Tag Archives: Community

Physical computing blocks at Maker Faire New York

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At events like Maker Faire New York, we love offering visitors the chance to try out easy, inviting, and hands-on activities, so we teamed up with maker Ben Light to create interactive physical computing blocks.

Raspberry Blocks FINAL

In response to the need for hands-on, easy and inviting activities at events such as Maker Faire New York, we teamed up with maker Ben Light to create our interactive physical computing blocks.

Getting hands-on experience at events

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we often have the opportunity to engage with families and young people at events such as Maker Faires and STEAM festivals. When we set up a booth, it’s really important to us that we provide an educational, fun experience for everyone who visits us. But there are a few reasons why this can be a challenge.

Girls use the physical computing blocks at Maker Faire New York

For one, you have a broad audience of people with differing levels of experience with computers. Moreover, some people want to take the time to learn a lot, others just want to try something quick and move on. And on top of that, the environment is often loud, crowded, and chaotic…in a good way!

Creating our physical computing blocks

We were up against these challenges when we set out to create a new physical computing experience for our World Maker Faire New York booth. Our goal was to give people the opportunity to try a little bit of circuit making and a little bit of coding — and they should be able to get hands-on with the activity right away.

Inspired by Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio, we sketched out physical computing blocks which let visitors use the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins without needing to work with tiny components or needing to understand how a breadboard works. We turned the sketches over to our friend Ben Light in New York City, and he brought the project to life.

Father and infant child clip crocodile leads to the Raspberry Pi physical computing blocks at Maker Faire New York

As you can see, the activity turned out really well, so we hope to bring it to more events in the future. Thank you, Ben Light, for collaborating with us on it!

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Community Profile: Matthew Timmons-Brown

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This column is from The MagPi issue 57. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

“I first set up my YouTube channel because I noticed a massive lack of video tutorials for the Raspberry Pi,” explains Matthew Timmons-Brown, known to many as The Raspberry Pi Guy. At 18 years old, the Cambridge-based student has more than 60 000 subscribers to his channel, making his account the most successful Raspberry Pi–specific YouTube account to date.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

Matt gives a talk at the Raspberry Pi 5th Birthday weekend event

The Raspberry Pi Guy

If you’ve attended a Raspberry Pi event, there’s a good chance you’ve already met Matt. And if not, you’ll have no doubt come across one or more of his tutorials and builds online. On more than one occasion, his work has featured on the Raspberry Pi blog, with his yearly Raspberry Pi roundup videos being a staple of the birthday celebrations.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

With his website, Matt aimed to collect together “the many strands of The Raspberry Pi Guy” into one, neat, cohesive resource — and it works. From newcomers to the credit card-sized computer to hardened Pi veterans, The Raspberry Pi Guy offers aid and inspiration for many. Looking for a review of the Raspberry Pi Zero W? He’s filmed one. Looking for a step-by-step guide to building a Pi-powered Amazon Alexa? No problem, there’s one of those too.

Make your Raspberry Pi artificially intelligent! – Amazon Alexa Personal Assistant Tutorial

Artificial Intelligence. A hefty topic that has dominated the field since computers were first conceived. What if I told you that you could put an artificial intelligence service on your own $30 computer?! That’s right! In this tutorial I will show you how to create your own artificially intelligent personal assistant, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition and information service!

Raspberry Pi electric skateboard

Last summer, Matt introduced the world to his Raspberry Pi-controlled electric skateboard, soon finding himself plastered over local press as well as the BBC and tech sites like Adafruit and geek.com. And there’s no question as to why the build was so popular. With YouTubers such as Casey Neistat increasing the demand for electric skateboards on a near-daily basis, the call for a cheaper, home-brew version has quickly grown.

DIY 30KM/H ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD – RASPBERRY PI/WIIMOTE POWERED

Over the summer, I made my own electric skateboard using a £4 Raspberry Pi Zero. Controlled with a Nintendo Wiimote, capable of going 30km/h, and with a range of over 10km, this project has been pretty darn fun. In this video, you see me racing around Cambridge and I explain the ins and outs of this project.

