Author Archives: Alex Bate

Community Profile: Estefannie Explains It All

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This column is from The MagPi issue 59. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition through your letterbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve our charitable goals.

“Hey, world!” Estefannie exclaims, a wide grin across her face as the camera begins to roll for another YouTube tutorial video. With a growing number of followers and wonderful support from her fans, Estefannie is building a solid reputation as an online maker, creating unique, fun content accessible to all.

A woman sitting at a desk with a laptop and papers — Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

It’s as if she was born into performing and making for an audience, but this fun, enjoyable journey to social media stardom came not from a desire to be in front of the camera, but rather as a unique approach to her own learning. While studying, Estefannie decided the best way to confirm her knowledge of a subject was to create an educational video explaining it. If she could teach a topic successfully, she knew she’d retained the information. And so her YouTube channel, Estefannie Explains It All, came into being.

Note taking — Estefannie Explains it All

Her first videos featured pages of notes with voice-over explanations of data structure and algorithm analysis. Then she moved in front of the camera, and expanded her skills in the process.

But YouTube isn’t her only outlet. With nearly 50000 followers, Estefannie’s Instagram game is strong, adding to an increasing number of female coders taking to the platform. Across her Instagram grid, you’ll find insights into her daily routine, from programming on location for work to behind-the-scenes troubleshooting as she begins to create another tutorial video. It’s hard work, with content creation for both Instagram and YouTube forever on her mind as she continues to work and progress successfully as a software engineer.

A woman showing off a game on a tablet — Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

As a thank you to her Instagram fans for helping her reach 10000 followers, Estefannie created a free game for Android and iOS called Gravitris — imagine Tetris with balance issues!

Estefannie was born and raised in Mexico, with ambitions to become a graphic designer and animator. However, a documentary on coding at Pixar, and the beauty of Merida’s hair in Brave, opened her mind to the opportunities of software engineering in animation. She altered her career path, moved to the United States, and switched to a Computer Science course.

A woman wearing safety goggles hugging a keyboard Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

With a constant desire to make and to learn, Estefannie combines her software engineering profession with her hobby to create fun, exciting content for YouTube.

While studying, Estefannie started a Computer Science Girls Club at the University of Houston, Texas, and she found herself eager to put more time and effort into the movement to increase the percentage of women in the industry. The club was a success, and still is to this day. While Estefannie has handed over the reins, she’s still very involved in the cause.

Through her YouTube videos, Estefannie continues the theme of inclusion, with every project offering a warm sense of approachability for all, regardless of age, gender, or skill. From exploring Scratch and Makey Makey with her young niece and nephew to creating her own Disney ‘Made with Magic’ backpack for a trip to Disney World, Florida, Estefannie’s videos are essentially a documentary of her own learning process, produced so viewers can learn with her — and learn from her mistakes — to create their own tech wonders.

Using the Raspberry Pi, she’s been able to broaden her skills and, in turn, her projects, creating a home-automated gingerbread house at Christmas, building a GPS-controlled GoPro for her trip to London, and making everyone’s life better with an Internet Button–controlled French press.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi Home Automated Gingerbread House

Estefannie’s automated gingerbread house project was a labour of love, with electronics, wires, and candy strewn across both her living room and kitchen for weeks before completion. While she already was a skilled programmer, the world of physical digital making was still fairly new for Estefannie. Having ditched her hot glue gun in favour of a soldering iron in a previous video, she continued to experiment and try out new, interesting techniques that are now second nature to many members of the maker community. With the gingerbread house, Estefannie was able to research and apply techniques such as light controls, servos, and app making, although the latter was already firmly within her skill set. The result? A fun video of ups and downs that resulted in a wonderful, festive treat. She even gave her holiday home its own solar panel!

A DAY AT RASPBERRY PI TOWERS!! LINK IN BIO ⚡🎥 @raspberrypifoundation

1,910 Likes, 43 Comments – Estefannie Explains It All (@estefanniegg) on Instagram: “A DAY AT RASPBERRY PI TOWERS!! LINK IN BIO ⚡🎥 @raspberrypifoundation”

And that’s just the beginning of her adventures with Pi…but we won’t spoil her future plans by telling you what’s coming next. Sorry! However, since this article was written last year, Estefannie has released a few more Pi-based project videos, plus some awesome interviews and live-streams with other members of the maker community such as Simone Giertz. She even made us an awesome video for our Raspberry Pi YouTube channel! So be sure to check out her latest releases.

