Skycademy – Free High Altitude CPD

We’re looking for 24 teachers (or youth leaders) to take part in a FREE two-and-a-half day Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event aiming to provide experience of high altitude ballooning to educators, and demonstrating how it can be used as an engaging teaching opportunity.

Over the last few year I’ve seen many awesome uses of the Raspberry Pi, but one of my favourites by far is seeing the Pi used as a payload tracker for High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) projects.

One of the most prolific HAB enthusiasts is Dave Akerman, who has launched many flights using the Raspberry Pi, from the first flight back in 2012

…to the launch of a potato for Heston Blumenthal’s “Great British Food”…

…and even capturing some amazing images of the recent Solar Eclipse from 30km up.

Many schools are also seeing the opportunities for learning that a HAB flight presents, incorporating physics, maths, computing and geography into one project.

Here’s a project from William Howard School in Cumbria, whose students built their own tracker connected to a Pi.

In my previous life as a teacher, I organised a launch with my own students, and we had help from Dave Akerman on the day. This turned out to be super helpful, as it takes some planning and there’s a lot to remember.

One of the hardest parts of running a flight is the number of different aspects you have to plan and manage. You can test the hardware and software to a certain point, but there’s limited opportunity for a practice flight. Having experience is really helpful.

For this reason we’re running our first “Skycademy”, during which we will be giving attendees hands-on experience of a flight. The event will be free to attend and will be spread over two and a half days between the 24th and 26th of August.

  • Day 1 – Planning and workshop sessions on all aspects of HAB flights.
  • Day 2 – Each team launches their payload, tracks, follows and recovers it.
  • Day 3 – Teams gather together for plenary morning.

Our aim is to support and inspire teachers and other adults working with young people. The hope is that those that attend will return to lead a project with their groups that will do something amazing.

Attendees will be supported throughout the course by experienced HAB enthusiasts and the Raspberry Pi Education Team. If you are a UK teacher or work with young people (scout leader, youth leader etc), you can apply here.

24 comments

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A 6th grade student at our school used the Pi and camera attachment and attached it to a bunch of helium balloons. The website he created
http://makerspacepi.weebly.com/
tells about it and shows the event from the Pi’s point of view.

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WHy is this restricted to teacher & co.?

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Because supporting computing education is part of our charitable mission; offering free CPD to teachers is one of the ways we do that.

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This is one of the best ideas I’ve seen yet here. However, I find it increasingly frustrating that the vast majority of the Foundation’s educational activities are still limited to rare in-person activities that primarily benefit those lucky enough to live in England (not even much of the rest of the UK). I have heard of something called the “Internet” that has enabled concepts such as “virtual reality”, “distance learning”, “telepresence”, etc., to become de rigueur in not just the tech industry, but much of the rest of business, government, and educational sectors. We’re finally going to be getting four measly Picademy sessions in the U.S. … as long as you’re lucky enough to be in Silicon Valley and a few other well-heeled metro areas AIUI … and those won’t even start until 2016.

At the risk of seeming, but not intending, to bite the very friendly hands that have fed our Raspberry Jams, I can’t stay silent any longer. We, The Pi Community, need to call out the fact that far too little is being done, far too late, in far too few places around the world that are literally starving, in some cases, for the educational content and material in digital form wherever it’s already sitting in computers on someone’s desks in Cambridge. I completely understand the desire to make sure that everything is perfect in quality and delivered in shiny, attractive packaging, and that the “brand” is protected at all costs (don’t get me started on that subject) but I’m from both the Navy and Silicon Valley, where we strive to do the impossible, with nothing, forever … TODAY. We’re now nearly three-and-a-half years down the wild-and-crazy path that no one would have ever predicted (although Eben and Liz know I tried _very_ early on :) but what do we have to show for it in the educational content beyond the amazing roughly six million Pii and stupendous Raspbian and related packages Out There?

I fully understand that activities like Skycademy necessarily involve a lot of hands-on activities with large, relatively expensive things that must be handled correctly the first time because there is no “Oops! Wait! … “. “Oh, we’re headed for Outer Space _NOW_!” It’s also obvious that the places where these sorts of things are done tend to be precisely those areas that have the worst possible Internet access, so making it available via streaming media could be problematic. We do see snippets of video occasionally from events such as Dave Akerman’s terrific launches, but we would all benefit much more from more media-savvy coverage of all of the blood, sweat, and tears involved in the preparations, which I assume Skycademy will provide in-person.

