Carrie Anne looked over my shoulder when I was researching this post. “I love kids with tools.”

These particular kids with tools are using traditional wooden mallets and punches to make a very special set of punchcards, which they’re reading with a Raspberry Pi that creates a CSV file of 0s and 1s, and then interprets that data in the Minecraft universe.


This workshop project is the work of Gemma May Latham, a collaborative maker, and David Whale, who, with Martin O’Hanlon, wrote the most excellent Adventures in Minecraft. Gemma has a particular interest in the Jacquard loom and punchcard technology, and worked with David to make a Pi-based card reader for kids to import data from a piece of paper into the Minecraft world.

Gemma says:

Housed in a laser cut plywood box, and built using a Pro Micro Arduino, IR LEDs and Phototransistors, the reader is set up to read rows of holes with an additional registration hole at the end for patterns where a row has no punched hole. The reader is then attached to a Raspberry Pi via the USB port allowing for the input of designs into Minecraft Pi via Python.

You can build your own reader; Gemma will be putting instructions online soon (we’ll update this post when she does), and all the code you’ll need is available at David’s GitHub.

There are no words for how much we approve of programming that involves hammers.

The project was a big hit at Liverpool MakeFest – Gemma and David will be running the workshop again on a bigger scale at MOSI MakeFest in Manchester in August, so head along if you’d like to have a play yourself.