Tag Archives: Education

Python in Education – free e-book from O’Reilly

via Raspberry Pi

This week PyCon is going on in Montreal – it’s the big worldwide Python conference – and for the occasion, O’Reilly asked our friend Nicholas Tollervey to write a free short book on Python in Education.

python-in-education

Click to download the book for free

The book tells the story of Python, why Python is a good language for learning, how its community gives great support, and covers Raspberry Pi as a case study.

You’ve probably heard about the computing revolution in schools, and perhaps you’ve even heard of the Raspberry Pi. The Python programming language is at the center of these fundamental changes in computing education. Whether you’re a programmer, teacher, student, or parent, this report arms you with the facts and information you need to understand where Python sits within this context.

Author Nicholas Tollervey takes you through the features that make Python appropriate for education, and explains how an active Python community supports educational outreach. You’ll also learn how Raspberry Pi is inspiring a new generation of programmers – with Python’s help.

Nicholas visited Pi Towers in February to speak to Carrie Anne, Eben and me about why we think Python is suited to education. He asked Eben how the idea for the Raspberry Pi hardware came about and why there was a need for an affordable hackable device. He asked us about the Python libraries those in the community provided (particularly RPi.GPIO and picamera) that we consider part of our infrastructure for education and hobbyist users alike; and about the sorts of projects that engage, empower and inspire young learners – and of course the way they learn and progress. We discussed Minecraft Pi, hardware projects, Astro Pi, PyPy, teacher training and more.

Read more on teaching with Python from Nicholas and download the book for free from O’Reilly.

Launching Picademy@Google Leeds

via Raspberry Pi

We love introducing educators to the Raspberry Pi; that’s why the education team are always on the road, at conferences, shows and events, sharing the Pi’s learning potential. Last year, we started a teacher training programme, and invited educators from all over the world to our headquarters for some fun hands-on learning. We called it Picademy. It’s been hugely popular, and so far we’ve trained around 200 teachers through seven events in our own unique way. The feedback has blown us away. Of those who completed our feedback questionnaire:

  • 97.5% stated that they were now likely or very likely to use Raspberry Pi in their classroom, and 
  • 98.8% stated that they were likely or very likely to share the training received with other teachers.

So we have a problem. We want to train thousands of educators – no – hundreds of thousands of educators, and that’s not possible for our tiny education team, even though it’s made up of a cracking bunch of superstars. Picademy is always oversubscribed.

We have huge ambitions for education. Thanks to the generosity and support of Google, we think we are heading in the right direction. Today we are excited to announce our new Picademy@Google programme for educators, kicking off in Leeds, UK. This is another opportunity for primary, secondary and post-16 teachers to attend Raspberry Pi-flavoured computing and science training, but this time at a Google Digital Garage near where you live. The Digital Garages are a group of pop-up spaces – this first one located in Leeds Docks – which will help 200,000 British businesses learn crucial skills for the digital age, and use the power of the internet to reach more customers and grow faster.

Here is trustee Pete Lomas with Lauren Hyams (Code Club Pro) and Roger Davies (Computing at School) who will also be offering teacher training opportunities at the Digital Garage

Here is Raspberry Pi Foundation trustee Pete Lomas with representatives from Code Club Pro and Computing at School (who will also be offering teacher training opportunities at the Digital Garage) at the launch event in March.

The Picademy@Google courses will be run by hand-picked community members and educators, and will be a a mix of hands-on making, project-based learning and general hacking (think Picademy meets Raspberry Jam!) They will run alongside our definitive Picademy course and are, as always, completely free to attend for teachers.

We will be launching Picademy@Google in other UK cities as Google Digital Garages open over the next few months – to be informed about when one opens up near you, please sign up to our education newsletter.

The Leeds Digital Garage will be open between now and November, and we’ll be running a number of Picademy@Google courses there, so start spreading the news: sign-ups for teachers are open!

 

Creative Technologies in the Classroom goes to Ecuador

via Arduino Blog

EcuadorCTC

We are happy to announce that Creative Technologies in the Classroom has been successfully implemented in Ecuador since the fall of 2014 in 40 different places along the country, to more than 600 participants and thanks to the Telefonica Foundation Ecuador.

Creative Technologies in the Classroom (CTC) is a collection of experiments aimed at transforming the way technology is taught in schools around the world for participants going from 10 to 18 years old. These experiments introduce basic concepts in programming, electronics, and mechanics and consists of four phases:

  • Teacher Training (1 week)
  • Themed Modules (4 modules)
  • Student Projects (9 weeks)
  • Technology Fair

CTC Ecuador has also been implemented within the Pro Niño Project that helps employed children to attend to educational activities and learn about technology. This aims to open an opportunity for them to study at the technical universities in the area (many of them also support the project). The teachers for CTC/Pro Niño are social workers instead of regular school teachers. Here are some pictures of the program in El Oro and the South of Quito.

