Weather Station for Schools: project update

Back in February Dave Honess blogged about our Weather Station Project for schools. Here’s what we’ve been up to since.

The main news is that we have selected the 1000 schools worldwide who will be receiving the kit and the hardware side is done, dusted and ready to go. Here’s what the lucky schools will be getting:

Sam Alder's cracking box sleeve. [Credit: credit @ItsAll_Geek2Me]

Sam Alder’s cracking box sleeve. [Credit: @ItsAll_Geek2Me]

Inside is everything that you need to build a Pi controlled weather station:

contents

The hardware is only part of the picture though and malicious logistics lurk in every aspect. Things that seem easy rarely are—even something like getting the colours on the logo correct can be a pain. The packaging in particular caused some snags: getting all of those little bags into a good looking box might seem humdrum but it’s not trivial. Sam “Carton Mage” Alder has worked his magic on the quick start leaflet and the sleeve for the box.

leaflet snap

The other three cuppa problem was the enclosure for the hardware. This seems simple: get a waterproof box, jam in your gubbins and gizmos, and Bob is your Pakamac-wearing uncle. The problem is that self-build kits are not finished consumer products and it’s simply not possible to allow for every configuration of set-up and siting of the unit, so we’ve tried to make it as flexible as possible. The two enclosures (one for the Pi and HAT and one for the air sensor) are IP55 rated, which means that they are protected against water jets (from a 6.3mm nozzle in case you were wondering). But this is no good if the wires into the box are not sealed properly and I’ve spent more time playing with glands and bushings (missus!) than I care to think about.

Never pass up an opportunity to fiddle with glands and bushings

Never pass up an opportunity to fiddle with glands and bushings

The Ethernet cable—which as well as handling data also delivers power—was especially irksome but we think we’ve come up with some decent solutions. The team at CPC, who are handling the build and packaging, have been key in this, helping us to select and test solutions and dealing with my endless “How about if we try this?” emails.

On the software side, Oracle are putting the final touches to the database that will allow schools to share their data and to access data from Raspberry Pi weather stations around the world. There’s huge scope here for learning how to collect, analyse and visualise large data sets, increasingly useful skills in this age of data. As well as educational resources for this we’ll have lesson plans and worksheets for using the weather station locally, and for exploring and learning computing in this context.

Weather_Station

So when will the kits ship? Soon. Probably November. In retrospect the hardware side of it was just the start—this is a large scale and ongoing project for us and we have plans to get the stations into many more schools once the initial 1000 are shipped. We also hope that the kits will go on sale at some point and we’ll let you know as and when this happens. Keep an eye out for updates here, Twitter and other social media.