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!

Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018

If you’re an educator from the UK, chances are you’ve heard of Bett. For everyone else: Bett stands for British Education Technology Tradeshow. It’s the El Dorado of edtech, where every street is adorned with interactive whiteboards, VR headsets, and new technologies for the classroom. Every year since 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been going to the event hosted in the ExCeL London to chat to thousands of lovely educators about our free programmes and resources.

Raspberry Pi Bett 2018

On a mission

Our setup this year consisted of four pods (imagine tables on steroids) in the STEAM village, and the mission of our highly trained team of education agents was to establish a new world record for Highest number of teachers talked to in a four-day period. I’m only half-joking.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Educators with a mission

Meeting educators

The best thing about being at Bett is meeting the educators who use our free content and training materials. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday tasks of the office without stopping to ask: “Hey, have we asked our users what they want recently?” Events like Bett help us to connect with our audience, creating some lovely moments for both sides. We had plenty of Hello World authors visit us, including Gary Stager, co-author of Invent to Learn, a must-read for any computing educator. More than 700 people signed up for a digital subscription, we had numerous lovely conversations about our content and about ideas for new articles, and we met many new authors expressing an interest in writing for us in the future.

We also talked to lots of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators who we’d trained in our free Picademy programme — new dates in Belfast and Dublin now! — and who are now doing exciting and innovative things in their local areas. For example, Chris Snowden came to tell us about the great digital making outreach work he has been doing with the Eureka! museum in Yorkshire.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Snowden

Digital making for kids

The other best thing about being at Bett is running workshops for young learners and seeing the delight on their faces when they accomplish something they believed to be impossible only five minutes ago. On the Saturday, we ran a massive Raspberry Jam/Code Club where over 250 children, parents, and curious onlookers got stuck into some of our computing activities. We were super happy to find out that we’d won the Bett Kids’ Choice Award for Best Hands-on Experience — a fantastic end to a busy four days. With Bett over for another year, our tired and happy ‘rebel alliance’ from across the Foundation still had the energy to pose for a group photo.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Celebrating our ‘Best Hands-on Experience’ award

More events

You can find out more about starting a Code Club here, and if you’re running a Jam, why not get involved with our global Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend celebrations in March?

Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2018. GIF with confetti and bopping JAM balloons

We’ll be at quite a few events in 2018, including the Big Bang Fair in March — do come and say hi.

2 Comments

2018 Picademy dates in the United States

Cue the lights! Cue the music! Picademy is back for another year stateside. We’re excited to bring our free computer science and digital making professional development program for educators to four new cities this summer — you can apply right now.

We’re thrilled to kick off our 2018 season! Before we get started, let’s take a look back at our community’s accomplishments in the 2017 Picademy North America season.

Picademy 2017 highlights

Last year, we partnered with four awesome venues to host eight Picademy events in the United States. At every event across the country, we met incredibly talented educators passionate about bringing digital making to their learners. Whether it was at Ann Arbor District Library’s makerspace, UC Irvine’s College of Engineering, or a creative community center in Boise, Idaho, we were truly inspired by all our Picademy attendees and were thrilled to welcome them to the Raspberry Pi Certified Educator community.

JWU Hosts Picademy

JWU Providence’s College of Engineering & Design recently partnered with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to host Picademy, a free training session designed to give educators the tools to teach computer skills with confidence and creativity. | http://www.jwu.edu

The 2017 Picademy cohorts were a diverse bunch with a lot of experience in their field. We welcomed more than 300 educators from 32 U.S. states and 10 countries. They were a mix of high school, middle school, and elementary classroom teachers, librarians, museum staff, university lecturers, and teacher trainers. More than half of our attendees were teaching computer science or technology already, and over 90% were specifically interested in incorporating physical computing into their work.

Picademy has a strong and lasting impact on educators. Over 80% of graduates said they felt confident using Raspberry Pi after attending, and 88% said they were now interested in leading a digital making event in their community. To showcase two wonderful examples of this success: Chantel Mason led a Raspberry Pi workshop for families and educators in her community in St. Louis, Missouri this fall, and Dean Palmer led a digital making station at the Computer Science for Rhode Island Summit in December.

