Monthly Archives: March 2020

Resources for Learning at Home

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We know that learning from home can be a stressful transition for you and the student(s) in your home. Between our Spring Kit Sale and resources from our and sites, we’re here to help make the transition go as smoothly as it can.

If you're in need of some materials, be sure to shop our Spring Kit Sale - available through April 17th! Designed with beginners in mind, these kits offer a springboard into electronics through circuit building, creating e-textile projects, measuring the weather, practicing soldering, and exploring the Internet of Things (IoT).

Spring Kit Sale

If you’re looking for a particular item or ecosystem, check out our Education Materials page for a more robust list of our education-focused items.

We know teaching isn’t easy, but we have some handy resources that will hopefully help. With lessons on the basics of electronics to more advanced learning with coding, you will be able to help kids continue to learn from home.


Between our current sale and our ever-growing list of resources, hopefully we can help make learning at home a little easier.

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Code Hyper Sports’ shooting minigame | Wireframe #35

via Raspberry Pi

Gun down the clay pigeons in our re-creation of a classic minigame from Konami’s Hyper Sports. Take it away, Mark Vanstone

Hyper Sports

Hyper Sports’ Japanese release was tied in with the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Hyper Sports

Konami’s sequel to its 1983 arcade hit, Track & Field, Hyper Sports offered seven games – or events – in which up to four players could participate. Skeet shooting was perhaps the most memorable game in the collection, and required just two buttons: fire left and fire right.

The display showed two target sights, and each moved up and down to come into line with the next clay disc’s trajectory. When the disc was inside the red target square, the player pressed the fire button, and if their timing was correct, the clay disc exploded. Points were awarded for being on target, and every now and then, a parrot flew across the screen, which could be gunned down for a bonus.

Making our game

To make a skeet shooting game with Pygame Zero, we need a few graphical elements. First, a static background of hills and grass, with two clay disc throwers each side of the screen, and a semicircle where our shooter stands – this can be displayed first, every time our draw() function is called.

We can then draw our shooter (created as an Actor) in the centre near the bottom of the screen. The shooter has three images: one central while no keys are pressed, and two for the directions left and right when the player presses the left or right keys. We also need to have two square target sights to the left and right above the shooter, which we can create as Actors.

When the clay targets appear, the player uses the left and right buttons to shoot either the left or right target respectively.

To make the clay targets, we create an array to hold disc Actor objects. In our update() function we can trigger the creation of a new disc based on a random number, and once created, start an animation to move it across the screen in front of the shooter. We can add a shadow to the discs by tracking a path diagonally across the screen so that the shadow appears at the correct Y coordinate regardless of the disc’s height – this is a simple way of giving our game the illusion of depth. While we’re in the update() function, looping around our disc object list, we can calculate the distance of the disc to the nearest target sight frame, and from that, work out which is the closest.

When we’ve calculated which disc is closest to the right-hand sight, we want to move the sight towards the disc so that their paths intersect. All we need to do is take the difference of the Y coordinates, divide by two, and apply that offset to the target sight. We also do the same for the left-hand sight. If the correct key (left or right arrows) is pressed at the moment a disc crosses the path of the sight frame, we register a hit and cycle the disc through a sequence of exploding frames. We can keep a score and display this with an overlay graphic so that the player knows how well they’ve done.

And that’s it! You may want to add multiple players and perhaps a parrot bonus, but we’ll leave that up to you.

Here’s Mark’s code snippet, which creates a simple shooting game in Python. To get it working on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, go here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 35

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 35, available now at Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from Raspberry Pi Press — delivery is available worldwide. And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 35 for free in PDF format.

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusive offers and giveaways. Subscribe on the Wireframe website to save up to 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

The post Code Hyper Sports’ shooting minigame | Wireframe #35 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Digital Making at Home: Making games

via Raspberry Pi

When you’re part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation community, you’re a part of a global family of young creators who bring things to life with the power of digital making. We imagine that, given the current changes we’re all navigating, there are probably more of you who are interested in creating new and exciting things at home. And we want to help you! One of the best things we can do right now is to tap into what connects us as a community, and that’s digital making. So, welcome to Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation!

Welcome to Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: Buy a Raspbe…

What is Digital Making at Home?

Whether you wrote your first line of code years ago or minutes ago, or you’ve yet to get started, with Digital Making at Home we’re inviting you on a digital making adventure each week.

Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation V1

At the start of each week, we will share a theme that’s designed to jumpstart your journey of creative expression and problem solving where you create a digital making project you’re proud of. Every week, we’ll have code-along videos led by people from our team. They will walk you through projects from our free projects collection, to give you a place to start and a friendly face to accompany you!

a girl using Scratch on a laptop at home

For those of you whose mother language isn’t English, our free project guides are available in up to 30 languages so far.