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Nintendo Wii Remote, and a little help from members of the Cambridge Makespace community, Matt built a board capable of reaching 30km/h, with a battery range of 10km per charge. Alongside Neistat, Matt attributes the project inspiration to Australian student Tim Maier, whose build we previously covered in The MagPi.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and Eben Upton standing in a car park looking at a smartphone

LiDAR

Despite the success and the fun of the electric skateboard (including convincing Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton to have a go for local television news coverage), the project Matt is most proud of is his wireless LiDAR system for theoretical use on the Mars rovers.

Matthew Timmons-Brown's LiDAR project for scanning terrains with lasers

Using a tablet app to define the angles, Matt’s A Level coursework LiDAR build scans the surrounding area, returning the results to the touchscreen, where they can be manipulated by the user. With his passion for the cosmos and the International Space Station, it’s no wonder that this is Matt’s proudest build.

Built for his A Level Computer Science coursework, the build demonstrates Matt’s passion for space and physics. Used as a means of surveying terrain, LiDAR uses laser light to measure distance, allowing users to create 3D-scanned, high-resolution maps of a specific area. It is a perfect technology for exploring unknown worlds.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and two other young people at a reception in the Houses of Parliament

Matt was invited to St James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament as part of the Raspberry Pi community celebrations in 2016

Joining the community

In a recent interview at Hills Road Sixth Form College, where he is studying mathematics, further mathematics, physics, and computer science, Matt revealed where his love of electronics and computer science started. “I originally became interested in computer science in 2012, when I read a tiny magazine article about a computer that I would be able to buy with pocket money. This was a pretty exciting thing for a 12-year-old! Your own computer… for less than £30?!” He went on to explain how it became his mission to learn all he could on the subject and how, months later, his YouTube channel came to life, cementing him firmly into the Raspberry Pi community

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Computing in schools: the report card

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Today the Royal Society published After the Reboot, a report card on the state of computing education in UK schools. It’s a serious piece of work, published with lots of accompanying research and data, and well worth a read if you care about these issues (which, if you’re reading this blog, I guess you do).

The headline message is that, while a lot has been achieved, there’s a long way to go before we can say that young people are consistently getting the computing education they need and deserve in UK schools.

If this were a school report card, it would probably say: “good progress when he applies himself, but would benefit from more focus and effort in class” (which is eerily reminiscent of my own school reports).

A child coding in Scratch on a laptop - Royal Society After the Reboot

Good progress

After the Reboot comes five and a half years after the Royal Society’s first review of computing education, Shut down or restart, a report that was published just a few days before the Education Secretary announced in January 2012 that he was scrapping the widely discredited ICT programme of study.

There’s no doubt that a lot has been achieved since 2012, and the Royal Society has done a good job of documenting those successes in this latest report. Computing is now part of the curriculum for all schools. There’s a Computer Science GCSE that is studied by thousands of young people. Organisations like Computing At School have built a grassroots movement of educators who are leading fantastic work in schools up and down the country. Those are big wins.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been playing its part. With the support of partners like Google, we’ve trained over a thousand UK educators through our Picademy programme. Those educators have gone on to work with hundreds of thousands of students, and many have become leaders in the field. Many thousands more have taken our free online training courses, and through our partnership with BT, CAS and the BCS on the Barefoot programme, we’re supporting thousands of primary school teachers to deliver the computing curriculum. Earlier this year we launched a free magazine for computing educators, Hello World, which has over 14,000 subscribers after just three editions.

A group of people learning about digital making - Royal Society After the Reboot

More to do

Despite all the progress, the Royal Society study has confirmed what many of us have been saying for some time: we need to do much more to support teachers to develop the skills and confidence to deliver the computing curriculum. More than anything, we need to give them the time to invest in their own professional development. The UK led the way on putting computing in the curriculum. Now we need to follow through on that promise by investing in a huge effort to support professional development across the school system.

This isn’t a problem that any one organisation or sector can solve on its own. It will require a grand coalition of government, industry, non-profits, and educators if we are going to make change at the pace that our young people need and deserve. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working with our partners to figure out how we make that happen.

