Tag Archives: Recantha

Pi Wars

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Helen: This December will see a Cambridge Raspberry Jam with a difference; we’re giving you all plenty of notice, so that you have time to prepare. We’ll let organisers Michael Horne and Tim Richardson tell you all about it.

Pi Wars

On 6th December this year, the Cambridge Raspberry Jam (CamJam) will play host to the first ever dedicated Raspberry Pi robotics competition: Pi Wars. Named after the BBC series Robot Wars, this competition is challenge-based and is similar to a ‘robot olympics’. Robots will take part in challenges to score points and, as we all know, points mean prizes! Our aim isn’t to have robots destroy each other – we want people to compete to show what they’ve managed to get their robots to do!

We’ve put together some overall rules for the competition which you can read here.

The robot challenges are as follows:

  • Line Follower
  • Obstacle Course
  • Proximity Alert
  • Robot Golf
  • Straight Line Speed Test
  • Sumo Battle
  • Three Point Turn
  • Aesthetics
  • Code Quality

You can read a full description of each challenge by visiting this page.

We’ve also got some side-competitions into which competing robots are automatically entered:

  • Smallest robot
  • Best non-competing robot
  • Best autonomous robot
  • Most feature-rich robot
  • The Jim Darby Prize for Excessive Blinkiness
  • Most innovative robot
  • Most visually appealing robot

We’re also hoping to have some non-competing robots in our Show-and-Tell area.

A robot

We are expecting (okay, hoping!) to have 16 robot competitors. This will give us a nice sized competition without having so many that we’re there until midnight :-) We’re even hoping that it will be an international competition – we’ve already had interest from a team in Egypt! Obviously, we’ll also have tickets available for spectators, of which we’re expecting between 100 and 150.

We are looking for sponsors to supply prizes for the competition and you can get more information on that by visiting this page.

Registration for the competition opens on 15th September and registration for spectator tickets will open sometime in late October/early November. We’re hoping that it will be an extremely popular event… Who knows? This could be the start of an annual event!

If you’d like to read more about Pi Wars, visit www.piwars.org.

The CamJam EduKit – basic electronics for £5!

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Liz: I wasn’t at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam this weekend: I was working in Manchester on Friday, and then became an aunt that evening (congrats Katie and Ben!). It meant I missed a special announcement: so I’ve asked Mike Horne, king of the CamJam organisers, to fill everyone in with this guest post. Over to you, Mike!

From little acorns…

We realised after the May Cambridge Raspberry Jam that we now had a good stock of workshop material, and began to think of ways to use the material away from the Jam. After all, educational material isn’t much good if it isn’t in the hands of people who might use it.

Liz Upton

Liz sells Pis at a previous CamJam. If you want to meet people from the Foundation, the CamJams are the place to be.

At the May Jam, we ran a basic electronics workshop – you know the sort of thing: LEDs, switches and buzzers…and we wondered if we could create a kit with the necessary bits and bobs. People could buy the kits, then download the worksheets and teach themselves.

Around that time, Jamie Mann from The Pi Hut came
to us with the exact same idea – use the CamJam material as the basis for kits. And so, a partnership was formed to bring the idea to fruition. Jamie was in charge of procurement and assembling the kits, Tim would write the worksheets and Mike would test them
out.

Eventually, we came up with a name and the “CamJam EduKit” was born.

CamJam EduKit

The CamJam EduKit is priced at £5 and comes with everything you need to have fun with basic electronics projects, including a project tin to keep it all in! We hope that this low price point will allow the kit to appeal to both families and education.

If it is successful, there will be more kits, the first of which is likely to use sensors to detect temperature, light levels and movement.

We hope that the CamJam EduKits will be used to further the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s educational aims and to get kids started not only with electronics but with Python programming as well.

Profits from the kits are going to be donated to the Cambridge Raspberry Jam, so we can continue to develop our educational programme.

