Tag Archives: raspberry pi 3

Raspberry Pi snail habitats for Mrs Nation’s class

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These Raspberry Pis take hourly photographs of snails in plastic container habitats, sharing them to the Snail Habitat website.

Snails

While some might find them kind of icky, I am in love with snails (less so with their homeless cousin, the slug), so this snail habitat project from Mrs Nation’s class is right up my alley.

Snail Habitats

This project was done in a classroom with 22 students. We broke the kids out into groups and created 5 snail habitats. It would be a great project to do school-wide too, where you create 1 snail habitat per class. This would allow the entire school to get involved and monitor each other’s habitats.

Each snail habitat in Mrs Nation’s class is monitored by a Raspberry Pi and camera module, and Misty Lackie has written specific code to take a photo every hour, uploading the image to the dedicated Snail Habitat website. This allows the class to check in on their mollusc friends without disturbing their environment.

“I would love to see others habitats,” Misty states on the project’s GitHub repo, “so if you create one, please share it and I would be happy to publish it on snailhabitat.com.”

Snail facts according to Emma, our resident Bug Doctor

  • The World Snail Racing Championships take place in Norfolk every year. Emma’s friend took a snail there once, but it didn’t win.
  • Roman snails, while common in the UK, aren’t native to the country. They were brought to the country by the Romans. Emma is 99% sure this fact is correct.
  • Garlic snails, when agitated, emit a garlic scent. Helen likes the idea of self-seasoning escargots. Alex is less than convinced.
  • Snails have no backbone, making them awful wingmen during late-night pub brawls and confrontations.
  • This GIF may be fake:

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A low-cost, open-source, computer-assisted microscope

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Low-cost open labware is a good thing in the world, and I was particularly pleased when micropalaeontologist Martin Tetard got in touch about the Raspberry Pi-based microscope he is developing. The project is called microscoPI (what else?), and it can capture, process, and store images and image analysis results. Martin is engaged in climate research: he uses microscopy to study tiny fossil remains, from which he gleans information about the environmental conditions that prevailed in the far-distant past.

microscoPI: a microcomputer-assisted microscope

microscoPI a project that aims to design a multipurpose, open-source and inexpensive micro-computer-assisted microscope (Raspberry PI 3). This microscope can automatically take images, process them, and save them altogether with the results of image analyses on a flash drive. It it multipurpose as it can be used on various kinds of images (e.g.

Martin repurposed an old microscope with a Z-axis adjustable stage for accurate focusing, and sourced an inexpensive X/Y movable stage to allow more accurate horizontal positioning of samples under the camera. He emptied the head of the scope to install a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, and he uses an M12 lens adapter to attach lenses suitable for single-specimen close-ups or for imaging several specimens at once. A Raspberry Pi 3B sits above the head of the microscope, and a 3.5-inch TFT touchscreen mounted on top of the Raspberry Pi allows the user to check images as they are captured and processed.

The Raspberry Pi runs our free operating system, Raspbian, and free image-processing software ImageJ. Martin and his colleagues use a number of plugins, some developed themselves and some by others, to support the specific requirements of their research. With this software, microscoPI can capture and analyse microfossil images automatically: it can count particles, including tiny specimens that are touching, analyse their shape and size, and save images and results before prompting the user for the name of the next sample.

microscoPI is compact – less than 30cm in height – and it’s powered by a battery bank secured under the base of the microscope, so it’s easily portable. The entire build comes in at under 160 Euros. You can find out more, and get in touch with Martin, on the microscoPI website.

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Using data to help a school garden

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Chris Aviles, aka the teacher we all wish we’d had when we were at school, discusses how his school is in New Jersey is directly linking data with life itself…

Over to you, Chris.

Every year, our students take federal or state-mandated testing, but what significant changes have we made to their education with the results of these tests? We have never collected more data about our students and society in general. The problem is most people and institutions do a poor job interpreting data and using it to make meaningful change. This problem was something I wanted to tackle in FH Grows.

