Tag Archives: Makers

Fail your way to perfection

via Raspberry Pi

As educators and makers at Raspberry Pi, we think a lot about failure and how to deal with it constructively. Much has been written about the importance of failure to design and engineering projects. It is undoubtedly true that you can learn a lot from your mistakes, like getting the wrong size of part, mistyping your code, or not measuring when doing your DIY. The importance of failure has even become a bit of a common trope: just think of those slightly annoying inspirational quotes attributed to famous historical figures which you find all over social media.

I-have-not-failed—Edison

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison.

Failure can be good!

But, as with many a cliché, there is an underlying truth that it is worth revisiting. Designing, engineering, and creating all involve making mistakes along the way. Even though failures feel bad, by reaching out when something goes wrong, you can call on the expertise of your community, learn, and make the final result better.

However, we often think failing also makes us look bad, so we don’t talk about it as an essential part of the process that got us to the end stage. We make things shiny and glossy to big-up our success, putting all the focus on the result. This tendency is, however, not necessarily helpful if we want to help educate others. As Jonathan Sanderson of NUSTEM puts it:

Jonathan Sanderson on Twitter

stem educators: worth noting: confessions of rank stupidity in digital making get responses, sympathy, offers of help on Twitter. (1/2)

Jonathan Sanderson on Twitter

yet our write-ups only feature the things we did right. Mis-steps and recovery from failure are key parts of process. (2/2)

The NUSTEM team truly believes in this: when sharing their builds, they include a section on what they would do differently next time. By highlighting the journey, and the mistakes made along the way, they are not only helping those that also want to go on that journey, they are also demystifying the process a bit.

Celebrate your fails

Because failure feels bad, we don’t routinely celebrate it. But there are niches where failure is celebrated: Simone Giertz’s (slightly sweary) YouTube videos are a great example. And then there is Hebocon, the Japanese competition for cruddy robots. In fact, the organisers of Hebocon make a great point: crafts that do not go as intended are interesting.

This is as much true when working with young people as it is in the wider world. In Pioneers, we also want to do our bit to celebrate failure. Our judges don’t just watch the teams’ videos to see how they overcame what went wrong along the way, they also have an award category that celebrates wrong turns and dead ends: ‘We appreciate what you’re trying to do’. Our first challenge‘s winning entry in this category was PiCymru’s We Shall Overcomb:

PiCymru : Make us Laugh Challenge

The video of the PiCymru teams Pioneer challenge entry! The team wasn’t able to get things to work the way they hoped, but wanted to share the joy of failure :)


The category name was suggested by our lovely judge from the first cycle, stand-up comedian Bec Hill: it’s one of the accepted heckles the audience can shout out at her stand-up scratch nights. Scratch nights are preview events at which a comedian tests new material, and they are allowed to fail on stage. We may not often think of comedy as embracing failure, but comedians do scratch nights specifically to learn from their mistakes, and to make the final product all the better for it. Interestingly, scratch nights are hugely popular with audiences.

So, if you’re working with a group of young people, what can you do to encourage learning from failure and not let them give up?

Helping you to fail better

In our book Ideas start here, for Pioneers mentors, we’ve given a few tips and phrases that can come in useful. For example, if someone says, “It isn’t working!”, you could respond with “Why not? Have you read the error log?” RTFM is a real thing, and an important skill for digital life.

We agree with engineer Prof Danielle George, who believes in being honest about your failures and highlighting their importance to where you’ve got now. “I fail a lot,” she says. “The trick is to embrace these failures; we don’t have to succeed the first time. We learn from our mistakes and move forwards.”

If, as a mentor, you’re not sure how to encourage and support those not used to failing, this article also has some more tips.

If nothing else helps, but you need to feel inspired, think about what someone said to Karen, who sucks at surfing:

Karen, you are actually pretty good at surfing. Keep in mind that billions of other humans wouldn’t dare even try.

How about you? If you have a story of what you learned from failure in one of your projects, share it in the comments!

Mistakes GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY

Discover & Share this Mistakes GIF with everyone you know. GIPHY is how you search, share, discover, and create GIFs.

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Teenage Maker builds his own Arduino drone

via Arduino Blog

When most people decide they’re going to build a quadcopter, they likely go to their favorite online retailer or hobby shop, and get the correct parts to connect together.

