Author Archives: clive

What does a good computing classroom look like?

via Raspberry Pi

Space matters

In September 2014 (as in a couple of weeks) the new Computing curriculum will come into play in schools in England. Basically this means that ICT as a subject will be replaced by Computing and that students from the age of five will have the opportunity to learn an exciting and powerful new subject.

There has been a lot of discussion on how to prepare for this in terms of teacher training. It’s vitally important and it’s why we run Picademy for example. But as the subject matures we also need to start thinking about what an effective computing classroom looks like and how to set it up so that students can get the most from the subject.

Teaching and learning spaces

My primary school was not like others. Pupils were free to roam about and do what they wanted. It was an interesting educational experiment. I now know what happens when pupils are responsible for their own education: they smear their faces with woad (well, Crayola indigo warmed up on the radiator) and then scuttle up trees. (Student voice, I’m looking at you.)

feral-kid_large

Next lesson I will independently investigate the physics of boomerang precession

There were no classrooms in this school of the future, just “bays”—quasi-rooms with no walls, opening onto a central area. It was a terrible environment for most subjects: it’s tricky to concentrate on improper fractions or ‘How come the moon doesn’t fly off into space?’ when the bay across the way is thrashing a class set of percussion instruments like a colony of chimps pummelling the corpse of dead hyena.

So I’ve never been a fan of “learning spaces”. Even typing the phrase makes me start rocking gently and keening. And yet learning spaces are exactly what the new English Computing programme of study needs. Walk into a standard ICT suite in any secondary school in the land and you will be stared down by banks of unblinking monitors lining the walls and the central reservations.

This is not a learning room, it’s a teaching room. It’s set out so that teachers can monitor the monitors (and monitor the monitor monitors if they are lucky enough to have them) and control what the students are doing with their hermetically sealed PCs. What they are typically doing, given the closed nature of hardware and software in most of these suites, is usually pretty anodyne. It should come as no surprise that the word “suite” comes from the old French meaning “a group of identically clad followers”.

suite_large

Even Orwell wouldn’t have gone this far

This new-fangled ICT thing: it’s a slippery slope and no mistake

So what the typical student is doing in the typical ICT suite is … ICT. Which is great! Good teachers are running rich and exciting and useful ICT lessons under the old programme of study (PoS). Outstanding teachers have been including elements of computing into their lessons for years (contrary to the belief of those who had never actually read it, the old PoS was pretty flexible and adaptable). But all too often a school’s ICT policy is that the subject should be safe. Not inspiring or useful or thought provoking. Just safe.

Which would be lovely if this meant ‘safe’ for the kids, but more often than not it means ‘safe’ for the senior management. ICT isn’t to be trusted: kids obviously needed watching because they might do bad things. Like play games. Or watch games on YouTube. Or write games and pretend to be testing them. Students have even been known to flip screens upside down using hot-keys; or draw rude pictures in Paint and set them as the desktop of their neighbour’s machine; or stick a Post-it on the bottom of the teacher’s mouse; or Google “funny gifs of cats with glok’s and a bom lol!”

Hence this urge, especially amongst techno-wary management, to constantly monitor and repress and interfere. Technology that enlightens and frees and encourages experimentation is the same technology that is potentially seditious and disruptive and encourages hacking (hurrah!). So it’s sad but unsurprising that in the current climate schools lock down PCs and stop students from messing about. A more open environment doesn’t require lots of time and money (two big barriers to change in schools) but it does need thoughtful policies and a desire to change.

Would you like a handful of magic beans with that interactive whiteboard sir?

All: "Marie France est dans le jardin" ... beeep.

All together now: “Marie France est dans le jardin.” Beeeeeep.

Of course, if all you want to do is to create things on a screen, then a bank of proprietary PCs does the job (though installing some open source software like Inkscape, Audacity, LibreOffice, Firefox and GIMP wouldn’t hurt). But things have changed since the late 90s when IT quietly became ICT and a new curriculum came in: prescribed hardware and proscribed software just aren’t good enough now that Computing is back (in retrospect, they weren’t even fit for purpose then). A generic classroom stifles creativity and if Computing is one thing, it’s creative.