FH Grows is the name of my seventh-grade class, and is a student-run agriculture business at Knollwood Middle School in Fair Haven, New Jersey. In FH Grows, we sell our produce both online and through our student-run farmers markets. Any produce we don’t sell is donated to our local soup kitchen. To get the most out of our school gardens, students have built sensors and monitors using Raspberry Pis. These sensors collect data which then allows me to help students learn to better interpret data themselves and turn it into action.

Turning data into action

In the greenhouse, our gardens, and alternative growing stations (hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics) we have sensors that log the temperature, humidity, and other important data points that we want to know about our garden. This data is then streamed in real time, online at FHGrows.com. When students come into the classroom, one of the first things we look at is the current, live data on the site and find out what is going on in our gardens. Over the course of the semester, students are taught about the ideal growing conditions of our garden. When looking at the data, if we see that the conditions in our gardens aren’t ideal, we get to work.

If we see that the greenhouse is too hot, over 85 degrees, students will go and open the greenhouse door. We check the temperature a little bit later, and if it’s still too hot, students will go turn on the fan. But how many fans do you turn on? After experimenting, we know that each fan lowers the greenhouse temperature between 7-10 degrees Fahrenheit. Opening the door and turning on both fans can bring a greenhouse than can push close to 100 degrees in late May or early June down to a manageable 80 degrees.

Turning data into action can allow for some creativity as well. Over-watering plants can be a real problem. We found that our plants were turning yellow because we were watering them every day when we didn’t need to. How could we solve this problem and become more efficient at watering? Students built a Raspberry Pi that used a moisture sensor to find out when a plant needed to be watered. We used a plant with the moisture sensor in the soil as our control plant. We figured that if we watered the control plant at the same time we watered all our other plants, when the control plant was dry (gave a negative moisture signal) the rest of the plants in the greenhouse would need to be watered as well.

Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Raspberry Pi Certified Educator

This method of determining when to water our plants worked well. We rarely ever saw our plants turn yellow from overwatering. Here is where the creativity came in. Since we received a signal from the Raspberry Pi when the soil was not wet enough, we played around with what we could do with that signal. We displayed it on the dashboard along with our other data, but we also decided to make the signal send as an email from the plant. When I showed students how this worked, they decided to write the message from the plant in the first person. Every week or so, we received an email from Carl the Control Plant asking us to come out and water him!

 

If students don’t honour Carl’s request for water, use data to know when to cool our greenhouse, or had not done the fan experiments to see how much cooler they make the greenhouse, all our plants, like the basil we sell to the pizza places in town, would die. This is the beauty of combining data literacy with a school garden: failure to interpret data then act based on their interpretation has real consequences: our produce could die. When it takes 60-120 days to grow the average vegetable, the loss of plants is a significant event. We lose all the time and energy that went into growing those plants as well as lose all the revenue they would have brought in for us. Further, I love the urgency that combining data and the school garden creates because many students have learned the valuable life lesson that not making a decision is making a decision. If students freeze or do nothing when confronted with the data about the garden, that too has consequences.

Using data to spot trends and make predictions

The other major way we use data in FH Grows is to spot trends and make predictions. Different to using data to create the ideal growing conditions in our garden every day, the sensors that we use also provide a way for us to use information about the past to predict the future. FH Grows has about two years’ worth of weather data from our Raspberry Pi weather station (there are guides online if you wish to build a weather station of your own). Using weather data year over year, we can start to determine important events like when it is best to plant our veggies in our garden.

For example, one of the most useful data points on the Raspberry Pi weather station is the ground temperature sensor. Last semester, we wanted to squeeze in a cool weather grow in our garden. This post-winter grow can be done between March and June if you time it right. Getting an extra growing cycle from our garden is incredibly valuable, not only to FH Grows as business (since we would be growing more produce to turn around and sell) but as a way to get an additional learning cycle out of the garden.

So, using two seasons’ worth of ground temperature data, we set out to predict when the ground in our garden would be cool enough to do this cool veggie grow. Students looked at the data we had from our weather station and compared it to different websites that predicted the last frost of the season in our area. We found that the ground right outside our door warmed up two weeks earlier than the more general prediction given by websites. With this information we were able to get a full cool crop grow at a time where our garden used to lay dormant.

