

Ordering enough bricks to make two units, and having to compromise on colour due to time restrictions, Jannis took to building – and Dremel-ing – the case until it was complete.

Building a makeshift Zero W

As he was using a Zero, and therefore had no ribbon cable connector to make life easier, Jannis had to rely on his smarts, and figure out which GPIO pins he needed to solder to connect the screen. He also cannibalised a Raspberry Pi USB WiFi dongle to make a homebrew Zero W (the W was yet to be released at the time of building…just) and got to soldering.

Using Docker and resin.io

With one of the two builds being a gift for a friend, Jannis wanted to be able to access the Pi remotely to update the code and display image. We’re sure his intentions for what displayed on the screen were pure.

While playing with Docker on the Raspberry Pi, I came across the great ARM Docker base images from the folks over at resin.io. After checking out their service, I realized they do just what I was looking for: they’re like a Docker Cloud for the IoT.

Jannis goes into more detail on how to use Docker and resin.io to build your own LEGO Macintosh Classic, along with the necessary links and code, on his blog.

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Raspberry Turk: a chess-playing robot

Computers and chess have been a potent combination ever since the appearance of the first chess-playing computers in the 1970s. You might even be able to play a game of chess on the device you are using to read this blog post! For digital makers, though, adding a Raspberry Pi into the mix can be the first step to building something a little more exciting. Allow us to introduce you to Joey Meyer‘s chess-playing robot, the Raspberry Turk.

The Raspberry Turk chess-playing robot

Image credit: Joey Meyer

Being both an experienced software engineer with an interest in machine learning, and a skilled chess player, it’s not surprising that Joey was interested in tinkering with chess programs. What is really stunning, though, is the scale and complexity of the build he came up with. Fascinated by a famous historical hoax, Joey used his skills in programming and robotics to build an open-source Raspberry Pi-powered recreation of the celebrated Mechanical Turk automaton.

You can see the Raspberry Turk in action on Joey’s YouTube channel:

Chess Playing Robot Powered by Raspberry Pi – Raspberry Turk

The Raspberry Turk is a robot that can play chess-it’s entirely open source, based on Raspberry Pi, and inspired by the 18th century chess playing machine, the Mechanical Turk. Website: http://www.raspberryturk.com Source Code: https://github.com/joeymeyer/raspberryturk

A historical hoax

Joey explains that he first encountered the Mechanical Turk through a book by Tom Standage. A famous example of mechanical trickery, the original Turk was advertised as a chess-playing automaton, capable of defeating human opponents and solving complex puzzles.

Image of the Mechanical Turk Automaton

A modern reconstruction of the Mechanical Turk 
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Its inner workings a secret, the Turk toured Europe for the best part of a century, confounding everyone who encountered it. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be a fabulous example of early robotic engineering after all. Instead, it was just an elaborate illusion. The awesome chess moves were not being worked out by the clockwork brain of the automaton, but rather by a human chess master who was cunningly concealed inside the casing.

Building a modern Turk

A modern version of the Mechanical Turk was constructed in the 1980s. However, the build cost $120,000. At that price, it would have been impossible for most makers to create their own version. Impossible, that is, until now: Joey uses a Raspberry Pi 3 to drive the Raspberry Turk, while a Raspberry Pi Camera Module handles computer vision.

Image of chess board and Raspberry Turk robot

The Raspberry Turk in the middle of a game 
Image credit: Joey Meyer

Joey’s Raspberry Turk is built into a neat wooden table. All of the electronics are housed in a box on one side. The chessboard is painted directly onto the table’s surface. In order for the robot to play, a Camera Module located in a 3D-printed housing above the table takes an image of the chessboard. The image is then analysed to determine which pieces are in which positions at that point. By tracking changes in the positions of the pieces, the Raspberry Turk can determine which moves have been made, and which piece should move next. To train the system, Joey had to build a large dataset to validate a computer vision model. This involved painstakingly moving pieces by hand and collecting multiple images of each possible position.

Look, no hands!

A key feature of the Mechanical Turk was that the automaton appeared to move the chess pieces entirely by itself. Of course, its movements were actually being controlled by a person hidden inside the machine. The Raspberry Turk, by contrast, does move the chess pieces itself. To achieve this, Joey used a robotic arm attached to the table. The arm is made primarily out of Actobotics components. Joey explains:

The motion is controlled by the rotation of two servos which are attached to gears at the base of each link of the arm. At the end of the arm is another servo which moves a beam up and down. At the bottom of the beam is an electromagnet that can be dynamically activated to lift the chess pieces.

Joey individually fitted the chess pieces with tiny sections of metal dowel so that the magnet on the arm could pick them up.