Looking back at my ten years in an ICT classroom it’s clear to me that most ICT suites are the 21st century equivalent of the shiny new language labs that popcorned into secondary schools in the late 70s: shiny and exciting but ultimately a bit rubbish. My old stock cupboard is full of unused smoke-and-mirrors ICT kit that was sold as the next big thing but turned out to be technology for technology’s sake. (We’re very fond of the old magic beans thing in education, but that’s another blog post entirely.) Technology by itself rarely improves learning. Good teachers in stimulating environments always do.

A new classroom for the new programme of study

For the new Computing programme of study let’s give the students the freedom to tinker and to hack and to experiment and to collaborate. And let’s give them the space and the tools to do this. PCs still have a place of course, but ideally there will be a central table(s) full of electronics, robots, sensors, computers, projects kits, stuff you’ve found in skips, printers, bits and bobs, cutters and a runcible spoon. (And, of course, Raspberry Pis!) Let anyone who wants to play come in at break, lunchtime and after school to mess around. Encourage other subjects to use computing as a creative tool, one they can use in their lessons, and to look at Computing and not say “Whatever” but “Hmmm, that’s interesting…” (Because if Computing is not used across the whole curriculum then we are missing both the point and a huge learning opportunity.)

For this we are going to have to change our ICT rooms from teaching rooms to learning spaces. It’s not a trivial thing and it won’t happen overnight. But if you are offered a new room in which to teach Computing this September, or you get the chance to re-purpose an existing ICT suite, please make it the first thing on your agenda. In fact, make a space like this:

In time, ten years perhaps, computing in schools will be a normal tool for problem solving and creativity. Just a tool to do things in the same way that, on a much smaller scale, a calculator is used today in Maths (although the things you can do are very much cooler and more useful than telling your mate to type in ’5318008′ and hand it, upside down, to your teacher). In the meantime, let’s get the learning spaces right. The rest will drop into place.

How you can help

We’re currently writing materials on how to set up a computing classroom and we’d like your help. What would your ideal computing space look like and why? What would you like to see in there, how would it be set up and how could the Raspberry Pi Foundation help you with this? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the final materials will be published in our resources area. Comments below would be lovely, thanks!

Call for questions: Q & A interview with the engineering and education teams

via Raspberry Pi

Back in February 2014, Matt Timmons-Brown captured Gordon, our Head of Software, and would not let him go to the café for his “Gordon Special” until he had spilled all of our secrets.

Gordon Hollingworth in interview

Gordon thinking about ‘Specials” as the ghost of a Toltec shaman hoots mournfully over his shoulder.

Matt is spending some time at Raspberry Pi Towers shortly and we’d like to do this again, but this time with added educationy goodness from one of the education team.

So: what would you like to know about Raspberry Pi? Post your questions below. The more questions we get the more interesting the Q&A sessions will be, so fire away!

PA Consulting Raspberry Pi Competition

via Raspberry Pi

The PA Raspberry Pi competition challenges young people to use the Raspberry Pi to make the world a better place. Last year I helped judge the competition and was amazed by the creativity and innovation of the entries (the excellent AirPi was one of last year’s winners). This year’s event was held in the Science Museum, and I went along to judge the Year 4-6 and Year 7-11 categories, and to run some workshops along the way.

The Sonic Pi workshops were fantastic—they almost ran themselves, with the students continually trying out new things in quest to make the best music or silliest sounds (the exploding farmyard was a particular favourite). I’ve said it before, but Sonic Pi is genius.

In the afternoon I joined my fellow judges: Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, and Claire Sutcliffe, co-founder of Code Club. We spent 15 minutes talking to each of the seven teams.  The winning projects had to have the potential to benefit the world in some way and we were also looking for things like innovation, creativity and originality. What really stood out was the energy of the teams — they all talked passionately and knowledgeably about their projects and how they had used the Raspberry Pi to solve real world problems.

stmarys

St Mary’s CE Primary, with Pi ‘n’ Mighty, their recycling robot

The year 4-6 category was won by St Mary’s CE Primary School with their recycling robot Pi ‘n’ Mighty. The robot scans packaging barcodes and then tells you if it can be recycled and which bin to put it in. The team was bursting with energy and falling over themselves to explain how they’d made it and what it did. I’d love to see a Pi ‘n’ Mighty in every school canteen, encouraging recycling and helping children learn about the topic. And it looks fantastic, exactly how a robot should look!

plantpi

Frome Community College won the year 7-11 category prize with their prodigious Plant Pi, a system to care for plants and monitor their environment. The team had covered every aspect including hardware and web monitoring, and they had even created an app. It really is a brilliantly designed and engineered solution that already has the makings of a commercial product. The project is open source and includes code, instructions, parts list and documentation.