Picademy 2018 dates

This year, we’re partnering with four new venues to host our Picademy season.

We’ll be at mindSpark Learning in Denver the first week in June, at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City later that month, at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in mid-July, and finally at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle in August.

A big thank you to each of these venues for hosting us and supporting our free educator professional development program!

Ready to join us for Picademy 2018? Learn more and apply now: rpf.io/picademy2018.

4 Comments

Astro Pi Mission Zero: your code is in space

Every school year, we run the European Astro Pi challenge to find the next generation of space scientists who will program two space-hardened Raspberry Pi units, called Astro Pis, living aboard the International Space Station.

Italian ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli with the Astro Pi units. Image credit ESA.

Astro Pi Mission Zero

The 2017–2018 challenge included the brand-new non-competitive Mission Zero, which guaranteed that participants could have their code run on the ISS for 30 seconds, provided they followed the rules. They would also get a certificate showing the exact time period during which their code ran in space.

Astro Pi Mission Zero logo

We asked participants to write a simple Python program to display a personalised message and the air temperature on the Astro Pi screen. No special hardware was needed, since all the code could be written in a web browser using the Sense HAT emulator developed in partnership with Trinket.

Scott McKenzie on Twitter

Students coding #astropi emulator to scroll a message to astronauts on @Raspberry_Pi in space this summer. Try it here: https://t.co/0KURq11X0L #Rm9Parents #CSforAll #ontariocodes

And now it’s time…

We received over 2500 entries for Mission Zero, and we’re excited to announce that tomorrow all entries with flight status will be run on the ISS…in SPAAACE!

There are 1771 Python programs with flight status, which will run back-to-back on Astro Pi VIS (Ed). The whole process will take about 14 hours. This means that everyone will get a timestamp showing 1 February, so we’re going to call this day Mission Zero Day!

Part of each team’s certificate will be a map, like the one below, showing the exact location of the ISS while the team’s code was running.

The grey line is the ISS orbital path, the red marker shows the ISS’s location when their code was running. Produced using Google Static Maps API.

The programs will be run in the same sequence in which we received them. For operational reasons, we can’t guarantee that they will run while the ISS flies over any particular location. However, if you have submitted an entry to Mission Zero, there is a chance that your code will run while the ISS is right overhead!

Go out and spot the station

Spotting the ISS is a great activity to do by yourself or with your students. The station looks like a very fast-moving star that crosses the sky in just a few minutes. If you know when and where to look, and it’s not cloudy, you literally can’t miss it.

Source Andreas Möller, Wikimedia Commons.

The ISS passes over most ground locations about twice a day. For it to be clearly visible though, you need darkness on the ground with sunlight on the ISS due to its altitude. There are a number of websites which can tell you when these visible passes occur, such as NASA’s Spot the Station. Each of the sites requires you to give your location so it can work out when visible passes will occur near you.

Visible ISS pass star chart from Heavens Above, on which familiar constellations such as the Plough (see label Ursa Major) can be seen.

A personal favourite of mine is Heavens Above. It’s slightly more fiddly to use than other sites, but it produces brilliant star charts that show you precisely where to look in the sky. This is how it works:

  1. Go to www.heavens-above.com
  2. To set your location, click on Unspecified in the top right-hand corner
  3. Enter your location (e.g. Cambridge, United Kingdom) into the text box and click Search
  4. The map should change to the correct location — scroll down and click Update
  5. You’ll be taken back to the homepage, but with your location showing at the top right
  6. Click on ISS in the Satellites section
  7. A table of dates will now show, which are the upcoming visible passes for your location
  8. Click on a row to view the star chart for that pass — the line is the path of the ISS, and the arrow shows direction of travel
  9. Be outside in cloudless weather at the start time, look towards the direction where the line begins, and hope the skies stay clear

If you go out and do this, then tweet some pictures to @raspberry_pi, @astro_pi, and @esa. Good luck!

More Astro Pi

Mission Zero certificates will be arriving in participants’ inboxes shortly. We would like to thank everyone who participated in Mission Zero this school year, and we hope that next time you’ll take it one step further and try Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab are two really exciting programmes that young people of all ages can take part in. If you would like to be notified when the next round of Astro Pi opens for registrations, sign up to our mailing list here.

