A very quick post: I’m about to run out of the door to meet TechCrunch at Adafruit. Have a squizz at the video below; this is a really cute little add-on for your Pi that’s just been put out by w8bh.net. It’s an 8×8 matrix of LEDs that you can plug directly into your Pi’s GPIO and program to do neat stuff. You can buy one at mypishop.com. Discuss it among yourselves – I have to go and jump in a taxi!
Meltwater (of MagPi fame) has been working on some affordable teaching add-ons for the Pi. He’s demonstrating what you can do with one of his little kits with this natty tutorial where you’ll be creating your own Python library, and using it to do some low-level control of the GPIO. You’ll need one of his RGB LED kits if you want to be able to use your brand new library to play with making disco rainbows (Meltwater’s selling them for a very reasonable £14.49, and they’re a superb teaching tool) – but if you don’t have the kit you can still use the tutorial, with a little adaptation, for your own GPIO projects. And everybody should know about Python libraries, so if you don’t, get to it.
RGB LED teaching kit, with a rev1 Pi. Click to enlarge.
When you’ve worked through the tutorial, you’ll have learned how to use Python libraries, and you’ll be able to make (tiny) blinky disco lights in many colours. But Meltwater’s not doing all the work for you: there are further tasks in there for extra credit and a (pretend) gold star. For extra credit, you’ll be working out on your own how to make the LEDS output the first five colours of the rainbow, which, as any fule kno, are red and yellow and pink and green, orange…
These little teaching kits come with a useful manual too. Fancy sending us one for the demo table, Meltwater?
Jet lag has broken my brain. I spent the night in a special extended edition of one of those paralysed 3am panics about things left undone, slept through the alarm, and only woke up eight hours later, at 4.30pm. Please don’t talk to me. Sounds hurt.
I was planning a nice long post about robots today, but the screen is strobing at me and my eyes are watering. So instead, I’m going to embed a video and give you a link to this really excellent project from Rasathus, which has a special significance for anybody feeling the way I do today. Rasathus has made a Raspberry Pi version of NASA’s circadian lighting setup, used in the International Space Station. Astronauts on the ISS do not have access to the sleep-promoting tools that we here on earth do (hot baths, warm cats, fluffy pyjamas, too much email), so NASA and Boeing spent $11.2m on making the lights on the ISS cycle through red and blue. Rasathus has done much the same thing with a $35 Pi and some $40 LEDs. Suggestions for what NASA might have done with the savings in the comments, please.
In short, this project will allow you to fake up sunrises and sunsets, bright noontime light and all that good stuff. I plan to build one myself to avoid a repeat of today’s total failure of body clock for the next time I have to travel. You’ll need some bits and pieces you can get from Adafruit (there’s a hardware list on Rasathus’s website), and the code is all available on Github.
I’m going to have a nice soothing bath in my pyjamas with Mooncake. Thank you, Rasathus, for the clever.
If you’re at BETT this week, come over to Stand B240 to meet one of the Robs, Clive and a bunch of impaled Jelly Babies.
So here’s a little change of pace after yesterday’s excitement. We’ve noticed a lot of artists working Raspberry Pis into their installations; we’re still very proud that the new Tanks space at Tate Modern had a couple of Pis driving one of their very first exhibits. It makes good sense; the Raspberry Pi’s a lot cheaper and smaller, and a lot less power hungry than the laptops or PC towers that people used to use for this sort of task.
Still in London, we discovered last week that this flotilla of paper boats, which doubles as an array of LEDs and can be controlled by the mobile phones of passers-by, was being exhibited at Canary Wharf. There’s a Raspberry Pi acting as a DHCP and web server as part of the control mechanism, and we find ourselves surprisingly touched at finding a Pi in something so beautiful.
Voyage is an installation from Aether Hemera; you can read more about the setup at their website. I’m not sure how long it’s there for (or even if it’s still in place; we were a little late finding out about this); have any of you London readers had a chance to see it?
There are more pictures of Voyage at Design Boom; they’re well worth a look.
On his blog, Miguel presents one of his latest projects:
This project shows the operation of an RGB lamp using a digital LED strip. After activating the bluetooth connection, the user can open the GUI on the PC to control the lamp. The program shows a hue palette divided into 30 rods, one for each LED of the strip.
By clicking & dragging the mouse cursor it is possible to make your own patterns,. To remove a color, the user can simply click on a rod while pressing the spacebar, which switches off the selected LED.
Part list: wooden support, RGB digitally-addressable LED strip, microcontroller (Arduino Pro Mini, for example), Bluetooth or USB wire.
More information on this project can be found on Miguel’s blog, while a brief video about its operation can be found here; the code of the project can be found on Github. The project’s page on Thingiverse can be found here.
Meltwater, who you may know from our forums or from the MagPi, where he’s a regular contributor, has been introducing Phoebe, who celebrates her sixth birthday in February, to electronics engineering. He says:
I’ve been working on producing a RGB LED module to use with the Raspberry Pi, since the bright colours and being able to control something so instant is ideal for playing with. I’m using GPIO, LEDs and Scratch being on the to do list (motors to follow).
Anyway, I was writing some notes out for it and Phoebe wanted to help, so she copied the entire page, asking about what each part was (this is before I’ve even shown her the LEDs switched on). She also drew me a diagram of the circuit they did the other week at school, a “battery”, “tough long wires” and “light bulb” (I think I might have to offer an afternoon there at some point, but is only 1st year).
Meltwater attached some photos to the email, and I thought they deserved sharing. Our suspicion is that Phoebe really, really wants some LEDs, and this is a subtle way of getting the message across.
Meltwater’s original notebook scribblings (click to embiggen)…
…and Phoebe’s remarkably faithful copy. A father/daughter trip to the electronics shop for LEDs is coming up this week. Phoebe has said she wants pink ones. (Click to enlarge)
Careers day at Phoebe’s school is going to be a hoot.
I will leave you with Phoebe’s robot; she’s been doing some paper prototyping with Dad. What have you been doing with your kids over the holiday? Mail me if you’ve got something you’d like to share; we love looking at your kids’ projects!
Phoebe’s robot. She says that next she wants to go to the metal shop (B&Q) for parts.
In his blog, Michael describes a nice 4WD robot he realized by means of an arduino-compatible board, a motor shield and a couple of XBee radios, which have been used to implement a simple and effective remote control.
Actually, the remote is made up of a standard breadboard equipped with a joystick, a couple of buttons (that can turn the robot in a Kitt-like vehicle!) and the XBee radio. One interesting feature of this project is that the remote controller is fairly simple and has been designed to work with just the XBee radio board, instead of requiring an additional MCU.