Tag Archives: Education

A community-made, Arduino-powered interactive town map

via Arduino Blog

MapProject

A group of students from Farmington, Connecticut partnered with artist Balam Soto and master teachers Earl Procko and Jim Corrigan to create a community-based sculpture project that allows people to explore the sights, sounds and history of their town through new media.

The installation runs on Arduino Uno and XBee, and is comprised of two panels which act as viewing screens for multiple visual projections. Visitors can interact with the display and manipulate the images using 24 buttons placed on the physical map. Plus, they are encouraged to record and add their own stories and memories of Farmington to the ever-growing multimedia library.

MapProject03

Permanently exhibited in Farmington’s public library, the Farmington Map Project was also the opportunity to introduce the students to physical computing, digital fabrication, woodworking, Arduino programming, and to the potential that Makerspaces have to offer for bringing ideas to life.

The project was created with the support of an Arts in Education Mini-Grant, funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and the Connecticut Association of Schools, Farmington High School’s Fine and Applied Arts.

Interested? Check it out on Hackster.

Picademy Expands in the United States

via Raspberry Pi

By all accounts, the pilot expansion of Picademy to the United States has been a huge success. In fact, we’ve already held three workshops and inducted 120 new Raspberry Pi Certified Educators on U.S. soil. So far we’ve had two workshops in Mountain View, CA and one in Baltimore, MD.

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In December, we’ll wrap up our 2016 program with a workshop at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas in Austin. If you’re an educator and you’d like to join us for two days of mind-blowing professional development, please apply now.

And it gets even better. To build on the success of the pilot program, we are excited to announce that we will expand Picademy in the United States to over 300 educators and additional cities in 2017. In fact, we’re making this announcement as a commitment to President Obama to join the Computer Science For All initiative, a call to action to expand CS education in K-12 classrooms in the United States. And today, the White House hosts a summit to mark progress on the initiative:

The case for giving all students access to CS is straightforward. Nine in ten parents want CS taught at their child’s school and yet, by some estimates, only a quarter of K-12 schools offer a CS course with programming included. However, the need for such skills across industries continues to rapidly grow, with 51 percent of all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs projected to be in CS-related field by 2018.

If you’re a professional educator, we want you to join us at a Picademy workshop. We haven’t yet selected the cities for 2017’s program, but please fill out this form to receive an update when we announce new cities and when applications open.

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Desktop Sense HAT emulator

via Raspberry Pi

If this post gives you a sense of déjà-vu it’s because, last month, we announced a web-based Sense HAT emulator in partnership with US-based startup Trinket.

Today, we’re announcing another Sense HAT emulator designed to run natively on your Raspberry Pi desktop, instead of inside a browser. Developed by Dave Jones, it’s intended for people who own a Raspberry Pi but not a Sense HAT. In the picture below, the sliders are used to change the values reported by the sensors while your code is running.

sense-emu

So, why do we need two versions?

  • For offline use, possibly the most common way Raspberry Pis are used in the classroom.
  • To accommodate the oldest 256 MB models of Raspberry Pi which cannot run the web version.
  • To allow you to integrate your Sense HAT program with any available Python modules, or other Raspberry Pi features such as the Camera Module.

The emulator will come pre-installed in the next Raspbian release but, for now, you can just install it by typing the commands below into a terminal window:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install python-sense-emu python3-sense-emu python-sense-emu-doc sense-emu-tools -y

You can then access it from the Desktop menu, under Programming.

The emulator closely simulates the Sense HAT hardware being attached to your Pi. You can read from the sensors or write to the LED matrix using multiple Python processes, for example.

sense-idle

Write your code in IDLE as before; there are also a number of examples that can be opened from the emulator’s built-in menu. If you then want to port your code to a physical Sense HAT, you just need to change

sense_emu

to

sense_hat

at the top of your program. Reverse this if you’re porting a physical Sense HAT program to the emulator, perhaps from one of our educational resources; this step isn’t required in the web version of the emulator.

sense-emu-prefs

There are a number of preferences that you can adjust to change the behaviour of the emulator, most notably sensor simulation, otherwise known as jitter. This costs some CPU time, and is disabled by default on the low-end Raspberry Pis, but it provides a realistic experience of how the hardware sensors would behave. You’ll see that the values being returned in your code drift according to the known error tolerances of the physical sensors used on the Sense HAT.

