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!

Fancy making a motion-tracking eye in a jar?

Using motion detection and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, Lukas Stratmann has produced this rather creepy moving eye in a jar. And with a little bit of, ahem, dissection, you can too!

Floating Eye in a Jar With Motion Tracking

Made for an Arts seminar I attended for my General Studies, i.e. classes not organized by the faculty for CompSci: “Interaktive Exponate entwickeln mit dem RaspberryPi” (translation: Development of interactive exhibitions with the RaspberryPi). Music: Rise by Meydän: CC-BY http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Meydan/For_Creators/Rise_1709 I embedded some neodymium magnets in a ping-pong ball that I’d cut open.

Eww!

We hear you. Among the Raspberry Pi projects we’ve shared on this blog, Lukas’s eye in a jar is definitely one of the eww-est. But the idea and the tech behind it is quite fascinating.

Here’s what we know…

Lukas hasn’t shared the code for his project online. But with a bit of sleuthing, we’re sure the Raspberry Pi community can piece it together.

What we do know is that the project uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a camera, some magnets, a servo, and a ping pong ball, with a couple of 3D-printed parts to keep everything in place. Lukas has explained:

I embedded some neodymium magnets in a ping-pong ball that I’d cut open. The magnets and weights (two 20 Euro cent coins) are held in place by a custom 3D-printed mount. Everything is glued in with hot glue, and I sealed the ping-pong ball with silicone sealant and painted it with acrylic paint.

Beneath the jar, a servo motor is connected to a second set of magnets. When the servo moves, these magnets cause the eyeball to move in tandem, by magnet magic.

eye in a jar raspberry pi

Using this tutorial by , Lukas incorporated motion detection into his project, allowing the camera to track passers-by, and the Pi to direct the servo and eyeball.

Build your own eye in a jar

The best skill of makers is their ability to figure out how things work to recreate them. So if you’re up for the challenge, we’d love to see you try to build your own tribute to Lukas’s eye in a jar.

And why stop there? Using magnets and servos with your Raspberry Pi opens up a world of projects, such as Bethanie’s amazing Harry Potter–inspired wizard chess set!

Wizard's Chess gif

How would you use them in your builds?

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HackSpace magazine 8: Raspberry Pi <3 Arduino

Arduino is officially brilliant. It’s the perfect companion for your Raspberry Pi, opening up new possibilities for robotics, drones and all sorts of physical computing projects. In HackSpace magazine issue 8  we’re taking a look at what’s going on on planet Arduino, and how it can make our world better.

HackSpace magazine

This little board and its ecosystem are hugely important to the world of digital making. It’s affordable, it’s powerful, and it’s open hardware so you know that if you embed one of these in a project and the company goes bust tomorrow, the hardware will always be viable.

Arduino has helped power a new generation of digital makers, and now with a new team in charge, new boards and new software, it’s ready for the next generation.

Noisy toys

We get to speak to loads of fascinating people, but this month marks the first time we’ve ever met a science busker. Meet Stephen Summers, a former teacher who makes a mess with cornflour, water, and sound waves, all in the name of sharing the joy of physics.

HackSpace magazine

Glass-blowing

While we love messing about with digital technologies, we’re also a big fan of good old-fashioned craft skills. And you can’t get much more old-fashioned than traditional glass-blowing. Join us as we attempt to turn red hot molten glass into a multicoloured object without burning ourselves or setting anything on fire.

Guitar synth

People are endlessly clever, inventive, and all-round brilliant. A fantastic example is Björk, the Icelandic musician whose work defies categorisation. Another is Matt Bradshaw, who has made a synthesiser that you play by strumming six metal strings with a plectrum to complete a circuit. Oh, and named it after Björk. Read all about it and get inspired to do something equally bonkers.

HackSpace magazine

Machine learning

Do you have children? Do they leave the lights on all the time, causing you to shout, “THIS ISN’T BLACKPOOL FLAMING ILLUMINATIONS, YOU KNOW!” Well, now you can replace those children with an Arduino. With a bit of machine learning, the Arduino can train itself to turn the lights on and off at the right time, all the time. Plus they don’t cost as much as human children, so it’s a double win!