Best day yet!! I got to hangout, play Jenga with a huge arm robot, and have afternoon tea with @simonegiertz and robots!! 🤖👯 #shittyrobotnation

2,264 Likes, 56 Comments – Estefannie Explains It All (@estefanniegg) on Instagram: “Best day yet!! I got to hangout, play Jenga with a huge arm robot, and have afternoon tea with…”

While many wonderful maker videos show off a project without much explanation, or expect a certain level of skill from viewers hoping to recreate the project, Estefannie’s videos exist almost within their own category. We can’t wait to see where Estefannie Explains It All goes next!

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This IoT Pet Monitor barks back

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Jennifer Fox, founder of FoxBot Industries, uses a Raspberry Pi pet monitor to check the sound levels of her home while she is out, allowing her to keep track of when her dog Marley gets noisy or agitated, and to interact with the gorgeous furball accordingly.

Bark Back Project Demo

A quick overview and demo of the Bark Back, a project to monitor and interact with Check out the full tutorial here: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/bark-back-interactive-pet-monitor For any licensing requests please contact licensing@break.com

Marley, bark!

Using a Raspberry Pi 3, speakers, SparkFun’s MEMS microphone breakout board, and an analogue-to-digital converter (ADC), the IoT Pet Monitor is fairly easy to recreate, all thanks to Jennifer’s full tutorial on the FoxBot website.

Building the pet monitor

In a nutshell, once the Raspberry Pi and the appropriate bits and pieces are set up, you’ll need to sign up at CloudMQTT — it’s free if you select the Cute Cat account. CloudMQTT will create an invisible bridge between your home and wherever you are that isn’t home, so that you can check in on your pet monitor.

Screenshot CloudMQTT account set-up — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

Image c/o FoxBot Industries

Within the project code, you’ll be able to calculate the peak-to-peak amplitude of sound the microphone picks up. Then you can decide how noisy is too noisy when it comes to the occasional whine and bark of your beloved pup.

MEMS microphone breakout board — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

The MEMS microphone breakout board collects sound data and relays it back to the Raspberry Pi via the ADC.
Image c/o FoxBot Industries

Next you can import sounds to a preset song list that will be played back when the volume rises above your predefined threshold. As Jennifer states in the tutorial, the sounds can easily be recorded via apps such as Garageband, or even on your mobile phone.

Using the pet monitor

Whenever the Bark Back IoT Pet Monitor is triggered to play back audio, this information is fed to the CloudMQTT service, allowing you to see if anything is going on back home.

A sitting dog with a doll in its mouth — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

*incoherent coos of affection from Alex*
Image c/o FoxBot Industries

And as Jennifer recommends, a update of the project could include a camera or sensors to feed back more information about your home environment.

If you’ve created something similar, be sure to let us know in the comments. And if you haven’t, but you’re now planning to build your own IoT pet monitor, be sure to let us know in the comments. And if you don’t have a pet but just want to say hi…that’s right, be sure to let us know in the comments.

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N-O-D-E’s always-on networked Pi Plug

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N-O-D-E’s Pi Plug is a simple approach to using a Raspberry Pi Zero W as an always-on networked device without a tangle of wires.

Pi Plug 2: Turn The Pi Zero Into A Mini Server

Today I’m back with an update on the Pi Plug I made a while back. This prototype is still in the works, and is much more modular than the previous version. https://N-O-D-E.net/piplug2.html https://github.com/N-O-D-E/piplug —————- Shop: http://N-O-D-E.net/shop/ Patreon: http://patreon.com/N_O_D_E_ BTC: 17HqC7ZzmpE7E8Liuyb5WRbpwswBUgKRGZ Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ceA-nL Music: https://archive.org/details/Fwawn-FromManToGod

The Pi Zero Power Case

In a video early last year, YouTuber N-O-D-E revealed his Pi Zero Power Case, an all-in-one always-on networked computer that fits snugly against a wall power socket.