Some CTC Ecuador projects were also presented at an exhibition in Cuenca about society, art and technology hosted by Telefonica Movistar Ecuador.

(The news was originally posted on Arduino Verkstad blog)

Making Space Accessible to Students with U of M Satellite

via Arduino Blog

satellite

The U of M Satellite project started in 2010 as a student group at the University of Manitoba with the goal of building a nano satellite (10 x 10 x 34 cm) and make space accessible to the public. We got in touch with Ahmed Byagowi, co-founder of the project, who teaches robotics in the same university. Ahmed told us that U of M Satellite became soon very popular, in fact  more than 300 students joined the group. In the first iteration the satellite’s goal was studying a micro animal (about 1 mm) called tardigrades and see its behaviour in space. The second iteration started in 2012, the same year of the launch of the Arduino Due and that’s why they designed everything based on it.

We had a nice talk with Ahmed and asked a bit more about the project.

Why is space so important for research, and why it would be cool if more people could have access to it?

Space research is important because it challenges us to solve problems and find solutions which can translate to everyday life here on Earth. The products of space research and space technology are all around us today. From the ballpoint pen, all the way to GPS, special composite materials, special surgical equipment and satellite communication.

For a while, only government and military had access to space. However, over the past decade there has been a rapid increase in commercial and public access to space. Private companies can take risks that the government and military can not, which leads to even bolder and newer technologies being developed.

For the general public, there are many creative and dynamic thinkers in the world who may not be able to share their ideas through a government agency or company. Public access to space allows more people to innovate on their own terms, and with 7 billion people on this planet, surely there are a great deal of innovation to be found.

With more people involved in researching space technologies, even more ideas can reach fruition, which can hopefully lead to technologies that will benefit life here on Earth even more.

There are other open source projects going to space (i.e. Ardusat), how’s U of M Student Satellite different or similar to others?

Ardusat is using Arduino as its payload (in fact, 16 of them) to run certain experiments in space and its main controller system is based on other processors and software. On the other hand, UMSATS’ satellite is going to be based on the Arduino Due architecture (the main controller) aided by the Arduino Zero and Arduino Uno’s design for payload and other controllers such as attitude determination and control system (ADCS) and power management as well as onboard image processing.

In which way open source is making exploration of space possible?

Open source makes things more accessible and helps a community work together to solve problems. If more open source platforms become available that can aid in space exploration, people can focus their efforts more on the next big problem using tools already developed, instead of resolving the same problems over and over again (reinventing the wheel). Plus, learning from watching other people’s work is a great way to learn things and apparently for some people like me or Massimo, this is best way to learn programming (based on Massimo’s TED talk).

Could you give us a bit more details on how you are using Arduino DUE ?

Our main Command and Data Handling (CDH) controller is based on the SAM3X8E and we are using Arduino Due’s bootloader and IDE for the software development. We added some more software layers as well as a scheduler and we aim to open source the entire software and hardware as soon as possible. In the picture of our motherboard below, you can clearly see the SAM3X8E and on the top right, there is a SMD version of the ATMEGA328P running and Arduino Uno core and acts as the beacon transmitter. This board encompasses the CDH, ADCS, Power and Communication of 2 meter and 70 cm bands (144.390MHz and 435MHz ham radio bands).

003

A famous quote of Massimo’s Banzi says: “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great” and in your TED talk you start saying “You can make big things using small tools”, what’s the relations between the two?

There is no formula for greatness. We live in a time where anything is truly possible, and the way to achieve your goals is numerous. Nobody said we couldn’t do something big with our small satellite, and we didn’t ask if we could either. Instead, we try to do big things with small tools that are accessible to us.

The Young Innovators’ Club in Ulaanbaatar

via Raspberry Pi

The Young Innovators’ Club is a new initiative to promote engineering and tech education for school-aged children in Mongolia. It’s currently piloting a Raspberry Pi-based after-school club in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, with support from the National Information Technology Park, where activities take place:

Blinky lights Girl with Pi Student breadboarding Students collaborate

Scratch and Python are on the menu, and electronics features prominently, with students using Raspberry Pis to control LEDs, sensors, motors and cameras. Club Coordinator Tseren-Onolt Ishdorj says,

So far the result of the club is very exciting because parents and children are very much interested in the club’s activity and they are having so much fun to be part of the club – trying every kind of projects and spending their spare time happily.

The idea of introducing Raspberry Pi-based after-school clubs was originally put forward by Enkhbold Zandaakhuu, Chairman of the Mongolian Parliament and himself an engineer by training; a group of interested individuals picked up the idea and established the Club in late 2014, and it has since attracted the interest of peak-time Mongolian TV news and other local media. The Club plans to establish After-School Clubs for Inventors and Innovators (ASCII) across the country with the help of schools, parents and other organisations and individuals; this would involve about 600-700 schools, and include training for over 600 teachers. They’re hopeful of opening a couple of dozen of these this year.