Dry ice cream

When the sun comes out in Blighty, it doesn’t hang around for long. So why wait for your domestic fridge to freeze your tasty dairy-based desserts, when you can add some solid carbon dioxide and freeze it in a flash? Follow our tutorial and you too can have tasty treats with the ironically warm glow that comes from using chemicals at -78°C.

HackSpace magazine

And there’s more

We’ve filled the rest of the magazine with a robot orchestra, watch restoration, audio boards for Raspberry Pi, magical colour-changing wearables, and more. Get stuck in!

Get your copy of HackSpace magazine

If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.

And if you can’t get to the shops, fear not: you can subscribe from £4 an issue from our online shop. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF. Happy reading, and happy making!

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How to build a competiton-ready Raspberry Pi robot

With the recent announcement of the 2019 Pi Wars dates, we’ve collected some essential online resources to help you get started in the world of competitive robots.

bbc robot wars raspberry pi robot

Robotics 101

Before you can strap chainsaws and flamethrowers to your robot, you need to learn some basics. Sorry.

As part of our mission to put digital making into the hands of people across the globe, the Raspberry Pi Foundation creates free project tutorials for hardware builds, Scratch projects, Python games, and more. And to get you started with robot building, we’ve put together a series of buggy-centric projects!

Begin with our Build a robot buggy project, where you’ll put together a simple buggy using motors, a Raspberry Pi 3, and a few other vital ingredients. From there, move on to the Remotely control your buggy tutorial to learn how to command your robot using an Android phone, a Google AIY Projects Voice Kit, or a home-brew controller. Lastly, train your robot to think for itself using our new Build a line-following robot project.

Prepare your buggy for battle

Put down the chainsaw — we’re not there yet!

raspberry pi robot

For issue 51, The MagPi commissioned ace robot builder Brian Cortiel to create a Build a remote control robot feature. The magazine then continued the feature in issue 52, adding a wealth of sensors to the robot. You can download both issues as free PDFs from The MagPi website. Head here for issue 51 and here for issue 52.

Pi Wars

To test robot makers’ abilities, previous Pi Wars events have included a series of non-destructive challenges: the balloon-popping Pi Noon, the minimal maze, and an obstacle course. Each challenge calls for makers to equip their robot with various abilities, such as speed, manoeuvrability, or line-following functionality.

Tanya Fish on Twitter

Duck shoot, 81 points! Nice one bub. #piwars https://t.co/UCSWaEOJh8

The Pi Wars team has shared a list of hints and tips from Brian Corteil that offer a great place to start your robotics journey. Moreover, many Pi Wars competitors maintain blogs about their build process to document the skills they learn, and the disasters along the way.

raspberry pi robot

This year’s blog category winner, David Pride’s Pi and Chips website, has a wealth of robot-making information.

If you’d like to give your robot a robust, good-looking body, check out PiBorg, robot-makers extraordinaire. Their robot chassis selection can help you get started if you don’t have access to a laser cutter or 3D printer, or if you don’t want to part with one of your Tupperware boxes to house your robot.

And now for the chainsaws!

Robot-building is a great way to learn lots of new skills, and we encourage everyone to give it a go, regardless of your digital making abilities. But please don’t strap chainsaws to your Raspberry Pi–powered robot unless you are trained in the ways of chainsaw-equipped robot building. The same goes for flamethrowers, cattle prods, and anything else that could harm another person, animal, or robot.

Pi Wars raspberry pi robot

Pi Wars 2019 will be taking place on 30 and 31 March in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory William Gates Building. If you’d like to take part, you can find more information here.

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Using E Ink displays with a Raspberry Pi

Are you interested in using an E Ink display in your next Raspberry Pi project? Let us help you get started!

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

Weather and new display using a Raspberry Pi Zero and Kindle e-reader by Luke Haas

E Ink displays

E Ink displays are accessible, they don’t need a lot of power, and they can display content without any power connection whatsoever — think Amazon Kindle if you’ve only a vague knowledge of the technology.

E Ink displays work using negative and positive charges. They contain tiny microcapsules suspended in a liquid within a film layer. The microcapsules consist of negatively charged black particles and positively charged white particles. By applying the correct charge, you control whether the black or white particles come to the surface.