Programming the Raspberry Turk

The Raspberry Turk is controlled by a daemon process that runs a perception/action sequence, and the status updates automatically as the pieces are moved. The code is written almost entirely in Python. It is all available on Joey’s GitHub repo for the project, together with his notebooks on the project.

Image of Raspberry Turk chessboard with Python script alongside

Image credit: Joey Meyer

The AI backend that gives the robot its chess-playing ability is currently Stockfish, a strong open-source chess engine. Joey says he would like to build his own engine when he has time. For the moment, though, he’s confident that this AI will prove a worthy opponent.

The project website goes into much more detail than we are able to give here. We’d definitely recommend checking it out. If you have been experimenting with any robotics or computer vision projects like this, please do let us know in the comments!

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I can haz pet-themed resources?

A friend of mine’s cat had kittens this week. So, in honour of their fluffy, cute little gorgeous fuzz-faces, here are some pet-themed resources for you to build for your furry (or feathery) best friend.

Cat Meme Generator

Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

Everybody loves a good meme. With the right combination of image and text, they can be both relatable and hilarious. There may be many meme-generating apps online, but why bother with them when you can build your own?

Our Cat Meme Generator teaches you how to write functions in JavaScript, how to use JavaScript to manipulate input by a user, and how to use oninput and onchange to make things happen live on a web page in response to user actions.

So grab your camera, take some photos of your favourite pet, and share their exploits with friends and family.

Hamster Party Cam

Hamster Party Cam Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

The Hamster Party Cam shows you how to turn a hamster wheel into a trigger switch to activate a program, how to write a Python program to take pictures and store them, and how to write a function that makes LED lights flash and play a song. In other words, it teaches you how to pimp your hamster’s cage into THE place to be!

Disclaimer: adding lights and music to the party can be fun, but remember that this may scare hamsters of a shy disposition. As a hamster owner, you have a duty to consider the wellbeing of your pet. Check out the RSPCA Hamster Guide to learn more.

Infrared Bird Box

Infrared Bird Box Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

We see a lot of infrared nature cams online, and we love to check out the photos and videos that makers share. From wild animals in the garden to chicks hatching in bird boxes, we’ve enjoyed them all.

Building an infrared bird box using the Raspberry Pi NOIR Camera Module and infrared LEDs will allow you and your family to spy on the wonders of nature without disturbing the feathered visitors to your garden.

Expanding on our pet-themed resources

Once you’ve built our fun pet-themed projects, it’s time to take the skills you’ve learned and build on them.

How about using the Raspberry Pi Camera Module to take a photo of your pet from which to create a meme image? You can learn more about getting started with the Camera Module here.

Why not try setting up your bird box to stream footage directly to the internet, so you can keep up to date when you are away from home?

Even if you don’t own a hamster, you can still use the skills in the Hamster Party Cam resource to create switches around the home. So try finding other things that move or spin, like doors and paper windmills, and see what you can hack!

Here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we take great pride in the wonderful free resources we produce for you to use in classes, at home, and in coding clubs. We publish them under a Creative Commons licence, and they’re an excellent way to develop your digital-making skills.

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Tableau: a generative music album based on the Sense HAT

Multi-talented maker Giorgio Sancristoforo has used a Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT to create Tableau, a generative music album. It’s an innovative idea: the music constantly evolves as it reacts to environmental stimuli like atmospheric pressure, humidity, and temperature.

Tableau Generative Album

“There is no doubt that, as music is removed by the phonographrecord from the realm of live production and from the imperative of artistic activity and becomes petrified, it absorbs into itself, in this process of petrification, the very life that would otherwise vanish.”

Creating generative music

“I’ve been dreaming about using portable microcomputers to create a generative music album,” explains Giorgio. “Now my dream is finally a reality: this is my first portable generative LP (PGLP)”. Tableau uses both a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Sense HAT: the HAT provides the data for the album’s musical evolution via its range of onboard sensors.

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

The Sense HAT was originally designed for use aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the ongoing Astro Pi challenge. It has, however, become a staple within the Raspberry Pi maker community. This is partly thanks to the myriad of possibilities offered by its five onboard sensors, five-button joystick, and 8 × 8 LED matrix.

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

Limited edition

The final release of Tableau consists of a limited edition of fifty PGLPs: each is set up to begin playing immediately power is connected, and the music will continue to evolve indefinitely. “Instead of being reproduced as on a CD or in an MP3 file, the music is spontaneously generated and arranged while you are listening to it,” Giorgio explains on his website. “It never sounds the same. Tableau creates an almost endless number of mixes of the LP (4 × 12 factorial). Each time you will listen, the music will be different, and it will keep on evolving until you switch the power off.”

