Tag Archives: Education

Astro Pi: Mission Update 6 – Payload Handover

via Raspberry Pi

Those of you who regularly read our blog will know all about Astro Pi. If not then, to briefly recap, two specially augmented Raspberry Pis (called Astro Pis) are being launched to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake’s mission starting in December. The launch date is December the 15th.

Britsh ESA Astronaut Tim Peake with Astro Pi

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake with Astro Pi – Image credit ESA

The Astro Pi competition

Last year we joined forces with the UK Space Agency, ESA and the UK Space Trade Association to run a competition that gave school-age students in the UK the chance to devise computer science experiments for Tim to run aboard the ISS.

Here is our competition video voiced by Tim Peake himself:

Astro Pi

This is “Astro Pi” by Raspberry Pi Foundation on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

This ran from December 2014 to July 2015 and produced seven winning programs that will be run on the ISS by Tim. You can read about those in a previous blog post here. They range from fun reaction-time games to real science experiments looking at the radiation environment in space. The results will be downloaded back to Earth and made available online for all to see.

During the competition we saw kids with little or no coding experience become so motivated by the possibility of having their code run in space that they learned programming from scratch and grew proficient enough to submit an entry.

Flight safety testing and laser etching

Meanwhile we were working with ESA and a number of the UK space companies to get the Astro Pi flight hardware (below) certified for space.

An Astro Pi unit in its flight case

An Astro Pi unit in its space-grade aluminium flight case

This was a very long process which began in September 2014 and is only now coming to an end. Read all about it in the blog entry here.

The final step in this process was to get some laser engraving done. This is to label every port and every feature that the crew can interact with. Their time is heavily scheduled up there and they use step-by-step scripts to explicitly coordinate everything from getting the Astro Pis out and setting them up, to getting data off the SD cards and packing them away again.

Astro Pi in laser-etched flight case

An Astro Pi in its flight case, showing off a beautifully laser-etched Raspberry Pi logo

So this labelling (known within ESA as Ops Noms) allows the features of the flight cases to exactly match what is written in those ISS deployment scripts. There can be no doubt about anything this way.

Astro Pi in laser-etched flight case

An Astro Pi in its freshly laser-etched flight case, all inputs and outputs clearly labelled

In order to do this we asked our CAD guy, Jonathan Wells, to produce updated drawings of the flight cases showing the labels. We then took those to a company called Cut Tec up in Barnsley to do the work.

They have a machine, rather like a plotter, which laser etches according to the CAD file provided. The process actually involves melting the metal of the cases to leave a permanent, hard wearing, burn mark.

They engraved four of our ground Astro Pi units (used for training and verification purposes) followed by the two precious flight units that went through all the safety testing. Here is a video:

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After many months of hard work the only thing left to do was to package up the payload and ship it to ESA! This was done on Friday of last week.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

The final flight @astro_pi payload has left the building! @gsholling @astro_timpeake @spacegovuk @esa pic.twitter.com/cwU9Sko7gT

The payload is now with a space contractor company in Italy called ALTEC. They will be cleaning the units, applying special ISS bar codes, and packaging them into Nomex pouch bags for launch. After that the payload will be shipped to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to be loaded onto the same launch vehicle that Tim Peake will use to get into space: the Soyuz 45S.

This is not the last you’ll hear of Astro Pi!

We have a range of new Astro Pi educational resources coming up. There will be opportunities to examine the results of the winning competition experiments, and a data analysis activity where you can obtain a CSV file full of time-stamped sensor readings direct from Tim.

Tim has also said that, during the flight, he wants to use some of his free time on Saturday afternoons to do educational outreach. While we can’t confirm anything at this stage we are hopeful that some kind of interactive Astro Pi activities will take place. There could yet be more opportunities to get your code running on the ISS!

If you want to participate in this we recommend that you prepare by obtaining a Sense HAT and maybe even building a mock-up of the Astro Pi flight unit like the students of Cranmere Primary School did to test their competition entry.

Richard Hayler ☀ on Twitter

We’ve built a Lego version of the @astro_pi flight case to make sweaty-astronaut testing as realistic as possible. pic.twitter.com/pYETedeWgn

It’s been about 25 years since we last had a British Astronaut (Helen Sharman in 1991) and we all feel that this is a hugely historic and aspirational moment for Great Britain. To be so intimately involved thus far has been an honour and a privilege for us. We’ve made some great friends at the UK Space Agency, ESA, CGI, Airbus Defence & Space and Surrey Satellite Technology to name a few.