</e_ink_101_with_alex>

E Ink displays for your Raspberry Pi projects

So how and why would you use an E Ink display in your project? Simple! Aside from their low power consumption and indefinite display time, E Ink displays are relatively cheap, light, and interesting to look at. Plus, they’re easy to read in sunny conditions, which isn’t always true of LCD screens. And with e-readers now in their teens, there are plenty of forgotten devices collecting dust in drawers, ready to be repurposed.

Repurposing old e-readers

If you’ve ever tried to use the ‘experimental browser’ on a Kindle device, you’ll have found yourself transported back to the glory days of dial-up refresh rates and half-downloaded images. The only thing missing is the screeching connection tone. However, by connecting your Kindle to the same network as your Raspberry Pi, you can create a web page accessible to the e-reader to display data to your E Ink screen.

This bike computer by David Schneider makes use of that trick:

DIY: Build A Better Bike Computer

A Raspberry Pi and Kindle make vital information about your bicycle journey readable. Read more: http://spectrum.ieee.org/video/geek-life/hands-on/video-build-a-better-bike-computer

Secondhand e-readers are fairly easy to pick up from websites such as eBay, from your local carboot/yard sale, or from book-loving friends or family members. If you have one to hand and want to get making, you’ll find an abundance of tutorials for notification displays and low-power minimalist computers using e-readers.

Brand-new E Ink displays

If you want to buy a smaller display, or don’t have access to an old e-reader, you’ll find many online hobby retailers selling E Ink screens in several sizes and colours. The Pi Supply PaPiRus comes in many shapes and sizes as an easy-to-use Raspberry Pi HAT (Hardware Attached on Top). Simply push it in place on the GPIO pins, download the library to your Pi, and you’re good to go.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

In case you’re looking to add a little more colour to your display, the Pimoroni red, white, and black Inky pHAT is an add-on designed for the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

A quick and effective project for a smaller display like this is a Raspberry Pi Zero name badge, and we’ve seen our share of them at tech events and Picademy training sessions.

Brian Corteil 🤖 on Twitter

@MKRaspberryJam Yes, just like this one, pHat badge is a case for showing of your pHats, look mum no power!

Once you’ve programmed your Pi and updated your E Ink screen, you can detach it from the Pi and wow those you meet with your magic power-free digital name badge!

And if you buy yourself an E Ink HAT, you can even have a go at this Monzo-powered money tracker.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Monzo Display

Past predictions of Liz Upton

Back in 2013, our Director of Communication, Liz Upton, wrote a post about Max Ogden’s Kindleberry Pi build, commenting the following:

Here at the Foundation, we’re watching the development of e-ink products with great interest. At the moment it’s nigh-on impossible to buy an e-ink display as a consumer unless it comes bundled as part of an e-reader like a Kindle or a Nook; and that makes them very expensive. The technology has all kinds of potential for applications we want to see the Pi being used for: the low energy requirement makes an e-ink screen a perfect choice for places where you’re off the grid or reliant on solar power. We’re looking forward to seeing prices come down and displays becoming more easily available to consumers.

How lovely to be sat here in 2018, writing a post about the growing use of E Ink displays and the wide availability of the technology to hobbyists and digital makers! It shows how far the electronics industry for home builders has come, and we’re excited to see where it’s heading next.

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A working original Doctor Who K-9 prop

When Abertay University purchased some unwanted Doctor Who props from the BBC in 2011, they could never have known that their future computer science student Gary Taylor would transform a water-damaged robot corpse into a working K-9, the cutest (and snarkiest) of all the Doctor’s companions.

K-9 Doctor Who Raspberry Pi Prop

image c/o The Courier

K-9

If you’re unfamiliar with Doctor Who, you may not be aware of the Doctor’s robotic-canine best friend, K-9. I won’t wax lyrical about the long and winding history of this iconic science fiction character (though I could), but those of you who want to learn more can watch the video below.

History of K9 – History of Doctor Who

Hello and welcome to the Whoniverse and to another instalment of the History of Doctor Who series, this time I’m not looking at a universe conquering species but a tin dog. Yes the Doctor’s past travelling companion K9. There have been many versions of K9 and he has appeared alongside numerous Doctor’s and other companions.

Tl;dw: K-9 is basically a really clever, robotic dog invented in the year 5000.