We’re quite excited about this at Raspberry Pi. It was lovely to see our Raspberry Jams map recently showing upcoming events on every continent except for Antarctica (where there are Pis, even if not, as far as we know, any Jams), but nonetheless there’s a displeasing Pi gap across central Asia and Russia:

Jams everywhere

Raspberry Jams on every continent except Antarctica (yes, really: the one that seems to be on the south coast of Spain is actually in Morocco)

It’s fantastic to know, then, that school students are learning with Raspberry Pis in Ulaanbaatar. We’ll be keeping up with developments at the Young Innovators’ Club on their Facebook page, where you can find lots of great photos and videos of the students’ work – we hope you’ll take a look, too.

Breadboard robot Pi and breadboard Lego robot

Having fun with music in a science class

via Arduino Blog

corea4

A science teacher at Bundang management high school 20 kilometers southeast of downtown Seoul, South Korea, involved his students in an Arduino Music project running Arduino Uno, Sparkfun Music Instrument Shield and Makey Makey.

Students started studying the principles of sensors and then built their own music instruments using recycled materials. Finally they played them as you can see from the video he shared with us:

See more pictures and videos at this link.

A Pi’s eye view of the solar eclipse

via Raspberry Pi

Last Friday morning I got up at an unfamiliar hour to board a train to Leicester, where BBC Stargazing were broadcasting a special live show to coincide with the partial solar eclipse over the UK. Regular readers will have seen Dave Akerman write here last week of his plans to launch two Model A+ Pis with Pi in the Sky telemetry boards on a weather balloon as part of the BBC’s event, with the aim of capturing stills and video of the eclipse from high above the clouds. As we’ll see, Dave was far from the only person using Raspberry Pis to observe the eclipse; to begin with, though, here’s a downward-facing view from one of his Pis of the launch, done with the help of a group of school students:

I caught up with Dave a bit later in the morning, by which point the payload had been recovered after a shortish flight.

Dave, John and Helen

Dave explains to my three-year-old son that the balloon payload has come down in fields by Leighton Buzzard

The chase vehicle tracked and recovered the payload Onlookers were surprised

BBC Radio Leicester interviewed Dave, making for a really interesting five-minute introduction to what a balloon mission involves. BBC Television filmed several interviews, too, including this one, broadcast on BBC Stargazing live the same evening, featuring images of the eclipse captured by the Pis:

My favourite moment is when the balloon bursts, having reached a diameter of about eight metres. Despite the lack of air, as Dave points out, the pop is clearly audible:

If you watched right to the end of the BBC Stargazing interview, you’ll have heard Lucie Green mention another project, this one with the involvement of BBC Weather’s Peter Gibbs. The Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading is running a citizen science programme, the National Eclipse Weather Experiment (NEWEx), to collect data to study small weather changes expected to accompany an eclipse, such as a drop in temperature and changes to clouds and wind. They particularly encouraged schools to join in, and we sent one of our weather station prototypes to the National STEM Centre in York so that they could help a local primary school take part. They installed it on their roof:

Weather station prototype on National STEM Centre roof

Matt Holmes from the STEM Centre displayed data from the weather station alongside a webcam image of the eclipse:

If you’re in the UK and you’d like to watch the (very) brief interview with Peter Gibbs that followed the one with Dave Akerman, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer, starting at 29m40s.

Other people were using Raspberry Pis to take weather measurements during the eclipse too. Cookstown High School in Northern Ireland have set up another of our weather station prototypes; you can see live data from it at www.piview.org.uk/weather/, which you can drag to see older data and zoom for more detail. School staff are also tweeting more photos and information about the weather station as @STEAM4schools. Here are its temperature recordings during the eclipse:

PiView Weather Station - 20 March 2015, morning

As you can see, it’s difficult to separate out effects of the eclipse from other temperature variation, which is where NEWEx’s big-data approach will hopefully prove valuable.

One computing teacher planned his Friday morning class’s eclipse observations in our forums, with help from forum regular Dougie, whose own measurements are here, and others. They held an eclipse party before school, and they and others have shared their measurements in the forum.

School eclipse party

HOW COOL: REALLY COOL!!!

We’ve seen a number of timelapse films of the eclipse captured using Pis, too. Berlin Raspberry Jam organiser James Mitchell used a Raspberry Pi to make a timelapse of the 74% eclipse seen there:

It’s really great to see Raspberry Pis used in such a variety of ways to enhance people’s experiences of a rare and remarkable astronomical event, and particularly to see the involvement of so many schools. Did you use a Raspberry Pi for observations during Friday’s solar eclipse? Tell us in the comments!

Raspi-LTSP is now PiNet: easily manage a Raspberry Pi classroom

via Raspberry Pi

Helen: Over the past year and a half, Raspi-LTSP has become very popular as a simple and easy-to-set-up way of managing Raspberry Pi users and files in a classroom setting. Today its 18-year-old developer Andrew Mulholland launches PiNet, the new incarnation of this very valuable, free, open source project. He’s written us a guest post to tell you more about it.