We wish Tim Peake all the best for what remains of his training and for the mission ahead. Thanks for reading, and please watch this short video if you want to find out a bit more about the man himself:

Tim Peake: How to be an Astronaut – Preview – BBC Two

Programme website: http://bbc.in/1KgRjWC An intimate portrait of the man behind the visor – British astronaut Tim Peake. Follow Tim Peake @BBCScienceClub, as he prepares for take off. #BritInSpace

The Astro Pis are staying on the ISS until 2022 when the coin cell batteries in their real time clocks reach end of life. So we sincerely hope that other crew members flying to the ISS will use them in the future.


Columbus ISS Training Module in Germany – Image credit ESA

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Kids! Teachers! Developers! PyConUK was a blast!

via Raspberry Pi

PyConUK is one of the Education Team’s favourite events of the year. We love the fact that as well as being a great community developer event, they also run an Education track for kids and teachers to learn and share.


It started with one of the organisers, Zeth, humorously holding up a wall clock saying “This is not a bomb” referencing the recent case of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed clock incident, and it ended with evacuation from the building due to the discovery of an unexploded WWII bomb.

On the Friday, teachers were invited to the Education Track (bursaries to get teachers out of school sponsored by the Bank of America) to participate in workshops and discussion sessions. A teachmeet took place to give teachers a chance to give a short talk, presentation or demonstration of a great idea or teaching tool.

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Saturday was the kids’ day. Our big interest at the moment is Astro Pi – we’re keen to see what people can do with the Sense HAT, the hardware that’s going to the International Space Station this December. Carrie Anne and Marc led workshops giving kids the chance to experiment with the board and learn about the physical world through activities using the sensors and LED display with Python.


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Nicholas interviewed a few kids and parents about their experience at the event:

PyCon UK Education Track 2015 – a Mum’s perspective

Uploaded by Nicholas Tollervey on 2015-09-21.

As well as our Sense HAT workshops there were other activities for the kids – Minecraft Pi with Martin O’Hanlon, and the Internet of Toys with Alan O’Donahoe. Meanwhile, a group of teachers from Skycademy did their own high altitude Pi balloon launch and James tethered a balloon at the venue to take birds-eye-view photos:

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At the end of the day some of the the kids were asked to present what they’d done on the conference’s main track:

PYCON UK 2015: Lightning PyKids

PYCON UK 2015: Saturday 19th September 2015

Also on the main track I gave a talk on Physical Computing with Python and Raspberry Pi:

PYCON UK 2015: Python Projects on the Raspberry Pi

Talk by Ben Nuttall PYCON UK 2015: Friday 18th September 2015

(see the slides)

The next day I gave a lightning talk on the story of pyjokes. There was also a talk on teaching using PyGame Zero by Tim Golden. Read about his experiences on his blog.


Nicholas Tollervey launched the Education track and it’s grown over the last few years, reaching hundreds of teachers and kids

On Sunday, James and Marc drove to the National Space Centre in Leicester to do a balloon launch with a Sense HAT collecting data throughout the flight. You can download the data as a CSV file – see if you can do anything interesting with it and let us know in the comments!

Carrie Anne was part of a panel discussing the state of Python and its future before the closing of the main event, and James presented some photos taken by the Pi he sent up that morning:


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On the final day we joined in with the sprints, where we invited developers to help work on some education focused projects. We had teams working on PyGame Zero, GPIO Zero and porting PITS (Pi in the Sky) software to Python.

Humongous thanks go out to the organising team, and particularly to Nicholas Tollervey who took on the running of the conference part way through the year when the long-standing chairman John Pinner sadly passed away.

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What a good idea! Thanks John!

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Ars Electronica: we’re back with Eslov!

via Arduino Blog


After nine years, Arduino participated to Ars Electronica 2015 to present an intelligent module system developed at the Malmö office: the system is called Eslov and is meant to make creation and coding very easy. This system allows you to explore the concepts of physical computing by plugging modules that can be programmed using a visual interface.


Our partners at the PELARS* project and some of our team members went to Linz to build the PELARS “Learning + Making” Zone for the U19 / Create Your World area, a part of the festival dedicated to teenagers. A pop-up experimental learning environment was built and it aimed to support learners understand what’s going on when they do hands-on science, technology & math in the classroom. Students and visitors tried Eslov and made some game dynamics to experience how the modules work. The feedback from the participants was encouraging with many students staying for a couple of hours and even returning back for multiple sessions.


Eslov will be also presented on our booth at World Maker Faire New York on September 26th to 27th, and Maker Faire Rome on October 16th to 18th.