Resurrecting a robotic dog

For his final-year dissertation, computer science student Gary Taylor decided to bring K-9 back to life, having discovered the prop damaged by a water leak in the university hackspace.

“I love robotics, I love programming, I love dogs, and I love Doctor Who.” Don’t we all, Gary. Don’t we all.
Image c/o The Courier

For his dissertation, titled Creating an Autonomous Robot Utilizing Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Ultrasound Sensors for Mapping a Room, Gary used modern-day technology to rebuild K-9’s original and often unreliable radio-controlled electronics from the 1970s.

However, Gary’s K-9 is more than a simple remote-controlled robot. As the dissertation title states, the robot uses ultrasound sensors for room mapping, and this function is controlled by both an Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

A block diagram taken from Gary’s dissertation

An Arduino Mega 2560 controls the wheels and three ultrasound sensors located at the bottom of K-9’s body. It passes the sensor data to the onboard Raspberry Pi 3, and the Pi plots obstacles and walls to create a map of K-9’s surroundings.

The three ultrasonic sensors can be seen along the bottom of K-9’s body

The Raspberry Pi also connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth, where Gary runs a custome app to remotely control K-9 and view the map it creates.

More information? Affirmative!

The team at the Electronic Engineering Journal has written up a very thorough explanation of Gary’s dissertation. Those interested in the full details of the robot won’t be disappointed!

For a video of Gary and K-9 that refuses to embed itself in this blog post, head over to The Courier’s website.

And for more Doctor Who–related Raspberry Pi builds, check out Jeremy Lee’s remake of Captain Jack’s Vortex Manipulator, a synthesised rendition of the classic theme using a Raspberry Pi Zero, and a collection of builds and props in this Doctor Who roundup, including a sonic screwdriver, a Dalek, and a TARDIS in near-space.

Oh, and another thing…

BBC released some cool behind-the-scenes images and photos from season ten of Doctor Who, including this production art for Nardole’s tracking device:

The Pi Towers staff may have let out a little squee of delight when we noticed the Raspberry Pi included within.

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Echoing the Newcastle of yesteryear with Pi-powered whistles

Artist Steve Messam is celebrating the North of England’s historic role in railway innovation with 16 Raspberry Pi–controlled steam engine whistles around the city of Newcastle.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Exhibition of the North is a summer-long celebration of the pioneering spirit of the North of England. Running over 80 days, the event will feature live performances, exhibitions, artworks, and displays of innovation from 22 June – 9 September 2018.

As part of the celebration, artist Steve Messam is introducing his Whistle project in Newcastle in honour of the North’s part in the innovation of the railway. “Listen out for the evocative sound of steam engine whistles once again echoing across the city of Newcastle,” states the project page of The Great Exhibition of the North. “The sound installation is designed to recall the role of the North in engineering and the invention of the railway, sparking memories and forging links between past and present.”

Whistle

Steve first developed the idea for Whistle as a pitch to the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park back in 2014. He originally wanted to install a line of whistles along the 22-mile course of the old railway line between Callander and Glen Dochart, with whistles sounding off in one-second intervals, recreating the sound of the old line.

Below is a very nice roundup of the initial 2-mile test run, including the original whistle designs.

Steve Messam | Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

The Artistic Reflections publication will be available from June 2017 For more information, or to order a copy, please contact: [email protected] Designed by Marco Scerri, edited by Susan Christie and supported by Creative Scotland Steve Messam Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park 186,340 hectares Project website: www.mistandmountains.wordpress.com Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park was designated in 2002 and covers 720 square miles of outstanding landscape adjacent to the central belt of Scotland.

Fast forward to 2018 and The Great Exhibition of the North, where Steve is surrounding the city of Newcastle with 16 newly casted brass whistles. The new installation follows the old city wall of Newcastle, with each whistle sounding at exactly 1pm on every day of the exhibition.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

Original plans for the whistle

The William Lane Foundry cast the 16 whistles to match a design by William Armstrong based on measurements of an original whistle held by the North East Locomotive Preservation Group. The Newcastle-based software house Nebula Labs created all the control systems.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

Whistle casting at the William Lane Foundry

Each whistle is equipped with a Raspberry Pi that controls the release of compressed air through the brass to replicate the sound of a steam whistle.