We also used our Raspberry Pi to help us predict whether or not it was going to rain over the weekend. Using a Raspberry Pi connected to Weather Underground and previous years’ data, if we believed it would not rain over the weekend we would water our gardens on Friday. If it looked like rain over the weekend, we let Mother Nature water our garden for us. Our prediction using the Pi and previous data was more accurate for our immediate area than compared to the more general weather reports you would get on the radio or an app, since those considered a much larger area when making their prediction.

It seems like we are going to be collecting even more data in the future, not less. It is important that we get our students comfortable working with data. The school garden supported by Raspberry Pi’s amazing ability to collect data is a boon for any teacher who wants to help students learn how to interpret data and turn it into action.
 

Hello World issue 10

Issue 10 of Hello World magazine is out today, and it’s free. 100% free.

Click here to download the PDF right now. Right this second. If you want to be a love, click here to subscribe, again for free. Subscribers will receive an email when the latest issue is out, and we won’t use your details for anything nasty.

If you’re an educator in the UK, click here and you’ll receive the printed version of Hello World direct to your door. And, guess what? Yup, that’s free too!

What I’m trying to say here is that there is a group of hard-working, passionate educators who take the time to write incredible content for Hello World, for free, and you would be doing them (and us, and your students, kids and/or friends) a solid by reading it :)

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Raspberry Pi interactive wind chimes

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Grab yourself a Raspberry Pi, a Makey Makey, and some copper pipes: it’s interactive wind chime time!

Perpetual Chimes

Perpetual Chimes is a set of augmented wind chimes that offer an escapist experience where your collaboration composes the soundscape. Since there is no wind indoors, the chimes require audience interaction to gently tap or waft them and encourage/nurture the hidden sounds within – triggering sounds as the chimes strike one another.

Normal wind chimes pale in comparison

I don’t like wind chimes. There, I said it. I also don’t like the ticking of the second hand of analogue clocks, and I think these two dislikes might be related. There’s probably a name for this type of dislike, but I’ll leave the Googling to you.

Sound designer Frazer Merrick’s interactive wind chimes may actually be the only wind chimes I can stand. And this is due, I believe, to the wonderful sounds they create when they touch, much more wonderful than regular wind chime sounds. And, obviously, because these wind chimes incorporate a Raspberry Pi 3.

Perpetual Chimes is a set of augmented wind chimes that offer an escapist experience where your collaboration composes the soundscape. Since there is no wind indoors, the chimes require audience interaction to gently tap or waft them and encourage/nurture the hidden sounds within — triggering sounds as the chimes strike one another. Since the chimes make little acoustic noise, essentially they’re broken until you collaborate with them.

Follow the Instructables tutorial to create your own!

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Raspberry Pi underwater camera drone | The MagPi 80

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Never let it be said that some makers won’t jump in at the deep end for their ambitious experiments with the Raspberry Pi. When Ievgenii Tkachenko fancied a challenge, he sought to go where few had gone before by creating an underwater drone, successfully producing a working prototype that he’s now hard at work refining.

Inspired by watching inventors on the Discovery Channel, Ievgenii has learned much from his endeavour. “For me it was a significant engineering challenge,” he says, and while he has ended up submerging himself within a process of trial-and-error, the results so far have been impressive.

Pi dive

The project began with a loose plan in Ievgenii’s head. “I knew what I should have in the project as a minimum: motions, lights, camera, and a gyroscope inside the device and smartphone control outside,” he explains. “Pretty simple, but I didn’t have a clue what equipment I would be able to use for the drone, and I was limited by finances.”

Bearing that in mind, one of his first moves was to choose a Raspberry Pi 3B, which he says was perfect for controlling the motors, diodes, and gyroscope while sending video streams from a camera and receiving commands from a control device.

The Raspberry Pi 3 sits in the housing and connects to a LiPo battery that also powers the LEDs and motors

“I was really surprised that this small board has a fully functional UNIX-based OS and that software like the Node.js server can be easily installed,” he tells us. “It has control input and output pins and there are a lot of libraries. With an Ethernet port and wireless LAN and a camera, it just felt plug-and-play. I couldn’t find a better solution.”

