Tag Archives: Martin O’Hanlon

Adventures in Minecraft

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Martin O’Hanlon and David Whale will be familiar to many readers of this blog, whether from the excellent Raspberry Pi and Minecraft resources they’ve authored or from their work with schools, code clubs and Raspberry Jams. Now they’ve teamed up to write a fantastic new book, hot off the press this week.

Adventures in Minecraft

Adventures in Minecraft teaches young people to customise their Minecraft world with amazing structures and new gaming experiences, developing Python programming skills along the way. Nine self-contained projects introduce readers with no programming experience to the basics and then move on to increasingly sophisticated mods, and eventually to controlling and sensing real-world objects from within Minecraft!

Made for Minecraft Pi or for Minecraft on a PC or Apple Mac, the book is written especially for 11-15-year-olds, although we’ve already come across rave reviews from both younger and older readers. It has a companion website full of extras and video tutorials, as well as a mini-site created by Martin, with a forum where readers can discuss their projects and ask for help. Martin has also made a video montage of some of the adventures in the book:

Carrie Anne Philbin, our Education Pioneer, says, “It’s excellent that kids have a dedicated, full-colour book like this to help them get into programming with Minecraft, and it will make a great companion to Adventures in Raspberry Pi!”

You can buy Adventures in Minecraft now from Amazon and other book sellers. Why not treat the Minecraft fan in your life?

Layer Cam: the lensless tourist camera in a lunchbox

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Have you ever noticed the way that everybody takes the same photo when doing the tourist thing? Just look at Google: there are a million pictures of people punting past King’s College Chapel in Cambridge out there, all taken at the same angle, from the same position – and they’re all online. So why do we (and I’m just as guilty of this as everybody else) spend precious time taking pictures of something that somebody’s almost certainly taken a better photo of already?

SaladeTomateOignon in Paris, another photogenic city, has noticed the same thing.

He says:

28 million people visit Paris every year, taking dozens of pictures each. Every building, every statue has been captured, under every sky and every light.

Because billions of pictures of the Eiffel tower have been taken, I am sure that you can find matching cloud patterns in dozen of them, even if taken years apart.

Pictures have been taken with simple pin-hole camera, smartphones or with the most complex and expensive large format silver film camera or DSLR, and lots of them are now online.

On the Internet, those photographies are sprinkled over the city, with some areas densely covered, and other more sparsely. Each website is like a stratum of pictures of every kind: postcards, paintings, photos, satellite images…

Layer cam is a project to tap into those layers, like a drill extracting a core sample of images.

Based on a Raspberry Pi, connected to the Internet through wifi and geolocalized by a GPS chip, Layer cam runs with Python code (mostly made from bits of code I found here (Martin O’Hanlon) and there (disasterjs) and taps into Panoramio API. The ‘Layer cam’ logo has been designed by Alice.

We love this project. It’s just the right amount of pointless, it’s in a Tupperware box, Paris is beautiful, and it made us smile. You can find out how to build your own at saladtomateoignon, with code and physical build instructions (which involve rubber bands and duct tape, like the very best of projects).

Getting hooked on programming with YRS project ‘Hook’

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Carrie Anne: A few weeks ago, Raspberry Pi hosted its first ever Young Rewired State centre and took part in the Festival of Code. We had a lot of fun. Our participants talked about their experience in this blog post. Whilst we were at the finals in Plymouth, our teams were competing against a group from BBC Birmingham mentored by our good friend Martin O’Hanlon, and their Raspberry Pi project blew us away. Here in their own words is a little more about it.

Not only functional, but stylish too!

Not only functional, but stylish too!

While taking part in the YRS Festival of Code at BBC Birmingham our team wanted to come up with something fun. The idea we finally settled on after much talk of boats and canals (thanks Martin!) was the internet enabled coat hook – a coat hook which would tell you what to wear that day based on the weather forecast.

Fuelled by an endless supply of biscuits and coffee at BBC Birmingham and with the help of our mentors we set about creating our ‘hack’. At the weekend down in Plymouth we were lucky enough to make it into the final three for the ‘Best in Show’ category, losing out to another team. However since we were runners up in the category we were rewarded with some limited edition Blue Raspberry Pis!

Our idea was well received throughout the weekend in Plymouth, but what surprised us most was the reception that it received online. Seeing people we’ve never met before announce online that they’d buy our ‘internet enabled coat hook’ that we’d hastily constructed a few days prior was the craziest part of the weekend.