6 Comments

Raspberry Crusoe: how a Pi got lost at sea

The tale of the little HAB that could and its three-month journey from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in the UK to the coast of Denmark.

PACA Computing on Twitter

Where did it land ???? #skypaca #skycademy @pacauk #RaspberryPi

High-altitude ballooning

Some of you may be familiar with Raspberry Pi being used as the flight computer, or tracker, of high-altitude balloon (HAB) payloads. For those who aren’t, high-altitude ballooning is a relatively simple activity (at least in principle) where a tracker is attached to a large weather balloon which is then released into the atmosphere. While the HAB ascends, the tracker takes pictures and data readings the whole time. Eventually (around 30km up) the balloon bursts, leaving the payload free to descend and be recovered. For a better explanation, I’m handing over to the students of UTC Oxfordshire:

Pi in the Sky | UTC Oxfordshire

On Tuesday 2nd May, students launched a Raspberry Pi computer 35,000 metres into the stratosphere as part of an Employer-Led project at UTC Oxfordshire, set by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The project involved engineering, scientific and communication/publicity skills being developed to create the payload and code to interpret experiments set by the science team.

Skycademy

Over the past few years, we’ve seen schools and their students explore the possibilities that high-altitude ballooning offers, and back in 2015 and 2016 we ran Skycademy. The programme was simple enough: get a bunch of educators together in the same space, show them how to launch a balloon flight, and then send them back to their students to try and repeat what they’ve learned. Since the first Skycademy event, a number of participants have carried out launches, and we are extremely proud of each and every one of them.

The case of the vanishing PACA HAB

Not every launch has been a 100% success though. There are many things that can and do go wrong during HAB flights, and watching each launch from the comfort of our office can be a nerve-wracking experience. We had such an experience back in July 2017, during the launch performed by Skycademy graduate and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Dave Hartley and his students from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA).

Dave and his team had been working on their payload for some time, and were awaiting suitable weather conditions. Early one Wednesday in July, everything aligned: they had a narrow window of good weather and so set their launch plan in motion. Soon they had assembled the payload in the school grounds and all was ready for the launch.

Dave Hartley on Twitter

Launch day! @pacauk #skycademy #skypaca #raspberrypi

Just before 11:00, they’d completed their final checks and released their payload into the atmosphere. Over the course of 64 minutes, the HAB steadily rose to an altitude of 25647m, where it captured some amazing pictures before the balloon burst and a rapid descent began.

Soon after the payload began to descend, the team noticed something worrying: their predicted descent path took the payload dangerously far south — it was threatening to land in the sea. As the payload continued to lose altitude, their calculated results kept shifting, alternately predicting a landing on the ground or out to sea. Eventually it became clear that the payload would narrowly overshoot the land, and it finally landed about 2 km out to sea.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

The path of the balloon

It’s not uncommon for a HAB payload to get lost. There are many ways this can happen, particularly in a narrow country with a prevailing easterly wind like the UK. Payloads can get lost at sea, land somewhere inaccessible, or simply run out of power before they are located and retrieved. So normally, this would be the end of the story for the PACA students — even if the team had had a speedboat to hand, their payload was surely lost for good.

A message from Denmark

However, this is not the end of our story! A couple of months later, I arrived at work and saw this tweet from a colleague:

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

Anyone lost a Raspberry Pi HAB? Someone found this one on a beach in south western Denmark yesterday #UKHAS https://t.co/7lBzFiemgr

Good Samaritan Henning Hansen had found a Raspberry Pi washed up on a remote beach in Denmark! While walking a stretch of coast to collect plastic debris for an environmental monitoring project, he came across something unusual near the shore at 55°04’53.0″N and 8°38’46.9″E.

This of course piqued my interest, and we began to investigate the image he had shared on Facebook.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

Inspecting the photo closely, we noticed a small asset label — the kind of label that, over a year earlier, we’d stuck to each and every bit of Skycademy field kit. We excitedly claimed the kit on behalf of Dave and his students, and contacted Henning to arrange the recovery of the payload. He told us it must have been carried ashore with the tide some time between 21 and 27 September, and probably on 21 September, since that day had the highest tide over the period. This meant the payload must have spent over two months at sea!

