Raspberry Jam, Francophone-style

Here’s a guest post from Dr William Bell. Will works at CERN, and has been doing wonderful things with Raspberry Pi meetups and outreach  in Switzerland (you may have read the piece in the Guardian from a few months ago about what’s going on there with the Pi; none of this would have happened without Will). Will’s just been to another couple of Pi events near Geneva: here’s what he found.

It has been encouraging to see the large number of Raspberry Pi jams in the UK and the work of CAS.  The message is spreading in France and Switzerland, but is a little behind due to the language barrier and the lack of media coverage.

This week there were two events not far from Genève.  In Bourg-en-Bresse on Wednesday, I was at the L’Ain teachers annual IT meeting in the old teaching college.

This annual meeting is for all primary teachers within the department of L’Ain (France). There were a few teachers present who had heard of the Pi or read about it on Wikipedia.  One teacher even took a photo of a Pi running.  The room of exhibits contained some general IT equipment, many interactive white boards and myself with two Raspberry Pis.  While a few of the teachers were enthusiastic, it would appear to be difficult to change the status quo without changing the curriculum.

Back at CERN, we ran our second Raspberry Pi day today next to the UA1 detector.

UA1 – click the image to learn more on Wikipedia

This time the number of people who signed up was higher than the last time and the number of Pis we managed to patch together was higher also.  The team (P. Freyermuth, P. Golonka, P. Lewis, T. Lunghi,  M. Pohancenik, A. Robichaud-Veronneau, A. Voitier and myself) helped many people try out some Scratch, Python and GPIO applications.  Axel brought his 3D laser printer and one of those who came along brought a GPIO controlled RC car.  Unlike last time, a short presentation was given in French and English to try to further encourage those that attended.

There was quite a stream of people needing basic configuration advice and several SD cards were flashed with the most recent Raspbian image.  We saw a lot of children from local primary schools and some engineers from the local community.  It looks like we need to try harder to reach the college age children.  One of the last conversations of the day probably sums up our experience so far.  It was an engineer from France.  He really valued the idea of the Raspberry Pi and was also frustrated by the situation we find ourselves in.  In particular, he highlighted the lack of simple setup documentation in French.  While children at primary school do have to learn English, their level of English probably is not good enough to deal with the documentation.

Hopefully, there will be another jam soon.  It would be great to see a French speaking CAS (France, Canada and Switzerland) pushing forward with IT.