Steve Messam on Twitter

Another roof, another day of testing #whistle for #getnorth2018 https://t.co/j5Yszx1Crl

Each unit is powered by solar panels and registers the time from the National Physical Laboratory’s atomic clock in London to ensure accurate timings. As a fallback in case of WiFi issues, the whistles are also linked to the clock set on the Raspberry Pi itself.

Steve Messam on Twitter

The more I think about it the more I really like that ‘Whistle’ only really exists for about 20 seconds each day.

For more information on Whistle, check out this wonderful article by the Teesdale Mercury. You can also find out more about Steve Messam projects, such as his paper bridge that can support the weight of a Land Rover, on his website or by following his Twitter account.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

A Whistle-stop tour of Newcastle

And if you’re in Newcastle while The Great Exhibition of the North is running and you spot one of the 16 whistles, be sure to tag us in your pics and videos on social media so we can see it in action.

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Build your own Star Wars droid

It is a truth universally acknowledged…that everyone wants their own Star Wars droid. If you’re now thinking “No, not me!”, then you obviously haven’t met the right droid yet. But Patrick ‘PatchBOTS‘ Stefanski has, and that droid is L3-37 from the newly released Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Release the droids

Visit your local maker event, such as Maker Faire, and you’re sure to meet at least one droid builder. Building a Star Wars droid is pretty much every maker’s dream, and YouTube droid-building sensation Patrick Stefanski is living that dream. On his Youtube channel PatchBOTS, Patrick is showcasing his maker chops with truly impressive recreations of characters such as BB-8 and our personal favourite, Chopper from Star Wars Rebels.

L3-37

Patrick’s new L3-37 build uses the free Alexa Voice Service and a Raspberry Pi 3 to augment a 3D-printed base model with robotics and AI.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid PatchBOTs

He designed L3-37’s head based on press images and trailers, and then adjusted some of the visual aesthetic after watching the movie. When he realised that the Amazon Echo Dot he’d started the build with wouldn’t allow him to implement some of the features he had planned, including a unique wake word, Patrick decided to use a Raspberry Pi instead.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid PatchBOTs

A wake word is the word a home assistant uses to recognise that you’re addressing it. For Amazon Alexa, the standard wake words are ‘Alexa’, ‘Echo’, ‘Amazon’, and ‘computer’. While these are fine for standard daily use, Patrick wanted his droid to acknowledge its own name, L3-37. He also wanted to make L3-37 react with a voice response and movement whenever it heard its name. Using the Raspberry Pi enabled him to edit the home assistant code to include these functionalities, and in this way he made L3-37 truly come to life.

Build your own L3-37 home assistant

If you’d like to build your own L3-37 (and why wouldn’t you), Patrick is in the process of adding the complete set of instructions and code to his Github account. The 3D printer files are available now to get you started, along with the list of ingredients for the build, including servos, NeoPixels, and every propmaker’s staple: Rub n Buff.

If you want buy the parts for this project, why not use the affiliate links Patrick provides in the L3-37 video description to help him fund future projects? And while you’re there, leave a comment to show him some love for this incredible droid build, and also subscribe to his channel to see what he comes up with next.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid

We’re definitely going to be taking some of the lessons learned in this project to work on our own builds, and we hope you’ll do the same and share your work with us via social media.

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Look who’s coming to Raspberry Fields 2018!

For those that don’t yet know, Raspberry Fields is the all-new community festival of digital making we’re hosting in Cambridge, UK on 30 June and 1 July 2018!

Raspberry Pi two-day digital making event Raspberry Fields

It will be a chance for people of all ages and skill levels to have a go at getting creative with tech! Raspberry Fields is a celebration of all that our digital makers have already learnt and achieved, whether through taking part in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, or Raspberry Jams, or through trying our resources at home.

We have a packed festival programme of exciting activities, talks, and shows for you to experience! So clear the weekend of 30 June and 1 July, because you won’t want to miss a thing.

Saturday

On Saturday, we’ll be welcoming two very special acts to the Raspberry Fields stage.

Neil Monteiro

Neil Monteiro - Raspberry Fields

Originally trained as a physicist, Neil is famous for his live shows exploring the power of scientific thinking and how it helps us tell the difference between the real and the impossible.