A boy learning about computing from a woman - Royal Society After the Reboot

The other 75%

While the Royal Society report rightly focuses on what happens in classrooms during the school day, we need to remember that children spend only 25% of their waking hours there. What about the other 75%?

Ask any computer scientist, engineer, or maker, and they’ll tell stories about how much they learned in those precious discretionary hours.

Ask an engineer of a certain age (ahem), and they will tell you about the local computing club where they got hands-on with new technologies, picked up new ideas, and were given help by peers and mentors. They might also tell you how they would spend dozens of hours typing in hundreds of line of code from a magazine to create their own game, and dozens more debugging when it didn’t work.

One of our goals at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to lead the revival in that culture of informal learning.

The revival of computing clubs

There are now more than 6,000 active Code Clubs in the UK, engaging over 90,000 young people each week. 41% of the kids at Code Club are girls. More than 150 UK CoderDojos take place in universities, science centres, and corporate offices, providing a safe space for over 4,000 young people to learn programming and digital making.

So far this year, there have been 164 Raspberry Jams in the UK, volunteer-led meetups attended by over 10,000 people, who come to learn from volunteers and share their digital making projects.

It’s a movement, and it’s growing fast. One of the most striking facts is that whenever a new Code Club, CoderDojo, or Raspberry Jam is set up, it is immediately oversubscribed.

So while we work on fixing the education system, there’s a tangible way that we can all make a huge difference right now. You can help set up a Code Club, get involved with CoderDojo, or join the Raspberry Jam movement.

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Using taxies to monitor air quality in Peru

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When James Puderer moved to Lima, Peru, his roadside runs left a rather nasty taste in his mouth. Hit by the pollution from old diesel cars in the area, he decided to monitor the air quality in his new city using Raspberry Pis and the abundant taxies as his tech carriers.

Taxi Datalogger – Assembly

How to assemble the enclosure for my Taxi Datalogger project: https://www.hackster.io/james-puderer/distributed-air-quality-monitoring-using-taxis-69647e

Sensing air quality in Lima

Luckily for James, almost all taxies in Lima are equipped with the standard hollow vinyl roof sign seen in the video above, which makes them ideal for hacking.

Using a Raspberry Pi alongside various Adafuit tech including the BME280 Temperature/Humidity/Pressure Sensor and GPS Antenna, James created a battery-powered retrofit setup that fits snugly into the vinyl sign.

The schematic of the air quality monitor tech inside the taxi sign

With the onboard tech, the device collects data on longitude, latitude, humidity, temperature, pressure, and airborne particle count, feeding it back to an Android Things datalogger. This data is then pushed to Google IoT Core, where it can be remotely accessed.

Next, the data is processed by Google Dataflow and turned into a BigQuery table. Users can then visualize the collected measurements. And while James uses Google Maps to analyse his data, there are many tools online that will allow you to organise and study your figures depending on what final result you’re hoping to achieve.

A heat map of James' local area showing air quality

James hopped in a taxi and took his monitor on the road, collecting results throughout the journey

James has provided the complete build process, including all tech ingredients and code, on his Hackster.io project page, and urges makers to create their own air quality monitor for their local area. He also plans on building upon the existing design by adding a 12V power hookup for connecting to the taxi, functioning lights within the sign, and companion apps for drivers.

Sensing the world around you

We’ve seen a wide variety of Raspberry Pi projects using sensors to track the world around us, such as Kasia Molga’s Human Sensor costume series, which reacts to air pollution by lighting up, and Clodagh O’Mahony’s Social Interaction Dress, which she created to judge how conversation and physical human interaction can be scored and studied.

Human Sensor

Kasia Molga’s Human Sensor — a collection of hi-tech costumes that react to air pollution within the wearer’s environment.

Many people also build their own Pi-powered weather stations, or use the Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station, to measure and record conditions in their towns and cities from the roofs of schools, offices, and homes.

Have you incorporated sensors into your Raspberry Pi projects? Share your builds in the comments below or via social media by tagging us.

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Adafruit’s read-only Raspberry Pi

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For passive projects such as point-of-sale displays, video loopers, and your upcoming Halloween builds, Adafruit have come up with a read-only solution for powering down your Raspberry Pi without endangering your SD card.

