How you, an adult, can take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge

via Raspberry Pi

So, yesterday we announced the launch of the 2019/2020 European Astro Pi Challenge, and adults across the globe groaned with jealousy as a result. It’s OK, we did too.

The Astro Pi Challenge is the coolest thing ever

The European Astro Pi Challenge is ridiculously cool. It’s definitely one of the most interesting, awesome, spectacular uses of a Raspberry Pi in the known universe. Two Raspberry Pis in stellar, space-grade aluminium cases are currently sat aboard the International Space Station, waiting for students in ESA Member States to write code to run on them to take part in the Astro Pi Challenge.

But what if, like us, you’re too old to take part in the challenge? How can you get that great sense of space wonderment when you’re no longer at school?

You’re never too old…even when you’re too old

If you’re too old to take part in the challenge, it means you’re old enough to be a team mentor. Team mentors are responsible for helping students navigate the Astro Pi Challenge, ensuring that everyone is where they’re meant to be, doing what they’re meant to be doing. You’ll also also the contact between the team and us, Raspberry Pi and ESA. You’re basically a team member.

You’re basically taking part.

Mission Zero requires no coding knowledge

Mission Zero requires very little of its participants:

  • They don’t need to have any prior knowledge of coding
  • They don’t need a Raspberry Pi

And while they need an adult to supervise them, said adult doesn’t need any coding experience either.

(Spoiler alert: you’re said adult.)

Instead, you just need an hour to sit down with your team at a computer and work through some directions. And the result? Your team’s completed code will run aboard the International Space Station, and they’ll get a certificate to prove it.

You really have no excuse

If you live in an ESA Member State and know anyone aged 14 years or younger, there is absolutely no reason for them not to take part in Astro Pi Mission Zero. And, since they’re probably not reading this blog post right now, it’s your responsibility to tell them about Astro Pi. This is how you take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge: you become the bearer of amazing news when you sit your favourite kids down and tell them they’re going to be writing code that will run on the International Space Station…IN SPACE!

To find out more about Mission Zero, click here. We want to see you pledging your support to your favourite non-adults, so make sure to tell us you’re going to be taking part by leaving a comment below.

There really is no excuse.



*ESA Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Residents of Slovenia, Canada, or Malta can also take part.

The post How you, an adult, can take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Friday Product Post: Heart Nouveau

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone! We have a couple new products this week, starting with our new Qwiic-enabled Pulse Oximeter and Heart Rate Sensor! That's not all, though - we also have a new 55-piece Electric Hobby Screwdriver and a USB Power Meter with a Color TFT LCD.

Before we get to new products, keep in mind that today, September 13th, is the LAST day to take advantage of our Two Weeks of Free Event. If you want to pick up one of three free Qwiic sensors with the purchase of a Qwiic RedBoard or Artemis RedBoard, make sure to check out before 11:59 p.m. MT today!

Now, on to the new products!

Be sure to check your pulse!

SparkFun Pulse Oximeter and Heart Rate Sensor - MAX30101 & MAX32664 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Pulse Oximeter and Heart Rate Sensor - MAX30101 & MAX32664 (Qwiic)


The SparkFun Pulse Oximeter and Heart Rate Sensor is an I2C-based biometric sensor, utilizing two chips from Maxim Integrated: the MAX32664 Biometric Sensor Hub and the MAX30101 Pulse Oximetry and Heart Rate Module. While the latter does all the sensing, the former is an incredibly small and fast Cortex M4 processor that handles all of the algorithmic calculations, digital filtering, pressure/position compensation, advanced R-wave detection and automatic gain control. We've provided a Qwiic connector to easily connect to the I2C data lines, but you will also need to connect to two additional lines. This board is very small, measuring at 1 in x 0.5 in (25.4 mm x 12.7 mm), which means it will fit nicely on your finger without all the bulk.