There is a tradition on the Internet in this Age of Mashups where those who can, put rough-cut material Out There and unexpected young geniuses transform it into wonderful gems that continue to evolve into world-class art as well as science. The challenge is often picked up by some of the very students we’re trying to engage, and providing highly-polished material on silver platters is the OldThink way of “delivering” education. We Olde Fogeys need to stop trying to be “sages on stages” with everything, and start realizing that the NewThink is to empower the benefactors of our expertise by making our accumulated wisdom as accessible as possible first, and then working with our protégés to help them connect the dots and make things much more beautiful.

To paraphrase the famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams”, “If you upload it, they will come.” I now lay down my Glove of Challenge and hope being gently slapped with much love and passion hasn’t hurt anyone’s feelings – that is never my intent, I’m just, as Warren Zevon sang, “an excitable boy” :D

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LOL Jim. Frustration well expressed, but you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. It’s really hard to go global instantly. Look at the way it worked with Picademy. That’s only been running for a little over a year and it’s already going international.

There’s only 5 (hard-working and weary) people in the education team (OK. 5 bites then), but it will be very interesting to see how fast it grows when Phillip takes the helm in a couple of weeks.

I think we’re in for “exciting times” :)

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Hi Alex – I’ve been a fervent supporter of the Foundation for at least as long as you, but I’m also an educator and I know what it takes to create curricula (I just finished doing it for six STEM courses this past year that didn’t exist before, and am generating a bunch more this Summer). Everyone at the Towers knows what I’m really talking about and it has nothing to do with the number of people in the education group there. That’s linear thinking, just like the original plan for manufacturing 10,000 Pii every six weeks or so, sticking postage and address labels on, and Pii into, envelopes at board members’ kitchen tables, rinsing, and repeating. Fortunately, they thought outside the box … or envelope, I suppose :) One of the problems with we professional educators (including myself) like those running the educational programs at the Foundation is that it’s hard to change the 120-plus years of tradition where classes are run pretty much the same way they were when the systems were designed to train agricultural workers to become essentially robots on assembly lines. I won’t fall into the trap of decrying the “factory model of education” as debunked in http://hackeducation.com/2015/04/25/factory-model, but what we have has clearly been inappropriate for decades.

Saying that Picademy has only been in operation for a year ignores the fact that it won’t really be international (two countries instead of one, AIUI – whoop-dee-doo) until more than two years into the program by the time it’s really up-and-running beyond England. There are a huge number of us educators who have been championing the Pi for over three years based on the originally-stated educational mission, but educational adminiweenies Out There aren’t going to buy into anything (even if it were completely “free”, which even Pii infrastructure certainly is not) until there’s a substantial amount of what they find acceptable curriculum material in place. It’s often cloaked in “government requirements compliance” jargon that has nothing to do with actually effective content. This is make-work that the unions and bureaucrats just love, is largely what the UK had until recently, and what most of the Common Core Curriculum in the U.S. currently is. We Pi promoters have nothing to point to other than a plethora of disjointed web sites, videos, etc., but material should have been developed to tie things together effectively and we need access to it early and often, if for no other reason than that it needs to be beta tested on a scale far beyond a couple of dozen educators in one tiny geographic region at a time. There should at least be a template (preferably in wiki form) that those of us who have the expert knowledge can use to consistently format curricular material at a much higher rate than a handful of people in Cambridge can generate.

It’s time to do as Larry the Cable Guy says – “Git ‘Er Done”, or Nike might say, “Just Do It”.

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I’m not a teacher, although I play one in real life. I too have been a RPi fan ever since I read about it and got my first one as soon as they were available here. I am currently involved in a non profit teaching kids from 5 to 15 basic coding and building/making in my area. We have been at it for three years now and the RPi (and now Arduino) is our hardware of choice for our older kids. I am NOT a coder but am learning as I go. Any help I can find is a godsend! I am 65 and I just started learning Python in an online college course. My kids have really taken to what I have been able to pass on and it makes me want to do more. I just started a free class after hours at a local college here and they have decided to invest in so RPi’s of their own for their computer science classes. I too am waiting in anticipation of the new America project slated to start hopefully next year to get some better contact with some professionals to help me out! Regardless I believe in the basis of the goal and press on in my effort to get our children involved instead of letting them fall by the wayside.

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Another exciting project from the team at Pi Towers. Thank you guys for putting the package together. I am a teacher, 45 mins from Cambridge, and would love to apply, but already have a prior commitment on these dates that I can’t get out of. Rats! :-( Regardless, I really look forward to hearing how this goes.