You can buy the EduKit from The Pi Hut via the CamJam site, and you’ll find the accompanying educational material on the same page. All the material is free to download, so if you want to take a look at it beforehand, go right ahead!

Michael Horne (@recantha), Tim Richardson (@geeky_tim)
& Jamie Mann (@ThePiHut)

Cambridge Jam: focus on education

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Liz: Last week’s Cambridge Raspberry Jam was one of the biggest yet. I asked the organisers, Michael Horne (whom you might know as Recantha: he has a brilliant Raspberry Pi blog, which you should check out) and Tim Richardson, whether they’d be prepared to write a guest post for us about the event. They’ve done so in spades. Thanks both!

We (Michael Horne and Tim Richardson) have been asked to write an account of the Cambridge Raspberry Jam that took place on Saturday, 10th May 2014. Thanks to Jarle TeiglandDarren Christie and Alan O’Donohoe for some of the photos and thanks to Andy Batey for arranging the streaming and recording of the talks. Think of this as a Virtual Raspberry Jam!

Introduction

This was a very special Jam. We had decided after the December 2013 event that we wanted to try and make each Jam different to the previous one. We had already introduced programming workshops for kids and planned to continue that into the February Jam. So, what could we do for the event after that to make it special, to make it unique? The answer lay in the aims of the Raspberry Pi Foundation: Education! We decided that for the May Jam we would have our focus on education; we just had to make the concept for the event fit the resources and space we had available.

Institute of Astronomy

The Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge

At our current venue, the Institute of Astronomy (above), we’re fortunate to have the following available: a 180-seat lecture theatre; a large foyer; a small 30-person meeting room and a small mezzanine with a couple of levels. It would be fair to say we went through quite a few ideas before finally settling on the concept: We would turn the lecture theatre over to presentations for educators (calling it ‘Focus on Education’) and hold workshops in the meeting room and foyer. We would also have projects on display on the mezzanine (we call it ‘Show and Tell’) and a cut-down version of our normal marketplace around the edges of the foyer with a slant towards education where possible.

Preparation… or “What does it take to make Jam for 200 people?”

We’ve held three previous Jams at the Institute of Astronomy and have sold out each time. Normally, we sell about 180 tickets and this time we were going to be inviting educators to the party, so we knew we had to be very prepared and very organised. We simply didn’t want to let anyone down, especially the teachers!

Normally we meet once every week or two for a two-hour meeting to discuss progress on the various tasks that need doing. Sometimes, we meet at the pub (if you’re ever in Potton, Bedfordshire, visit The Rising Sun where we meet!) and sometimes we meet round Tim’s house. We realised with an event of this size and importance that we would definitely need to meet every week in the three months after the February Jam, just to make sure that everything was done.

Rising Sun Potton

The Rising Sun, Potton – place of many-a-meeting

An idea that we had been thinking about for some time was having ‘maker tables’, where people could bring their kit along and experts would help them out with building them, or they could buy kits at the event and make them then and there.  We decided that this would be hard to plan for as we would not know what kits were coming and therefore who could help.  However, the idea of making things stayed with us, so we started to plan for a number of workshops instead of the usual one.

Eventually we fixed on workshops in which the Pi would detect and control the outside world: flashing LEDs (everybody likes those!), making sound, detecting temperature, light and movement, using a line follower and distance sensor, and controlling motors.  On top of that, we added in using the Raspberry Pi Camera module, Minecraft and using the Pibrella add-on board.

In the end we had nine hands-on workshops to sort out.  Yes, nine – we must have been out of our minds! Actually, make that ten, because some bright spark had the idea of running a soldering workshop throughout the day!