PiNet

For nearly two years now, I have been working on RaspberryPi-LTSP. The goal setting out was clear: a simple, free and easy-to-use system for schools that allowed them to manage their Raspberry Pis more easily.

So today I am proud to announce PiNet, the replacement for RaspberryPi-LTSP. The idea for PiNet/Raspi-LTSP was spawned out of a workshop I was teaching two years ago in a local primary school. The workshop ran over two days and I had forgotten to install a piece of software on all the SD cards before cloning them. I also had somehow to remember which student’s work was on which SD card so I could hand it out to them the next day. Logistically, managing it was a bit of a nightmare! And I only had one class of kids to worry about.

How can you manage students’ work when you have perhaps hundreds of different students using a set of Raspberry Pis in a week? Does each student get assigned her or his own SD card? And what happens when those SD cards need to be updated with the most recent software update?

After many (many) hours of work researching possible solutions, I came up with a proof-of-concept script. The script used LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) to build a virtual Raspbian operating system on a server, then let Raspberry Pis network boot off it. I released this on GitHub back in September 2013 not expecting much to come of it. Rather surprisingly, people slowly started playing around with it, I started getting emails with new ideas and I discovered there was an interest in the project.

PiNet classroom with lapdocks

A PiNet classroom, using Motorola lapdocks to provide display, keyboard and trackpad

200+ commits and 3000+ lines of code later, the feature list has grown after a huge amount of feedback from educators right across the world.

PiNet’s features include:

  • Network-based user accounts, so any student can sit down at any Raspberry Pi in the classroom and log in
  • Network-based operating system, so if you want to change the operating system (for example, by adding a new piece of software), you just edit the master copy on the server and reboot all the Raspberry Pis
  • Shared folders to allow teachers to share files with students
  • Automated backups of students’ work
  • Automated work collection/hand-in system
  • Super-easy to set up and maintain
  • Completely free and open source.

PiNet is a replacement for Raspi-LTSP, not an upgrade, so if you’re already running Raspi-LTSP, you’ll need a new installation to get PiNet running on your server (PiNet will automatically update your SD cards the first time you boot up your Raspberry Pis after installing it, so you don’t need to make any changes to those yourself). To make everything as easy as possible, a migration utility has been included in every Raspi-LTSP release since November to allow you to migrate user data and files to PiNet; read the migration guide for help doing this.

PiNet desktop

The Raspberry Pi desktop with PiNet is like the one you’re used to

Here are some of the things that other people have said about PiNet/Raspi-LTSP:

PiNet is already used across the world in over 30 different countries. To give it a go in your school, all you need is an old computer, a router and some networked Raspberry Pis! To get started, head over to the PiNet website at http://pinet.org.uk/ and hit Get Started!

Picademy North at the National STEM Centre

via Raspberry Pi

Once again the Raspberry Pi Foundation Education Team is taking Picademy, the official Raspberry Pi professional development course for teachers, on the road. This time to the North, thanks to our friends at the National STEM Centre in York!

national-stem-centre-logo

The National STEM Centre houses the UK’s largest collection of STEM teaching and learning resources, and high-quality subject specific CPD, in order to provide teachers of STEM subjects with the ability to access a wide range of high-quality support materials.

We work with business, industry, charitable organisations, professional bodies and others with an interest in STEM education to facilitate closer collaboration and more effective support for schools and colleges, and promotion of STEM careers awareness.

Picademy North will take place on 26 and 27 May 2015 and we have space for 24 enthusiastic teachers from primary, secondary and post-16 who are open to getting hands-on with their learning and having some fun. It is our hope, by running this event in York, that we will reach those teaching in locations that are not already represented by Raspberry Pi Certified Educators.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 16.23.23

Can you help us put more markers on my Raspberry Pi Certified Educators map?

Picademy is free to attend and applications are open to all teachers from around the world as long as you can fund your own travel and accommodation. If you have applied before but been unsuccessful, please apply again. Our selection process is based on keeping a good mix of gender, location, type of school and so on. We often identify those who have applied more than once to give a place on the course.

If you are interested in taking part and becoming a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator then complete this Picademy application form.

Yesterday I shared this news with the thousands of educators signed up to our education newsletter and was overwhelmed by the positive responses – and I promise there isn’t a Yorkshire bias here, whatever anyone thinks!

Getting Started with Intel Edison Mini Breakout Board

via Arduino Blog

Tutorial_intel2

Let’s start exploring a bit more about Intel Edison. As you may already know, Intel provides 2 different hardware platforms to work with Edison development board: the core module is called Intel Edison Compute Module, while the 2 extension boards are called Intel Edison Arduino Board and Intel Edison Breakout Board respectively. We refer to them as the Arduino module and mini-breakout board, respectively. The tutorial of this week is called Getting Started with Intel Edison Mini Breakout Board:

It is probably more common to use the Arduino module, since it’s easy to use and has many useful features, most notably the pin headers. However, the mini-breakout’s main advantage comes from its size and possible use as a wearable.