From the photo we could tell that the Raspberry Pi had suffered significant corrosion, having been exposed to salt water for so long, and so we felt pessimistic about the chances that there would be any recoverable data on it. However, Henning said that he’d been able to read some files from the FAT partition of the SD card, so all hope was not lost.

After a few weeks and a number of complications around dispatch and delivery (thank you, Henning, for your infinite patience!), Helen collected the HAB from a local Post Office.

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

SUCCESS!

We set about trying to read the data from the SD card, and eventually became disheartened: despite several attempts, we were unable to read its contents.

In a last-ditch effort, we gave the SD card to Jonathan, one of our engineers, who initially laughed at the prospect of recovering any data from it. But ten minutes later, he returned with news of success!

Since then, we’ve been able to reunite the payload with the PACA launch team, and the students sent us the perfect message to end this story:

Portslade Aldridge Community Academy Skycademy Raspberry Pi High Altitude Ballooning

9 Comments

2017 Weather Station round-up

As we head into 2018 and start looking forward to longer days in the Northern hemisphere, I thought I’d take a look back at last year’s weather using data from Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Stations. One of the great things about the kit is that as well as uploading all its readings to the shared online Oracle database, it stores them locally on the Pi in a MySQL or MariaDB database. This means you can use the power of SQL queries coupled with Python code to do automatic data analysis.

Soggy Surrey

My Weather Station has only been installed since May, so I didn’t have a full 52 weeks of my own data to investigate. Still, my station recorded more than 70000 measurements. Living in England, the first thing I wanted to know was: which was the wettest month? Unsurprisingly, both in terms of average daily rainfall and total rainfall, the start of the summer period — exactly when I went on a staycation — was the soggiest:

What about the global Weather Station community?

Even soggier Bavaria

Here things get slightly trickier. Although we have a shiny Oracle database full of all participating schools’ sensor readings, some of the data needs careful interpretation. Many kits are used as part of the school curriculum and do not always record genuine outdoor conditions. Nevertheless, it appears that Adalbert Stifter Gymnasium in Bavaria, Germany, had an even wetter 2017 than my home did:


View larger map

Where the wind blows

The records Robert-Dannemann Schule in Westerstede, Germany, is a good example of data which was most likely collected while testing and investigating the weather station sensors, rather than in genuine external conditions. Unless this school’s Weather Station was transported to a planet which suffers from extreme hurricanes, it wasn’t actually subjected to wind speeds above 1000km/h in November. Dismissing these and all similarly suspect records, I decided to award the ‘Windiest location of the year’ prize to CEIP Noalla-Telleiro, Spain.


View larger map

This school is right on the coast, and is subject to some strong and squally weather systems.

Weather Station at CEIP Noalla - Telleiro

Weather Station at CEIP Noalla-Telleiro

They’ve mounted their wind vane and anemometer nice and high, so I can see how they were able to record such high wind velocities.

A couple of Weather Stations have recently been commissioned in equally exposed places — it will be interesting to see whether they will record even higher speeds during 2018.

Highs and lows

After careful analysis and a few disqualifications (a couple of Weather Stations in contention for this category were housed indoors), the ‘Hottest location’ award went to High School of Chalastra in Thessaloniki, Greece. There were a couple of Weather Stations (the one at The Marwadi Education Foundation in India, for example) that reported higher average temperatures than Chalastra’s 24.54 ºC. However, they had uploaded far fewer readings and their data coverage of 2017 was only partial.


View larger map

At the other end of the thermometer, the location with the coldest average temperature is École de la Rose Sauvage in Calgary, Canada, with a very chilly 9.9 ºC.

Ecole de la Rose sauvage Weather Station

Weather Station at École de la Rose Sauvage

I suspect this school has a good chance of retaining the title: their lowest 2017 temperature of -24 ºC is likely to be beaten in 2018 due to extreme weather currently bringing a freezing start to the year in that part of the world.