One of the things we wanted from the workshops was to develop a set of worksheets and kits that we could sell at close-to-cost to the people attending, which they could then take away with them. This meant ordering a lot of individual components from China and sorting them out into the kits. Tim ordered dozens of mini breadboards, hundreds of LEDs and resistors and lots and lots of sensors, along with motors, wheels and jumper cables. Which all needed to be sorted into bags. And our SD cards needed sorting out with all the software that would be required. And we also needed to find people to lead and assist in the workshops. Fortunately we’d built up an ideas-and-assistance group of about 20 people, and many of them were willing to give their time and energy to preparing the workshop material and teaching it.

Sensor man

Nice sensors, man! Just a small part of the huge amount of kit ordered for the workshops.

Meanwhile, Mike started sorting out a programme for the Focus on Education and asking people to the Show and Tell, doing a lot of the Jam & EventBrite admin and communications along the way. So, as you can tell, weekly meetings were a must!

On the day

So, there we were, and suddenly it was three months later: the 10th of May had swung around. We had even managed to find time to hold a social Jam (Potton Pi and Pints) in the meantime just to keep in touch with everyone.

At 8.30am on the morning of the 10th, we hit our first snag. Normally, we can get everything in Tim’s estate car (which is, basically, a huge cavern) for the trip to Cambridge. This time, however, we had a lot more to transport: we’d bought some tables plus all the kit for the workshops meant that we just couldn’t fit everything in. So, in two cars, we set out for the Institute.

The get-in for a Jam is always a bit chaotic, and damned hard work, and this time was no exception. The Institute looks very different on our arrival but, thanks to Andy Batey, (who works at the Institute, arranged the venue in the first place and is just an all-round helpful chap) we (including half-a-dozen volunteers, known as Jam Makers) manage to transform it into the configuration visitors see when they arrive. The most ‘fun’ task this time was to move a big marquee about 50 metres from one end of the quad to the other. Much mud was encountered!

Foyer workshop area (foreground), Marketplace (left) and Show and Tell mezzanine (top right)

Foyer workshop area (foreground), Marketplace (left) and Show and Tell mezzanine (top right)

If you want to get a feel for the day overall, Mathew and Leo have put together this brilliant video. You can even spot Tim (getting interviewed at the beginning) and Mike (with the loudhailer):

You might also want to listen to this podcast from Alan O’Donohoe which was recorded at the Jam.

Our first activity started at 11.10am and it was a Minecraft workshop led by Craig RichardsonMatt Timmons-Brown and Clare Macrae. This workshop had sold out within 1 hour of the free tickets becoming available. We’d had to cancel another workshop that we had been planning and replace it with a repeat of the Minecraft workshop, and that one sold out as well! We ended up with a waiting list big enough that we could have held another one! Minecraft is a major draw for kids.

Craig Richardson Minecraft workshop

Minecraft workshop number 1: Craig attempts the impossible by trying to reach into the big screen

Once we’d got that workshop going, it was all hands on deck to get the rest of the venue ready. Matt Manning, Andrew Scheller and Tim were our welcome team, and attempted the near-impossible task of checking tickets and ticking names off the registration list. With the teachers beginning to arrive, it got very busy, very quickly!

Mike and Tim had decided to split up so that Tim was outside managing the workshop preparations while Mike hosted the Focus on Education in the lecture theatre. We swapped halfway through the day.

Mike and Tim kicked off Focus on Education with a quick intro and then handed over to Clive Beale from the Foundation who was delivering the keynote: “Computing in Education and the new Curriculum”.

After Clive, Elizabeth Crilly from STEMNET and David Whale talked about the STEM Ambassador programme and what they can do for schools.

We then had a more practical presentation from Dr Sam Aaron, the developer of Sonic Pi. Sam’s a real rock star when it comes to live demos!