It was a great day and it was a real pleasure to speak to the finalists and to see young people doing remarkable and useful things with the Raspberry Pi. If I could bottle the innovation, enthusiasm, creativity and technical skills in that room then I would have a Phial of Awesome +10. (I would carry it around with me in a belt holster and open it for the occasional sniff when feeling uninspired.) Best of all, I know that we’ll be seeing some of these finalists again: skills like computational thinking stay with you for life and will serve these kids in whatever they do in the future.

The Hour of Code and all things educational

via Raspberry Pi

There’s been a media brouhaha about coding recently**. The Hour of Code puts this into perspective—it’s all about demystifying what coding is, having a play and realising that it isn’t as arcane or difficult as you thought. Of course at one end of the scale, computer science can be as challenging as it gets. But at the other end you can dip your toe in and start to appreciate that Computing as a subject, and programming specifically, can be creative, purposeful and lots of fun.

And if you’d like to try some Raspberry Pi based activities as part of the Hour of Code week here’s a small taster of the teaching and learning materials that we’re writing and collating for our new website (launching end of March). It includes Sonic Pi, Minecraft Pi, Google Coder and, of course, a screaming jelly baby. Enjoy :)

Carrie Anne and Ben from the Raspberry Pi Education Team are telling me to shut up now as they would like to say stuff. So I’ll leave them to it…

Carrie Anne

During the Jamboree at the EICE conference last week, Ben and I spoke about our work at the foundation on the new website and our vision to produce educational Raspberry Pi resources for teachers and learners. Since this talk we have been inundated with offers of support and want to know more. (This is the best community!)

There are many ways in which you can help us:

  • Firstly by taking an active role in the education section of our forum. If you have created a great resource, ran a good workshop session, or created a video tutorial, then post it here. Let’s get this section of the community talking.
  • Submit your resources to be used on the new website (leave a comment below to get in touch, and we’ll email you). In the not too distant future we would like to create a form for you to submit your resources to be considered for use. We are writing our resources in markdown, so if you already have stuff on GitHub for example it would be easy for us to point to them or fork them for reuse. You may wish to write up your mega cool resources in a similar way.
  • We need testers! Before many of our resources go live, especially those intended for the classroom, we would like them to get feedback from our audience and suggestions. We’d also like to make sure they work! Again, leave a comment if you’d like to help.
  • Run a Jam in your area. Why not start a Jam or attend a jam in your area to support young people and invite teachers from local schools to attend?

The Hour of Code resources are a taster of what is to come on the website, and we would be interested in hearing your feedback on them. Please test, check, and give us productive pointers.

Ben

Introducing Raspberry Pi Learning on GitHub! We set up a new GitHub organisation to host our learning resources and educational material. Each resource will have its own repository here, and we’ll be using git to manage changes in the team and from the community. Within hours of these being live (even before we announced it) we had our first pull request from Alex Eames – who fixed some typos and cleaned up some Python GPIO code with better practices (thanks, Alex!).

Our resources are written in Markdown, which is really easy to use and to manage. The links in the Hour of Code page show the markdown rendered by GitHub, and when we launch our new website they will be rendered nicely in the site template, which work beautifully on screen. We’ll also provide printer-friendly alternatives. (We’re not showing you what things will look like in the new site template yet because we don’t want to spoil the surprise!)

If you’re writing any resources or documentation (or anything, really) I’d recommend you look at using Markdown – you can pick it up quite quickly with this GitHub Flavoured Markdown guide. If you spot a mistake or have an improvement you can open an issue to alert us of it, or even fork the repository, fix it and open a pull request, which we can evaluate and merge if suitable.

[**Short version: 'coding' is actually just a small part of computing, which is a fantastically rich, exciting, creative, challenging, cross-curricular, all-around-us-in-everyday-life, useful and powerful toolkit for thinking, problem solving and making stuff. Phew.]