Ada.Ada.Ada

AdaAdaAda - Raspberry Fields

The spellbinding interactive show about computing pioneer Ada Lovelace — catch a sneak peek here!

Sunday

On Sunday, “Science Museum meets Top Gear” as Brainiac Live! takes to the stage to close Raspberry Fields in style.

Brainiac Live!

Brainiac Live! - Raspberry Fields

Strap on your safety goggles — due to popular demand science’s greatest and most volatile live show arrives with a vengeance. The West End and international touring favourite is coming to Raspberry Fields!

More mischievous than ever before, Brainiac Live! will take you on a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. Watch from the safety of your seat as the Brainiacs fearlessly delve into the mysteries of science and do all those things on stage that you’re too scared to do at home!

Weekend highlights

And that’s not all — we’ll also be welcoming some very special guests who will display their projects throughout the weekend. These include:

The Cauldron

The Cauldron - Raspberry Fields

Brew potions with molecular mixology and responsive magic wands using science and technology, and bring the magic from fantasy books to life in this immersive, interactive experience! Learn more about The Cauldron here.

The mechanical Umbrella Tree

The Umbrella Tree - Raspberry Fields

The Umbrella Tree is a botanical, mechanical contraption designed to bemuse, baffle, delight, and amuse all ages. Audiences discover it in the landscape singing to itself and dancing its strange mechanical ballet. The four-metre high structure weaves a creaky choreography of mechanically operated umbrellas, lights, and smoke.

Museum in a Box

Artefacts in the classroom with Museum in a Box || Raspberry Pi Stories

Museum in a Box bridges the gap between museums and schools by creating a more hands-on approach to conservation education through 3D printing and digital making.

Museum in a Box puts museum collections and expert knowledge into your hands, wherever you are in the world. It’s an intriguing and interactive mix of replica objects and contextual content from museum curators and educators, directly at the tips of your fingers!

And there’s still more to discover

Alongside these exciting and explosive performances and displays, we’ll be hosting loads of amazing projects and hands-on activities built by our awesome community of young people and enthusiasts, as well as licensed resellers for you to get all the latest kit and gadgets!

If you’re wondering about bringing along young children or less technologically minded family members or friends, there’ll be plenty for them to enjoy — with lots of festival-themed activities such as face painting, fun performances, free giveaways, and delicious food, Raspberry Fields will have something for everyone!

Tickets!

Tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss out — buy your tickets here today!

Fancy helping out? Find out about our volunteering opportunities.

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Build your own Arthur satellite dish for tracking the ISS

Construct a 3D paper model of the iconic Arthur satellite dish that notifies you whenever the International Space Station passes overhead!

Project_Arthur

Project_Arthur is a fun project allowing you to construct a 3d paper model of the Antenna 1 dish called Arthur from Goonhilly. The model will track the location of the ISS (International Space Station) using an embedded Raspberry PI and notify you when it is over your chosen location!

The Arthur satellite dish at Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station

Based in Cornwall, UK, the Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station was once the largest satellite earth station in the world. It has been home to more than 60 dishes since its first dish, Arthur, was built in 1962.

Arthur satellite dish

Arthur is responsible for bringing many iconic moments in television history to the UK. For example, it transmitted man’s first steps on the moon on 20 July 1969. Since then, it’s become a protected Grade II listed structure.

Project Arthur

Apollo 50’s Project Arthur is an open-source 3D papercraft project that allows you to build your own desktop Arthur satellite dish model, complete with LED notifications via a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The entire body of the satellite dish is built using ten sheets of 160gsm cardstock, printed with the Arthur design that you can download for free from the Project Arthur website. A Raspberry Pi Zero W fits within the base of the model, and you can push a small LED through the feedhorn — the bit that sticks out the front of the dish.

Arthur satellite dish - raspberry pi iss indicator

The Apollo 50 team created a simple IFTTT web applet that accesses an API to find out the location of the International Space Station (ISS).

The project uses a conditional web applet that we created on the IFTTT (If This Then That) platform. The applet monitors an API via NASA and Open Notify that we give a specific location on Earth (such as your home/school). It computes whether the ISS is overhead, and in that case sends a tweet to you with a particular hashtag (such as #ISS_overGoonhilly). When this hashtag is picked up by the code running on the Pi, the LED will flash to indicate that the ISS is overhead!

