Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi 3B+

The Nest Box: DIY Springwatch with Raspberry Pi

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Last week, lots and lots of you shared your Raspberry Pi builds with us on social media using the hashtag #IUseMyRaspberryPiFor. Jay Wainwright from Liverpool noticed the conversation and got in touch to tell us about The Nest Box, which uses Raspberry Pi to bring impressively high-quality images and video from British bird boxes to your Facebook feed.

Jay runs a small network of livestreaming nest box cameras, with three currently sited and another three in the pipeline; excitingly, the new ones will include a kestrel box and a barn owl box! During the spring, all the cameras stream live to The Nest Box’s Facebook page, which has steadily built a solid following of several thousand wildlife fans.

A pair of blue tits feeds their chicks in a woolly nest

The Nest Box’s setup uses a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module, along with a Raspberry Pi PoE HAT to provide both power and internet connectivity, so there’s only one cable connection to weatherproof. There’s also a custom HAT that Jay has designed to control LED lights and to govern the Raspberry Pi Camera Module’s IR filter, ensuring high-quality images both during the day and at night. To top it all off, he has written some Python code to record visitors to the nest boxes and go into live streaming mode whenever the action is happening.

As we can see from this nest box design for swifts, shown on the project’s crowdfunding profile, plenty of thought has evidently been put into the design of the boxes so that they provide tempting quarters for their feathered occupants while also accommodating all the electronic components.

Follow The Nest Box on Facebook to add British birds into your social media mix — whatever you’ve got now, I’ll bet all tomorrow’s coffees that it’ll be an improvement. And if you’re using Raspberry Pi for a wildlife project, or you’ve got plans along those lines, let us know in the comments.

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Real-life DOR-15 bowler hat from Disney’s Meet the Robinsons

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Why wear a boring bowler hat when you can add technology to make one of Disney’s most evil pieces of apparel?

Meet the Robinsons

Meet the Robinsons is one of Disney’s most underrated movies. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

What’s not to love? Experimental, futuristic technology, a misunderstood villain, lessons of love and forgiveness aplenty, and a talking T-Rex!

For me, one of the stand-out characters of Meet the Robinsons is DOR-15, a best-of-intentions experiment gone horribly wrong. Designed as a helper hat, DOR-15 instead takes over the mind of whoever is wearing it, hellbent on world domination.

Real-life DOR-15

Built using a Raspberry Pi and the MATRIX Voice development board, the real-life DOR-15, from Team MATRIX Labs, may not be ready to take over the world, but it’s still really cool.

With a plethora of built-in audio sensors, the MATRIX Voice directs DOR-15 towards whoever is making sound, while a series of servos wiggle 3D‑printed legs for added creepy.

This project uses ODAS (Open embeddeD Audition System) and some custom code to move a servo motor in the direction of the most concentrated incoming sound in a 180 degree radius. This enables the hat to face a person calling to it.

The added wiggly spider legs come courtesy of this guide by the delightful Jorvon Moss, whom HackSpace readers will remember from issue 21.

In their complete Hackster walkthrough, Team Matrix Lab talk you through how to build your own DOR-15, including all the files needed to 3D‑print the legs.

Realising animated characters and props

So, what fictional wonder would you bring to life? Your own working TARDIS? Winifred’s spellbook? Mary Poppins’ handbag? Let us know in the comments below.

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Securely tailor your TV viewing with BBC Box and Raspberry Pi

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Thanks to BBC Box, you might be able to enjoy personalised services without giving up all your data. Sean McManus reports:

One day, you could watch TV shows that are tailored to your interests, thanks to BBC Box. It pulls together personal data from different sources in a household device, and gives you control over which apps may access it.

“If we were to create a device like BBC Box and put it out there, it would allow us to create personalised services without holding personal data,” says Max Leonard.

TV shows could be edited on the device to match the user’s interests, without those interests being disclosed to the BBC. One user might see more tech news and less sport news, for example.

BBC Box was partly inspired by a change in the law that gives us all the right to reuse data that companies hold on us. “You can pull out data dumps, but it’s difficult to do anything with them unless you’re a data scientist,” explains Max. “We’re trying to create technologies to enable people to do interesting things with their data, and allow organisations to create services based on that data on your behalf.”

Building the box

BBC Box is based on Raspberry Pi 3B+, the most powerful model available when this project began. “Raspberry Pi is an amazing prototyping platform,” says Max. “Relatively powerful, inexpensive, with GPIO, and able to run a proper OS. Most importantly, it can fit inside a small box!”

That prototype box is a thing of beauty, a hexagonal tube made of cedar wood. “We created a set of principles for experience and interaction with BBC Box and themes of strength, protection, and ownership came out very strongly,” says Jasmine Cox. “We looked at shapes in nature and architecture that were evocative of these themes (beehives, castles, triangles) and played with how they could be a housing for Raspberry Pi.”

The core software for collating and managing access to data is called Databox. Alpine Linux was chosen because it’s “lightweight, speedy but most importantly secure”, in Max’s words. To get around problems making GPIO access work on Alpine Linux, an Arduino Nano is used to control the LEDs. Storage is a 64GB microSD card, and apps run inside Docker containers, which helps to isolate them from each other.

Combining data securely

The BBC has piloted two apps based on BBC Box. One collects your preferred type of TV programme from BBC iPlayer and your preferred music genre from Spotify. That unique combination of data can be used to recommend events you might like from Skiddle’s database.

Another application helps two users to plan a holiday together. It takes their individual preferences and shows them the destinations they both want to visit, with information about them brought in from government and commercial sources. The app protects user privacy, because neither user has to reveal places they’d rather not visit to the other user, or the reason why.