Electric Hobby Screwdriver Set

Electric Hobby Screwdriver Set


This Electric Hobby Screwdriver Set is great for dealing with small screws in a variety of applications, all enclosed in a handy plastic carrying case with a magnetic lid. The real magic of this tool is the extensive bit collection included: 55 magnetic H4 hex bits (plus an extension rod)! Also included is a magnetic project mat to keep the screws you remove organized and prevent them from running away.

USB Power Meter (Color TFT LCD)

USB Power Meter (Color TFT LCD)


This USB Power Meter is a versatile little tool that can provide voltage readings down to 0.01V and current to 0.001A, displayed on the built-in color TFT LCD while your device is connected to a power source. You can also measure the capacity and power of battery packs/power banks, as well as temperature and cable impedance!

That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

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Enginursday: ESP32 Thing Plus Web Server

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog


This is now the second post of many in an on-going project to "make smart" the lights in my house. I've broken up the project into a number of parts; the first blog post dealt with the process of building IR tripwires to keep track of the number of people entering and exiting the garden level in my house. The IR tripwire project was a journey into the timing of microcontrollers to create modulated IR signals, which signal the microcontroller to count up or down depending on the order of the tripwires being tripped. As deep as that journey went into hardware, this part of the project will conversely be wide, rather than deep, as we sweep the land of web page development.

As the project grows, I'll be creating a tutorial to keep better track of the actual project. It will take some time to complete the tutorial, as the project is large. If you follow along it'd be great to hear what things tripped you up in any one particular section; it will undoubtedly help someone out there with similar questions. One last thing - I picked this project because it looked super fun, but more importantly because I wanted to be baptized in the world of WiFi on microcontrollers. I say that because not every decision is well informed; sometimes you plow blindly ahead so as to look back upon your decisions and grow wiser in doing so.

The Why, What and How (WWH)

Let's begin by discussing the decision that led to using an ESP32 Thing Plus, SPIFFS, and ESPAsync Web Server. After reading on Hackaday about a person's four-year journey into building an IoT garage door opener, I was inspired to finish the relayed-controlled lights. Much like his project, I wanted a Web Server on an ESP-based board that had an attractive interface, and could reliably but simply complete the task of flipping one of four relays.

This image shows the current layout of the webpage.
This is a Web Server on an ESP32, with VIM Solarized theme!

It also had to display the status of each individual light on the web page in real time (no page refresh). Prior to beginning the project I had experience in what HTML looked like, and some experience using bootstrap in our hookup guides - not really understanding that it was a toolkit for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML and Javascript (JS). I had completely zero idea on how they all interacted to create web pages and what each individual component did, so it was with great relief that someone had left some bread crumbs to help me piece together the big chunks while leaving a lot of the details to me. Fear not, the tutorial will be those bread crumbs. Now how do we accomplish this seemingly simple task of creating a web page on an ESP32? Let's start with the FSBrowser Example in the ESP8266 Example Code.

The WWH - File System Browser and SPI Flash File System (FSBroswer and SPIFFS)

Why are we talking about the ESP8266, when the ESP32 Thing Plus is clearly in the title? I started with the ESP8266 in the first part of this series because I was under the assumption that support for the ESP8266 still out-paced the ESP32, and also because the ESP32 Thing Plus was not out yet. Coincidentally, the aforementioned blog post also used an ESP8266 - nice.

We'll talk about switching microcontrollers in a bit, but first, what is the FSBroswer example all about? FSBrowser is short for "File System Browser". What the example does is provide code that allows you to navigate files on the ESP like it was a hard drive of flash memory. This is used in conjunction with the SPI Flash File System Library, or SPIFFS Library, that organizes the files for serial upload via USB for your ESP board. Specifying which files is as easy as putting them in a folder named "data" sharing the same folder as your Arduino sketch. In addition, there is a tool built for the Arduino IDE that handles the transfer of these files onto your ESP. You have to download and add either the EPS8266 File Upload tool or the ESP32 File Upload tool (depending on your microcontroller) to the Arduino IDE. There'll be more details or are more details in the tutorial (depends on when you're reading this).