Share your digital making project with us!

Each week, when you’ve made something you love using digital making, you can share it us! Just make sure you have your parent’s or guardian’s permissions first. Then share your project by filling out this form. You might find one of your projects featured in a future blog post for the whole community to see, but no matter what, we want to see what you created!

Just because we’re all at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t create together, so let’s kick off Digital Making at Home with this week’s theme:

This week, we’re making games

Playing a game is a fun way to pass the time, but why not take it to the next level and make your own game? This week, we invite you to create a game that you can play with your friends and family!

Let your imagination run free, and if you’re not sure where to start, here are three code-along videos to help you.

Beginner level

If you’re new to coding, we want to introduce you to Scratch, a block-based coding language that is perfect to start with.

Try out Archery, led by Mr C and his sidekick Xavier:

Digital Making at Home – [Archery] (beginner)

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: Buy a Raspbe…

Go to the free Archery project guide (also available in Polish).

Intermediate level

If you’re looking to go beyond the Scratch surface, dive a little deeper into the coding language with.

Try out CATS!, led by Christina:

Digital Making at Home – [Cats] (intermediate)

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: Buy a Raspbe…

Go to the free CATS! project guide (available in 30 languages).

Advanced level

If you’re all Scratched out, move on to Python, a text-based coding language, to take things up a notch.

Try out Turtle Race, led by Marc:

Digital Making at Home – [Turtle Race] (advanced)

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: Buy a Raspbe…

Go to the free Turtle Race project guide (available in 16 languages).

More inspiration for making games

If you’re creating a game in Scratch, check out the extra videos from Mr C in the ‘Digital Making at Home: Making games’ playlist. These will show you how to add a timer, or a score, or a game over message, or a cool starter screen to any Scratch game!

A girl with her Scratch project

And if you’re into Python coding and hungry for more creative inspiration, we’ve got you covered. Our own Wireframe magazine, which you can download for free, has a ton of resources about making games. The magazine’s Source Code series shows you how to recreate an aspect of a classic game with a snippet of Python code, and you can read articles from that series on the Raspberry Pi blog. And if that’s still not enough, take a look at our Code the Classics book, which you can also download for free!

Alright friends, you’ve got all you need, so let’s get digital making!

Share your feedback

We’d love to know what you think of Digital Making at Home, so that we can make it better for you! Let us know your thoughts by filling in this form.

The post Digital Making at Home: Making games appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Coronavirus impact update: still shipping all orders

via Pololu Blog

Quick summary: Pololu has filled all orders and continues to operate, including shipping products to important customers fighting COVID-19 around the world. Thank you for all of your help and donations, which are really making a difference. We are preparing for extended operations under emergency conditions and evaluating all available avenues for support. Cash donations remain the most useful and immediate way to help, but there are other ways you can help us. Donate here.

Please see new update posted Monday, 6 April 2020.

Still shipping, 30 March 2020.

It has been a week since I posted about Pololu’s dire circumstances brought about by the new coronavirus pandemic. My outlook today is much more positive than it was back then, in large part thanks to the support we have received during the past week. We are by no means out of the woods yet, as a company, as a country, and as a planet. I write today’s post to provide an update on how we are doing, to try to address the questions I am getting repeated from many people, to share our general outlook for moving forward, and to renew my appeal for help in any way possible. Since there are many topics that might be of varying degrees of interest to each of you, I will try to organize this with more sections and headings:

We are still operating and have shipped every order!

We have operated for eight business days now with a skeleton crew of approximately 20 staff members on site and 10-20 more people assisting via remote connections from home. We have shipped every order for in-stock items that has been placed during that time, and we have limited production capacity for special orders beyond what is in stock.

We have had no new local business shutdown orders that would affect us since Friday the 20th, and we have received dozens if not hundreds of customer requests and certifications from customers that have been declared essential businesses or services within their jurisdictions, and as suppliers to those organizations, we are essential by extension as well. We also continue to get many confirmations of our products and services (e.g. laser cutting) being used directly in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we will keep shipping orders as long as delivery services keep operating.

You can see available stock for each product live on our website, and if your order consists of just in-stock items, we should be able to ship your order within a day.

Available stock is shown on each product page.

Each product page has links to relevant parametric comparison tables that can help you identify similar products that might have more available stock:

Each product page has links to relevant parametric comparison tables.

You can check available quantity of similar products on the parametric comparison table.