Code Club Pro: a training programme to support primary school teachers

via Raspberry Pi

From September 2014 Computing will be a subject in its own right in UK schools. Of course at Raspberry Pi Towers we are delighted (and I mean dancing around like a drunk uncle at a wedding reception delighted) that young people will now have the opportunity to study one of the most creative, exciting and challenging subjects in the curriculum. But who will teach them? Computing is effectively a brand new subject and there are relatively few specialist teachers to deliver it. The problem is worse for primary school teachers who have to teach a range of different subjects and who typically have fewer IT resources than secondary schools.

So, of course, we need to train teachers, especially primary teachers. And training works wonders—teachers arrive at my courses full of trepidation and weird rumours (you need to be a maths genius; it’s all about programming; coding gives you hairy palms). They walk out of the end of the day confident and buzzing with excitement and ideas. That’s all it takes. Of course no one will be an expert after one day, but the point is that you don’t have to be. Computing at this level is about problem solving and puzzles and creative fun—things that human beings are naturally drawn to and enjoy. And it’s definitely not just about “coding”. Whatever that is.

So hurrah for training! Let’s all sign up for a course at our local school! Except … there isn’t any to speak of. What there is is typically dispersed and expensive and of variable content. What teachers and schools need is widely available, low-cost, high quality, curriculum-centred training.

Which is what Code Club thought too. So in true Code Club fashion they decided to just do it. We love Code Club! Anyway, I’ll let them fill the rest in. I only meant to write a sentence as an intro but as you can tell it’s something I’m passionate about. Plus, I like showboating. And if you are a school or teacher and would like to get involved, pop over to  Code Club Pro’s site for more information.

Code Club, the network of over 1,875 volunteer-led after-school coding clubs, with the support of Google and CAS (Computing at Schools), is launching a nationwide training programme to teach core computing skills to primary school teachers.

The CPD program has been launched in response to widespread teacher demand for training in this area. According to Code Club, which has access to a wide network of schools, the training needs of teachers has so far been overlooked in this process. Its founders said: “Teachers are the key front-line implementers of the curriculum and more needs to be done to support this transition”.

Pupils and teachers with George Osborn

Code Club Pro was launched today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, at a special Code Club session in Bexton School in Knutsford, Cheshire.

Launching in April, Code Club Pro will enable primary school teachers to quickly understand the requirements of the new computing curriculum. The mission is to deliver training in computing to over 20,000 primary school teachers by 2016, while reaching many more through the provision of online programmes and resources.

Clare Sutcliffe, Co-Founder and CEO of Code Club, said: “The addition of coding to the new primary school curriculum is a great step forward for the UK education sector. However, to date, there has been a lack of focus on how to equip the primary school teachers to actually teach this new subject. We know first hand that teachers are feeling daunted by the prospect of having to teach a syllabus they don’t fully understand themselves. As a result, we decided to create a training programme that would help support them through this period of change.

“As a not-for-profit, Code Club is able to focus on a core objective of supporting as many teachers and children as possible, through the provision of fun, accessible and affordable training, which hands on and experiential. Our goal is to improve access to training, so that teachers can feel confident and excited about delivering the new computing curriculum.”

MagPi issue 20 – your free Raspberry Pi magazine, out now

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Issue 20, February 2014, of the excellent MagPi Magazine was released this week. I’m completely stealing the editorial by Matt from The MagPi team to introduce this issue (as you may have guessed, Liz is away. And I am not as good as Liz at this. There, I said it :) )  Anyway, read The MagPi! It’s jam packed with brilliant stuff as ever:

After a massive response, we are pleased to write that the article series ‘Bake your own Pi filling’ is back by popular demand! In this article Martin Kalitis throws down the gauntlet by instructing how to create a bootable Linux SD card which can load within 10 seconds.

Cover of Magpi magazine issue 20

We have more from the Caribbean with Project Curacao. This project has been so popular with our readers that John Shovic is extending it further, in a future issue, with a conclusion presenting the project’s results. In this issue John reviews the building and installation of the camera and shutter mount into the project, allowing the production of timed photos, before updating us on changes made to the project from past articles.