In this tutorial, you’ll get more familiar the mini-breakout board, learn how to use it for basic tasks, and then build a small “blink” example based on this knowledge.

Follow the link and explore

Tutorial_intel1

I spy… Carrie Anne on BBC Technobabble

via Raspberry Pi

We were very excited to welcome children’s TV presenter Frankie Vu from CBBC’s Technobabble, a TV show for children dedicated to explaining how technology works in a fun way, to Pi Towers towards the end of 2014 to talk about how computers are often found inside lots of different appliances, toys, and products.

Screenshot 2015-03-09 12.54.47

In an episode dedicated to Computing, Carrie Anne demonstrates some of our fun projects such as the weather station project and hamster party cam, both of which you can make and build with your students thanks to our free resources.

If you missed it, and you’re in the UK, you can watch it here (the segment starts at about 4 minutes in).

 

Announcement: Creative Technologists 2015-16

via Raspberry Pi

Hey everyone!

After much preparation we are super happy to announce an exciting new project from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

 

Creative Technologists

The Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists is a mentoring programme for creative people interested in technology aged 16 – 21 years old. If your passion is the creative arts, and you’re wondering how you can use technology to enhance that, this is for you.

Ben and I are heading up the programme, and the first year will run from April 2015 to April 2016. We will provide individual and group mentoring via online video chats, industry networking and technical support. It’s free to participate. As well as costs of food, travel and accommodation, each participant will also receive a Raspberry Pi 2 starter kit and a £300 materials grant, and the group will receive a £1000 grant for exhibition costs.

Applications are now open and the deadline is 9am on 31st March 2015.

We are both certified Arts Award Gold Advisers – so participants will have the opportunity to complete Trinity College London’s Arts Award Gold accreditation; a Level 3 Award, a QCF credit value of 15, and 35 UCAS points.

We will also have some amazing partners helping us out with mentoring and site visits: Victoria and Albert Museum Digital Programmes, Writers’ Centre Norwich, FutureEverything, Pimoroni, Saladhouse and Hellicar&Lewis.

For full details on the programme, and how to apply, visit the new Creative Technologists page.

Raspberry Pi Weather Station for schools

via Raspberry Pi

When I first joined the Raspberry Pi Foundation, over a year ago now, one of my first assignments was to build a weather station around the Raspberry Pi. Thanks to our friends at Oracle (the large US database company), the Foundation received a grant not only to design and build a Raspberry Pi weather station for schools, but also to put together a whole education programme to go with it. Oracle were keen to support a programme where kids get the opportunity to partake in cross-curricular computing and science projects that cover everything from embedded IoT, through networking protocols and databases, to big data. The goals of the project was ambitious. Between us we wanted to create a weather experiment where schools could gather and access weather data from over 1000 weather stations from around the globe. To quote the original project proposal, students participating in the program will get the opportunity to:

  • Use a predefined Raspberry Pi hardware kit to build their own weather station and write application code that logs a range of weather data including wind speed, direction, temperature, pressure, and humidity;
  • Write applications to interrogate their weather station and record data in a cloud-hosted Oracle Application Express database;
  • Interrogate the database via SQL to enable macro level data analysis;
  • Develop a website on the Raspberry Pi to display local weather conditions that can be accessed by other participating schools; and
  • Access a Weather Station for Schools program website to see the geographical location of all weather stations in the program, locate the websites of other participating schools, interact with other participants about their experiences, blog, and get online technical support.

After a year of grafting on hardware prototypes and software development I’m pleased to announce that the final PCB design has been committed to manufacture and we are ready to start pre-registering schools who’d be interested in participating in the programme. We have 1000 weather station kits to give away for free so to find out how your school can be part of this read the rest of this post below, but first some background on the project.

If you’ve been on Twitter a lot you’ll have noticed me teasing this since about March last year. Below is a photo of the very first version.

I did a lot of testing to ensure that the components were reliable and wouldn’t become problematic on the software side after a long period of uptime. The goal was to have the Pi controlling everything, so that we could leverage learning opportunity: helping kids to learn about writing code to interface directly with the sensors, as well as displaying and analysing collected data. I settled on the following set of sensor measurements for the weather station:

  • Rainfall
  • Wind speed
  • Wind gust speed
  • Wind direction
  • Ambient temperature
  • Soil temperature
  • Barometric pressure
  • Relative humidity
  • Air Quality
  • Real Time Clock (for data logging purposes)

This seemed like a good enough spread of data. I’m sure some people will ask why not this measurement or why not that. It was important for us to keep the cost of the kit under control; although there is nothing to stop you from augmenting it further yourself.