Our China facility in Shenzhen is also partially operational, and we are able to ship some special volume orders directly from there. The available shipping carriers and destinations are changing day by day as countries respond to the pandemic, but we are working with customers to route critical orders as quickly as possible. Please note that all of our electronics products are manufactured at our Las Vegas, Nevada, USA facility, so shipments directly from China are only available for select products, mostly motors and other mechanical components that we have machined or injection molded there.

We also have hundreds of distributors around the world that might be operational and have stock closer to you. We will be working with them in the coming days to update the distributors page with information about those businesses confirmed to still be in operation.

Thank you to everyone who has donated!

We have received thousands of dollars in donations since my original post. I have tried to send at least a few personal thank you emails every day, but there have been more donations than I can keep up with. It is extremely motivating to see the breadth of donations we are receiving from all over the world, from customers we haven’t heard from in a long time, to family members of employees, to former employees, to people that, as far as we can tell, have had no previous association with Pololu. To all of you whom I have not thanked yet individually, thank you!!! I am making sure everyone at Pololu knows about your support. The value of the money we receive in donations is multiplied both by the psychological boost it gives us and by getting factored into various lines of credit that we have available to us that are automatically calculated based on the rolling average revenue appearing in our accounts.

Several Pololu employees who are part of our continuing operations have volunteered reductions in their own pay so that we might conserve our limited cash on hand and continue payments and insurance for those employees that are most in need. PT from Adafruit also responded to my call for help and gave me some useful perspective and helped spread the word about our situation even as Adafruit conducted its own emergency operations out of New York, the US epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The donations and support are all the more meaningful at a time like this, where nearly everyone is impacted and the future so uncertain.

If you can, please consider donating to help Pololu make it through this difficult time. You can use item 2400 to donate in $1 increments. I will also post other ways you can help us at the end of this update.

Updates about common questions

Landlord and building situation

After payroll, the building rent is our biggest expense and obligation, so I of course reached out to my landlord right away to see what their position was. Unfortunately, the building we are in was just sold in the last 6 months, so we do not have the long working history we had with the previous landlord. I am posting a little more detail here than I would normally be comfortable with, but we are in an extraordinary emergency and I am hearing the same questions and suggestions from multiple people, so I want to share this information because I believe it could be useful in getting us help and advice.

We are the only tenant in a building that is approximately 86,000 square feet. The building had been vacant, I think for years, after the previous economic downturn, and we moved in here at the end of 2011, taking part of the first floor. In 2013, the landlord received an offer for the second floor. It was a time when we were growing rapidly, and the building was not at all well set up for sharing with multiple tenants, so we made the owner an offer for the space and reached an agreement that was expensive but affordable for us and at a lower rate for the landlord than the competing offer but without the need to do any new construction. Over the next several years, we agreed to extensions in the lease and a gradual takeover of the remainder of the first floor, so that we would officially have the building to ourselves and the landlord could stop looking for other tenants to fill the remaining space.

In 2018, we negotiated a new extension of the lease. The building was still in its as-is state from 2009 or whenever the previous tenants moved out, and it was a particularly impractical floorplan based on the previous tenant’s operations. The landlord preferred putting some money into renovating the space and increasing our rent over keeping the rent at a bare minimum, and so even though our cost went up again, we were getting a more usable space with plenty of room for growth at still a decent total cost. The renovations took longer than expected and ran through most of 2019. Some kind of family change caused the landlord to unexpectedly have to sell the building, which got us to where we are today: with a new owner, in a building that is bigger than we need but well set up for us, and with what I think is a pretty good rate.

The new landlord thinks it’s an incredibly good rate and thinks the market rate (of course before this pandemic hit) should be closer to double what we are paying now. We have more than four more years left on our lease, and from his perspective, he might even prefer us to be out of the building. I suspect he has dozens or even more tenants from all over suddenly asking for reductions or notifying him that they won’t be able to make rent, and given his view of what we are paying relative to what the space is worth, we are going to be low on the list of tenants he wants to make special exceptions for. So for now, if we believe we can be back to full operation in the next few months and then resume the growth path we were on, it is very important for us not to give the landlord any pretext for evicting us. I realize some of what he told me might be for negotiation, but I believe he was generally up-front with me. (And I’ve been using the singular “owner” or “landlord” or “he” for the landlord in both the current and previous landlord cases, but really I am talking about my contacts for the ownership groups.)