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My good friend Victor Meldrew says:
“The RPi Foundation has to work clever to avoid becoming a victim of its own success and the straight-jacket that is Google. The foundation and the RPi suppliers now totally dominate the page ranking in such a way that its no longer easy to stumble on what the small people are doing with the RPi. This is reflected in how some members of the community feel. Perhaps the RPi foundation should occasionally “hide itself” from Google for a day ?
I’m white, english-speaking, university educated, rich, middle-class, middle-aged, British: What more could I want ? Well, I want RPi to reach everyone who is not me, infact everyone who is the opposite of me which is probably about 99% of the world’s population. I don’t tweet, Facebook, Periscope etc… and I want RPi to be all over these and other channels. And do you know what, if I end up knowing nothing about it via Google then that’s mission accomplished.
Perhaps its already happening so RPi Foundation keep up the good work and do lots and lots of things which I don’t know anything about and exclude me from being involved in others.
My cup is already overflowing with un-finished projects and RPis. I know its been mentioned many times before but I feel guilty about the number of RPis I now have: Are there any NGOs out there who are savvy enough to provide a home for at least some of them ?

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I’m not a (school) teacher, but I work with one of the national uniformed organisations (and this looks like a pretty cool thing to do with our young people!) – what’re the odds of successfully applying? I’ve previously had a play with Minecraft and the Python API with them, but this is obviously slightly different!

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If you are in a position to run an educational project with young people following the course then we’d love to hear from you

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Hmmm, will prod the powers that be and see – certainly I’d love to and it’d fit in fairly well… :-)

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It’s all good – the plan is to inspire young people to be scientists and engineers, and projects don’t get much more inspirational than putting something into (near) space.

For me, that moment came with Apollo 11 landing on the moon, and it only took me 40 years to get round to starting my own little space-related project :-)

I’ve worked with schools and scout groups, and it’s an absolute joy to see the looks on their faces when they see images beaming down from their own “spacecraft” and then get to hold something that has, effectively, been to space.

Dave

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hi, can you make a recording of the event and upload it some where,so those who are unable to reach can benefit from your event.I live in Lahore,Punjab,Pakistan.So its impossible for me to attend the event.
I really love to learn about this air mission.

chears,

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If previous flights are anything to go by we will generate a whole heap of media, and part of the final day will be to curate and share as much of this content as we can.

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I don’t know about recording the training sessions, but the flights will have live mapping and images that you can view online, and there may well be live video streaming from the launches.

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There is a risk that an airplane collides with a Raspberry Pi. Maybe the Raspberry Pi will damage the engine.

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AMAZING, I know, but that’s something that HAB enthusiasts have already thought about. And it’s taken very seriously.

It’s complicated, which is one of the reasons it’s important that a school doing a project like this has training and understands all the steps. Approval has to be sought from the civil aviation authority wherever you are; that approval requires maps with time, wind speed and direction so that the flight path can be calculated. Flights which might cross paths with planes are forbidden. No launches are allowed near big settlements.

TL;DR: No Pis are getting sucked into any aeroplane engines.

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As Liz says, these balloons are only launched with permission from the CAA (for the UK). They won’t issue permission if the launch site is near an airport, or if the initial flight path takes the balloon through a landing/takeoff path.

Also, together with the permission, the CAA issue a NOTAM which informs pilots of the launch so they can avoid the area at that time (though usually they will call to check on the exact launch time).

One of the advantages of the Pi, compared to the usual tracker plus GoPro or stills camera, is that it’s smaller and lighter. Such a payload is about the same size and weight as those used by the met office, and the CAA considers the possible collision damage of one of these to be rather less than a bird strike. There are plenty more birds in the sky than balloons.

Incidentally, the met office fly about 20 balloons per day across the UK, so about 7000 per annum, whilst the amateur community fly maybe 100 per annum. The met office balloons don’t even have NOTAMS (they are classified as military aircraft!).

Dave

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The thing I love about this idea is I wouldnt know where to start with the logistics of this, so free CPD is great, also for the Teachers/Youth Leaders picked it would be possible to collaborate further with other schools. Share the load with the project the students can be involved in.

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Hi;

Are there any spaces left, subject to logistics I would love to come along.

Bill Harvey
North Devon

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I applied for this course when it was first posted. I haven’t received any response back. When is the closing date? How do I find out if my application was received?

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We’re selecting applicants this week; you’ll hear early next week.

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