Screenshot from 2014-08-10 213744

We’ve each written a short paragraph about our contribution to the ‘hack’ and what we learnt during the week.

Screenshot from 2014-08-15 193909 Screenshot from 2014-08-15 193840Jenny & Ed: Why did we use Lego to build the Hook? Because it’s a classic building material enabling the design of Hook to be easily changed during development, as well as being sturdy AND fun – no actually it was because Kevin (from YRS) promised cake to any teams that used Lego in their hack.

We built the Lego around the coat rack and then the LED chipboards to secure the whole thing together, originally using a breadboard to connect up the Raspberry Pi and the LEDs with crocodile clips, however we kept facing issues where the LEDs would not light up. We realised that this was because one of the clips wasn’t on properly or the pin in the breadboard was loose, so decided that it would be more secure and look better if we created an actual chipboard and soldered all the parts together: cue multiple expeditions down to the workshop and a lot of time bonding with the soldering iron (if you’ll pardon the pun). The building of the Lego structure took around half a day, not including the numerous heated discussions about which colour bricks to use, and then completing the circuitry meant we had a working prototype design only a couple of hours later.

Screenshot from 2014-08-15 193922Darci: I worked on the animation for our project (The Hook). To do this, the BBC gave us some prototype LED boards, which I programmed using a Scratch-like program. We were going to make weather-specific animations for wind, rain and sunshine, but as we only had four days to produce it, I ended up making one animation to show all of the weather animations together.

I started off figuring out how to control the LEDs using an Arduino, but then we all agreed that it would be better to use a Raspberry Pi rather than an Arduino because I find Python much easier to understand than Arduino, and we could also use the GPIO to hook up the LED devices to the Raspberry Pi. So, it seemed simpler to use the Raspberry Pi to control everything instead. I used Python and the RPi.GPIO library to write the code to allow the back end to control the LEDs.

Darci presents hook

Darci presents Hook

Screenshot from 2014-08-15 193944Cameron: I ended up working on the back end which was written in Python. It controls the obtaining and processing of the data from the Met Office and then runs lower level code written by Darci. The Met Office API was really nice and returns a Weather Type field in the JSON response which saved us having to come up with our own heuristic for what the weather will be like. The best take-away from this for me would have to be the program PuTTY which is a free SSH client for Windows that removed the need to connect anything except a Wi-Fi dongle to the Raspberry Pi. The JSON library for Python was very useful and easy to work with as well, something that’s well worth learning.

Screenshot from 2014-08-15 194010Jack: I worked on the front end of the website which allows the user to configure what item of clothing they wanted to place on each individual hook, which could potentially change depending on the time of year. In order to fetch relevant weather forecast data from the Python backend the user’s geolocation was fetched through the browser using JavaScript. Additional information such as the item of clothing on each hook was written to a text file, allowing it to be easily read by the Python script. We aimed to make the website responsive across multiple different screen sizes, so writing CSS media queries was a new skill I had to learn during the week. Luckily the good folks mentoring at BBC Birmingham were happy to show me the ropes.

YRS BBC Birmingham Team Hook

YRS BBC Birmingham Team Hook

Carrie Anne: Although this project did not win in its category, it could still win the public vote! If you are as impressed as we are with this project then head on over to the voting page to cast your vote for Hook!

Using Minecraft: Raspberry Pi Edition to get kids computing

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After a workshop last week, Clive, our Director of Educational Development, sent me the following in an email:

A parent came up to me, and said: “I’m concerned that on Minecraft you can blow things up with TNT, it’s all about destruction, I’m worried about the effect on children…”

If you ever want to make a six-foot-one Liverpudlian with a motorcycle cry, just repeat that sentence to him. Clive has been inconsolable for days. Why? Because Minecraft: Raspberry Pi Edition is a teaching and learning tool we’ve found absolutely invaluable. It’s a powerful way to get kids who didn’t realise they had an aptitude for programming excited about the Pi; it’s a creative, constructive tool; kids and teachers love it; and we find it’s enormously popular with kids all over the world. At an event this weekend, Carrie Anne Philbin and Alex Bradbury witnessed children crying (and I promise we are not the sort of people who try to make children cry) when asked to allow other kids to have a go.

Here’s Martin O’Hanlon, of Stuff About Code, to explain why teaching with Minecraft is such a good idea. This video was filmed at last month’s Raspberry Jamboree: thanks to Alan O’Donohoe for filming it.