*Pelars stands for Practice-based Experiential Learning Analytics Research And Support. Pelars is a project meant for improving how teachers, learners and technologies can support one another in hands-on learning of science, technology and math (STEM). Pelars will develop technologies (kits, sensing and electronic systems for classrooms) that will help teachers and learners understand what happens when people do science and math in the classroom.

PELARS project has received funding from the European’s Seventh Framework Programme for research technological development and demonstrations under grant agreement 619738.

If you want to follow up the development of the project in depth, visit the PELARS main page at: http://learningmaking.eu

EUflag pelarslogo

(The news was originally posted on Arduino Verkstad blog by Laura Balboa)

Raspberry Pi in Estonia project launch

via Raspberry Pi

If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen some pictures of me standing next to important looking people in suits, handing out Raspberry Pi kits on Tuesday. This was the launch event for an educational project we’ve been working on with the British Embassy in Tallinn over the last few months.


Back in February of this year, just after the Raspberry Pi 2 launch, we were invited to mentor at the Garage48 Hardware & Arts Hackathon at the University of Tartu in Estonia. Rachel and I attended, and were amazed by the projects the teams were coming up with – some of which used Raspberry Pi. We were there to offer technical advice as well as help prepare teams for their pitch presentations. The event was a serious competition with teams thinking about creating businesses off the back of the projects, rather than throwaway apps you might expect from regular hackathons.

Somewhat casually, it was announced that the Prime Minister would be attending the presentations and awards ceremony. At age 35, Taavi Rõivas is the youngest government leader in the European Union. It wasn’t just a fleeting visit – he stuck around all day and took notes throughout the presentations. We were introduced to him and he knew of Raspberry Pi (he has one but hasn’t got around to using it yet). He said that he’d visited the Pi factory in Pencoed and I took the opportunity to have my photo taken with him.

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The winning team was from the Estonian Army, who used a Pi to provide feedback during target practice. Read about this project and the runners up at estonianworld.com.

After the hackathon we had meetings with some Education organisations and the British Embassy and we ended up kicking off a project to get Raspberry Pis into schools across Estonia. We offered to fund half of the kits, and Transferwise kindly provided match funding to cover the rest.

We were also involved in HITSA‘s Informatics Teachers Summer School which took place in August – as well as providing match funding for 60 Pi 2s and the excellent CamJam Sensor Kits, I gave a webinar to introduce the Pi and the Foundation’s mission to the teachers. We also granted two Estonian teachers a place on Picademy North in May.

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We were then invited to an event marking the opening of the hubs, which took place earlier this week, and the Embassy had arranged for the British Ambassador and the Prime Minister to attend.

The day started with me giving seminars to two groups of children from the school (a very large school combining what we’d call Primary and Secondary); then after lunch we set up the room which soon filled with more children, teachers and the press. Transferwise handed out t-shirts they had made for the occasion and the room was coated in Raspberry Pi flyers and balloons. There was even Raspberry Pie on offer!

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The Prime Minister arrived and the event began with the Ambassador Chris giving a speech saying how proud he was to be involved in the project; followed by the Prime Minister saying a few words, thanking the Foundation and Transferwise. Then I spoke of the Foundation’s original goal to create a computer the price of a textbook to make it accessible to all, and of the great opportunities created for children all over Estonia. The three of us then joined up with Transferwise to hand out the kits to a representative of each of the 20 schools.

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The Picademy trained teachers also presented. Birgy Lorenz showed what the Raspberry Pi could do, including a demo of Sonic Pi from the kids accompanied by Birgy on a real piano; and Maria Malozjomov explained the possibilities of using the Raspberry Pi with young children, and showed a video of her children unboxing and setting up:

There was then some time for demonstrations of the Raspberry Pis we’d set up – ones for Scratch, Minecraft, Sonic Pi, Python & Picamera and one with the Sense HAT. The Prime Minister managed to get himself a seat at the Minecraft table and was seen playing with it between speeches:


Even Prime Ministers like to play Minecraft: Pi Edition

I also happened to have an Astro Pi Flight kit running a copy of the actual flight SD card with the Astro Pi competition code with me:


The Astro Pi flight kit running the MCP

The launch event ended with a mega Picamera selfie! I set up a push button stop motion loop in Python and triggered it to take a few photos with the crowd behind me:


The mega selfie moment captured

The British Ambassador Chris Holtby said:

Today has been a very exciting day, and an important day for technology in Estonian schools.  We have now equipped 20 schools and other centres all across Estonia with Raspberry Pi kits, and further schools and centres will become Raspberry Pi hubs in the next phases. Many young (and not so young) people in Estonia want to learn to program, but often the equipment and know-how is not available. This programme is aimed to help fix those gaps.