Once that was nailed down I wrote a few lessons plans, and Lance and I trialled them with with two schools in Kent (Bonus Pastor Catholic College and Langley Park School for Boys).

BBC Schools Report were on site and recorded a short feature about the day here.

We gave the kids one lesson from the scheme of work, showing them how to interface with the anemometer (wind speed sensor) in code. One thing that was clearly apparent was how engaged they were. Once their code was up and running, and was able to measure wind speed correctly, they had a lot of fun seeing who could get the fastest movement out of the sensor by blowing on it (current record is 32 kph, held by Clive “Lungs” Beale). Warning: there is a fainting risk if you let your kids do this too much!

We went away from this feeling we were very much on the right track, so we continued to design the scheme of work. I’m also very glad to report that we’re not doing this all on our own! We’ve partnered with the Met Office and OCR Geography to produce the learning resources that will cover understanding how weather systems work and interpreting patterns in the data.

The scheme is has been broken down into three main phases of learning resources:

  1. Collection
    Here you’ll learn about interfacing with the sensors, understanding how they work and writing Python code to talk to them. You’ll finish off by recording the measurements in a MySQL database hosted on the Pi and deploying your weather station in an outdoor location in the grounds of your school.
  2. Display
    This will involve creating an Apache, PHP 5 and JavaScript website to display the measurements being collected by your weather station. You will have the opportunity to upload your measurements to the Oracle cloud database so that they can be used by other schools. Whether or not you choose to upload your data, you’ll still pull down measurements from other schools and use them to produce integrated weather maps.
  3. Interpretation of Weather
    Here you’ll learn how to discern patterns in weather data, analyse them and use them to inform predictions about future weather. This will be done for both local weather (using your own data) and national weather (using data from the Oracle cloud database online).

My next task was to take the breadboard prototype and create a PCB test version that we could use in a small trial of 20 or so units. I had not done any PCB design before this. So over the course of a couple of days I learnt how to use a free, open source, PCB design tool called KiCAD. I used a brilliant series of YouTube videos called Getting To Blinky by Contextual Electronics to get to grips with it.

Below is my second attempt. This board is what most hardware designers would call a sombrero. The Pi goes in upside down so it’s like a HAT that’s too big!

Weather Prototype KiCAD

I was aware that it was a huge waste of PCB real-estate. However, for the small volume run we were making, it was a convenient way to mount the board inside a cheap IP65 junction box that I wanted to use as the case. Below is the PCB prototype when first assembled. The little silk screen rain cloud graphic was borrowed from BBC Weather (thanks guys).

You’ll notice there are two boards. The small board marked AIR holds the pressure, humidity and air quality sensors. Since these must be exposed to the air they are at risk of atmospheric corrosion, especially in coastal environments. I wanted to avoid this risk to the Pi and the main board so this is why I split those sensors off to a separate smaller board. Below is how they look inside their respective cases.

The Pi sits inside the water-tight box on the left with M20 grommets to seal the cables going in and out. The AIR board on the right has conformal coating (a spray on protective layer), and is connected to the main board by a short length of cable. There are three large holes on the base of its case to allow the air in.

The weather station also needs a reliable network connection for remote monitoring, further code changes, to allow it to upload to Oracle, and to make sure that other computers on your school network can load its web pages.

Most importantly it also needs power. So instead of considering large batteries or solar panels I decided to kill two birds with one stone and use power over Ethernet. This allows power and network connectivity to be supplied through a single cable, reducing the number of cable grommets needed. You might be thinking that WiFi is an option for this; however, school WiFi networks are notoriously overloaded with many mobile devices competing for service.

So, if you go the same way as me, your school will need a long cable to run from the school building out to the location that you choose for the weather station. This basically means you never have to worry about its power or network connectivity. You are welcome to solve these challenges in your own way though, and this can actually be a very engaging and fun activity for the students to do themselves.

Once I had the PCB prototype working I had to get twenty more made and tested. This involved spending hours (it seemed longer) on the Farnell website building up a massive basket of electronic components. When the new boards and components were in my possession we took them down to a local company, EFS Manufacturing, in Cambridge for assembly.

Here are the twenty assembled and tested boards:

And here is another layer of the conformal coating spray going onto the AIR boards in the Pi Towers car park. It was a bit smelly and I didn’t want to gas out the office!

You’ll notice there are small bits of sticky tape on there. This is because the conformal coating needs to protect the solder joints on the board, but not block up the air holes on the sensors. This was a bit of a delicate job involving cutting the tape into tiny shapes, waiting for the coating to dry, and peeling it off using a scalpel.

So then it was just a matter of assembling the 20 kits with everything required to build a weather station. From the power bricks, rain gauges and wind vanes right down to grommets, screws and rubber washers. The trial participants were chosen by us to give us a coverage of field-trial users, schools and promotional partners. We kept one back to put on the roof of Pi Towers, and the rest were shipped at the end of November last year.