We’re very close to launching our new website now: you’ll be able to see it, and the learning resources we’re producing, around the beginning of April. We’ll have plenty of Minecraft resources to show you then, packaged for teachers and for pupils. We hope you’ll enjoy using them as much as we have enjoyed making them.

GPS-tracking helmet cam

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Martin O’Hanlon’s a familiar name in these parts, especially for fans of Minecraft: his repository of Pi Minecraft tricks and tutorials is one of our favourite resources. But Martin’s not all about magicking Menger-Sierpinski Sponges into the Minecraft universe: he does wonderful stuff with hardware and the Raspberry Pi too. Here’s some footage from his latest:

What you’re looking at here is something we haven’t seen before: camera footage with a GPS overlay, showing the route Martin has skied and his current speed. (Gordon, who has his own helmet cam hack, is quivering with envy.) Martin’s setup, like all the best Raspberry Pi hacks, also involves tupperware. It’s a one-button, one-led design, so it’s as easy as possible to use when you’re wearing ski gloves.

Work in progress

You can find everything you’ll need to construct your own at Martin’s Stuff about Code; he’s also done a very detailed writeup of the design process and included plenty of construction tips, along with the usual code and parts list. Thanks Martin!

Nicholas, some breadboard and a passcode

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Nicholas Harris is 11 years old, and he’s been learning to code with a Raspberry Pi. He’s set up a website to share his progress, and yesterday I was pointed at a project video he’d made.

Kids like Nicholas are the whole reason we started the Raspberry Pi project: seeing videos like this makes our day, and makes our job feel so worthwhile. Nicholas started with Codecadamy and a desire to control more of the world in Minecraft: Pi Edition (he’s a big fan of Martin O’Hanlon’s Stuff About Code, particularly the Minecraft bits, and Martin has been giving him pointers in his Minecraft work), and he’s now building bigger and bigger projects, learning Python, Ruby and some PHP.

Learning to program as a kid comes with its own set of difficulties. Nicholas’ baby sister threw the entire contents of his hardware kit (which I think was this Adafruit one – let me know if I’ve got that right, Nicholas) into the family LEGO box, and while he was able to retrieve most of the pieces, the light-sensitive photocell never turned up. But Nicholas is a resourceful sort, and found a project in which he could use all the other bits.

So here is Nicholas’ passcode reader. It’s great to see him SSH’ing into the Pi, writing Python, and learning electronics and binary, all in one project. Next stop: soldering!

Thanks Nicholas: and let us know if you do write up a tutorial like you mentioned!

Are you a kid who is learning about computing with the Pi at home? Do you have any projects you’d like to show us? You can get in touch with us via the contact page.

Abattoir! A topical Scratch game.

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Martin O’Hanlon from Stuff About Code (you might recall Thursday’s post about his adventures in Minecraft) has written a Scratch game that made us laugh. Hard.

Wherever you are in the world, you’ve probably heard something about the recent horsemeat adulteration scandal in Europe, where cheap beef mince products like lasagna and frozen burgers turned out to be anything up to 100% horse. In Abattoir! you’ll be making sure that only delicious cow makes it into the mincer. Have a look at this video for some gameplay.

Get the code at Stuff About Code.

Hacking the Minecraft world

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If you’re a Minecraft fan and a Pi owner, you’ve probably already downloaded a copy of Minecraft: Pi Edition. But are you getting the most out of the fact that you can modify the world with code in-game?

If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’re looking for ideas (sometimes being given a blank canvas can be lousy for getting the brain sparking), Martin O’Hanlon at the marvellous <Stuff about=”code” /> has several tutorials on Minecraft: Pi Edition, from installing the game to using the Minecraft API to build wonderful things, like magical bridges that appear where’er you walk, games of hide and seek, and in-game analogue clocks.

The hide and seek hack is easy and rewarding: with a little coding you’ll be able to get the game to hide a diamond somewhere in the world for you to find, and to give you hints of the warmer/colder variety.

You can find code and an explanation of what’s going on over at Stuff About…

And we’re all agreed that the clock is just brilliant (it’s also big enough that you can go and stand on the hands). Again, the project has its own page with code and a spot of discussion.

We’d love to see what you’ve been doing in Minecraft – take some video, or write something about your experiments on your own website, and let us know about it!