The ESP32 Thing Plus = 16MB of memory

A web page, similar to an Arduino sketch, has a number of interlinking files: the style sheets, javascript files and/or jquery files. All of these take up space on our small microcontroller, and since we're using it as a hard drive of sorts then space matters. The ESP8266 doesn't have much space when compared to the ESP32 Thing Plus, and the EPS32 has GOBS of it - 16MB of flash memory. Also at this point, while the ESP8266 has proven reliable throughout the years, it feels like starting a project with Python 2.7 when Python 3 is the latest and greatest (RIP Python 2.7 Support BTW).

FSBrowser or ESPAsync FSBrowser Example?

Again, the amount of space the files take up is important for obvious reasons - it's a file system on a microcontroller. When I first started the project, I downloaded Node.js as an easy package installation manager. I used it to naively download everything suggested on the Bootstrap page - Bootstrap, Popper.js and jquery - because I didn't know what was necessary and what wasn't. "Best to start with everything," was my refrain.

Power MAX30101 Side Power MAX32664 Side

After some experimentation and time getting familiar with the project, I was able to greatly reduce the file size to 350 KB. I loaded up the FSBrowser example and uploaded my files to the ESP32, but was dismayed to find that my snappy color theme was not being loaded.

Image of a broken web page

Looking at the developer console in Chrome, I found that the dependent files were not being accessed due to the following error.

This image shows the files that were NOT being retrieved for the web page.
Well why NOT?!

I spent hours searching for clues and repeatedly came across the ESPAsync Library. It touted many benefits in the README, and since I wasn't getting anywhere in my search I was inclined to try it – it worked immediately. Huzzah! I can't really report on the benefits of the library because I never got the chance to run into the limitations of the previous example code, since I couldn't get it to host my web server correctly. The new library touts being asynchronus, which translates into my server being able to handle multiple connections. If you have any ideas on the other benefits of this library, I'd be happy to hear them.

What's next?

The web page should be able to dynamically be updated. If multiple people are connected, then the web page needs to be able to alert anyone on the page that a light has been switched on. I would also like to save the state of the relays and the WiFi info (network name and password) locally in a JSON file. Keep an eye out on this tutorial for updates as I get along in the project. It will have detailed instructions on how to do all the above, including the whosit whatsits of the first blog post, and of course, what's to come. If you'd like to follow the project as I work on it, then take a look at my Github Repo for all the updates. I'd love to hear any trip ups you've had making a web server, or the things you wish you had known before starting. Do you have any advice for me? I'd like to hear that too!

Shout Out!

Shout out to me-no-dev for your excellent work on the ESPAsync library, and to Ludzinc for your excellent blog post on the garage door opener, which inspired all the fun I'm having with this project.

Links from the Post

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Run your code aboard the International Space Station with Astro Pi

via Raspberry Pi

Each year, the European Astro Pi Challenge allows students and young people in ESA Member States (or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta) to write code for their own experiments, which could run on two Raspberry Pi units aboard the International Space Station.

The Astro Pi Challenge is a lot of fun, it’s about space, and so that we in the Raspberry Pi team don’t have to miss out despite being adults, many of us mentor their own Astro Pi teams — and you should too!

So, gather your team, stock up on freeze-dried ice cream, and let’s do it again: the European Astro Pi Challenge 2019/2020 launches today!

Luca Parmitano launches the 2019-20 European Astro Pi Challenge

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is this year’s ambassador of the European Astro Pi Challenge. In this video, he welcomes students to the challenge and gives an overview of the project. Learn more about Astro Pi: ★ Subscribe: and click twice on the bell button to receive our notifications.