At the same time, in the meeting room we had a PiCamera workshop run by Jarle TeiglandMatt Manning and Andrew Scheller and in the foyer we had a beginners electronics/breadboarding workshop run by Alex EamesSway Grantham and Andrew Gale.

electronics workshop

Sway and Andrew watch over the basic electronics workshop

Back in the lecture theatre, we continued our presentation with Sophie Deen talking about Code Club and Code Club Pro (video not available) and then two live demo-style talks from Gordon Henderson (who covered FUZE and Return to BASIC):

and Darren Christie (who talked about the Pibrella and how simple it is to use):

At the same time as all of this, of course, we had our soldering workshop going on. Over 30 people took advantage of the free lessons given by Gee Bartlett (from Pimoroni) and Andrew Gale. They took place outside under a tent (so we didn’t set the fire alarms inside off!). We should mention at this point that we had a lot of generosity from the community with the soldering – Gee brought a load of stuff with him, including some kits that lit up; David Whale donated an entire box of oddments; Tom Hartley donated a batch of old AirPi boards.

soldering workshop

Andrew Gale teaches Sidney the finer points of not touching the hot end

We also had our Show and Tell area in full swing. We had projects from Brian CorteilRussell BarnesRyan WalmsleyIpswich SchoolWayne KeenanStewards Academy and Zach IgielmanAlex Eames was also to be found here showing off the latest prototype of the HDMIPi.

Brian Corteil

Brian Corteil and his naughty-and-nice machine (right) and egg-dispensing Easter bunny (left)

Ipswich School kids

Kids from Ipswich School showing off their automatic greenhouse watering system

robotic arm

Joseph from Stewards Academy shows off his robotic arm controlled by his real arm

We should also mention the exhibitors in the marketplace – we had the FUZE team, a group from the Little British Robot CompanyCyntechThe Pi HutGPIO.co.uk and Seven Segments of Pi. These guys really helped to give the Foyer a buzz!

Concurrently with the talks, soldering and Show and Tell, Tim had in the meantime started off a further two sessions: temperature, light and movement sensors in the Foyer (led by Matt Manning & Clare Macrae) and our second Minecraft workshop in the meeting room (Craig Richardson and Matt Timmons-Brown again).

Matt Manning

Matt Manning holds court in the sensors workshop

It was half-time in the lecture theatre so Tim and Mike swapped. We hit a slight snag at this point because the entire lecture theatre emptied and it became a little difficult to hear in the Foyer workshop… lesson learnt for next time!

With Tim now in charge in the lecture theatre, next up was Matthew Timmons-Brown giving his talk on how to make computing exciting for kids:

In the meantime, outside we had started off another two workshops: distance sensors and line followers (a vital robotics skill) led by Zach IgielmanRyan Walmsley and Jarle Teigland in the Foyer and a Pibrella workshop in the meeting room (led by Darren Christie, our in-house Pibrella expert!).

workshop

Young and old alike getting to know distance sensors and line followers in a workshop led by Zach Igielman (standing, in the green t-shirt)

In the lecture theatre, Alan O’Donohoe was up next: Engage and Inspire the Digital Creators of Tomorrow:

…followed by Craig Richardson giving a talk on using Minecraft in the classroom:

Out in the Foyer, Ryan Walmsley started off his workshop on controlling motors with the Pi, whilst in the meeting room Phil Howard and Jim Darby began their session on creating an Arduino and programming it with the Pi (we’re supporters of the school of thought that these devices can work together rather than in competition with one another!).

motor controller workshop

Ryan and Zach at the motor controller workshop, soldering workshop in the background outside

Back in the lecture theatre, Nevil Hunt talked about his invention, the Seven Segments of Pi, and how it can be used in schools:

Then, we had a talk from James Robinson from Computing at School:

And finally… we had a panel session that involved some of the Picademy graduates and was chaired by David Whale:

Then the big get-out began. This was a mammoth task at the end of a very long day. Many, many thanks to those who helped with both the get-in and, especially, the get-out. Without you guys we’d probably still be there!

All that was left to do was to drive home and… oh yeah… empty out both cars. Argh!!!

Aftermath

And so, the May Cambridge Raspberry Jam was over. It would be fair to say that neither Mike nor Tim could form a coherent sentence the next day, but it was worth it! We sent feedback forms out to attendees and, judging by the response, people were, on the whole, very happy with the way the day went. We certainly felt as though it had been a success, both in Focus on Education and in the activities in the Foyer/Meeting room.