Adafruit read-only raspberry pi

Pulling the plug

At home, at a coding club, or at a Jam, you rarely need to pull the plug on your Raspberry Pi without going through the correct shutdown procedure. To ensure a long life for your SD card and its contents, you should always turn off you Pi by selecting the shutdown option from the menu. This way the Pi saves any temporary files to the card before relinquishing power.

Dramatic reconstruction

By pulling the plug while your OS is still running, you might corrupt these files, which could result in the Pi failing to boot up again. The only fix? Wipe the SD card clean and start over, waving goodbye to all files you didn’t back up.

Passive projects

But what if it’s not as easy as selecting shutdown, because your Raspberry Pi is embedded deep inside the belly of a project? Maybe you’ve hot-glued your Zero W into a pumpkin which is now screwed to the roof of your porch, or your store has a bank of Pi-powered monitors playing ads and the power is set to shut off every evening. Without the ability to shut down your Pi via the menu, you risk the SD card’s contents every time you power down your project.

Read-only

Just in time of the plethora of Halloween projects we’re looking forward to this month, the clever folk at Adafruit have designed a solution for this issue. They’ve shared a script which forces the Raspberry Pi to run in read-only mode, so that powering it down via a plug pull will not corrupt the SD card.

But how?

The script makes the Pi save temporary files to the RAM instead of the SD card. Of course, this means that no files or new software can be written to the card. However, if that’s not necessary for your Pi project, you might be happy to make the trade-off. Note that you can only use Adafruit’s script on Raspbian Lite.

Find more about the read-only Raspberry Pi solution, including the script and optional GPIO-halt utility, on the Adafruit Learn page. And be aware that making your Pi read-only is irreversible, so be sure to back up the contents of your SD card before you implement the script.

Halloween!

It’s October, and we’re now allowed to get excited about Halloween and all of the wonderful projects you plan on making for the big night.

Adafruit read-only raspberry pi

Adafruit’s animated snake eyes

We’ll be covering some of our favourite spooky build on social media throughout the month — make sure to share yours with us, either in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or G+.

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Help us translate our YouTube videos

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As we work to create more content for our YouTube channel, making our videos as accessible as possible is key to serving the growing Raspberry Pi community. And as we push to create more videos linked to our collection of free resources, providing translated subtitles will help to bring our content to more people across the globe.

We need your help to make this happen.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

Subtitles for our ‘Getting started with soldering‘ video translated into Portuguese.

Translating YouTube

We recently enabled translation submissions for all our YouTube content, allowing viewers, subscribers, and members of the community to contribute translated subtitles, descriptions, and titles for all of our videos.

YouTube Subtitle translations Raspberry Pi

Once approved, these translated subtitles are available for all viewers of our videos via the closed captioning button on the navigation bar of every video, while translated descriptions and titles will automatically be shown, based on your location. Anyone who has contributed to the translations is automatically credited in the video’s description.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

Thanks Mário!

Our aim is to collect translations of our videos in as many languages as possible, including the original English. While YouTube does a great job of using speech-to-text to create automatic subtitles, these aren’t always correct – especially when the videos feature loud background noises and music – so we need to create subtitles in English too.

Submit your own YouTube translations

If you’d like to contribute subtitles for our YouTube videos, you can do so by heading to the Community Contributions page for our channel. Simply pick a video you’d like to translate and work your way through. The system is very easy to navigate and allows you to manage the timing of subtitles, which is very handy. Once complete, your translation will be sent to us to double check. When we’ve approved it, it will be published. If we find any issues with the translation, we’ll let you know via the Community Contributions page.

YouTube translations Raspberry Pi

A sneaky peak into what we see on the other side

If you find a video that’s already been translated, but you see faults in the language and/or grammar used, you can also correct and improve existing translations.

Thank you

If you contribute a translation to any of our videos, make sure you post a comment for the world to see in the video’s comments section. If you have a Twitter account, leave your username in the comment and we’ll make sure to thank you on the official Raspberry Pi account when we’ve approved your submission.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far, and to everyone who is now logging into YouTube to take part. It’s things like this that make our community the best out there.

Thank you.

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