View larger map

Analyse your own Weather Station data

If you have an Oracle Raspberry Pi Weather Station and would like to perform an annual review of your local data, you can use this Python script as a starting point. It will display a monthly summary of the temperature and rainfall for 2017, and you should be able to customise the code to focus on other sensor data or on a particular time of year. We’d love to see your results, so please share your findings with weather@raspberrypi.org, and we’ll send you some limited-edition Weather Station stickers.

13 Comments

MagPi 66: Raspberry Pi media projects for your home

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! Issue 66 of The MagPi is out right now, with the ultimate guide to powering your home media with Raspberry Pi. We think the Pi is the perfect replacement or upgrade for many media devices, so in this issue we show you how to build a range of Raspberry Pi media projects.

MagPi 66

Yes, it does say Pac-Man robotics on the cover. They’re very cool.

The article covers file servers for sharing media across your network, music streaming boxes that connect to Spotify, a home theatre PC to make your TV-watching more relaxing, a futuristic Pi-powered moving photoframe, and even an Alexa voice assistant to control all these devices!

More to see

That’s not all though — The MagPi 66 also shows you how to build a Raspberry Pi cluster computer, how to control LEGO robots using the GPIO, and why your Raspberry Pi isn’t affected by Spectre and Meltdown.

In addition, you’ll also find our usual selection of product reviews and excellent project showcases.

Get The MagPi 66

Issue 66 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine, and get some cool free stuff? If you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

I hope you enjoy this issue! See you next month.

2 Comments

HackSpace magazine 3: Scrap Heap Hacking

We’re making with a purpose in issue 3 of HackSpace magazine. Not only are we discovering ways in which 3D printing is helping to save resources — and in some case lives — in the developing world, we’re also going all out with recycling. While others might be content with separating their glass and plastic waste, we’re going much, much further by making useful things out of discarded old bits of rubbish you can find at your local scrapyard.

Hackspaces

We’re going to Cheltenham Hackspace to learn how to make a leather belt, to Liverpool to discover the ways in which an open-source design and some bits and bobs from IKEA are protecting our food supply, and we also take a peek through the doors of Nottingham Hackspace.

Tutorials

The new issue also has the most tutorials you’ll have seen anywhere since…well, since HackSpace magazine issue 2! Guides to 3D-printing on fabric, Arduino programming, and ESP8266 hacking are all to be found in issue 3. Plus, we’ve come up with yet another way to pipe numbers from the internet into big, red, glowing boxes — it’s what LEDs were made for.

With the addition of racing drones, an angry reindeer, and an intelligent toaster, we think we’ve definitely put together an issue you’ll enjoy.

Get your copy

The physical copy of HackSpace magazine is available at all good UK newsagents today, and you can order it online from the Raspberry Pi Press store wherever you are based. Moreover, you can download the free PDF version from our website. And if you’ve read our first two issues and enjoyed what you’ve seen, be sure to subscribe!

Write for us

Are you working on a cool project? Do you want to share your skills with the world, inspire others, and maybe show off a little? HackSpace magazine wants your article! Send an outline of your piece to us, and we’ll get back to you about including it in a future issue.

5 Comments

Spiegelbilder Studio’s giant CRT video walls

After getting in contact with us to share their latest build with us, we invited Matvey Fridman of Germany-based production company Spiegelbilder Studio to write a guest blog post about their CRT video walls created for the band STRANDKØNZERT.

STRANDKØNZERT – TAGTRAUMER – OFFICIAL VIDEO

GERMAN DJENT RAP / EST. 2017. COMPLETE DIY-PROJECT.

CRT video wall

About a year ago, we had the idea of building a huge video wall out of old TVs to use in a music video. It took some time, but half a year later we found ourselves in a studio actually building this thing using 30 connected computers, 24 of which were Raspberry Pis.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

How we did it

After weeks and months of preproduction and testing, we decided on two consecutive days to build the wall, create the underlying IP network, run a few tests, and then film the artists’ performance in front of it. We actually had 32 Pis (a mixed bag of first, second, and third generation models) and even more TVs ready to go, since we didn’t know what the final build would actually look like. We ended up using 29 separate screens of various sizes hooked up to 24 separate Pis — the remaining five TVs got a daisy-chained video signal out of other monitors for a cool effect. Each Pi had to run a free software called PiWall.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

