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mtormo
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Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Wed May 03, 2017 11:37 am

Hello everybody,

I'm totally new in the forum and even though i have been already playing with raspberry pis for a couple of years i am still quite of a newbie. My background is not informatics but physics and maths. I have learnt long time ago Basic, Fortran and C, but i haven't used it for years and now i find myself totally excited learning python for exploring all what my raspis can do :)

I am now involved in an idea for building a compact autonomous modular measuring system with a raspberry pi, a touch screen and some sensors. The background of the idea is: there are (at least in Germany they are quite famous) some measuring devices for being used in the classroom for teaching physics, for example the Cassy family from the firma Leybold. They work with modules that you can plug on a standard connector and they retrieve the information measured/collected by the sensors. Sometimes it is even possible to analize or graph the data directly on the device. They are unfortunately extremely expensive, so the question is: is it possible to build something like that with a raspberry pi? I am sure it is, so i have decided to write my master thesis about it. The thesis is not as much about building it but about choosing (once built) one or two experiments, making a didactical analysis of them and showing how can improve the measuring device the understanding of the experiment.

I'm also learning tkinter so i can program a GUI for the different sensors/modules so it remains compact and easy to use. The code, blueprints for the case, building instructions and documentation would be open source and available to everybody so it can be built by anyone interested and the didactical units can be used in the classroom. I have not yet thought about it but i guess i will make a repository in github or something like that.

The structure of the device would be more or less this:
Picture 1_small.jpg
Picture 1_small.jpg (56.26 KiB) Viewed 5358 times
I am right now looking for the right components for the device. I've thought of the HDMI 5" 800x480 from Adafruit (https://www.adafruit.com/product/2260) for the touchscreen but i'm still not sure if i need it a bit bigger (let's say 7"). For the Powerbank Ultrics has some interesting models, but i don't really know quite good that brand so no idea if it is good or not.

So well, that is a bit the aim of my message, to tell you about the project and to ask if anyone has had already some experiences with something like this or has some valuable tips or whatever :) It is my first really big project and i must say i find it as scary as exciting. And yes, i wanted also to say: hey, hello, i'm new here but really happy to have joined you :)

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Burngate
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Wed May 03, 2017 5:43 pm

You may be interested in the Weather Station - though only schools appear to be able to order it, it may give you some ideas.
For the screen, the official 7" touch-screen is 800 x 480.

ghp
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Wed May 03, 2017 8:12 pm

Hello,
since some time there is a workshop in 'physical computing with raspberry pi' at a school near Stuttgart. You find some material on my web site http://heppg.de.
We use scratch as programming environment, scratchClient to talk to GPIO and ADC and kids build their own game controller and program a computer game in scratch.
Regards,
Gerhard

peterlite
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 2:48 am

For the touchscreen size, try some phones and tablets. I have a full size phone and still have problems hitting the right key on the on-screen keyboard. I would use 10" minimum for a full keyboard. The problem would be finding a shirt with a 10" pocket. :shock:

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 6:49 am

There are many Datalogging devices on the market as I assume you know a look in various school suppliers catalogues will show you many.
(LogIT, Vernier, Data Harvest and others, certainly here in the UK).
Far to expensive for most schools (senior/primary) to actually use them beyond a demonstration.

A few challenges you may want to think about (given this is something I do at work in school science).
They'll get dropped.
They will get splashed with water and or weak acid/base.
If it is not easy to use and with little effort, it will not be used (teachers just will ignore them).

Displays, enough to do the job, but physical buttons tend to work more reliably than touch screens for the main bits.

Light gates, temp, humidity, pressure, light, hall probe/search coil all be easy. Other switches (they are all based around start/stop time be).

But have a think about the fact mobile phones etc can do a lot of it. Maybe use them?

Look at the micro:bit it is a bundled sensor device with WiFi and Bluetooth. Basically a small simple wireless sensor collector.