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi Plug

The project uses an official Raspberry Pi power supply, a Zero4U USB hub, and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and it allows completely wireless connection to a network. N-O-D-E cut the power cord and soldered its wires directly to the power input of the USB hub. The hub powers the Zero via pogo pins that connect directly to the test pads beneath.

The Power Case is a neat project, but it may be a little daunting for anyone not keen on cutting and soldering the power supply wires.

Pi Plug 2

In his overhaul of the design, N-O-D-E has created a modular reimagining of the previous always-on networked computer that fits more streamlined to the wall socket and requires absolutely no soldering or hacking of physical hardware.

Pi Plug

The Pi Plug 2 uses a USB power supply alongside two custom PCBs and a Zero W. While one PCB houses a USB connector that slots directly into the power supply, two blobs of solder on the second PCB press against the test pads beneath the Zero W. When connected, the PCBs run power directly from the wall socket to the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Neat!

NODE Plug Raspberry Pi NODE Plug Raspberry Pi NODE Plug Raspberry Pi NODE Plug Raspberry Pi

While N-O-D-E isn’t currently selling these PCBs in his online store, all files are available on GitHub, so have a look if you want to recreate the Pi Plug.

Uses

In another video — and seriously, if you haven’t checked out N-O-D-E’s YouTube channel yet, you really should — he demonstrates a few changes that can turn your Zero into a USB dongle computer. This is a great hack if you don’t want to carry a power supply around in your pocket. As N-O-D-E explains:

Besides simply SSH’ing into the Pi, you could also easily install a remote desktop client and use the GUI. You can share your computer’s internet connection with the Pi and use it just like you would normally, but now without the need for a monitor, chargers, adapters, cables, or peripherals.

We’re keen to see how our community is hacking their Zeros and Zero Ws in order to take full advantage of the small footprint of the computer, so be sure to share your projects and ideas with us, either in the comments below or via social media.

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Hacker House’s Zero W–powered automated gardener

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Are the plants in your home or office looking somewhat neglected? Then build an automated gardener using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, with help from the team at Hacker House.

Make a Raspberry Pi Automated Gardener

See how we built it, including our materials, code, and supplemental instructions, on Hackster.io: https://www.hackster.io/hackerhouse/automated-indoor-gardener-a90907 With how busy our lives are, it’s sometimes easy to forget to pay a little attention to your thirsty indoor plants until it’s too late and you are left with a crusty pile of yellow carcasses.

Building an automated gardener

Tired of their plants looking a little too ‘crispy’, Hacker House have created an automated gardener using a Raspberry Pi Zero W alongside some 3D-printed parts, a 5v USB grow light, and a peristaltic pump.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

They designed and 3D printed a PLA casing for the project, allowing enough space within for the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the pump, and the added electronics including soldered wiring and two N-channel power MOSFETs. The MOSFETs serve to switch the light and the pump on and off.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

Due to the amount of power the light and pump need, the team replaced the Pi’s standard micro USB power supply with a 12v switching supply.

Coding an automated gardener

All the code for the project — a fairly basic Python script —is on the Hacker House GitHub repository. To fit it to your requirements, you may need to edit a few lines of the code, and Hacker House provides information on how to do this. You can also find more details of the build on the hackster.io project page.

Hacker House Automated Gardener Raspberry Pi

While the project runs with preset timings, there’s no reason why you couldn’t upgrade it to be app-based, for example to set a watering schedule when you’re away on holiday.

To see more for the Hacker House team, be sure to follow them on YouTube. You can also check out some of their previous Raspberry Pi projects featured on our blog, such as the smartphone-connected door lock and gesture-controlled holographic visualiser.

Raspberry Pi and your home garden

Raspberry Pis make great babysitters for your favourite plants, both inside and outside your home. Here at Pi Towers, we have Bert, our Slack- and Twitter-connected potted plant who reminds us when he’s thirsty and in need of water.

Bert Plant on Twitter

I’m good. There’s plenty to drink!

And outside of the office, we’ve seen plenty of your vegetation-focused projects using Raspberry Pi for planting, monitoring or, well, commenting on social and political events within the media.

If you use a Raspberry Pi within your home gardening projects, we’d love to see how you’ve done it. So be sure to share a link with us either in the comments below, or via our social media channels.