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

Experiment with the Sense HAT

What really interests us is how the sound of Tableau might alter in different locations. Would it sound different in Cambridge as opposed to the deserts of Mexico? What about Antarctica versus the ISS?

If Giorgio’s project has piqued your interest, why not try using our free data logging resource for the Sense HAT? You can use it to collect information from the HAT’s onboard sensors and create your own projects. How about collecting data over a year, and transforming this into your own works of art?

Even if you don’t have access to the Sense HAT, you can experience it via the Sense HAT desktop emulator. This is a great solution if you want to work on Sense HAT-based projects in the classroom, as it reduces the amount of hardware you need.

If you’ve already built a project using the Sense HAT, make sure to share it in the comments below. We would love to see what you have been making!

 

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Pioneers Winners: Make Us Laugh Challenge

After months of planning and making, we’ve come to the end of the first cycle of our new digital making programme for teenagers: it’s time to announce the Pioneers winners!

We laid down the epic challenge of making us laugh. And boy, did the teams deliver. I can honestly say that my face hurt from all the laughing on judging day.

The judges

The aim was to find a group of judges with a varied mix of interests and skills. We were beyond chuffed to snag this awesome group:

Dr Lucy Rogers

Dr Lucy Rogers having fun judging Pioneers Winners
Dr Lucy Rogers transforms simple tech into cool gadgets, science into plain English, and problems into opportunities. She’s a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and author of the books ‘It’s ONLY Rocket Science‘ and the soon-to-be-published ‘Wiring the IoT‘. She’s also a Raspberry Jam organiser, a judge on BBC’s Robot Wars, and the person responsible for introducing Raspberry Pi-controlled animatronic dinosaurs to the Blackgang Chine Land of Imagination on the Isle of Wight.

Owen Daughtery

Owen Daughtery gif
Owen Daughtery is a graduate of Raspberry Pi’s Creative Technologists programme and an enthusiastic maker. You’ll no doubt recognise him from our original Pioneers videos and his inability to say a certain phrase. When he’s not making videos for us, or for his YouTube channel, Owen is also a skilled magician.

Bec Hill

Bec Hill gif
Comedian Bec Hill has a talent for incorporating arts and crafts into her stand-up routines, creating a unique and unforgettable comedy style that she calls ‘paper-puppetry’. She’s also creator of Pun Run, one half of entertainment duo Bec & Tom, and has voiced several characters for the newly released Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Maria Quevedo

Maria Quevedo gifMaria Quevedo is the director of Code Club UK. She’s amazing at yoga, cooks a mean Spanish tortilla, and originally hails from Argentina. She was also raised in a stationery shop, which is pretty much my dream. According to members of the Code Club team, Maria is delightfully calm under pressure…though she did fail to keep her cool when faced with judging the Pioneers winners.

The Pioneers winners

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.

Congratulations to the theme-winning team The Technological Tricksters and their project, Singing Potato. As Bec explained in the video, this project made us laugh…a lot. And through our tears of laughter, we were pleased to see the use of several different skills, along with a killer Gollum impression.

Alongside the overall theme winner, we also awarded prizes for the following five categories:

  • Inspiring Journey: the winners of this award experimented with a range of technologies, learned new skills and produced a final project that worked perfectly. Congratulations to Heritage Hackers and their Water Pistol Trap for winning this award.
  • Best Explanation: the team that hit the perfect balance of detail about what they made and how they made it were Black Thunder. We loved the explanation you gave for building your Living Joke Robot. Well done!
  • Technically Brilliant: the team that used the most impressive combination of technologies were the Shady Hackers with their Scare Chair Rig. Great use of a fire alarm hack…though we hope you didn’t use the home one.
  • We appreciate what you’re trying to do: making is a hobby which involves mistakes along the way, and it’s best to carry on without getting discouraged. Just because you haven’t finished, it doesn’t mean that you can’t submit your work to Pioneers and explain what you wanted to do and how. PiCymru‘s We Shall Overcomb did exactly that. We hope you manage to complete your project as we’d love to see it working!

Not forgetting…

Everyone was completely blown away by the projects we saw. And though we couldn’t award every entry a prize, the judges agreed that the following four projects deserved special recognition rewards for their teams:

Electrocuting computer mouse

Our mean boss wouldn’t let this one win (to be fair, we did say not to hurt anyone), but it genuinely made all the Raspberry Pi staff laugh which wins it a dishonourable mention from me. It was also a great hack of an electric fly trap. Well done Team Spark Wire…but maaaaybe try to be a little less lethal with your next submission.