Deepak Patil introduces his project for panoramic photography using Pi-Pan, a robotic arm controlled by his Raspberry Pi to move his Pi Camera. Deepak looks at some of the code used to control this clever kit and discusses how to take pictures while out in your car.

We have more from Andy Baker’s Quadcopter series with this issue reviewing his pre-flight checks. His article looks at controlling the movement of the Quadcopter and provides some handy questions and answers for those of you who have been building this project.

We have a great article detailing John Hobson’s and Efrain Olivares’ journey into managing the frustrating problem of internet dropout. We then head over to France where Yann Caron presents his development environment and language ‘Algoid’, before the NanoXion chaps present their Raspberry Pi colocation service.

Clive again: just to add that The MagPi is a magazine produced by the Raspberry Pi community for the Raspberry Pi community. It will always be free to download; but if you prefer a physical magazine you can also buy print copies, thanks to the team’s successful Kickstarter. All the back issues are available for you to download, and they’re full of tutorials, interviews, type-in listings and everything you’ll need to get started with a Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Jamboree, Manchester 27 Feb – 1 Mar 2014

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The 2014 Raspberry Jamboree is coming up at the end of February. Last year was fantastic and this year’s is looking bigger and better. Carrie Anne, Dave, Ben and I will see you there! Organiser Alan O’Donohoe tells us more:

I’m a Computing teacher in and I’m always on the look out for resources and strategies to make the teaching of Computing more engaging and inspiring. That’s why I organised the Raspberry Jamboree in March 2013, to help share the educational potential of the Raspberry Pi computer. If you didn’t manage to get there, you may have seen the videos we shared afterwards of Carrie Anne, Rob Bishop, and Amy Mather.

Last year, we sold all 400 tickets well before the Jamboree. People attended the event in Manchester took part in talks, hands-on practical sessions and an opportunity to meet others to share ideas and projects.

This short film gives a flavour of last year’s event.

Well at the end of this month, we’re holding the 2014 OCR Raspberry Jamboree and this year it’s even bigger than last year, running over three days with a whole range of ways that you can discover the educational potential of the Raspberry Pi computer. At the same time there is also the Education Innovation Conference and Exhibition taking place with many CPD sessions on offer. So it’s not all about the Raspberry Pi, but if you’ve got one and you want to make the most of it, we’ll be able to help you.

On Thursday 27th February during the day we have a variety of talks and hands-on sessions as well as a free twilight session from 4-7pm. On Friday 28th February we have even more talks and activities during the day and in the evening from 5-7pm we celebrate the 2nd birthday of the Raspberry Pi with a family friendly event with fun, games & prizes. I realise that it can be tough to get time out of school, hence the evening & weekend activities too. If you can only be released from school for one day, I would recommend the Friday.

Then on Saturday 1st March at Edge Hill University we are holding our Jam Hack Day for up to 300 children, teachers, parents, enthusiasts etc. to come and learn together and problem solve in teams. Please consider bringing either your family or a group of pupils to this event. You might want to bring a handful of interested pupils, or suggest they make their own way there with their families.

Ooh, BETTy (look, it’s Sunday morning, it’s the best I can do)

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The RPF Education Team is just back from BETT, the education technology show, and it was very good indeed. I love BETT: you get to talk to lots of interesting people about stuff that you’re passionate about; play with the Raspberry Pi and pretend that it’s work; see all the latest education tech; and generally show off. (At the same time it’s also an extraordinarily gruelling four days of demos, talks, meetings, interviews and PR. I feel like I’ve spent the last week being simultaneously coddled with a tickling stick and beaten with a sock full of oranges.)

The show got off to a great start for us when Education Secretary Michael Gove called Raspberry Pi a “brilliant British tech business” in his opening keynote and highlighted the MOOC that we’ve helped create with OCR and Cambridge University Press. It was also surprising and gratifying to see Raspberry Pis on so many stands and in products around the show. Anyway, it’s Sunday so less writing and more pictures are in order:

The Raspberry Pi Foundation Education Team. From left: Dave Honess, Carrie Anne Philbin, Clive Beale and Ben Nuttall

Dave doing technical stuff that I don’t understand.

 

Carrie Anne doing her funky Sonic Pi thing. Or a rabbit puppet show.