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 9:47 am

Thank you for your comments. For the screen I've finally ordered a HDMI 5" with Touchscreen from Adafruit. For me it was important to keep the GPIO pins free for the ADC chip and sensors so the HDMI way sounded right. I was unsure about the size but I try to keep the budget low and the device small. My handy has a screen of 4.5" and it is perfect for what i plan to do, so the 5" version should be ok. If finally i find it too small i can just order the 7" version (right now is anyway out of stock).

Burngate, thank you for the tip. I knew it already and I have took some ideas from that project :)

Gerhard, thank you for the link. Well structured and explained contents. And I think it is the first time i read about the Raspi in german. A question: which program did you use for making the schematics of the circuitry?

peterlite, the idea is not as much having to program with the touchscreen, but programming a good GUI so everything is well organize and sorted. The part of programming should be done with a keyboard and a good screen :)
bensimmo said:

A few challenges you may want to think about (given this is something I do at work in school science).
They'll get dropped.
They will get splashed with water and or weak acid/base.
If it is not easy to use and with little effort, it will not be used (teachers just will ignore them).
Yeah, I've thought about it. The idea with this device is not as much creating something that can be used all the time by the students, but creating an alternative open-source DIY (and cheaper) replacement for the expensive dataloggers that teachers can (when they are lucky) use for didactical purposes. This device does not intend to replace the use of arduino-based systems, mobile phones, tablets or other electronic alternatives in the classroom, i see it as a tool for supporting the others. Already with the powerbank, the touchscreen and the raspberry pi we are over 100 € or 85 £. If you make it times 20 or 25 for every student it is just totally out of budget for any school. And it is also just too much compared with small dataloggers made with arduino that are more resistent and can cost only one tenth of what this device can cost. So trying to go in that direction would be a nonsense.

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 9:58 am

But do look at the micro:bit as your sensor attachment and the Pi as the computer.
Use Bluetooth.
Stream back the data, display and log (a bit like you can with bittly on android)

Send the code from the pi from the touch screen.

At least in the UK it would be worth while as senior schools have loads of them and most science departments will have been sent 5 of them last year.
I believe that are planning on spreading it out to other countries too.
So make use of what schools will have.

Sensors don't have to be wired.

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 10:03 am

That is an excellent idea! :)

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 10:34 am

Ok, i've check the website for micro:bit. I see a few problems with that approach:

- Here in Germany you cannot find them in the schools. In fact, i guess few teachers here have heard about it before.
- Programming during physics teaching is not an option. Usually the curricular content is so tight that we cannot spend too much time teaching the kids how to program. That could be done in the Informatics class, code clubs or at home and the code and schematics for the device would be available anyway for the students interested in learning how the thing works.
- So the sensors need to be assembled, ready and functioning. And the Interface programmed. The options are then: having a micro:bit for every sensor always ready, changing every time the sensors in the micro:bit according to the needs, wiring the sensors.
The first option is too expensive, and the second option even though is cheaper requires the teachers to assemble themselves the sensors and as you said if it is not easy to use and with little effort, it will not be used (teachers just will ignore them). Specially knowing that a lot of physics teachers don't know and don't care about electronics.

So I think I will try first making it with soldered and cased modules and when it is ready i will try to program the compatibility with the micro:bit, so teachers that actually like tinkering can use it too :)

I love it, if it wasn't big enough, this project keeps expanding :D

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 12:14 pm

Absolutely, it was an extension idea.
I mentioned they are expanding into Europe, it could be France first, I cannot remember.

But the 'programming' idea would be just push a screen button and it would send the new firmware.
I'm not saying it would be easy to implement, you have the BT connection and then the single file transfer.
Basically a behind the scenes thing nobody needs to know about.
Probably easier once you have played with one :-)

Anyway, mini-din or RG (11?) connectors,what else is there that nice to use for the sensors?