17-year-old Maker Nikodem Bartnik instead decided to customize things further, programming an Arduino to act as his flight controller, and constructing a transmitter (or “pilot” as he refers to it) from scratch. Finally, he attempted to 3D print the frame, but after some difficulty chose to just buy one.

The rest of the electronics consisted of four motors, four ESCs, some propellers, two nRF24L01 radio modules, an MPU-6050, a LiPo battery, and a bunch of other small components. You can see more of Bartnik’s project over on Instructables, as well as check out “Ludwik” (named partially as a nod to Nikodem’s friend “lukmar”) flying quite nicely in the video below.

This animatronic device turns speech into sign language

via Arduino Blog

Using a couple Arduinos, a team of Makers at a recent McHacks 24-hour hackathon developed a speech-to-sign language automaton.

Alex Foley, along with Clive Chan, Colin Daly, and Wilson Wu, wanted to make a tool to help with translation between oral and sign languages. What they came up with was an amazing animatronic setup that can listen to speech via a computer interface, and then translate it into sign language.

This device takes the form of two 3D-printed hands, which are controlled by servos and a pair Arduino Unos. In addition to speech translation, the setup can sense hand motions using Leap Motion’s API, allowing it to mirror a person’s gestures.

You can read about the development process in Foley’s Medium write-up, including their first attempt at control using a single Mega board.

An experimental game with a conductive rubber band controller

via Arduino Blog

RubberArms is an experimental rubber band game, created by Robin Baumgarten at the Global Game Jam 2017 in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.

The controller uses a conductive rubber cord from Adafruit that changes resistance as it’s stretched. This resistance is measured by an Arduino Micro/Leonardo (or a Teensy 3.2), which acts as a USB joystick sending signals to Unity3D. (The game is coded in Unity3D using Spring Joints and Line Renderers.)

At this point, the game is a simple prototype where you control the distance of two characters whose arms stretch whenever you stretch the rubber band, throwing little ‘Bleps’ around. You can read more about RubberArms on Baumgarten’s page, as well as his earlier project “Line Wobbler” here.

Pioneers: the first challenge is…

via Raspberry Pi

After introducing you all to Pioneers back in November, we’ve seen some amazing responses across social media with teams registering, Code Clubs and Jams retweeting and everyone getting themselves pumped up and ready for action.

Nicholas Tollervey on Twitter

This is the best thing I’ve seen in all my years involved in tech related education: https://t.co/5jerR9770r #MakeYourIdeas

Mass excitement all round – including here at Pi Towers! So, without further ado, here’s the delightful Owen to reveal the first challenge.

Pioneers Theme Launch

The eagerly anticipated Pioneers theme launch is here! If you’re yet to register for Pioneers, make sure you head to raspberrypi.org/pioneers And if you’ve no idea what we’re talking about, here’s Owen to explain more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPP3dfTlLOs&t=18s

That’s right: we want you to make us laugh with tech. As well as the great examples that Owen provides, you’ll also find some great starters on the Pioneers website, along with hundreds of projects online.

If you’ve yet to register your team, make sure you do so via this form. And if you’re struggling to find a mentor for your team, or a team to mentor, make sure to use the #MakeYourIdeas tag on social media to keep in the loop. It’s also worth checking organisations such as your local Code Club, CoderDojo, or makerspace for anyone looking to get involved.

This Pioneers challenge is open to anyone in the UK between the ages of twelve and 15. If you’re soon to turn twelve or have just turned 16, head over to the Pioneers FAQ page – you may still be eligible to enter.

So get making, and make sure to share the process on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat using #MakeYourIdeas!

posting your projects progress

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An Arduino laser pinball machine

via Arduino Blog

Pinball machines may seem like a good Maker project, but the mechanical components are quite involved. “Joesinstructables,” however, decided to take on this project on using an Erector Set, solenoids, and an Arduino board. In order to get around the challenge of using a heavy steel ball, he instead used a much lighter ping pong ball, sensed in the game by laser tripwires.

A number of solenoids propel the ball around and sound a service desk bell whenever a target is hit–one to three times depending on the difficulty level. Once the ball comes to rest in a target, a laser tripwire automatically triggers a solenoid to eject the ball, putting it back in play.

You can see more info on this build here, or even check out an earlier version for more inspiration!