Tag Archives: Third-Party Products

How to set up OctoPrint on your Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

If you own a 3D printer, you’ll likely have at least heard of OctoPrint from the ever benevolent 3D printing online community. It has the potential to transform your 3D printing workflow for the better, and it’s very easy to set up. This guide will take you through the setup process step by step, and give you some handy tips along the way.

Octoprint

Before we start finding out how to install OctoPrint, let’s look at why you might want to. OctoPrint is a piece of open-source software that allows us to add WiFi functionality to any 3D printer with a USB port (which is pretty much all of them). More specifically, you’ll be able to drop files from your computer onto your printer, start/stop prints, monitor your printer via a live video feed, control the motors, control the temperature, and more, all from your web browser. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility — 3D printers have parts that are hot enough to cause fires, so make sure you have a safe setup, which may include not letting it run unsupervised.

OctoPrint ingredients

• Raspberry Pi 3 (or newer)
MicroSD card
• Raspberry Pi power adapter
• USB cable (the connector type will depend on your printer)
• Webcam/Raspberry Pi Camera Module (optional)
• 3D-printed camera mount (optional)

Before we get started, it is not recommended that anything less than a Raspberry Pi 3 is used for this project. There have been reports of limited success using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi Zero W, but only if you have no intention of using a camera to monitor your prints. If you want to try this with a Pi Zero or an older Raspberry Pi, you may experience unexpected print failures.

Download OctoPi

Firstly, you will need to download the latest version of OctoPi from the OctoPrint website. OctoPi is a Raspbian distribution that comes with OctoPrint, video streaming software, and CuraEngine for slicing models on your Raspberry Pi. When this has finished downloading, unzip the file and put the resulting IMG file somewhere handy.

Next, we need to flash this image onto our microSD card. We recommend using Etcher to do this, due to its minimal UI and ease of use; plus it’s also available to use on both Windows and Mac. Get it here: balena.io/etcher. When Etcher is installed and running, you’ll see the UI displayed. Simply click the Select Image button and find the IMG file you unzipped earlier. Next, put your microSD card into your computer and select it in the middle column of the Etcher interface.

Finally, click on Flash!, and while the image is being burned onto the card, get your WiFi router details, as you’ll need them for the next step.

Now that you have your operating system, you’ll want to add your WiFi details so that the Raspberry Pi can automatically connect to your network after it’s booted. To do this, remove the microSD card from your computer (Etcher will have ‘ejected’ the card after it has finished burning the image onto it) and then plug it back in again. Navigate to the microSD card on your computer — it should now be called boot — and open the file called octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt. Editing this file using WordPad or TextEdit can cause formatting issues; we recommend using Notepad++ to update this file, but there are instructions within the file itself to mitigate formatting issues if you do choose to use another text editor. Find the section that begins ## WPA/WPA2 secured and remove the hash signs from the four lines below this one to uncomment them. Finally, replace the SSID value and the PSK value with the name and password for your WiFi network, respectively (keeping the quotation marks). See the example below for how this should look.

Further down in the file, there is a section for what country you are in. If you are using OctoPrint in the UK, leave this as is (by default, the UK is selected). However, if you wish to change this, simply comment the UK line again by adding a # before it, and uncomment whichever country you are setting up OctoPrint in. The example below shows how the file will look if you are setting this up for use in the US:

# Uncomment the country your Pi is in to activate Wifi in RaspberryPi 3 B+ and above
# For full list see: https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2
#country=GB # United Kingdom
#country=CA # Canada
#country=DE # Germany
#country=FR # France
country=US # United States

When the changes have been made, save the file and then eject/unmount and remove the microSD card from your computer and put it into your Raspberry Pi. Plug the power supply in, and go and make a cup of tea while it boots up for the first time (this may take around ten minutes). Make sure the Raspberry Pi is running as expected (i.e. check that the green status LED is flashing intermittently). If you’re using macOS, visit octopi.local in your browser of choice. If you’re using Windows, you can find OctoPrint by clicking on the Network tab in the sidebar. It should be called OctoPrint instance on octopi – double-clicking on this will open the OctoPrint dashboard in your browser.

If you see the screen shown above, then congratulations! You have set up OctoPrint.

Not seeing that OctoPrint splash screen? Fear not, you are not the first. While a full list of issues is beyond the scope of this article, common issues include: double-checking your WiFi details are entered correctly in the octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt file, ensuring your Raspberry Pi is working correctly (plug the Raspberry Pi into a monitor and watch what happens during boot), or your Raspberry Pi may be out of range of your WiFi router. There’s a detailed list of troubleshooting suggestions on the OctoPrint website.

Printing with OctoPrint

We now have the opportunity to set up OctoPrint for our printer using the handy wizard. