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!

Darth Beats: Star Wars LEGO gets a musical upgrade

Dan Aldred, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and creator of the website TeCoEd, has built Darth Beats by managing to fit a Pi Zero W and a Pimoroni Speaker pHAT into a LEGO Darth Vader alarm clock! The Pi force is strong with this one.

Darth Beats MP3 Player

Pimoroni Speaker pHAT and Raspberry Pi Zero W embedded into a Lego Darth Vader Alarm clock to create – “Darth Beats MP3 Player”. Video demonstrating all the features and functions of the project. Alarm Clock – https://goo.gl/VSMhG4 Speaker pHAT – https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/speaker-phat

Darth Beats inspiration: I have a very good feeling about this!

As we all know, anything you love gets better when you add something else you love: chocolate ice cream + caramel sauce, apple tart + caramel sauce, pizza + caramel sau— okay, maybe not anything, but you get what I’m saying.

The formula, in the form of “LEGO + Star Wars”, applies to Dan’s LEGO Darth Vader alarm clock. His Darth Vader, however, was sitting around on a shelf, just waiting to be hacked into something even cooler. Then one day, inspiration struck: Dan decided to aim for exponential awesomeness by integrating Raspberry Pi and Pimoroni technology to turn Vader into an MP3 player.

Darth Beats assembly: always tell me the mods!

The space inside the LEGO device measures a puny 6×3×3 cm, so cramming in the Zero W and the pHAT was going to be a struggle. But Dan grabbed his dremel and set to work, telling himself to “do or do not. There is no try.”

Darth Beats dremel

I find your lack of space disturbing.

He removed the battery compartment, and added two additional buttons in its place. Including the head, his Darth Beats has seven buttons, which means it is fully autonomous as a music player.

Darth Beats back buttons

Almost ready to play a silly remix of Yoda quotes

Darth Beats can draw its power from a wall socket, or from a portable battery pack, as shown in Dan’s video. Dan used the GPIO Zero Python library to set up ‘on’ and ‘off’ switches, and buttons for skipping tracks and controlling volume.

For more details on the build process, read his blog, and check out his video log:

Making Darth Beats

Short video showing you how I created the “Darth Beats MP3 Player”.

Accessing Darth Beats: these are the songs you’re looking for

When you press the ‘on’ switch, the Imperial March sounds before Darth Beats asks “What is thy bidding, my master?”. Then the device is ready to play music. Dan accomplished this by using Cron to run his scripts as soon as the Zero W boots up. MP3 files are played with the help of the Pygame library.

Of course, over time it would become boring to only be able to listen to songs that are stored on the Zero W. However, Dan got around this issue by accessing the Zero W remotely. He set up an online file upload system to add and remove MP3 files from the player. To do this, he used Droopy, an file sharing server software package written by Pierre Duquesne.

IT’S A TRAP!

There’s no reason to use this quote, but since it’s the Star Wars line I use most frequently, I’m adding it here anyway. It’s my post, and I can do what I want!

As you can imagine, there’s little that gets us more excited at Pi Towers than a Pi-powered Star Wars build. Except maybe a Harry Potter-themed project? What are your favourite geeky builds? Are you maybe even working on one yourself? Be sure to send us nerdy joy by sharing your links in the comments!

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Updates to GPIO Zero, the physical computing API

GPIO Zero v1.4 is out now! It comes with a set of new features, including a handy pinout command line tool. To start using this newest version of the API, update your Raspbian OS now:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Some of the things we’ve added will make it easier for you try your hand on different programming styles. In doing so you’ll build your coding skills, and will improve as a programmer. As a consequence, you’ll learn to write more complex code, which will enable you to take on advanced electronics builds. And on top of that, you can use the skills you’ll acquire in other computing projects.

GPIO Zero pinout tool

The new pinout tool

Developing GPIO Zero

Nearly two years ago, I started the GPIO Zero project as a simple wrapper around the low-level RPi.GPIO library. I wanted to create a simpler way to control GPIO-connected devices in Python, based on three years’ experience of training teachers, running workshops, and building projects. The idea grew over time, and the more we built for our Python library, the more sophisticated and powerful it became.

One of the great things about Python is that it’s a multi-paradigm programming language. You can write code in a number of different styles, according to your needs. You don’t have to write classes, but you can if you need them. There are functional programming tools available, but beginners get by without them. Importantly, the more advanced features of the language are not a barrier to entry.

Become a more advanced programmer

As a beginner to programming, you usually start by writing procedural programs, in which the flow moves from top to bottom. Then you’ll probably add loops and create your own functions. Your next step might be to start using libraries which introduce new patterns that operate in a different manner to what you’ve written before, for example threaded callbacks (event-driven programming). You might move on to object-oriented programming, extending the functionality of classes provided by other libraries, and starting to write your own classes. Occasionally, you may make use of tools created with functional programming techniques.

Five buttons in different colours

Take control of the buttons in your life

It’s much the same with GPIO Zero: you can start using it very easily, and we’ve made it simple to progress along the learning curve towards more advanced programming techniques. For example, if you want to make a push button control an LED, the easiest way to do this is via procedural programming using a while loop:

from gpiozero import LED, Button

led = LED(17)
button = Button(2)

while True:
    if button.is_pressed:
        led.on()
    else:
        led.off()

But another way to achieve the same thing is to use events:

from gpiozero import LED, Button
from signal import pause

led = LED(17)
button = Button(2)

button.when_pressed = led.on
button.when_released = led.off

pause()

You could even use a declarative approach, and set the LED’s behaviour in a single line:

from gpiozero import LED, Button
from signal import pause

led = LED(17)
button = Button(2)

led.source = button.values

pause()

You will find that using the procedural approach is a great start, but at some point you’ll hit a limit, and will have to try a different approach. The example above can be approach in several programming styles. However, if you’d like to control a wider range of devices or a more complex system, you need to carefully consider which style works best for what you want to achieve. Being able to choose the right programming style for a task is a skill in itself.

Source/values properties

So how does the led.source = button.values thing actually work?

Every GPIO Zero device has a .value property. For example, you can read a button’s state (True or False), and read or set an LED’s state (so led.value = True is the same as led.on()). Since LEDs and buttons operate with the same value set (True and False), you could say led.value = button.value. However, this only sets the LED to match the button once. If you wanted it to always match the button’s state, you’d have to use a while loop. To make things easier, we came up with a way of telling devices they’re connected: we added a .values property to all devices, and a .source to output devices. Now, a loop is no longer necessary, because this will do the job:

led.source = button.values

This is a simple approach to connecting devices using a declarative style of programming. In one single line, we declare that the LED should get its values from the button, i.e. when the button is pressed, the LED should be on. You can even mix the procedural with the declarative style: at one stage of the program, the LED could be set to match the button, while in the next stage it could just be blinking, and finally it might return back to its original state.

These additions are useful for connecting other devices as well. For example, a PWMLED (LED with variable brightness) has a value between 0 and 1, and so does a potentiometer connected via an ADC (analogue-digital converter) such as the MCP3008. The new GPIO Zero update allows you to say led.source = pot.values, and then twist the potentiometer to control the brightness of the LED.

But what if you want to do something more complex, like connect two devices with different value sets or combine multiple inputs?

We provide a set of device source tools, which allow you to process values as they flow from one device to another. They also let you send in artificial values such as random data, and you can even write your own functions to generate values to pass to a device’s source. For example, to control a motor’s speed with a potentiometer, you could use this code:

from gpiozero import Motor, MCP3008
from signal import pause

motor = Motor(20, 21)
pot = MCP3008()

motor.source = pot.values

pause()

This works, but it will only drive the motor forwards. If you wanted the potentiometer to drive it forwards and backwards, you’d use the scaled tool to scale its values to a range of -1 to 1:

from gpiozero import Motor, MCP3008
from gpiozero.tools import scaled
from signal import pause

motor = Motor(20, 21)
pot = MCP3008()

motor.source = scaled(pot.values, -1, 1)

pause()

And to separately control a robot’s left and right motor speeds with two potentiometers, you could do this:

from gpiozero import Robot, MCP3008
from signal import pause

robot = Robot(left=(2, 3), right=(4, 5))
left = MCP3008(0)
right = MCP3008(1)

robot.source = zip(left.values, right.values)

pause()

GPIO Zero and Blue Dot

Martin O’Hanlon created a Python library called Blue Dot which allows you to use your Android device to remotely control things on their Raspberry Pi. The API is very similar to GPIO Zero, and it even incorporates the value/values properties, which means you can hook it up to GPIO devices easily:

from bluedot import BlueDot
from gpiozero import LED
from signal import pause

bd = BlueDot()
led = LED(17)

led.source = bd.values

pause()

We even included a couple of Blue Dot examples in our recipes.

Make a series of binary logic gates using source/values

Read more in this source/values tutorial from The MagPi, and on the source/values documentation page.

Remote GPIO control

GPIO Zero supports multiple low-level GPIO libraries. We use RPi.GPIO by default, but you can choose to use RPIO or pigpio instead. The pigpio library supports remote connections, so you can run GPIO Zero on one Raspberry Pi to control the GPIO pins of another, or run code on a PC (running Windows, Mac, or Linux) to remotely control the pins of a Pi on the same network. You can even control two or more Pis at once!

If you’re using Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi (or a PC running our x86 Raspbian OS), you have everything you need to remotely control GPIO. If you’re on a PC running Windows, Mac, or Linux, you just need to install gpiozero and pigpio using pip. See our guide on configuring remote GPIO.

I road-tested the new pin_factory syntax at the Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers

There are a number of different ways to use remote pins:

  • Set the default pin factory and remote IP address with environment variables:
$ GPIOZERO_PIN_FACTORY=pigpio PIGPIO_ADDR=192.168.1.2 python3 blink.py
  • Set the default pin factory in your script:
import gpiozero
from gpiozero import LED
from gpiozero.pins.pigpio import PiGPIOFactory

gpiozero.Device.pin_factory = PiGPIOFactory(host='192.168.1.2')

led = LED(17)
  • The pin_factory keyword argument allows you to use multiple Pis in the same script:
from gpiozero import LED
from gpiozero.pins.pigpio import PiGPIOFactory

factory2 = PiGPIOFactory(host='192.168.1.2')
factory3 = PiGPIOFactory(host='192.168.1.3')

local_hat = TrafficHat()
remote_hat2 = TrafficHat(pin_factory=factory2)
remote_hat3 = TrafficHat(pin_factory=factory3)

This is a really powerful feature! For more, read this remote GPIO tutorial in The MagPi, and check out the remote GPIO recipes in our documentation.

GPIO Zero on your PC

GPIO Zero doesn’t have any dependencies, so you can install it on your PC using pip. In addition to the API’s remote GPIO control, you can use its ‘mock’ pin factory on your PC. We originally created the mock pin feature for the GPIO Zero test suite, but we found that it’s really useful to be able to test GPIO Zero code works without running it on real hardware:

$ GPIOZERO_PIN_FACTORY=mock python3
>>> from gpiozero import LED
>>> led = LED(22)
>>> led.blink()
>>> led.value
True
>>> led.value
False

You can even tell pins to change state (e.g. to simulate a button being pressed) by accessing an object’s pin property:

>>> from gpiozero import LED
>>> led = LED(22)
>>> button = Button(23)
>>> led.source = button.values
>>> led.value
False
>>> button.pin.drive_low()
>>> led.value
True

You can also use the pinout command line tool if you set your pin factory to ‘mock’. It gives you a Pi 3 diagram by default, but you can supply a revision code to see information about other Pi models. For example, to use the pinout tool for the original 256MB Model B, just type pinout -r 2.

GPIO Zero documentation and resources

On the API’s website, we provide beginner recipes and advanced recipes, and we have added remote GPIO configuration including PC/Mac/Linux and Pi Zero OTG, and a section of GPIO recipes. There are also new sections on source/values, command-line tools, FAQs, Pi information and library development.

You’ll find plenty of cool projects using GPIO Zero in our learning resources. For example, you could check out the one that introduces physical computing with Python and get stuck in! We even provide a GPIO Zero cheat sheet you can download and print.

There are great GPIO Zero tutorials and projects in The MagPi magazine every month. Moreover, they also publish Simple Electronics with GPIO Zero, a book which collects a series of tutorials useful for building your knowledge of physical computing. And the best thing is, you can download it, and all magazine issues, for free!

Check out the API documentation and read more about what’s new in GPIO Zero on my blog. We have lots planned for the next release. Watch this space.

Get building!

The world of physical computing is at your fingertips! Are you feeling inspired?

If you’ve never tried your hand on physical computing, our Build a robot buggy learning resource is the perfect place to start! It’s your step-by-step guide for building a simple robot controlled with the help of GPIO Zero.

If you have a gee-whizz idea for an electronics project, do share it with us below. And if you’re currently working on a cool build and would like to show us how it’s going, pop a link to it in the comments.

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Pimoroni is 5 now!

Long read written by Pimoroni’s Paul Beech, best enjoyed over a cup o’ grog.

Every couple of years, I’ve done a “State of the Fleet” update here on the Raspberry Pi blog to tell everyone how the Sheffield Pirates are doing. Half a decade has gone by in a blink, but reading back over the previous posts shows that a lot has happened in that time!

TL;DR We’re an increasingly medium-sized design/manufacturing/e-commerce business with workshops in Sheffield, UK, and Essen, Germany, and we employ almost 40 people. We’re totally lovely. Thanks for supporting us!

 

We’ve come a long way, baby

I’m sitting looking out the window at Sheffield-on-Sea and feeling pretty lucky about how things are going. In the morning, I’ll be flying east for Maker Faire Tokyo with Niko (more on him later), and to say hi to some amazing people in Shenzhen (and to visit Huaqiangbei, of course). This is after I’ve already visited this year’s Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin.

Pimoroni started out small, but we’ve grown like weeds, and we’re steadily sauntering towards becoming a medium-sized business. That’s thanks to fantastic support from the people who buy our stuff and spread the word. In return, we try to be nice, friendly, and human in everything we do, and to make exciting things, ideally with our own hands here in Sheffield.

Pimoroni soldering

Handmade with love

We’ve made it onto a few ‘fastest-growing’ lists, and we’re in the top 500 of the Inc. 5000 Europe list. Adafruit did it first a few years back, and we’ve never gone wrong when we’ve followed in their footsteps.

The slightly weird nature of Pimoroni means we get listed as either a manufacturing or e-commerce business. In reality, we’re about four or five companies in one shell, which is very much against the conventions of “how business is done”. However, having seen what Adafruit, SparkFun, and Seeed do, we’re more than happy to design, manufacture, and sell our stuff in-house, as well as stocking the best stuff from across the maker community.

Pimoroni stocks

Product and process

The whole process of expansion has not been without its growing pains. We’re just under 40 people strong now, and have an outpost in Germany (also hilariously far from the sea for piratical activities). This means we’ve had to change things quickly to improve and automate processes, so that the wheels won’t fall off as things get bigger. Process optimization is incredibly interesting to a geek, especially the making sure that things are done well, that mistakes are easy to spot and to fix, and that nothing is missed.

At the end of 2015, we had a step change in how busy we were, and our post room and support started to suffer. As a consequence, we implemented measures to become more efficient, including small but important things like checking in parcels with a barcode scanner attached to a Raspberry Pi. That Pi has been happily running on the same SD card for a couple of years now without problems :D

Pimoroni post room

Going postal?

We also hired a full-time support ninja, Matt, to keep the experience of getting stuff from us light and breezy and to ensure that any problems are sorted. He’s had hugely positive impact already by making the emails and replies you see more friendly. Of course, he’s also started using the laser cutters for tinkering projects. It’d be a shame to work at Pimoroni and not get to use all the wonderful toys, right?

Employing all the people

You can see some of the motley crew we employ here and there on the Pimoroni website. And if you drop by at the Raspberry Pi Birthday Party, Pi Wars, Maker Faires, Deer Shed Festival, or New Scientist Live in September, you’ll be seeing new Pimoroni faces as we start to engage with people more about what we do. On top of that, we’re starting to make proper videos (like Sandy’s soldering guide), as opposed to the 101 episodes of Bilge Tank we recorded in a rather off-the-cuff and haphazard fashion. Although that’s the beauty of Bilge Tank, right?

Pimoroni soldering

Such soldering setup

As Emma, Sandy, Lydia, and Tanya gel as a super creative team, we’re starting to create more formal educational resources, and to make kits that are suitable for a wider audience. Things like our Pi Zero W kits are products of their talents.

Emma is our new Head of Marketing. She’s really ‘The Only Marketing Person Who Would Ever Fit In At Pimoroni’, having been a core part of the Sheffield maker scene since we hung around with one Ben Nuttall, in the dark days before Raspberry Pi was a thing.

Through a series of fortunate coincidences, Niko and his equally talented wife Mena were there when we cut the first Pibow in 2012. They immediately pitched in to help us buy our second laser cutter so we could keep up with demand. They have been supporting Pimoroni with sourcing in East Asia, and now Niko has become a member of the Pirates’ Council and the Head of Engineering as we’re increasing the sophistication and scale of the things we do. The Unicorn HAT HD is one of his masterpieces.

Pimoroni devices

ALL the HATs!

We see ourselves as a wonderful island of misfit toys, and it feels good to have the best toy shop ever, and to support so many lovely people. Business is about more than just profits.

Where do we go to, me hearties?

So what are our plans? At the moment we’re still working absolutely flat-out as demand from wholesalers, retailers, and customers increases. We thought Raspberry Pi was big, but it turns out it’s just getting started. Near the end of 2016, it seemed to reach a whole new level of popularityand still we continue to meet people to whom we have to explain what a Pi is. It’s a good problem to have.

We need a bigger space, but it’s been hard to find somewhere suitable in Sheffield that won’t mean we’re stuck on an industrial estate miles from civilisation. That would be bad for the crewwe like having world-class burritos on our doorstep.

The good news is, it looks like our search is at an end! Just in time for the arrival of our ‘Super-Turbo-Death-Star’ new production line, which will enable to make devices in a bigger, better, faster, more ‘Now now now!’ fashion \o/

Pimoroni warehouse

Spacious, but not spacious enough!

We’ve got lots of treasure in the pipeline, but we want to pick up the pace of development even more and create many new HATs, pHATs, and SHIMs, e.g. for environmental sensing and audio applications. Picade will also be getting some love to make it slicker and more hackable.

We’re also starting to flirt with adding more engineering and production capabilities in-house. The plan is to try our hand at anodising, powder-coating, and maybe even injection-moulding if we get the space and find the right machine. Learning how to do things is amazing, and we love having an idea and being able to bring it to life in almost no time at all.

Pimoroni production

This is where the magic happens

Fanks!

There are so many people involved in supporting our success, and some people we love for just existing and doing wonderful things that make us want to do better. The biggest shout-outs go to Liz, Eben, Gordon, James, all the Raspberry Pi crew, and Limor and pt from Adafruit, for being the most supportive guiding lights a young maker company could ever need.

A note from us

It is amazing for us to witness the growth of businesses within the Raspberry Pi ecosystem. Pimoroni is a wonderful example of an organisation that is creating opportunities for makers within its local community, and the company is helping to reinvigorate Sheffield as the heart of making in the UK.

If you’d like to take advantage of the great products built by the Pirates, Monkeys, Robots, and Ninjas of Sheffield, you should do it soon: Pimoroni are giving everyone 20% off their homemade tech until 6 August.

Pimoroni, from all of us here at Pi Towers (both in the UK and USA), have a wonderful birthday, and many a grog on us!

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Awesome Raspberry Pi cases to 3D print at home

Unless you’re planning to fit your Raspberry Pi inside a build, you may find yourself in need of a case to protect it from dust, damage and/or the occasional pet attack. Here are some of our favourite 3D-printed cases, for which files are available online so you can recreate them at home.