I related the history of how we got here so that people who know more about this kind of thing might be able to give me better advice and so that people who look at some of the pictures I am posting don’t feel that we are wasting money on an extravagant work space. Yes, we could fit our current operations into a 50,000 square foot space. But building rent agreements can be quite long-term, and with the amount we have invested in equipment and improvements here, moving would be very expensive, even if we could find an appropriate space. And the value of our contract depends a lot on how things play out. If there is a long-term depression that we cannot survive, the contract is an anchor that will drag us down and potentially finish us. If things get better relatively quickly, the contract protects us and gives us stability, letting us operate at a relatively good rate, without having to interrupt everything to move.

I should also make sure it’s clear that I completely understand my landlord’s perspective (who of course has his own mortgages and employees to keep paying), and it’s good to know that he’s open to arrangements that could be mutually beneficial. Perhaps some more spaces will open up as other businesses close, and if we get forced to stop operating for an extended period of time, that interruption might also be a good time to move. For the time being, though, I think we just need to hang on for a few months, and if that is the case, we have to keep paying the full rent.

Stimulus bill and SBA disaster loan

After days of trying on the overloaded SBA disaster loan website, we got our loan application submitted at 2:30AM on Tuesday. It’s not clear how long it will be before there is some progress with that or how much assistance we would qualify for.

We are also paying attention to the new stimulus bill that was just passed to see how it might apply to us. So far, it looks like it will be at least a few more weeks before the details get worked out to a level that we can do something with. The initial impression I am getting is that the way the support is structured, we might be incentivized to do things that would be bad for us if the support doesn’t pan out. For example, it is paramount for us to cut back on expenditures so that we have some cash to pay the most critical bills as long as possible. That includes laying off non-essential staff right away. Yet that might reduce or even eliminate some of the support we might qualify for.

There’s also a huge difference between getting a loan and that loan being forgiven. If the model for our collective response to the pandemic is that the government orders us to pause operations, then gives me money to distribute to my employees, I am happy to do my part in that arrangement. If, on the other hand, the proposal amounts to me personally being on the hook for the rest of my life to pay back a loan I took just to pay people that weren’t allowed to work, that’s not actually helping, and it would make more sense for those employees to just get paid directly from the unemployment aspects of the support bill.

We might also be facing a situation where the new support measures might encourage people who could be working to stay home and collect unemployment instead. So far, we have gotten by without pushing anyone who does not want to be here to be here. This will be a challenge for society in general as we all try to pause and then recover in this unprecedented situation. Many individuals want to work, but it might be better for the community if they don’t, and in compensating them for preventing them from working, we might be discouraging other people whom we do need to be working.

Outlook and plan for now

The past two weeks of operation have made me optimistic that we could keep operating as we have for at least several more months. This past week was especially good because we had relative stability in how we operated, and it allowed us to spend a little time on getting ahead and start preparing for operating under these emergency measures for an extended period. A few engineers who had been working on production processes and were out the first week came in and started assessing our workflow with new distancing and isolation considerations. Having a lot of space is coming in handy, at least in terms of making it easier for people to work far apart from each other. We gathered in the same room once during the whole time, to select permanent spots in the break room:

Pololu skeleton crew permanent table assignment meeting, March 2020.

(Those who have individual offices are encouraged to eat there, but in general, those are the people who are already home and connected remotely.)

We are also working on improving remote connection and working options where possible, including getting more computers and monitors to employees’ homes.

With the outlook unclear on how much government support we might get and when, it’s clear we need to transition to an operating mode where we can be largely self-sufficient financially without burning out before we get there. Here, the donations we have received have been tremendously helpful in buying us time to get back on our feet.

If you can, please consider donating to help Pololu make it. We have set up item 2400 for donating in $1 increments.

Other ways you can help

Pay now, ship later

In the past week, we added a feature to our online checkout system to allow for orders to be placed with a “pay now, ship later” option that lets you authorize us to charge the payment for an order as soon as it comes in, possibly well ahead of when the order would actually ship. We started working on this feature at a time when we thought complete shutdown of our operations was imminent, when it might have been weeks or even months before we could reopen. As I wrote at the top of this update, we have been able to ship all orders, and I expect to continue shipping, but this option still allows us to prioritize shipments and reduce stress with orders that come in later in the day and can get shipped the next day. We have already received dozens of orders with this option selected, and it is also encouraging just to see that our customers are trying to help us out. Thank you to all of you who have selected that option!

Order non-soldered versions of products, or the higher-stock versions

We offer a few of our products with some of the optional (but usually used) through-hole connectors soldered in. If you are able to solder, please consider ordering the non-soldered versions if there is plentiful stock of them. We do all of the through-hole soldering by hand, and most of our manual assemblers were older or otherwise in the higher-risk population for COVID-19, so they are not currently working here. And if you’re at home doing a non-critical project, now is a good time to do a little extra soldering, right?