Slowly but surely reports have been coming in about these prototype kits being used in schools and code clubs.

Dan Aldred of Thirsk School & Sixth Form College has introduced Weather Wednesdays.

Matthew Manning, who runs the awesome YouTube channel RaspberryPiIVBeginners, made this video about setting his one up:

Andrew Mulholland, of Raspi-LTSP fame, has been using one at a Raspberry Jam where he volunteers in Northern Ireland.

James Robinson’s year 10 pupils from Soham Village College have been working through the scheme of work too.

OCR are putting one on their roof, and we’re still trying to acquire permission from the building owners at Pi Towers so we can put ours up on the roof. (Right now it’s operating from an outside window ledge.) Meanwhile, now that I was confident about it, I handed over the electrical schematic of the prototype to our engineering team. They imported it into the professional CAD package that the Raspberry Pi was designed in, and proceeded to make the Weather Board into an official HAT.

They have gone through it and essentially reworked everything to the same standard that you would expect from our products. So here it is, feast your eyes. You snap off the one side, and that is the equivalent of the small AIR board on the prototype.

Weather HAT labels

If you join our weather station scheme, this is what you will get, along with all the wind vanes, screws and other bits you’ll need. The plan is to mount the HAT onto the Pi using standard 11 mm stand-offs. Those will then mount onto a perspex sheet, and that sheet will screw into the electrical junction box. Nice and cheap.

The Raspberry Pi Weather Station kit is a great way to get your pupils involved in a wide range of computing activities whilst undertaking a practical science experiment. There is lots of opportunity for cross-curricular discussion on the science of meteorology, geography and global climate change. You will also get to participate in a global programme with other schools around the world. We have 1000 weather station units to give away to schools that sign up. The supporting educational resources are written in the English language and targeted at students aged around 15-16 years old; however we’re anticipating participation from pupils both younger and older than this. If your school would like to be one of this thousand then please sign up on THIS PAGE.

People we would like to thank:

In case you missed it above, here’s the School Sign Up again.

Teaching literature with Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

Last week, checking out posts people had made on our Facebook page and the projects they were telling us about, one in particular caught my attention. Sarah Roman, a high school English teacher from New Jersey, had written:

Our English class is going to be using the Raspberry Pi in order to build book-based video games, incorporating Scratch, Sonic Pi, and Python. The students are incredibly excited […]

There was a link to an Indiegogo campaign; we love to see Raspberry Pi used creatively outside of computing lessons, so I clicked on it. A minute of video opened with the title “English Classroom”, but it didn’t look like my high school English lessons. Students work around computers, ignoring the camera as they concentrate intently on… wait, is that Minecraft?

We got in touch with Miss Roman to find out more. She intends (for starters) to get students in her Junior Honors class (15-16 years old) building Pi-based games consoles with games that draw on their reading of Dracula by Bram Stoker, and she is raising funds to kit out her classroom with Raspberry Pis and accessories. The students will use Scratch, working collaboratively to create their own graphics, sounds, and housing for the console. Older students will be using the Raspberry Pis in their study of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Of course, these plans are only the beginning of the road for the Pis, both within and beyond Miss Roman’s classroom; her project proposal notes that there could be an opportunity to work with other instructors to show them how they might use Raspberry Pi in their teaching.

English Literature students

This isn’t the first time that Miss Roman has introduced video games to the English Literature classroom. Last year, Juniors reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies worked in groups to build the island where the story is set from the imagery evidence they found in the text, adding significant quotes and moments to it via signposts and books; putting each student group into the same Minecraft world allowed them to explore each other’s work. Students were thrilled to use information from the book to build their own islands, and would sigh when the class came to an end. Miss Roman says,

Essentially, the Pi is helping me to integrate fiction and nonfiction, different literacies, and boost creative thinking […] I’m extremely happy with the Pi, and I’m sometimes staggered by the applicability it has for my classroom. I think that complex texts and ideas deserve projects that offer complexity as well, and by opening avenues of this kind for students, they have the ability to understand texts in ways that haven’t been previously accessed.

We’re excited to learn about Raspberry Pi being used in this way, and we hope that this crowdfunding campaign garners plenty of support – we’d love to hear more from New Jersey as this project takes off!

Education, space, hacking and explosions – Bett 2015

via Raspberry Pi

Last Tuesday the Raspberry Pi education team beetled down to the ExCeL London for Bett, the gargantuan learning technology event. We spent the next four days on our new and fabulous stand talking, educating, demo-ing, entertaining, showboating, dancing and gerrymandering. There were astounding demonstrations of technological ingenuity, feats of strength and curious electro-mechanical devices.

Ready for action: the education team plus James Robinson (leftest), Martin O'Hanlon (bluest) and Sam Aaron (tallest).