TARDIS

TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case – 3D Printing Time lapse

Every Tuesday we’ll 3D print designs from the community and showcase slicer settings, use cases and of course, Time-lapses! This week: TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case By: https://www.thingiverse.com/Jason3030 https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2430122/ BCN3D Sigma Blue PLA 3hrs 20min X:73 Y:73 Z:165mm .4mm layer / .6mm nozzle 0% Infill / 4mm retract 230C / 0C 114G 60mm/s —————————————– Shop for parts for your own DIY projects http://adafru.it/3dprinting Download Autodesk Fusion 360 – 1 Year Free License (renew it after that for more free use!)

Since I am an avid Whovian, it’s not surprising that this case made its way onto the list. Its outside is aesthetically pleasing to the aspiring Time Lord, and it snugly fits your treasured Pi.

Pop this case on your desk and chuckle with glee every time someone asks what’s inside it:

Person: What’s that?
You: My Raspberry Pi.
Person: What’s a Raspberry Pi?
You: It’s a computer!
Person: There’s a whole computer in that tiny case?
You: Yes…it’s BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

I’ll get my coat.

Pi crust

Yes, we all wish we’d thought of it first. What better case for a Raspberry Pi than a pie crust?

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

While the case is designed to fit the Raspberry Pi Model B, you will be able to upgrade the build to accommodate newer models with a few tweaks.

Just make sure that if you do, you credit Marco Valenzuela, its original baker.

Consoles

Since many people use the Raspberry Pi to run RetroPie, there is a growing trend of 3D-printed console-style Pi cases.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

So why not pop your Raspberry Pi into a case made to look like your favourite vintage console, such as the Nintendo NES or N64?

You could also use an adapter to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero within an actual Atari cartridge, or go modern and print a PlayStation 4 case!

Functional

Maybe you’re looking to use your Raspberry Pi as a component of a larger project, such as a home automation system, learning suite, or makerspace. In that case you may need to attach it to a wall, under a desk, or behind a monitor.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

Coo! Coo!

The Pidgeon, shown above, allows you to turn your Zero W into a surveillance camera, while the piPad lets you keep a breadboard attached for easy access to your Pi’s GPIO pins.

Functional cases with added brackets are great for incorporating your Pi on the sly. The VESA mount case will allow you to attach your Pi to any VESA-compatible monitor, and the Fallout 4 Terminal is just really cool.

Cute

You might want your case to just look cute, especially if it’s going to sit in full view on your desk or shelf.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

The tired cube above is the only one of our featured 3D prints for which you have to buy the files ($1.30), but its adorable face begged to be shared anyway.

If you’d rather save your money for another day, you may want to check out this adorable monster from Adafruit. Be aware that this case will also need some altering to fit newer versions of the Pi.

Our cases

Finally, there are great options for you if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, or if you would like to help the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission. You can buy one of the official Raspberry Pi cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi Zero (and Zero W)!

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

As with all official Raspberry Pi accessories (and with the Pi itself), your money goes toward helping the Foundation to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

You could also print a replica of the official Astro Pi cases, in which two Pis are currently orbiting the earth on the International Space Station.

Design your own Raspberry Pi case!

If you’ve built a case for your Raspberry Pi, be it with a 3D printer, laser-cutter, or your bare hands, make sure to share it with us in the comments below, or via our social media channels.

And if you’d like to give 3D printing a go, there are plenty of free online learning resources, and sites that offer tutorials and software to get you started, such as TinkerCAD, Instructables, and Adafruit.

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5…4…3…2…1…SPACESHIP BUNK BED!

Many of us have created basic forts in our childhood bedrooms using pillows, sheets, and stuffed toys. Pete Dearing’s sons, meanwhile, get to play and sleep in an incredible spaceship bunk bed.

A spaceship bunk bed with functional lights, levers, buttons, and knobs.

I’m not jealous at all.

Not. At. All.

spaceship bunk bed Raspberry Pi

All the best beds have LEDs.

Building a spaceship bunk bed

Pete purchased plans for a spacecraft-shaped bunk bed online, and set out to build its MDF frame. Now, I don’t know about you, but for young me, having a bunk bed shaped like a spaceship would have been enough – tiny humans have such incredible imagination. But it wasn’t enough for Pete. He had witnessed his children’s obsession with elevator buttons, mobile phones, and the small control panel he’d made for them using switches and an old tool box. He knew he had to go big or go home.

spaceship bunk bed Raspberry Pi

While he was cutting out pieces for the bed frame, Pete asked the boys some creative input, and then adjusted the bed’s plans to include a functional cockpit and extra storage (for moon boots, spacesuits, and flags for staking claims, no doubt).

Wiring a spaceship bunk bed

After realising he hadn’t made enough allowance for the space taken up by the cockpit’s dials, levers, and switches, Pete struggled a little to fit everything in place inside the bunk bed.

spaceship bunk bed Raspberry Pi

“Ground Control to Major Sleepy…”

But it all worked out, and the results were lights, buttons, and fun aplenty. Finally, as icing on the build’s proverbial cake, Pete added sound effects, powered by a Raspberry Pi, and headsets fitted with microphones.

spaceship bunk bed Raspberry Pi

“Red Leader standing by…”

The electronics of the build run on a 12V power supply. To ensure his boys’ safety, and so that they will actually be able to sleep, Pete integrated a timer for the bed’s ‘entertainment system’.