Since the TVs only had analogue video inputs, we had to get special composite breakout cables and then adapt the RCA connectors to either SCART, S-Video, or BNC.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

As soon as we had all of that running, we connected every Pi to a 48-port network switch that we’d hooked up to a Windows PC acting as a DHCP server to automatically assign IP addresses and handle the multicast addressing. To make remote control of the Raspberry Pis easier, a separate master Linux PC and two MacBook laptops, each with SSH enabled and a Samba server running, joined the network as well.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

The MacBook laptops were used to drop two files containing the settings on each Pi. The .pitile file was unique to every Pi and contained their respective IDs. The .piwall file contained the same info for all Pis: the measurements and positions of every single screen to help the software split up the video signal coming in through the network. After every Pi got the command to start the PiWall software, which specifies the UDP multicast address and settings to be used to receive the video stream, the master Linux PC was tasked with streaming the video file to these UDP addresses. Now every TV was showing its section of the video, and we could begin filming.

STRANDKØNZERT CRT video wall Raspberry Pi

The whole process and the contents of the files and commands are summarised in the infographic below. A lot of trial and error was involved in the making of this project, but it all worked out well in the end. We hope you enjoy the craft behind the music video even though the music is not for everybody ;)

PiWall_Infographic

You can follow Spiegelbilder Studio on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you enjoyed the music video, be sure to follow STRANDKØNZERT too.

7 Comments

Raspberry Pi Spy’s Alexa Skill

With Raspberry Pi projects using home assistant services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home becoming more and more popular, we invited Raspberry Pi maker Matt ‘Raspberry Pi Spy‘ Hawkins to write a guest post about his latest project, the Pi Spy Alexa Skill.

Pi Spy Alexa Skill Raspberry Pi

Pi Spy Skill

The Alexa system uses Skills to provide voice-activated functionality, and it allows you to create new Skills to add extra features. With the Pi Spy Skill, you can ask Alexa what function each pin on the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO header provides, for example by using the phrase “Alexa, ask Pi Spy what is Pin 2.” In response to a phrase such as “Alexa, ask Pi Spy where is GPIO 8”, Alexa can now also tell you on which pin you can find a specific GPIO reference number.

This information is already available in various forms, but I thought it would be useful to retrieve it when I was busy soldering or building circuits and had no hands free.

Creating an Alexa Skill

There is a learning curve to creating a new Skill, and in some regards it was similar to mobile app development.

A Skill consists of two parts: the first is created within the Amazon Developer Console and defines the structure of the voice commands Alexa should recognise. The second part is a webservice that can receive data extracted from the voice commands and provide a response back to the device. You can create the webservice on a webserver, internet-connected device, or cloud service.

I decided to use Amazon’s AWS Lambda service. Once set up, this allows you to write code without having to worry about the server it is running on. It also supports Python, so it fit in nicely with most of my other projects.

To get started, I logged into the Amazon Developer Console with my personal Amazon account and navigated to the Alexa section. I created a new Skill named Pi Spy. Within a Skill, you define an Intent Schema and some Sample Utterances. The schema defines individual intents, and the utterances define how these are invoked by the user.

Here is how my ExaminePin intent is defined in the schema:

Pi Spy Alexa Skill Raspberry Pi

Example utterances then attempt to capture the different phrases the user might speak to their device.

Pi Spy Alexa Skill Raspberry Pi

Whenever Alexa matches a spoken phrase to an utterance, it passes the name of the intent and the variable PinID to the webservice.

In the test section, you can check what JSON data will be generated and passed to your webservice in response to specific phrases. This allows you to verify that the webservices’ responses are correct.

Pi Spy Alexa Skill Raspberry Pi

Over on the AWS Services site, I created a Lambda function based on one of the provided examples to receive the incoming requests. Here is the section of that code which deals with the ExaminePin intent:

Pi Spy Alexa Skill Raspberry Pi

For this intent, I used a Python dictionary to match the incoming pin number to its description. Another Python function deals with the GPIO queries. A URL to this Lambda function was added to the Skill as its ‘endpoint’.