The team is now testing these concepts with users and exploring future technology options for BBC Box.

The MagPi magazine

This article was lovingly yoinked from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine. You can read issue 87 today, for free, right now, by visiting The MagPi website.

You can also purchase issue 87 from the Raspberry Pi Press website with free worldwide delivery, from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and from newsagents and supermarkets across the UK.

 

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Build a Raspberry Pi chartplotter for your boat

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Earlier this year, James Conger built a chartplotter for his boat using a Raspberry Pi. Here he is with a detailed explanation of how everything works:

Building your own Chartplotter with a Raspberry Pi and OpenCPN

Provides an overview of the hardware and software needed to put together a home-made Chartplotter with its own GPS and AIS receiver. Cost for this project was about $350 US in 2019.

The entire build cost approximately $350. It incorporates a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, dAISy AIS receiver HAT, USB GPS module, and touchscreen display, all hooked up to his boat.

Perfect for navigating the often foggy San Francisco Bay, the chartplotter allows James to track the position, speed, and direction of major vessels in the area, superimposed over high-quality NOAA nautical charts.

Raspberry Pi at sea

For more nautically themed Raspberry Pi projects, check out Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega’s stunning Barometer and Ufuk Arslan’s battery-saving IoT boat hack.

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Growth Monitor pi: an open monitoring system for plant science

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Plant scientists and agronomists use growth chambers to provide consistent growing conditions for the plants they study. This reduces confounding variables – inconsistent temperature or light levels, for example – that could render the results of their experiments less meaningful. To make sure that conditions really are consistent both within and between growth chambers, which minimises experimental bias and ensures that experiments are reproducible, it’s helpful to monitor and record environmental variables in the chambers.

A neat grid of small leafy plants on a black plastic tray. Metal housing and tubing is visible to the sides.

Arabidopsis thaliana in a growth chamber on the International Space Station. Many experimental plants are less well monitored than these ones.
(“Arabidopsis thaliana plants […]” by Rawpixel Ltd (original by NASA) / CC BY 2.0)

In a recent paper in Applications in Plant Sciences, Brandin Grindstaff and colleagues at the universities of Missouri and Arizona describe how they developed Growth Monitor pi, or GMpi: an affordable growth chamber monitor that provides wider functionality than other devices. As well as sensing growth conditions, it sends the gathered data to cloud storage, captures images, and generates alerts to inform scientists when conditions drift outside of an acceptable range.

The authors emphasise – and we heartily agree – that you don’t need expertise with software and computing to build, use, and adapt a system like this. They’ve written a detailed protocol and made available all the necessary software for any researcher to build GMpi, and they note that commercial solutions with similar functionality range in price from $10,000 to $1,000,000 – something of an incentive to give the DIY approach a go.

GMpi uses a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+, to which are connected temperature-humidity and light sensors from our friends at Adafruit, as well as a Raspberry Pi Camera Module.

The team used open-source app Rclone to upload sensor data to a cloud service, choosing Google Drive since it’s available for free. To alert users when growing conditions fall outside of a set range, they use the incoming webhooks app to generate notifications in a Slack channel. Sensor operation, data gathering, and remote monitoring are supported by a combination of software that’s available for free from the open-source community and software the authors developed themselves. Their package GMPi_Pack is available on GitHub.

With a bill of materials amounting to something in the region of $200, GMpi is another excellent example of affordable, accessible, customisable open labware that’s available to researchers and students. If you want to find out how to build GMpi for your lab, or just for your greenhouse, Affordable remote monitoring of plant growth in facilities using Raspberry Pi computers by Brandin et al. is available on PubMed Central, and it includes appendices with clear and detailed set-up instructions for the whole system.

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Raspberry Pi in space!

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We love ‘Raspberry Pi + space’ stuff. There, I’ve said it. No taksies backsies.

From high-altitude balloon projects transporting Raspberry Pis to near space, to our two Astro Pi units living aboard the International Space Station, we simply can’t get enough.

Seriously, if you’ve created anything space-related using a Raspberry Pi, please tell us!

Capturing Earth from low orbit

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) sent a Raspberry Pi Zero to space as part of their Demonstration of Technology (DoT-1) satellite, launched aboard a Soyuz rocket in July.

Earth captured from Low Earth Orbit by a Raspberry Pi

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So, not that we’re complaining, but why did they send the Raspberry Pi Zero to space to begin with? Well, why not? As SSTL state:

Whilst the primary objective of the 17.5kg self-funded DoT-1 satellite is to demonstrate SSTL’s new Core Data Handling System (Core-DHS), accommodation was made available for some additional experimental payloads including the Raspberry Pi camera experiment which was designed and implemented in conjunction with the Surrey Space Centre.

Essentially, if you can fit a Raspberry Pi into your satellite, you should.

Managing Director of SSTL Sarah Parker went on to say that “the success of the Raspberry Pi camera experiment is an added bonus which we can now evaluate for future missions where it could be utilised for spacecraft ‘selfies’ to check the operation of key equipments, and also for outreach activities.”

SSTL’s very snazzy-looking Demonstration of Technology (DoT-1) satellite

The onboard Raspberry Pi Zero was equipped with a Raspberry Pi Camera Module and a DesignSpark M12 Mount Lens. Image data captured on the space-bound Raspberry Pi was sent back to the SSTL ground station via the Core-DHS.

So, have you sent a Raspberry Pi to space? Or anywhere else we wouldn’t expect a Raspberry Pi to go? Let us know in the comments!

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