Ben gets personal with a Raspberry Pi camera

Clive talks mainly with his hands

The graffiti at BETT is of a very high quality

No one would listen to me when I told them that the command to invert the picture was ‘rm -rf *’

Teaching the world how to be awesome. Go Team Pi!

Wearing the Pi with pride

Showing off our new animation ‘What is a Raspberry Pi?’

Finally, a big thanks to:

  • everyone who came to talk to us and to watch the demos and seminars;
  • OCR for hosting us;
  • Dave, Ben and Carrie Anne, the RPF Education Team. Let’s do it again next year :)

Merry Christmas! Got a new Pi? Read on!

via Raspberry Pi

If you’re here because you got a Raspberry Pi for Christmas, then Happy Christmas – and welcome to the Raspberry Pi family! If you’re just here for fun, then Happy Christmas too!

The Raspberry Pi is a computer that you can use for all sort of brilliant and useful things, from learning to program, to making robots, to Tweeting when birds visit a nesting box, to taking pictures from the stratosphere.

Here are some tips on setting up and using your Raspberry Pi.

1. Make sure your software is up to date

The most important thing is to make sure that you have the latest version of our New Out Of Box Software (NOOBS). You can check this by starting your Raspberry Pi – here’s Carrie Anne to tell you more.

If you don’t have the latest version (1.3.3) we recommend that you go here to get the latest version and follow the instructions (it’s really easy – just download & unzip it and then drag and drop onto a formatted SD card).

2. Setting up

Full set up instructions are in the quick start guide. If you have any issues setting up your Raspberry Pi set up then please visit our forums. Our forum members are a very friendly bunch and will help you with any problems. The FAQ also has lots of tips and useful information

Power

Do make sure that you have a good quality power supply. Some cheaper supplies do not output the power that they claim!

Logging in

When you finally boot up you will be asked to log in. The login is ‘pi’ and the password is ‘raspberry’. Note that nothing appears when you type the password, so tpye caerfuly!

Command line and windows

The Pi boots into a command line where you type instructions to the computer. To start a windows-style graphical user interface, first log in, and then type startx and press enter.

Brain on a stick warning: The Raspberry Pi is special. We built this little computer so that you have to tell it what to do, not the other way round. You’re in charge. It’s a very different experience to unboxing a tablet or laptop—deliberately so!—but because of this it has so much more potential. We accept full responsibility for any learning, thinking or fun that may occur whilst using our product. :)

3. What can you do with your Raspberry Pi?

Because it’s a general purpose computer, you can do loads of stuff. But because it’s also small and light and doesn’t use much power, you can do even more amazing things. And if you just want to use it as a media player then that’s cool with us too.

Want to know more? If you’re under 15, we recommend Carrie Anne Philbin’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi, which will get you set up and hacking away in an afternoon. For anyone over that age, we recommend the official User Guide, co-authored by our very own Eben Upton, which will take you from raw beginnings to automating your whole house.

Merry Christmas! We’ll be back in a few days – we’re taking a little while out to spend time with our families.

Additional resources and projects

The MagPi magazine is full of help, tutorials, projects and ideas. It’s free and quite excellent. The Computing at School Educational manual is also a free download and covers Scratch, Python, Linux and beyond.

Did we mention that we have a free version of Minecraft for the Pi? It’s great fun to play, but even better to program and there are some excellent resources to show you how.

Lastly, here are a few of our favourite blog posts of the last year. It’s a mixed bag, from beginners’ tutorials to professional  projects and we hope that they give you some inspiration and a flavour of what you can do with the Raspberry Pi.

Lincoln Heard, age 3, and his Raspberry Pi

Guest post #5: Raspberry Pi tutorials for complete beginners

Amy’s Game of Life

Oliver and Amelia make a bee box

Google Coder: a simple way to make web stuff on Raspberry Pi

Sonic Pi – a free music and computing resource for teachers, and for the rest of us

Zoological Society of London: saving rhinos with the Pi

BBC Springwatch – and a Pi

Bringing computing to rural Cameroon

Rapiro – the cutest robot you’ll ever meet, now on Kickstarter

High Altitude Ballooning, sixth-form style

Ted Bull Stratos: Babbage’s leap of faith

AirPi – the next step

Radio Lollipop – children’s hospital radio

Lincoln Heard, Minibeasts and Raspberry Pi

Pi 3D scanner: a DIY body scanner

Little Box of Geek from Geek Gurl Diaries

Kegerface – for all your beer stocking needs

The trick or treat greeter

The Wolfram Language and Mathematica on Raspberry Pi, for free

PiePal: order a pizza at the push of a button

via Raspberry Pi

Here’s a Friday night quickie (no, we’re not nipping off to the pub unfortunately—we’re getting ready for tomorrow’s Manchester Raspberry Jam).