As with the Skill, the Python code can be tested to iron out any syntax errors or logic problems.

With suitable configuration, it would be possible to create the webservice on a Pi, and that is something I’m currently working on. This approach is particularly interesting, as the Pi can then be used to control local hardware devices such as cameras, lights, or pet feeders.

Note

My Alexa Skill is currently only available to UK users. I’m hoping Amazon will choose to copy it to the US service, but I think that is down to its perceived popularity, or it may be done in bulk based on release date. In the next update, I’ll be adding an American English version to help speed up this process.

6 Comments

Coolest Projects: for young people across the Raspberry Pi community

Coolest Projects is a world-leading annual showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. Young people come to the event to exhibit the cool ideas they have been working on throughout the year. And from 2018, Coolest Projects is open to young people across the Raspberry Pi community.

Coolest Projects 2016 Highlights

Coolest Projects is a world leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers and entrepreneurs! Find out more at: http://coolestprojects.org/

A huge fair for digital making

When Raspberry Pi’s Philip and Ben first visited Coolest Projects, they were blown away by the scope of the event, the number of children and young people who had travelled to Dublin to share their work, and the commitment they demonstrated to work ranging from Scratch projects to home-made hovercraft.

Coolest Projects International 2018 will be held in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday 26 May. Participants will travel from all over the world to take part in a festival of creativity and tech. We hope you’ll be among them!

Montage of photos from Coolest Projects 2016: a large space with lots of people, mostly children, sharing projects, socialising, and discussing

“It’s a huge fair especially for coding and digital tech – it’s massive and it’s amazing!

Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK

As well as the flagship international event in Dublin, Ireland, there are regional events in other countries. All these events are now open to makers and creators across the Raspberry Pi community, from Dojos, Code Clubs, and Raspberry Jams.

This year, for the first time, we are bringing Coolest Projects to the UK for a spectacular regional event! Coolest Projects UK will be held at Here East in London on Saturday 28 April. We’re looking forward to discovering over 100 projects that young people have designed and built, and seeing them share their ideas and their passion for technology, make new friends, and learn from one another.

A young boy in a CoderDojo Ninja T-shirt shows another young boy his project, both concentrating intently

Fierce focus at Coolest Projects

Who can take part?

If you’re up to 18 years of age and you’re in primary, secondary, or further education, you can join in. You can work as an individual or as part of a team of up to five. All projects are welcome, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert.

You must be able to attend the event that you’re entering, whether Coolest Projects International or a regional event. Getting together with other makers and their fantastic projects is a really important and exciting part of the event, so you can’t take part with an online-only or video-only entry. There are a few rules to make sure everything runs smoothly and fairly, and you can read them here.

A girl in a CoderDojo Ninja T shirt proudly holds the rocket she has built; it's as long as she is tall

Wiktoria Jarymowicz from Poland presents the rocket she built at Coolest Projects

How do I join in?

Your project should fit into one of six broad categories, covering everything from Scratch to hardware projects. If you’ve made something with tech, or you’ve got a project idea, it will probably fit into one of them! Once you’ve picked your project, you need to register it and apply for your space at the event. You can register for Coolest Projects International 2018 right now, and registration for Coolest Projects UK 2018 will open soon: join our email list to get an update when it does.

How will you choose who gets a place?

There are places available for 750 projects, and our goal is to have enough room for everyone who wants to come. If more makers want to bring their projects than there are places available, we’ll select entries to show a balance of projects from different regions and different parts of our communities, from groups and individuals, and from girls and boys, as well as a good mixture of projects across different categories.

Poster setting out the process of planning and building a project in six stages, and showing the date of this year's Coolest Projects International: 26 May 2018

I need help to get started, or help to get there

To help get your ideas flowing and guide you through your project, we’ve prepared a set of How to build a project worksheets. And if you’d like to attend Coolest Projects International, but the cost of travel is a problem, you can apply for a travel bursary by 31 January.

Coolest Projects is about rewarding creativity, and we know the Raspberry Pi community has that in spades. It’s about having an idea and making it a reality using the skills you have, whether this is your first project or your fifteenth. We can’t wait to see you at Coolest Projects UK or Coolest Projects International this year!

4 Comments