Find more information about the spaceship bunk bed and photos of the project here.

So where do I get mine?

If you want to apply to be adopted by Pete, you can head to www.alex-is-first-in-line.com/seriously_me_first. Alternatively, you could build your own fantastic Pi-powered bed, and add lights and sounds of your choosing. How about a Yellow Submarine bed with a dashboard of Beatles songs? Or an X-Wing bed with flight and weapon controls? Oh, oh, how about a bed shaped like one of the cars from Jurassic Park, or like a Top Gun jet?

Yup…I definitely need a new bed.

While I go take measurements and get the power tools out, why not share your own ideas with us in the comments? Have you pimped your kid’s room with a Raspberry Pi (maybe like this)? Or do you have plans to incorporate lights and noise into something wonderful you’re making for a friend or relation? We want to know.

And I want a spaceship bunk bed!

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Break a world record with Moonhack 2017

The team at Code Club Australia set a world record last year by gathering 10,207 Australian kids together to participate in their coding event Moonhack. But they are not going to rest on their laurels: this year, they’ve set their sights even higher with their event on 15 August.

Moonhack Code Club Australia

What is Moonhack?

In honour of the Apollo 11 landing, Code Club Australia created a series of space-themed coding activities for their Moonhack event in July 2016. Their aim? To bring together as many kids as possible from all over Australia, to get them to code and have fun, and to hopefully establish a world record along the way.

Code Club Australia #MoonHack

Watch the Sunrise coverage of Code Club Australia World Record ‪#‎Moonhack‬ event – Launching Wed 20th July 2016 18:00 AEST – Register Now: www.moonhack.com.au

And they did exactly that! 10,207 kids completed Moonhack projects, which constitutes the largest number of children coding on one day ever recorded.

Moonhack 2017

With the success of the 2016 event spurring them on, the Code Club Australia team have scaled up their efforts this year. By opening Moonhack to kids across the globe, they want to spread enthusiasm for coding everywhere. And why not break their own world record in the process? Every kid in the world can take part in the event, as the website explains:

“Moonhack is for everyone. Moonhack is inclusive, not exclusive, because coding is for everyone, no matter their skill level or age – kids new to code, coding whizz kids, and anyone who wants to try out coding for the first time, or coding pros who want to get creative.”

Young people between the ages of 8 and 18 are invited to participate, by themselves or in teams. They can create their own space-themed project, or use one of the provided examples in Scratch, ScratchJr, or Python. If you’re outside the age range, don’t worry – you can still take part, but your project won’t be counted toward the world record attempt.

Moonhack Code Club Australia

The sky is no longer the limit…

Participants submit their complete project to the Moonhack website as a link, screenshot, or file upload. All successful young coders will receive a certificate to print and hang proudly on their wall. Woohoo!

How do we take part?

To participate, you will need to be registered on the website. Young people can register themselves if they have parental consent, or they can be registered by an adult facilitator. Registering will give facilitators access to a whole host of helpful tips for how to support their child or team of children during Moonhack. On Moonhack day, 15 August, the participants or facilitator can upload the completed project. If you cannot work on the project on the big day, that’s okay – simply complete it beforehand. Coding can take place anywhere, including at a library, school, office, or at home. For more information go to the Moonhack website, where you can also find coding projects in several human and programming languages.

So what are you waiting for? Get together with the code-loving young people in your life, put your thinking hats on, get programming, and have the chance to set a new world record!

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Announcing the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend 2018

For the last few years, we have held a big Raspberry Pi community event in Cambridge around Raspberry Pi’s birthday, where people have come together for a huge party with talks, workshops, and more. We want more people to have the chance to join in with our birthday celebrations next year, so we’re going to be coordinating Raspberry Jams all over the world to take place over the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend, 3–4 March 2018.

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

Big Birthday fun!

Whether you’ve run a Raspberry Jam before, or you’d like to start a new Jam in your area, we invite you to join us for our Big Birthday Weekend, wherever you are in the world. This event will be a community-led, synchronised, global mega-Jam in celebration of our sixth birthday and the digital making community! Members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation team will be attending Jams far and wide to celebrate with you during the weekend.

Jams across the world will receive a special digital pack – be sure to register your interest so we can get your pack to you! We’ll also be sending out party kits to registered Jams – more info on this below.

Need help getting started?

First of all, check out the Raspberry Jam page to read all about Jams, and take a look at our recent blog post explaining the support for Jams that we offer.

If there’s no Jam near you yet, the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend is the perfect opportunity to start one yourself! If you’d like some help getting your Jam off the ground, there are a few places you can get support:

  • The Raspberry Jam Guidebook is full of advice gathered from the amazing people who run Jams in the UK.
  • The Raspberry Jam Slack team is available for Jam organisers to chat, share ideas, and get help from each other. Just email jam [at] raspberrypi.org and ask to be invited.
  • Attend a Jam! Find an upcoming Jam near you, and go along to get an idea of what it’s like.
  • Email us – if you have more queries, you can email jam [at] raspberrypi.org and we’ll do what we can to help.