The European Astro Pi Challenge 2019/2020 is made up of two missions: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Astro Pi Mission Zero

Mission Zero has been designed for beginners/younger participants up to 14 years old and can be completed in a single session. It’s great for coding clubs or any groups of students don’t have coding experience but still want to do something cool — because having confirmation that code you wrote has run aboard the International Space Station is really, really cool! Teams write a simple Python program to display a message and temperature reading on an Astro Pi computer, for the astronauts to see as they go about their daily tasks on the ISS. No special hardware or prior coding skills are needed, and all teams that follow the challenge rules are guaranteed to have their programs run in space!

Astro Pi Mission Zero logo

Mission Zero eligibility

  • Participants must be no older than 14 years
  • 2 to 4 people per team
  • Participants must be supervised by a teacher, mentor, or educator, who will be the point of contact with the Astro Pi team
  • Teams must be made up of at least 50% team members who are citizens of an ESA Member* State, or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab

Mission Space Lab is aimed at more experienced/older participants up to 19 years old, and it takes place in 4 phases over the course of 8 months. The challenge is to design and write a program for a scientific experiment to be run on an Astro Pi computer. The best experiments will be deployed to the ISS, and teams will have the opportunity to analyse and report on their results.

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab logo

Mission Space Lab eligibility

  • Participants must be no older than 19 years
  • 2 to 6 people per team
  • Participants must be supervised by a teacher, mentor, or educator, who will be the point of contact with the Astro Pi team
  • Teams must be made up of at least 50% team members who are citizens of an ESA Member State*, or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta

How to plan your Astro Pi Mission Space Lab experiment

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi Code Club UK Code Club International CoderDojo Check out our free online training courses: Find your local Raspberry Jam event: Work through our free online projects: Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

For both missions, each member of the team has to be at least one of the following:

  • Enrolled full-time in a primary or secondary school in an ESA Member State, or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta
  • Homeschooled (certified by the National Ministry of Education or delegated authority in an ESA Member State or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta)
  • A member of a club or after-school group (such as Code Club, CoderDojo, or Scouts) located in an ESA Member State*, or Slovenia, Canada, or Malta

Take part

To take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge, head over to the Astro Pi website, where you’ll find more information on how to get started getting your team’s code into SPACE!

Obligatory photo of Raspberry Pis floating in space!

*ESA Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom

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Exploring a classic physics problem with Arduino

via Arduino Blog

As described in this project’s write-up, “The brachistochrone curve is a classic physics problem, that derives the fastest path between two points A and B which are at different elevations.” In other words, if you have a ramp leading down to another point, what’s the quickest route?

Intuitively—and incorrectly—you might think this is a straight line, and while you could work out the solution mathematically, this rig releases three marbles at a time, letting them cruise down to the Arduino Uno-based timing mechanism to see which path is fastest. 

The ramps are made out of laser-cut acrylic, and the marbles each strike a microswitch to indicate they’ve finished the race. The build looks like a great way to cement a classic physics problem in students’ minds, and learn even more while constructing the contraption!

The Ifs: Coding for kids, reading skills not required

via Arduino Blog

Learning about how computers work and coding skills will be important for future generations, and if you’d like to get your kids started on this task—potentially before they can even read—the Ifs present an exciting new option. 

The Ifs are a series of four character blocks each with their own abilities, such as reproducing sound, movement, or sensitivity to light and darkness.

Children can program the blocks to accomplish tasks based on instructions that snap onto the top of each using magnets, and the whole “family” can communicate and work together to accomplish more advanced actions as a team. 

As outlined in more detail on this project page, the devices were developed using Arduino technology, and you can sign up here to be notified when they’re ready for crowdfunding.

The Ifs are full of sensors and actuators but they need some instructions in order to function. 

Programming is as simple as placing physical blocks in their heads with the help of magnets. No screens are involved. Each block has a different image serving as an intuitive symbol to represent an instruction. This makes the game suitable for children from the age of three, even before learning to read or write.

We only need different color pieces that are placed on their heads. The different color pieces are instructions that are combined as if it were a code, from being able to light them when it’s dark to making them communicate with each other. This allows kids to play with loops, statements, algorithms while also inventing their own stories. Their imagination is the only limit.