This emulator will allow more Raspberry Pi users to participate in future Astro Pi competitions without having to buy a Sense HAT: ideal for the classroom where 15 Sense HATs may be beyond the budget.

So, where do you start? If you’re new to the Sense HAT, you can just copy and paste many of the code examples from our educational resources, like this one. You can also check out our e-book Sense HAT Essentials. For a complete list of all the functions you can use, have a look at the Sense HAT API reference here.

You can even install this emulator on other types of Linux desktop, such as Ubuntu! For more information on how to do this, please visit the emulator documentation pages here.

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Gran Check

via Raspberry Pi

New Zealander James Zingel recognised his mother’s concern over his grandmother’s well-being, and decided to do something about it.

Gran Check

For the Bay of Plenty Science Fair, the 14-year-old Bethlehem College student designed and built ‘Gran Check’, a Raspberry Pi-powered monitor that uses a PIR sensor to recognise his gran’s movement as she feeds her dogs, taking a photograph every morning to email back to his mother.

Gran Check

14-year-old James was concerned by the news of the elderly passing away unnoticed

James had researched similar builds on the market, noting their price was unrealistic for those with a lower budget. With the increase in average lifespans, plus upsetting reports of the elderly passing away unnoticed, he was determined to create something affordable and readily available to all, with little to no maintenance requirements.

 

Gran Check

A knob on the lid allows for the PIR sensitivity to be adjusted

The Gran Check lives within a wooden box, installed beside his grandmother’s dogs’ food. He knew it was the best location, since the dogs would never allow her to go a day without feeding them. For added peace of mind, James built the device to be self-sufficient, ensuring she’d never have to operate it herself.

James noted his grandmother’s independent nature, understanding that constant ‘check in’ calls from the family would be unrealistic. The Gran Check removes all concern for her welfare, without constantly bugging her for updates.

Gran Check

James credits the internet for much of his digital maker education

James was given a Raspberry Pi by his father, though he soon overtook the level of expertise on offer, and turned to YouTube and websites for help. 

James built the Gran Check over four weekends, and has ambitions to improve the build for others:

“I want to make it easy [to build], but also useful in loads of situations; it could also send a text message and attach a photo to it, for example. This would make sure that, for people in different situations, it’s not just one size fits all.”

It’s no surprise that James’s hard work was acknowledged. Not only did he win the award for best junior technology and best exhibit, but the 14-year-old also took home the NIWA Best in Fair Overall Winner.

To see James talking about Gran Check, and his plans for the build, visit the Bay of Plenty Times.

We look forward to seeing what’s next for James and Gran Check.

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Building Computer Labs in Western Africa

via Raspberry Pi

Back in 2014, Helen covered the story of Dominique Laloux and the first Raspberry Pi computer room in Togo, West Africa.

Having previously worked alongside friends to set up the Kuma Computer Center, Dominique and the team moved on to build another computer room in Kuma Adamé.

Both builds were successful, proving the need for such resources within an area where, prior to 2012, 75% of teachers had never used a computer.

Dominique has since been back in contact via our forum; he informed us of another successful build, again in Togo, converting an old toilet block into a Raspberry Pi computer lab.

Togo RPi Lab

The blank canvas…

The team had their work cut out, stripping the building of its inner walls, laying down a new concrete floor, and installing windows. 

Togo RPi

Some serious climbing was needed…

Electricity and LAN were installed next, followed by welded tables and, eventually, the equipment.

Togo RPi

Local teachers and students helped to set up the room

The room was finally kitted out with 21 Raspberry Pis. This would allow for one computer per student, up to a maximum of 20, as well as one for the teacher’s desk, which would power an LED projector.

The room also houses a laptop with a scanner, and a networked printer.