Raspberry Jam

Get involved

If you’re keen to start a new Jam, there’s no need to wait until March – why not get up and running over the summer? Then you’ll be an expert by the time the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend comes around. Check out the guidebook, join the Jam Slack, and submit your event to the map when you’re ready.

Like the idea of running a Jam, but don’t want to do it by yourself? Then feel free to email us, and we’ll try and help you find someone to co-organise it.

If you don’t fancy organising a Jam for our Big Birthday Weekend, but would like to celebrate with us, keep an eye on our website for an update early next year. We’ll publish a full list of Jams participating in the festivities so you can find one near you. And if you’ve never attended a Jam before, there’s no need to wait: find one to join on the map here.

Raspberry Jam

Register your interest

If you think you’d like to run a Jam as part of the Big Birthday Weekend, register your interest now, and you’ll be the first to receive updates. Don’t worry if you don’t have the venue or logistics in place yet – this is just to let us know you’re keen, and to give us an idea about how big our party is going to be.

We will contact you in autumn to give you more information, as well as some useful resources. On top of our regular Raspberry Jam branding pack, we’ll provide a special digital Big Birthday Weekend pack to help you celebrate and tell everyone about your Jam!

Then, once you have confirmed you’re taking part, you’ll be able to register your Jam on our website. This will make sure that other people interested in joining the party can find your event. If your Jam is among the first 150 to be registered for a Big Birthday Weekend event, we will send you a free pack of goodies to use on the big day!

Go fill in the form, and we’ll be in touch!

 

PS: We’ll be running a big Cambridge event in the summer on the weekend of 30 June–1 July 2018. Put it in your diary – we’ll say more about it as we get closer to the date.

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MagPi 60: the ultimate troubleshooting guide

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! It’s the last Thursday of the month, and that can only mean one thing: a brand-new The MagPi issue is out! In The MagPi 60, we’re bringing you the top troubleshooting tips for your Raspberry Pi, sourced directly from our amazing community.

The MagPi 60 cover with DVD slip case shown

The MagPi #60 comes with a huge troubleshooting guide

The MagPi 60

Our feature-length guide covers snags you might encounter while using a Raspberry Pi, and it is written for newcomers and veterans alike! Do you hit a roadblock while booting up your Pi? Are you having trouble connecting it to a network? Don’t worry – in this issue you’ll find troubleshooting advice you can use to solve your problem. And, as always, if you’re still stuck, you can head over to the Raspberry Pi forums for help.

More than troubleshooting

That’s not all though – Issue 60 also includes a disc with Raspbian-x86! This version of Raspbian for PCs contains all the recent updates and additions, such as offline Scratch 2.0 and the new Thonny IDE. And – *drumroll* – the disc version can be installed to your PC or Mac. The last time we had a Raspbian disc on the cover, many of you requested an installable version, so here you are! There is an installation guide inside the mag, so you’ll be all set to get going.

On top of that, you’ll find our usual array of amazing tutorials, projects, and reviews. There’s a giant guitar, Siri voice control, Pi Zeros turned into wireless-connected USB drives, and even a review of a new robot kit. You won’t want to miss it!

A spread from The MagPi 60 showing a giant Raspberry Pi-powered guitar

I wasn’t kidding about the giant guitar

How to get a copy

Grab your copy today in the UK from WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Tesco. Copies will be arriving very soon in US stores, including Barnes & Noble and Micro Center. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS app. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

Subscribe for free goodies

Some of you have asked me about the goodies that we give out to subscribers. This is how it works: if you take out a twelve-month print subscription of 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.

Alright, I think I’ve covered everything! So that’s it. I’ll see you next month.

Jean-Luc Picard sitting at a desk playing with a pen and sighing

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Landmine-clearing Pi-powered C-Turtle

In an effort to create a robot that can teach itself to navigate different terrains, scientists at Arizona State University have built C-Turtle, a Raspberry Pi-powered autonomous cardboard robot with turtle flippers. This is excellent news for people who live in areas with landmines: C-Turtle is a great alternative to current landmine-clearing robots, since it is much cheaper, and much easier to assemble.

C-Turtle ASU

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Why turtle flippers?

As any user of Python will tell you*, turtles are amazing. Moreover, as the evolutionary biologist of the C-Turtle team, Andrew Jansen, will tell you, considering their bulk** turtles move very well on land with the help of their flippers. Consequently, the team tried out prototypes with cardboard flippers imitating the shape of turtle flippers. Then they compared their performance to that of prototypes with rectangular or oval ‘flippers’. And 157 million years of evolution*** won out: the robots with turtle flippers were best at moving forward.

C-Turtle ASU

Field testing with Assistant Professor Heni Ben Amor, one of the C-Turtle team’s leaders (Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now)

If it walks like a C-Turtle…

But the scientists didn’t just slap turtle flippers on their robot and then tell it to move like a turtle! Instead, they implemented machine learning algorithms on the Pi Zero that serves as C-Turtle’s brain, and then simply let the robot do its thing. Left to its own devices, it used the reward and punishment mechanisms of its algorithms to learn the most optimal way of propelling itself forward. And lo and behold, C-Turtle taught itself to move just like a live turtle does!