And finally…

To everyone who took part in the first Pioneers challenge, thank you so much for your contributions, and congratulations on everything you achieved. You thrilled us with your tweets, emails, and final submissions, and we hope you also learned some great new skills and possibly made some new friends along the way. Massive thanks to our friends at the Shell Centenary Scholarship Fund for making Pioneers possible. Find out about their awesome work here.

The next Pioneers challenge is…

Shhh! It’s still a secret. We’re not announcing the new challenge until April, so keep your eyes on both the Pioneers website and our social accounts, and sign up to receive the Pioneers newsletter!

Until then, remember to always #MakeYourIdeas.

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Incredible Raspberry Pi projects in issue 56 of The MagPi

Hi, Rob from The MagPi here! It’s the last Thursday of the month and that means there’s a new issue of the official Raspberry Pi magazine: yay!

MagPi Magazine 56 cover image

Grab your copy today!

The MagPi Magazine 56

The MagPi 56 covers some incredible Raspberry Pi projects built by members of our community, from simple things you can make quickly, like an easy robot or LEGO Pi case, to more advanced projects to experiment with, like a set of Pinoculars.

Our news section looks at some great new happenings in the world of Pi, such as the new Pimoroni kits for Zero W, the Cambridge theme for PIXEL, and our fifth birthday celebrations.

Also not to be missed in this issue is our lowdown of every Raspberry Pi operating system: which is your favourite? While you’re weighing up the pros and cons of Raspbian vs. Ubuntu MATE, you can also read about our DJ Hero harmonograph, some hot command line tips, and much more.

The MagPi is the only monthly magazine written by and for the Pi community. Regardless of your experience with the Raspberry Pi, there’s something for everyone.

Get your copy

You can grab the latest issue of The MagPi today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. Alternatively, you can order your copy online, or get it digitally via our app on Android and iOS. There’s even a free PDF of it as well.

We also have a fantastic subscription offer to celebrate the new Raspberry Pi Zero W: grab a twelve-month subscription and you’ll get a Raspberry Pi Zero W absolutely free, along with a free official case and a bundle of adapter cables. Get yours online right now!

MagPi Magazine Free Pi Zero W

Free Creative Commons download

As always, you can download your copy of The MagPi completely free. Grab it straight from the issue page for The MagPi 56.

Don’t forget, though, that, as with sales of the Raspberry Pi itself, all proceeds from the print and digital editions of the magazine go to help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals. Help us democratise computing!

We hope you enjoy the issue! That’s it until next month…

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Build the wall: a huge wall (of LEDs)

London-based Solid State Group decided to combine Slack with a giant LED wall, and created a thing of beauty for their office.

Solid State LED wall Raspberry Pi

“BUILD THE WALL we cried aloud. Well, in truth, we shouted this over Slack, until the pixel wall became a thing.” Niall Quinn, Solid State Group.

Flexing the brain

Project name RIO: Rendered-Input-Output took its inspiration from Google Creative Lab’s anypixel.js project. An open source software and hardware library, anypixel.js boasts the ability to ‘create big, unusual, interactive displays out of all kinds of things’ such as arcade buttons and balloons.

Every tech company has side projects and Solid State is no different. It keeps devs motivated and flexes the bits of the brain sometimes not quite reached by day-to-day coding. Sometimes these side projects become products, sometimes we crack open a beer and ask “what the hell were we thinking”, but always we learn something – about the process, and perhaps ourselves.

Niall Quinn, Solid State Group

To ‘flex the bits of the brain’, the team created their own in-house resource. Utilising Slack as their interface, they were able to direct images, GIFs and video over the internet to the Pi-powered LED wall.

Solid State LED wall Raspberry Pi

Bricks and mortar

They developed an API for ‘drawing’ each pixel of the content sent to the wall, and converting them to match the pixels of the display.

After experimenting with the code on a small 6×5 pixel replica, the final LED wall was built using WS2812B RGB strips. With 2040 LEDs in total to control, higher RAM and power requirements called for the team to replace their microcontroller. Enter the Raspberry Pi.

Solid State LED wall Raspberry Pi

“With more pixels come more problems. LEDs gobble up RAM and draw a lot of power, so we switched from an Arduino to a Raspberry Pi, and got ourselves a pretty hefty power supply.”

Alongside the Slack-to-wall image sharing, Solid State also developed their own mobile app. This app used the HTML5 canvas element to draw data for the wall. The app enabled gaming via a SNES-style controller, a live drawing application, a messaging function and live preview capabilities.

Build your own LED wall

If you’re planning on building your own LED wall, whether for an event, a classroom, an office or a living room, the Solid State team have shared the entire project via their GitHub page. To read a full breakdown of the build, make sure you visit their blog. And if you do build your own, or have done already, make sure to share it in the comments below.

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