If it slow temperature reading for probes etc the 1-wire DS18B20 are a nice way to go, for faster than 1second readings you may want something else (like thermo couples?)

skspurling
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 1:15 pm

That's pretty neat. I remember when I was in High School, they used a box with apple IIc's on an AV cart for this type of thing. Always wanted to play with them, but never got to. When I first saw the Pi, I thought of this application because the parts are all there! You don't need to build a system, just get some standard parts together and write a curriculum and some instructions on how to connect and read the sensors.

ghp
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Thu May 04, 2017 5:30 pm

Hello,
when designing products, then not to forget
- VDE, CE, FCC approvals
- Accessibility
- already mentioned: water proof, cleanable, droppable.
- safe against wrong polarities, ESD.
- Multilanguage support.
- Maintenance, hotline, guarantee. Repair service + spare parts.
- Documentation in multiple languages.
- Marketing cost, fair visits, travel to customers.
- and for sure some more.

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Fri May 05, 2017 8:04 am

bensimmo I will definitely try it. I guess i will not include it in my master thesis, it is already far beyond the scope of the thesis, but my idea is to keep developing the device, as a long term project. About the connectors i don't now yet. For most of the sensors some circuitry is required so my plan is to choose a standard connector, make myself the PCBs, soldering it and build a case with a 3D printer. I've thought as a first step using pre-crimped jumper wires attached to crimp connector housings as a provisional solution while i look for something definitive.

skspurling, i thought exactly the same. I want anyway to make it as compact as possible so teachers interested in using it that have no clue or no interest at all in electronics are not overwhelmed, but flexible enough so interested teachers can make it apart, add sensors or improve the ones that are already prepared.

Gerhard, wow I didn't think about it. My plan was not comercializing it, but offer it to anyone interested. But now that i think about it, it would be also great testing it properly and check that meets the required standards and that it has multilanguage support and documentation etc. I still don't see it as something i could sell, but as something that everybody can build themselves with the proper instructions and documentation :)

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Fri May 05, 2017 8:26 am

Just to get you even more enthusiastic and because I happened to read it this morning.
Grab MagPi Issue 56 (April 2017) in pdf have a good read. Er I mean goto page 86 and read the article.
It's called keeping your hat open.
But also gives you tips and info and links about self build HAT with an interview with Leon Anavi, which is basically what you'll be creating.

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Tue May 09, 2017 10:51 am

A lot of good info, indeed :) Thank you!! I was thinking about getting NI Multisim for design the PCBs but that KiKac sounds amazing :) And i like the concept. As the raspberry pi will be in a case i think i can not use the hat approach but what he says applies also to my design :) As i said, thank you very much!!

And for testing the device (the core part of my master thesis) i have decided to start with a couple of experiments:

- physical/mathematical pendulum
- specific heat of liquids

For the second i have found the DS18B20 temperature sensor. I need to start now working the electronical part of it :P

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bensimmo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Tue May 09, 2017 3:16 pm

Motion and Position sensor is an option for a mechanical pendulum, there may be cheaper options though as the part in this http://www.logitworld.com/index.php/sec ... ion-sensor is quite expensive.

(I have one of them and the old logger they used to make it can attach to, I have written the part down somewhere, but basically a low friction 360degree rotary resistor)


EDIT quick search and I see they do a digital hall one, can't remeber if that used these but maybe an idea https://www.aliexpress.com/store/produc ... 85996.html

skspurling
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Wed May 17, 2017 2:35 pm

mtormo wrote:bensimmo I will definitely try it. I guess i will not include it in my master thesis, it is already far beyond the scope of the thesis, but my idea is to keep developing the device, as a long term project. About the connectors i don't now yet. For most of the sensors some circuitry is required so my plan is to choose a standard connector, make myself the PCBs, soldering it and build a case with a 3D printer. I've thought as a first step using pre-crimped jumper wires attached to crimp connector housings as a provisional solution while i look for something definitive.

skspurling, i thought exactly the same. I want anyway to make it as compact as possible so teachers interested in using it that have no clue or no interest at all in electronics are not overwhelmed, but flexible enough so interested teachers can make it apart, add sensors or improve the ones that are already prepared.