Robotic C-Turtle

This is “Robotic C-Turtle” by ASU Now on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Landmine clearance with C-Turtle

Robots currently used to clear landmines are very expensive, since they are built to withstand multiple mine explosions. Conversely, the total cost of C-Turtle comes to about $70 (~£50) – that’s cheap enough to make it disposable. It is also more easily assembled, it doesn’t need to be remotely controlled, and it can learn to navigate new terrains. All this makes it perfect for clearing minefields.

BBC Click on Twitter

Meet C-Turtle, the landmine detecting robot. VIDEO https://t.co/Kjc6WxRC8I

C-Turtles in space?****

The researchers hope that robots similar to C-Turtle can used for space exploration. They found that the C-Turtle prototypes that had performed very well in the sandpits in their lab didn’t really do as well when they were released in actual desert conditions. By analogy, robots optimized for simulated planetary conditions might not actually perform well on-site. The ASU scientists imagine that C-Turtle materials and a laser cutter for the cardboard body could be carried on board a Mars mission. Then Martian C-Turtle design could be optimized after landing, and the robot could teach itself how best to navigate real Martian terrain.

There are already Raspberry Pis in space – imagine if they actually made it to Mars! Dave would never recover

Congrats to Assistant Professors Heni Ben Amor and Daniel Aukes, and to the rest of the C-Turtle team, on their achievement! We at Pi Towers are proud that our little computer is part of this amazing project.

C-Turtle ASU

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

* Check out our Turtley amazing resource to find out why!

** At a length of 7ft, leatherback sea turtles can weigh 1,500lb!

*** That’s right: turtles survived the extinction of the dinosaurs!

**** Is anyone else thinking of Great A’Tuin right now? Anyone? Just me? Oh well.

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Tijuana Rick’s 1969 Wurlitzer Jukebox revitalisation

After Tijuana Rick’s father-in-law came by a working 1969 Wurlitzer 3100 jukebox earlier this year, he and Tijuana Rick quickly realised they lacked the original 45s to play on it. When they introduced a Raspberry Pi 3 into the mix, this was no longer an issue.

1969 Wurlitzer 3100

Restored and retrofitted Jukebox with Arduino and Raspberry Pi

Tijuana Rick

Yes, I shall be referring to Rick as Tijuana Rick throughout this blog post. Be honest, wouldn’t you if you were writing about someone whose moniker is Tijuana Rick?

Wurlitzer

The Wurlitzer jukebox has to be one of the classic icons of Americana. It evokes images of leather-booth-lined diners filled with rock ‘n’ roll music and teddy-haired bad boys eyeing Cherry Cola-sipping Nancys and Sandys across the checkered tile floor.

Raspberry Pi Wurlitzer

image courtesy of Ariadna Bach

With its brightly lit exterior and visible record-changing mechanism, the Wurlitzer is more than just your average pub jukebox. I should know: I have an average pub jukebox in my house, and although there’s some wonderfully nostalgic joy in pressing its buttons to play my favourite track, it’s not a Wurlitzer.

Raspberry Pi Wurlitzer

Americana – exactly what it says on the tin jukebox

The Wurlitzer company was founded in 1853 by a German immigrant called – you guessed it – Rudolf Wurlitzer, and at first it imported stringed instruments for the U.S. military. When the company moved from Ohio to New York, it expanded its production range to electric pianos, organs, and jukeboxes.

And thus ends today’s history lesson.

Tijuana Rick and the Wurlitzer

Since he had prior experience in repurposing physical switches for digital ends, Tijuana Rick felt confident that he could modify the newly acquired jukebox to play MP3s while still using the standard, iconic track selection process.

Raspberry Pi Wurlitzer

In order to do this, however, he had to venture into brand-new territory: mould making. Since many of the Wurlitzer’s original buttons were in disrepair, Tijuana Rick decided to try his hand at making moulds to create a set of replacements. Using an original button, he made silicone moulds, and then produced perfect button clones in exactly the right shade of red.

Raspberry Pi Wurlitzer

Then he turned to the computing side of the project. While he set up an Arduino Mega to control the buttons, Tijuana Rick decided to use a Raspberry Pi to handle the audio playback. After an extensive online search for code inspiration, he finally found this script by Thomas Sprinkmeier and used it as the foundation for the project’s software.

More images and video of the build can be found on Tijuana Rick’s website.

Fixer-uppers

We see a lot of tech upgrades and restorations using Raspberry Pis, from old cameras such as this Mansfield Holiday Zoom, and toys like this beloved Teddy Ruxpin, to… well… dinosaurs. If a piece of retro tech has any room at all for a Pi or a Pi Zero, someone in the maker community is bound to give it a 21st century overhaul.

What have been your favourite Pi retrofit projects so far? Have you seen a build that’s inspired you to restore or recreate something from your past? Got any planned projects or successful hacks? Make sure to share them in the comments below!

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