On a related note, it’s a little bit easier for us if you order the item that has more stock. Going back to the screenshot I have at the beginning of this post, it’s easy to see our stock levels of similar products:

You can check available quantity of similar products on the parametric comparison table.

If your application could get by with either an item of which we have 300 in stock or one of which we have 12 units, please get the product that we have much more of. It’s probably a more popular version that we make more often, and it keeps the less popular version available for those who might really need it.

Help each other on our forum

We have had to severely cut back on our technical support. If you are one those people with extra time on your hands now and are familiar with any of our products, please consider helping out our other customers on our forum.

Ask others to help us out

If you know anybody that could afford to help us out, please let them know and ask them to contribute.

Other suggestions and ideas

Part of the reason I went into more details in some areas is so you might be able to better give us advice about how we could make things better. Maybe you’re also working at a small business facing similar challenges, and you have some good suggestions. Maybe your uncle has a vacant building nearby. One suggestion I’ve heard repeatedly is about gift certificates, which we are looking into; if you know of particularly good ways of implementing that or things to be careful about, please let us know.

Thank you all for your support. Stay safe and healthy, everybody!

Please see new update posted Monday, 6 April 2020.

The Wash-A-Lot-Bot is a DIY handwashing timer

via Arduino Blog

With the current coronavirus situation, we’ve been encouraged to wash our hands regularly for 20 seconds – or approximately how long it takes you to hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice. That sounds easy enough, but do you really do this every time? What you need is some sort of automatic timer, perhaps with a dial gauge for easy visual reference. 

As it just so happens, Gautam Bose and Lucas Ochoa built such a device with an Arduino Uno. The aptly named Wash-A-Lot-Bot detects a person’s hands in front of it via an ultrasonic sensor, then ticks a dial timer from 0 to 20 (or rather 20 to DONE!) using a micro servo. 

This simple setup can be made with little more than scissors and tape, making it a great way to learn about Arduino and programming while you’re stuck indoors.

Together, let’s make COVID-19 history – CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

via Arduino Blog

Combating COVID-19 Conference: A Collaborative Arduino Community Initiative to take place on April 2nd at 5pm CET

To the Arduino community:

Humanity is facing one of the most trying events in its history and as technologists, makers and designers we are asking ourselves how can we help. 

How can we contribute to the efforts to save lives, to help our fellow human beings?

All of us have been thinking about this and observing what is going on in the world.

We have seen communities, including all of you, trying to design devices that would help hospitals cope with the lack of equipment; we’ve seen people firing up their imagination and their 3D printers in an effort to build something that could save even a single human life.

Having noticed that a large number of these efforts are using Arduino technology we reached out to a number of these communities to offer our help, donate some hardware, provide engineering support, and do whatever we can considering that we are a small company.

One thing that was striking to us is the large amount of duplication in the work people are doing. Many people are spending valuable time trying to overcome similar challenges in their design, rather than sharing their solution to the benefit of all and moving on to the next hurdle. Also, there are different teams with different strengths and skill sets that would be better working together than apart.

We must do better, be more effective, work together, and merge efforts to solve these problems and reach our common goal quicker and more efficiently.

Because of all of this, we want to invite as many of these projects as possible to an online gathering, to get people talking, to offer help on how to design and make hardware, how to think about the software, and how to scale manufacturing (we would like to share our knowledge in making tens of thousands of open source boards per week). Finally and most importantly, we must take guidance from medical professionals so that they can steer requirements and validate the designs so our efforts have the most positive impact. 

Join us online on April 2nd to understand how we can work together to do better together, and together let’s make COVID-19 history.

— David Cuartielles and Massimo Banzi, Arduino co-founders (on behalf of Arduino)

Combating COVID-19 Conference: A Collaborative Arduino Community Initiative will take place on April 2nd at 5pm CET.

This is an open invitation to anyone currently using Arduino-compatible devices within a project to design and manufacture ventilators, respirators or other devices to combat COVID-19. Be you a doctor, an academic, a professional company/researcher or an innovator, you are more than welcome to join the conference. 

The conference will be hosted in Zoom (link available soon), with the ability to interact with Arduino and other members on the conference via Discord (free download here). 

There are different ways to participate in the conference: you can present your Arduino-based solution to tackle COVID-19, support other community projects, or provide expert advice — we are all stronger together.

(N.B. If you want to present and share your project, please complete this form by 12:00 (noon) CET on April 2nd.)

More information on the conference will be available soon. In the meantime, you can learn more about Arduino’s overall response to COVID-19 emergency here.