Raspberry Pi and the International Space Station

Our two Astro Pi units, Ed and Izzy, are currently aboard the International Space Station as part of the ongoing Astro Pi Challenge we’re running in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). The Astro Pi units consist of a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ and a Sense HAT inside a 6063-grade aluminium flight case, and they allow school children from all ESA member countries to write code to run experiments in space. You can learn more about the Astro Pi Challenge here.

Astro Pi in space - Arthur satellite dish

If you’d like to try out more space-themed Pi projects, our free project resources include ‘People in space’ indicator — a handy LED-packed gadget for checking how many people (that we know of 👽) are currently in space.

Raspberry Pi ISS People in Space indicator - Arthur satellite dish

There are many more free resources on our projects site, including our own take on an ISS tracker, and the files to print your own Astro Pi case. And you can learn more about papercraft in issue 6 of HackSpace magazine, our monthly maker publication available in print and as a free PDF download that makes a sneaky appearance in the Project Arthur video!

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Archimedes, the Google AIY Projects Vision familiar

hackster.io‘s ‘resident hardware nerd’ Alex Glow has gifted the world of makers with Archimedes, a shoulder-mounted owl that judges your emotions using the Google AIY Project Vision Kit.

Say Hi to Archimedes – the AI Robot Owl

Say hi to Archimedes – the robot owl with a Google AIY brain. Built with Raspberry Pi + Arduino! Here are some insights into pitfalls of the build process. I made this li’l guy to demo the AIY Vision Kit for Maker Faire 2018… but he’s not going away anytime soon!

Google AIY Project Kits

Google released the Pi-powered AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, providing the entire set of build ingredients with issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine. You loved it, we loved it, and later that year they followed up the Voice Kit’s success with the Vision Kit, also based on the Raspberry Pi.

google aiy vision kit

As the name indicates, the Voice Kit completes tasks in response to voice commands, just like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The Vision Kit allows makers to experiment with neural networking to implement image recognition in their projects.

Planning for Maker Faire

When the hackster.io team was asked to contribute a project to Google’s stand at Maker Faire Bay Area this year, their in-house self-confessed hardware and robotics nerd Alex Glow took on the challenge.

I took a really, really long time to figure out what to build — what it would look like, how it would animate, how it would dispense the stickers…in the end, I went with this cute and fairly challenging design.

And so, Alex brought Archimedes the robotic owl into the world — and the world is a cuter place for it.

Archimedes the owl

Having set up the Google AIY Vision Kit — you can find Alex’s live build video here — she raided a HackerBox for a pan/tilt gimble. The gimble was far more robust than simple servos, and since Alex wanted to bring Archimedes to more events after Maker Faire, she needed something that would take the wear and tear.

it’ll be fun trying to explain this one // i tried: bit.ly/robotowl

337 Likes, 18 Comments – Alex Glow (@glowascii) on Instagram: “it’ll be fun trying to explain this one // i tried: bit.ly/robotowl”

For Maker Faire, she modified Archimedes to be a shoulder-mounted familiar, but Alex initially mounted him on a box that would open to reveal a prize if Archimedes detected a certain facial expression. For this, she introduced an Arduino into the mix, using the board to control three servos: two for the gimble and the third for the box lid.

Archimedes’s main objective is to hunt out faces and read their expressions. Because of this, his head is always moving so he can take in his surroundings like a real owl.

I combined the AIY Kit’s LED and Joy Detection demos (found in /gpiozero and /joy, respectively). I wanted to make the LED pin turn on when it finds a happy face, but weirdly, this code does the opposite. Someday, I will be enough of a software wizard to figure out why…

Alex designed the owl’s body using OnShape, with the intention of keeping the Raspberry Pi and AIY tech inside. Then she 3D printed the body using the Lulzbot Taz 6 and very hackster-blue filament.

Shawn Hymel on Twitter

Testing out @glowascii ‘s familiar, Archimedes. It knows when I’m sad or happy, but I have to *really* force that happy 😅 #aiy #computervision #ai #3dprinting https://t.co/77pQk9pOHm

Build your own robot familiar

For full instructions on building and coding your own Archimedes, head to Alex’s hackster.io project page. You can keep up to date on the pair’s adventures via Alex’s Twitter account.

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