 

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The Fisher Piano: make music in the air

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Piano keys are so limiting! Why not swap them out for LEDs and the wealth of instruments in Pygame to build air keys, as demonstrated by Instructables maker 2fishy?

Raspberry Pi LED Light Schroeder Piano – Twinkle Little Star

Raspberry Pi LED Light Schroeder Piano – Twinkle Little Star

Keys? Where we’re going you don’t need keys!

This project, created by either Yolanda or Ken Fisher (or both!), uses an array of LEDs and photoresistors to form a MIDI sequencer. Twelve LEDs replace piano keys, and another three change octaves and access the menu.

Each LED is paired with a photoresistor, which detects the emitted light to form a closed circuit. Interrupting the light beam — in this case with a finger — breaks the circuit, telling the Python program to perform an action.

2fishy LED light piano raspberry pi

We’re all hoping this is just the scaled-down prototype of a full-sized LED grand piano

Using Pygame, the 2fishy team can access 75 different instruments and 128 notes per instrument, making their wooden piano more than just a one-hit wonder.

Piano building

The duo made the piano’s body out of plywood, hardboard, and dowels, and equipped it with a Raspberry Pi 2, a speaker, and the aforementioned LEDs and photoresistors.

2fishy LED light piano raspberry pi

A Raspberry Pi 2 and speaker sit within the wooden body, with LEDs and photoresistors in place of the keys.

A complete how-to for the build, including some rather fancy and informative schematics, is available at Instructables, where 2fishy received a bronze medal for their project. Congratulations!

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about using Pygame, check out The MagPi’s Make Games with Python Essentials Guide, available both in print and as a free PDF download.

And for more music-based projects using a variety of tech, be sure to browse our free resources.

Lastly, if you’d like to see more piano-themed Raspberry Pi projects, take a look at our Big Minecraft Piano, these brilliant piano stairs, this laser-guided piano teacher, and our video below about the splendid Street Fighter duelling pianos we witnessed at Maker Faire.

Pianette: Piano Street Fighter at Maker Faire NYC 2016

Two pianos wired up as Playstation 2 controllers allow users to battle…musically! We caught up with makers Eric Redon and Cyril Chapellier of foobarflies a…

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When tiny robot COZMO met our tiny Raspberry Pi

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Hack your COZMO for ultimate control, using a Raspberry Pi and this tutorial from Instructables user Marcelo ‘mjrovai’ Rovai.

Cozmo – RPi 4

Full integration The complete tutorial can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/When-COZMO-the-Robot-Meets-the-Raspberry-Pi/

COZMO

COZMO is a Python-programmable robot from ANKI that boasts a variety of on-board sensors and a camera, and that can be controlled via an app or via code. To get an idea of how COZMO works, check out this rather excitable video from the wonderful Mayim Bialik.

The COZMO SDK

COZMO’s creators, ANKI, provide a Software Development Kit (SDK) so that users can get the most out of their COZMO. This added functionality is a great opportunity for budding coders to dive into hacking their toys, without the risk of warranty voiding/upsetting parents/not being sure how to put a toy back together again.

By the way, I should point out that this is in no way a sponsored blog post. I just think COZMO is ridiculously cute…because tiny robots are adorable, no matter their intentions.

Raspberry Pi Doctor Who Cybermat

Marcelo Rovai + Raspberry Pi + COZMO

For his Instructables tutorial, Marcelo connected an Android device running the COZMO app to his Raspberry Pi 3 via USB. Once USB debugging had been enabled on his device, he installed the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) to the Raspberry Pi. Then his Pi was able to recognise the connected Android device, and from there, Marcelo moved on to installing the SDK, including support for COZMO’s camera.

COZMO Raspberry Pi

The SDK comes with pre-installed examples, allowing users to try out the possibilities of the kit, such as controlling what COZMO says by editing a Python script.

Cozmo and RPi

Hello World The complete tutorial can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/When-COZMO-the-Robot-Meets-the-Raspberry-Pi/

Do more with COZMO

Marcelo’s tutorial offers more example code for users of the COZMO SDK, along with the code to run the LED button game featured in the video above, and tips on utilising the SDK to take full advantage of COZMO. Check it out here on Instructables, and visit his website for even more projects.

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