Ordering pizza can be such a chore. At the very least you have to pick up the phone and shout, “Bring! Pizza! Here!” At worst it can actually involve going outside and all that that entails. The fine folks at iStrategyLabs have put paid to this nonsense with PiePal, a one button pizza ordering system.

PiePal was designed in SketchUp and printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2. Inside, the Raspberry Pi hooks into the API of Domino’s online ordering system to automatically order your favourite pie when you press the button.

Press the button. You know you want to.

If this has tickled your taste buds–or, indeed, your fancy–you can sign up as a beta tester.

Now: how to stop people—who have gone to sleep on your floor a bit worse for wear—waking up at 3am with the munchies and mashing the PiePal like a crazed lab rat while repeatedly grunting, “Peeeeee-ZAAAAHH! Peeeeee-ZAAAAHH!”

Pi 3D scanner: a DIY body scanner

via Raspberry Pi

The blog’s rather late today but definitely worth the wait we think. It’s an jaw-droppingly brilliant Raspberry Pi-driven 3D scanner by Richard Garsthagen . He used it recently to scan over 200 people at the Groningen Makerfaire with spectacular results:

Richard’s site has details on recent events (including the best party ever: a scanning party) and instructions on how to build your own. It uses 40 Raspberry Pis and cameras but Richard says that he has had impressive results with 12 Pis.

Setting up the scanner. Each of the ‘arms’ has three Pis and cameras mounted top, middle and bottom.

Of course once you’ve been scanned you can be 3D printed:

An early sample taken with 21 cameras. Notice the lettering on the shirt.

There are lots of 3D scanners popping up at the moment. The standout thing about Richard’s build is that the scan is instant—the Pi cameras take simultaneous photos—so there’s no standing still in a ker-ayzee pose whilst lasers or Kinects wibble about doing their thing.

But best of all is that you can build your own 3D scanner and then print yourself. For a science fiction-brewed child of the 70s like myself this is a deeply magical thing and it makes me insanely happy. And just bit overawed.

FM Stream: broadcasting local radio to the internet

via Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is being used increasingly in professional products and industrial applications, and this one from Artica and partners is one of most impressive yet. I can’t better their own description of FM Stream as a beautiful, low cost, carrier grade rack of FM tuners, IP/Internet encoders and broadcasters, using nothing but RaspberryPis, Arduinos, clever electronics, neat mechanics, a shiny aluminium case and lots of passion.”

FM Stream — shiny AND useful

As well as being clever and beautiful, FM Stream does something extraordinarily useful – it takes radio signals from local radio stations and broadcasts them over the internet. It’s designed to be used with no technical experience: just plug an aerial in one end, the internet in the other and off it goes, technomagically turning local into global.

At the heart of things — a Raspberry Pi

There’s a huge amount of hardware and expertise at work here, much of which is detailed in Artica’s blog. On a simpler level it’s fantastic to see the Raspberry Pi at the heart of such a beautifully engineered and useful product.

For a taste of what the FM streamer can do, have listen to this FM station in Luanda, Angola. We’ve been listening to it all afternoon and can highly recommend it — It’s funky.

Gesture detecting air guitar glove with added head banging goodness

via Raspberry Pi

Clive: We like wearable computers; we like music; but most of all we like wearing Blake’s 7 style gauntlets, playing air guitar and head banging. So we were delighted when Adam Smith-Kipnis of Team Hackcouture.io, a small team of technologists and designers “passionate about wearable computing”, got in touch to tell us about their recent win at a wearable computing hackathon. We were really impressed by the short development time and the amount of tech they managed to jam in, including RFID, accelerometers and conductive fabrics. 