The project took four weeks to complete, and ended with a two-week training session for 25 teachers. 

Togo RPi

Forget the summer holidays: each teacher showed up every day

Dominique believes very strongly in the project, and in the positive influence it has had on the area. He writes:

I am now convinced that the model of Raspberry Pi computer labs is an ideal solution to bring ICT to small schools in developing countries, where resources are scarce.

Not only is he continuing to raise funds to build more labs, he’s also advising other towns who want to build their own. Speaking of the growth of awareness over the past year, he explained, “I was so happy to advise another community 500 km away on how to install their own microcomputer room, based on the same model.”

And his future plans?

My goal is now to raise enough funds to set up one computer room in a school each year for the foreseeable future, hoping that other communities will want to copy the model and build their own at the same time.

We love seeing the progress Dominique and his team have made as they continue to build these important labs for communities in developing countries. Dominique’s hard work and determination is inspiring, and we look forward to seeing the students he and his team have helped to nurture continue to learn.

Togo RPi

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Creative computing at Eastwood Academy

via Raspberry Pi

It’s nearly two years since Computing became a subject for all children in England to study, and we’re now seeing some amazing work to bring opportunities for digital making into schools. Recently I visited Eastwood Academy in Southend-on-Sea, where teacher Lucas Abbot has created a digital making room, and built a community of young programmers and makers there.
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Lucas trained as a physics teacher and got hold of a Raspberry Pi for projects at home back in 2012. His head teacher heard about his hobby, and when the move towards all children learning programming started, Lucas was approached to take up the challenge of developing the new subject of Computing in the school. With the help of friends at the local Raspberry Jam, Linux user group, and other programming meetups, he taught himself the new curriculum and set about creating an environment in which young people could take a similarly empowered approach.

In Year 7, students start by developing an understanding of what a computer is; it’s a journey that takes them down memory lane with their parents, discussing the retro technology of their own childhoods. Newly informed of what they’re working with, they then move on to programming with the Flowol language, moving to Scratch, Kodu and the BBC micro:bit. In Year 8 they get to move on to the Raspberry Pi, firing up the fifteen units Lucas has set up in collaborative workstations in the middle of the room. By the time the students choose their GCSE subjects at the end of Year 8, they have experienced programming a variety of HATs, hacking Minecraft to run games they have invented, and managing a Linux system themselves.
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Fifteen Raspberry Pi computers have been set up in the centre of the room, at stations specifically designed to promote collaboration. While the traditional PCs around the edges of the room are still used, it was the Pi stations where pupils were most active, connecting things for their projects, and making together. A clever use of ceiling-mounted sockets, and some chains for health and safety reasons, has allowed these new stations to be set up at a low cost.

The teaching is based on building a firm foundation in each area studied, before giving students the chance to invent, build, and hack their own projects. I spent a whole day at the school; I found the environment to be entirely hands-on, and filled with engaged and excited young people learning through making. In one fabulous project two girls were setting up a paper rocket system, propelled using compressed air with a computer-based countdown system. Problem-solving and learning through failure are part of the environment too. One group spent a session trying to troubleshoot a HAT-mounted display that wasn’t quite behaving as they wanted it to.

Lessons were impressive, but even more so was the lunchtime making club which happens every single day. About 30 young people rushed into the room at lunchtime and got started with projects ranging from figuring out how to program a robot Mr Abbot had brought in, to creating the IKEA coffee table arcade machines from a recent MagPi tutorial.
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I had a great conversation with one female student who told me how she had persuaded her father to buy a Raspberry Pi, and then taught him how to use it. Together, they got inspired to create a wood-engraving machine using a laser. Lunchtime clubs are often a place for socialising, but there was a real sense of purpose here too, of students coming together to achieve something for themselves.

Since 2014 most schools in England have had lessons in computing, but Eastwood Academy has also been building a community of young digital makers. They’re linking their ambitious lessons with their own interests and aspirations, building cool projects, learning lots, and having fun along the way. We’d love to hear from other schools that are taking such an ambitious approach to computing and digital making.

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