The LEDs are attached to radiators to prevent overheating, and a pulse driver is used for flashlight control

Working with a friend, Ievgenii sought to create suitable housing for the components, which included a twin twisted-pair wire suitable for transferring data underwater, an electric motor, an electronic speed control, an LED together with a pulse driver, and a battery. Four motors were attached to the outside of the housing, and efforts were made to ensure it was waterproof. Tests in a bath and out on a lake were conducted.

Streaming video

With a WiFi router on the shore connected to the Raspberry Pi via RJ45 connectors and an Ethernet cable, Ievgenii developed an Android application to connect to the Raspberry Pi by address and port (“as an Android developer, I’m used to working with the platform”). This also allowed movement to be controlled via the touchscreen, although he says a gamepad for Android can also be used. When it’s up and running, the Pi streams a video from the camera to the app — “live video streaming is not simple, and I spent a lot of time on the solution” — but the wired connection means the drone can only currently travel as far as the cable length allows.

The camera was placed in this transparent waterproof case attached to the front of the waterproof housing

In that sense, it’s not perfect. “It’s also hard to handle the drone, and it needs to be enhanced with an additional controls board and a few more electromotors for smooth movement,” Ievgenii admits. But as well as wanting to base the project on fast and reliable C++ code and make use of a USB 4K camera, he can see the future potential and he feels it will swim rather than sink.

“Similar drones are used for boat inspections, and they can also be used by rescue squads or for scientific purposes,” he points out. “They can be used to discover a vast marine world without training and risks too. In fact, now that I understand the Raspberry Pi, I know I can create almost anything, from a radio electronic toy car to a smart home.”

The MagPi magazine

This article was lovingly borrowed from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine. Pick up your copy of issue 80 from your local stockist, online, or by downloading the free PDF.

Subscribers to The MagPi also get a rather delightful subscription gift!

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Raspberry Pi vs a Raspberry Pi–powered escape room

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A few Mondays ago, the Raspberry Pi North America team visited a very special, Raspberry Pi–powered Escape Room in San Francisco. Run by Palace Games, the Edison Escape Room is an immersive experience full of lights, sensors, and plenty of surprises. This is the team’s story of how they entered, explored, and ultimately escaped this room.

At World Maker Faire this year, our very own social media star Alex Bate met Jordan Bunker, one of the Production Artists at Palace Games. Emails were sent, dates arranges, and boom, the Raspberry Pi North America team had to face the Edison Escape Room!

Escape rooms

In case you’re not familiar, an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, logic, and strategy to complete the game’s objectives. Many escape room designers use physical computing to control the many sensors and triggers involved in the player experience.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The team vs Edison

Upon entering the Edison Escape Room, my team and I quickly realized that we were within a complex system built like a giant computer! So even though it was our first-ever time in an escape room, that would not be a disadvantage for us.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

Our goal was to accomplish a variety of tasks, including solving many puzzles, looking for hidden clues when anything could be a clue, completing circuits, moving with the floor, and getting a bit of a workout.

The true test, however, was how well we communicated and worked with each other — which we did an awesome job at: at times we split up the work to effectively figure out the many different puzzles and clues; there was a lot “try it this way”, “maybe it means this”, and “what if it’s supposed to go that way” being yelled across the room. Everyone had their Edison thinking hat on that day, and we were so ecstatic when we completed the last challenge and finally escaped!

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The inner workings

After escaping the room, we got the chance to explore behind the scenes. We found a local network of many Raspberry Pis that are coordinated by a central Raspberry Pi server. The Python Banyan framework is the connective tissue between the Raspberry Pis and their attached components.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The framework facilitates the communication between the Pis and the central server via Ethernet. The Raspberry Pis are used to read various types of sensors and to drive actuators that control lights, open doors, or play back media. And Raspberry Pis also drive the control panels that employees use to enter settings and keep tabs on the game.

“Raspberry Pi keeps us going. It’s the heart and soul of our rooms.”  – Elizabeth Sonder, Design Engineer & Production Manager

We highly recommend heading over to Palace Games and exploring one of their many escape rooms. It’s a great team-building exercise and definitely allows you to learn a lot about the people you work with. Thank you to the Palace Games team for hosting us, and we hope to return and escape one of their rooms again soon!

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