Today’s launch of the RaspberryPiEstonia programme was only possible through the hard work and commitment of great partners in the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Transferwise and Vaata Maailma Sihtasutus, and the dedication and inspiration of Information Technology teachers and professionals across Estonia. I am grateful to them all, and proud to have been able to work with them.

I am also very honoured that Prime Minister Taavi Roivas was able to join us today, and to be the one handing over the equipment.  It is important to have the support of the Government in giving this project maximum impact and making it sustainable.

Chris Holtby

After the event I gave a seminar to the Tallinn Informatics Teachers Group to follow on from the webinar at the Summer School.

See this storify of all the day’s tweets; check out the British Embassy’s photo album on Facebook; and you can watch the full video of the event on YouTube.

A great big thanks to the Krislin and the team at the British Embassy in Tallinn, the Ambassador Chris Holtby, lead teachers Birgy Lorenz and Maria Malozjomov, Mari-Liis at HITSA, all the team at Transferwise, and of course Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

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A DIY smartwatch designed by a kid for kids

via Arduino Blog


Omkar is a special 8 years old who created a wearable device called O Watch: an Arduino Zero-based smartwatch kit for kids. The project, recently kickstarted, allows young people to learn programming, 3D printing and a bit of craft while making their own smartwatch and customizing it. The kit will be released with a series of learning tools including a kid-friendly website with easy tutorials, examples and a community to share creations.

He’s not new to DIY tech and learning as he’s been doing a few workshops to teach Arduino to other kids and likes it when they get excited about making Arduino projects. Omkar told us:

I was first interested in robots. But my dad got me started with projects that light up LEDs that were easier to learn and code myself. (ps: my dad did not let me get a robot kit at first :).

I decided to do a wearable project because there were many of them I saw in the news and I thought they were cool. I wanted to make a smartwatch so that I could wear it myself and share my project with my friends in school.

If you are a kid and are new to making, O Watch could be a great starting point as you’ll learn about coding, 3d printing, craft and also sharing. The Arduino IDE will be your  primary programming tool for the watch, the case can be 3D printed in a color of your choice and you’ll experiment on how to knot yourself a cool band to wear it.


What are you waiting for? You have just a few days to back the project on Kickstarter and have an O Watch delivered to your home!

DJ MistaJam and Sam Aaron compose using code

via Raspberry Pi

Live coder, researcher, MagPi contributor and creator of the music live coding platform Sonic Pi, Sam Aaron has recently found the time to teach BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra DJ MistaJam how to code music.

Sam and MistaJam look at Bizet’s Carmen before working their magic on updating it and creating a new arrangement through live coding. If you are based in the UK then you can watch their session on the BBC website here.

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Live coding masterclass for DJ MistaJam from Sam Aaron with Sonic Pi

If you are unable to watch the video there is no need to feel left out, Sam has provided the code from the session for you to play in Sonic Pi and experiment with yourself.

This session is part of the BBC’s Ten Pieces initiative for schools which aims to open up the world of classical music to children and inspire them to develop their own creative responses to the pieces through music, dance, digital art and performance poetry. It includes teaching resources for both primary and secondary and officially launches in October 2015 with free screenings of a brand new cinematic film featuring stunning footage of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra performing a new selection of orchestral music, representing a wide range of styles and eras relevant to the Key Stage 3/3rd Level music curriculum.

Benton Park Primary have featured on our blog for their Sonic Pi Orchestra and were in fact one of last year’s Ten Pieces finalists!


Sam is a regular at Picademy helping to train and inspire teachers

Teaching music and teaching computer science have been at the heart of Sonic Pi development over the past few years. We have an entire Key Stage 3 Sonic Pi scheme of work containing lesson plans for computing in our free resources and as part of the Sonic Pi Live and Coding Project there is a scheme of work for teaching Key Stage 3 Music too. Sam often speaks about Sonic Pi in education as well as seeing programming as a performance like in his TEDxNewcastle talk:

Outside of the curriculum, Sonic Pi is a fantastic way to unleash your creativity and learn how to code. We always include the latest version of Sonic Pi on our operating system Raspbian, and we have resources to get you started dropping your first beats. Sam is also a regular contributor to The MagPi, our official Raspberry Pi magazine. In issue 37 Sam introduces us to beat stretching, filtering and slicing with Sonic Pi v2.6 as he continues to push the boundaries of music creation with his free and open source software.

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So what are you waiting for? Why not use Sonic Pi to create your own creative responses to one of the Ten Pieces and let us know how you get on.

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