Gerhard, wow I didn't think about it. My plan was not comercializing it, but offer it to anyone interested. But now that i think about it, it would be also great testing it properly and check that meets the required standards and that it has multilanguage support and documentation etc. I still don't see it as something i could sell, but as something that everybody can build themselves with the proper instructions and documentation :)

Maybe some sort of HAT with standard digital and analog input and output connectors? If you are doing analog measurements, you will want an I2C ADC chip (Pretty common) on the board. Then you write a short library that can query the different channels. On each I/O, you will want a power, ground, and signal. Isolate them from the GPIO on the board for safety. That way you can have a mutitude of sensors wired up for the connectors. You could specify the "mtormo" physics board standard, and put it under the GPL or Apache licence as open source hardware. That way you could make some profit off it if you wanted to build and sell some, but other small board and sensor interrogators could also make interchangeable modules to use on the standard. You may want to make a small run or get with someone that might find some interest in building and selling small runs of this type of board system to get it started.

That actually sounds exciting to me, but I'm a geek. I'm kind of tired of not having consistent interconnects on stuff, except as an expensive commercial standard or just by accident.

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Mon May 22, 2017 11:08 am

bensimmo wrote:Motion and Position sensor is an option for a mechanical pendulum, there may be cheaper options though as the part in this http://www.logitworld.com/index.php/sec ... ion-sensor is quite expensive.

(I have one of them and the old logger they used to make it can attach to, I have written the part down somewhere, but basically a low friction 360degree rotary resistor)


EDIT quick search and I see they do a digital hall one, can't remeber if that used these but maybe an idea https://www.aliexpress.com/store/produc ... 85996.html
OMG The D100059 looks amazing!! It is unfortunately to expensive for me. I'm checking the other one you wrote down and it could also be an option. I have already ordered it :)

Menwhile I am working with the MPU-6050 Gyroscope/Accelerometer and I plan to use the ultrasonic sensor HC-SR04 for normal oscillations.
skspurling wrote:
Maybe some sort of HAT with standard digital and analog input and output connectors? If you are doing analog measurements, you will want an I2C ADC chip (Pretty common) on the board.
I'm using the MCP3008 for that. I don't know if it is actually a good option but so far is doing very well its job. I would love also to try the Adafruit ADS1115 but that will need to wait until my Master thesis is done.
skspurling wrote:Then you write a short library that can query the different channels. On each I/O, you will want a power, ground, and signal. Isolate them from the GPIO on the board for safety. That way you can have a mutitude of sensors wired up for the connectors. You could specify the "mtormo" physics board standard, and put it under the GPL or Apache licence as open source hardware. That way you could make some profit off it if you wanted to build and sell some, but other small board and sensor interrogators could also make interchangeable modules to use on the standard. You may want to make a small run or get with someone that might find some interest in building and selling small runs of this type of board system to get it started.
I am unfortunately still far from that. My programming skills need to improved a lot until i can do that :). At the end i am just a physics teacher who loves electronics :P But anyway, I would love to make my own Hat. That would be so great! By the way, I have been thinking about a proper name for the Project and i have decided that i want to call Peach Pi (Physics tEACHing with Raspberry PI) :P
skspurling wrote:That actually sounds exciting to me, but I'm a geek. I'm kind of tired of not having consistent interconnects on stuff, except as an expensive commercial standard or just by accident.
That was exactly my idea when i thought for the first time about it :)

skspurling
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Wed May 24, 2017 3:15 pm

mtormo wrote:
bensimmo wrote:... i have decided that i want to call Peach Pi (Physics tEACHing with Raspberry PI) :P
I think that name is taken... by something...Is it?

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mtormo
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Sat May 27, 2017 9:09 pm

You are right. I've just seen that the Peach OSI version for Raspberry Pi is called Peach Pi Tv. WHat a shame! I really liked the name

OutsourcedGuru
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Re: Raspberry Pi for teaching physics

Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:01 am

The Raspberry Pi Sense Hat (also known as AstroPi) has a variety of built-in sensors and I've exercised most of them.

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