What’s next? Well, we have a fair amount of work still to do for this Jam. We need to analyse all the feedback and come up with a list of ‘lessons learnt’. We also need to resort all the equipment we hurriedly packed and brought back from the Jam into the correct boxes.

And then there’s the small matter of the Jam on 5th July… and possibly a Potton Pi & Pints in June!

Right then… to the pub!

If you want to find out more about the Cambridge Raspberry Jam, visit our website at http://camjam.me or come and watch some more videos on the YouTube channel.

Notes from the Cambridge Raspberry Jam

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On Saturday, the half of Cambridgeshire that wasn’t busy footling about in the sun descended on Cambridge Consultants’ offices, kindly lent to the Raspberry Jam folks for the afternoon, for a few hours’ Pi-wrangling. If you’d been there you’d have met a hearty slice of the Pi’s development team: JamesH (and his brother, which surprised and excited me because I’d always thought that James had hatched from an egg), Gert, James Adams, Eben and I were all hanging around and poking things. We had a great time, hooked up with some old friends and met some new ones.

There’s already a report on the day’s footling and poking available from Jonathan Pallant, and I have stolen this photograph from him. Click the picture (or here) to visit his site to read about the Jam.

Ryan picks a winner in the annual Cambridge Dress Like a Lumberjack competition

(I have also stolen Jonathan’s joke. I am not sorry. It’s better than any of mine.)

Huge thanks to Recantha for his hard work organising the Jam; I was really chuffed that one of the things I got to footle with/poke was his homebrew Tricorder, now equipped with pretty much every measuring device known to homo sapiens apart from a Geiger counter. Thanks also to Cambridge Consultants for the use of their space, and to everyone who gave talks and brought projects to share.

Please spread this Jam! You can find out where the Jams are every month in the MagPi, and on the events page of our forums; there’s also a calendar at the Raspberry Jams site (which Alan, the Raspberry Jambassador, promises me is due a makeover soon). If there isn’t one near you, why not try setting one up? There’s help available, and we can put you in touch with folk who will share their experiences and give you lots of advice on organising, publicising and all that good stuff. Leave a comment below, post in the forums, or mail me via the contact page if you’d like to be put in touch with Jam Central.

Recantha expects the next Cambridge Jam to be in September. We’re looking forward to seeing even more of you there!

Recantha’s only gone and made a tricorder.

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I’ve been waiting for…ooh, just over a year, for someone to do this. Recantha, an old hand here in the comments and on the forums, has built a tricorder.

There surely can’t be anyone here without a passing familiarity with Star Trek, but just in case: the tricorder is a made-up thing used by the crew of the Enterprise to measure stuff, store data and scout ahead remotely when exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, and all that jazz. Despite its made-up-ness, the tricorder remains a terribly desirable thing. I’ve always wanted to be able to tell whether my planet is M-class or not.

Recantha has bodged together his home-made tricorder using a Pi, some sensors (two for temperature, and one each for magnetism and distance), an LCD display, some switches, a light-resistant resistor, a thermistor and an Arduino Leonardo clone. We hope he keeps adding sensors to it, and maybe, later on, a camera board, until he runs out of space. How about a Geiger counter (this one already works with the Pi)?

Here’s a spot of video explaining what everything on the Picorder does:

(Best of all, the whole thing is cased in LEGO.)

And here’s some more video, showing the thing in action.

If you’re interested in reproducing or building on this project, Recantha’s blogged about it (he has an excellent website, all about Raspberry Pi), and has left a guide to the project over at Pideas, the new site for collecting Raspberry Pi projects. (Go and add something of your own!) Thanks very much for this, Recantha; our office costume parties will now have a dash of added realism. Jamesh has drawn the short straw and will be dressed as Nog.