Ready for action: the education team plus James Robinson (leftest), Martin O’Hanlon (bluest) and Sam Aaron (tallest). Clive is weeping openly but laughing inside.

We were happily overrun by what seemed like most of the Raspberry Pi community, many of whom made guest appearances in our back to back schedule. We ran hands-on-workshops in Minecraft Pi, Sonic Pi, physical computing, games programming and much more. We stormed the BETT arena with Astro Pi and Fran Scott’s pyro-computing show. We ran about and hooted. It was a brilliant show. My post-show brain is far too fried to write so here are some of our favourite bits:

Carrie Anne kicks off the show with who the Raspberry Pi Foundation are and what we do

Carrie Anne kicks off the show with who the Raspberry Pi Foundation are and what we do

Set-up day. Dave says this is the only place he could get electricity.

Set-up day. Dave claims that this is the only place he could get electricity.

I am not a number, I am a free man.

I am not a number, I am a free man.

James about to send up a time-lapse Pi on a helium balloon to spy on other stands.

James about to send up a time-lapse Pi on a helium balloon to spy on other stands.

Laura Dixon's (@codeboom) students from the Royal High School Bath talking about  Minecraft coding and their computing club

Laura Dixon’s (@codeboom) students from the Royal High School Bath talking about Minecraft coding and their computing club

Dr Sam Aaron, creator of Sonic Pi, showing people how to create beautiful music with code

Dr Sam Aaron, creator of Sonic Pi, showing people how to create beautiful music with code

Stunned silence then cheering: a blackout at Bett. (Nothing to do with us, honest.)

Stunned silence then cheering: a blackout at Bett. (Nothing to do with us, honest.)

Dave Honess introducing Astro Pi and the ISS. His pitch-roll-yaw demo is now legend https://twitter.com/Raspberry_Pi/status/558960988096307200

Dave Honess introducing Astro Pi and the ISS. His pitch-roll-yaw demo is now legend

Lance Howarth and Astro Pi on Bett Arena

Lance Howarth and Astro Pi on Bett Arena

“My favourite moment was being rushed for Astro Pi leaflets at the end of the opening ceremony of the main arena. I have a great feeling about this whole thing” — Dave Honess

A first for Bett arena we think: Fran Scott exploding hydrogen -filled balloons in the Arena.

A first for Bett we think: Fran Scott exploding hydrogen-filled balloons in the Arena.

Of course it’s not so easy to blow up stuff in the classroom so we made a safe version, the Balloon Pi-tay Popper:

Fran demonstrating the explosive-free Balloon Pi-tay popper resource.

Fran demonstrating the explosive-free Balloon Pi-tay popper resource.

Connecting Minecraft Pi to the real world: @whaleygeek's Big Red Button of Doom!

Connecting Minecraft Pi to the real world: @whaleygeek’s Big Red Button of Doom!

Our friends from Pimoroni show of their brilliant Flotilla

Our friends from Pimoroni show off their brilliant Flotilla

Andrew Mullolland, a student at Queen's University Belfast, and his LTSP classroom management system for Raspberry Pi

Andrew Mulholland, a student at Queen’s University Belfast, and his LTSP classroom management system for Raspberry Pi

Stewards Academy student @jaymegisbourne demonstrating his Porta-Pi

Stewards Academy student @jaymegisbourne demonstrating his Porta-Pi

Raspberry Pi Certified Educators Cat Lamin and Tom Sale show how easy it is to use Pis in Primary Schools

Raspberry Pi Certified Educators Cat Lamin and Tom Sale show how easy it is to use Pis in primary schools

Carrie Anne picks up her Best Author Award for Adventures in Raspberry Pi...

Carrie Anne picks up her well-deserved Best Author award for Adventures in Raspberry Pi…

...and celebrates in style with David Whale (@whaleygeek)

…and then celebrates in style with David Whale (@whaleygeek)

And that was that. Four days of manic educational goodness.

Thanks to CPC for supporting us, we couldn’t have done it without them. We had a fabulous stand and a great team across the way to give hardware advice and support.

A huge thanks to everyone who gave talks and demos and who helped out on the stand including: Sam Aaron, Laura Dixon, Martin O Hanlon, Alasdair Davies, Dave Honess & UK Space, Eliot Williams, Paul Beech, Jon Williamson, Phil Howard, David Whale, Tim Mockford, Simon Belshaw, Lauren Hyams, Fran Scott, Mike Horne, Tim Richardson, Jamie Mann, Matthew Parry, Cat Lamin, Tom Sale, Wolfram, Stephen Norbury, Naturebytes, Samantha Lubbe, Barry Byford, Karl-Ludwig Butte, Robin Newman, Andrew Mulholland, Spencer Organ, Geraldine Wright, Stewards Academy Raspberry Pi Club, and Cefn Hoile. If I’ve missed anyone then sorry and please email me!

Lastly a big thank you to all of the teachers, students, parents, educators and anyone else who came to see us. See you again next year!