Adam kindly says that the Raspberry Pi was “a core element of our success” and here he tells us a bit more about the hackathon and their winning entry:

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Smell the glove (Photo Credit: HackThings.com & Phil Kast)

This past weekend at the Seattle Interactive Conference, AT&T hosted a ‘wearable computing’ themed hackathon competition.  On Tuesday night, team Hackcouture.io was awarded first place with our invention of a mobile, gesture detecting fabric glove, paired with our own air guitar iPhone app.

The modular prototype, conceptualized and created in just 18 hours, uses conductive fabric sensors to track gestures and relays them to a Wi-Fi enabled Raspberry Pi mini-computer, mounted to the arm.  We even used a prototype headset from Plantronics, equipped with an accelerometer for “head bang detection.”  Additionally, the glove was outfitted with an RFID chip in the palm for access control, as well as a gesture detecting Pebble smart watch for display of QR and UPC codes. These are used to share data with mobile apps.

When we think of wearable computing, we think of weaving computing into the fabric and threads you wear.  Today, there are too many seams between computers and clothing.  We want those connections to be seamless. While we see value in this platform with entertainment, productivity and accessibility, what it could become is anyone’s guess.  We’ve seen that when communities come together with the right platform and the right product, some really magical stuff can happen.

The Lotter brothers reach Cairo, first ARM/Raspberry Pi workshop in Africa a success!

via Raspberry Pi

The Lotter brothers have reached Cairo on their epic overland trip to South Africa. (N.B. That’s ‘epic’ as in Odyssean, not as in finishing a really hard boss level or the pizza shop forgetting to charge you for the stuffed crust option.) Fred and Ernest tell their story so far:

In July this year my brother and I departed from England in a Land Rover Defender. Our mission was to drive back to our home country, South Africa. We selected a route which will take us through Europe, Russia, some Middle Eastern countries, and then down the east coast of the African continent.

We are big fans of ARM technology and specifically the Raspberry Pi. Our car is fitted with networked Raspberry Pi’s which control internal lights and external spotlights. We are both electronic engineers (I had the privilege to work at ARM Ltd. for the last 8 years) so we decided to offer some technical workshops to schools, universities, technology hubs and technical business incubators on the way down, with our focus on Africa.

We created a two day workshop which gives attendees the opportunity to learn how to build a complete Raspberry Pi based Embedded Linux system to control external electronics. The workshop consists of technical training and hands-on practical sessions covering a wide range of  topics such as building a custom Linux kernel and root filesystem, GPIO access, networking, multi-threading and Python programming.

 

Due to the current situation in Egypt, it took us almost two months (and two freight ships) to finally get the car and ourselves from Turkey to Cairo.

On the 25th of October we had our first full workshop in Cairo, Egypt. The workshop was hosted by The District and ICE Cairo, both business incubator hubs helping new start-up companies to get on their feet. We ran the workshop for a group of about 20 people all with slightly different technical backgrounds (we had 10 Raspberry Pi kits available for the event).

We start the day by looking at the company ARM Ltd and discuss topics such as the ARM business model, the ARM ecosystem and typical design cycle of an ARM based System-On-Chip (SOC). We then introduce the ARM based Raspberry Pi and discuss the capabilities of the board, and look at the available peripherals.

Demoing the Raspberry Pi at the Cairo workshop

One focus area of this course is Embedded Linux so we then dive straight into Linux application development and we explain how the GPIO, networking and threading API works under Linux. The practical sessions take them from setting up the SD card to completing their first Python program by which they use the GPIO ports to access a simple electronic circuit which they have built on a breadboard using discrete components.

Learning the basics of GPIO

The second half of the course focuses on the Linux kernel and root filesystem. We discuss some of the Linux kernel default configurations for the Raspberry Pi and then look at the Buildroot environment for compiling a custom minimal embedded root filesystem. Finally, we discuss some of the popular filesystem types and consider the problem of corruption on power cuts. The practical sessions gives each person a chance to build a complete kernel and root filesystem from source and set up the SD card from scratch.

We had a fantastic time in Cairo and are looking forward to our next stop in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where we will meet up with people form ICE Addis. Raspberry Pi is sponsoring the practical kits for the workshops we are running – thank you guys!

If anyone is interested in attending or hosting an ARM/Raspberry Pi workshop in Africa in the future, please send us an email or visit our Facebook page.

You can track our current location here.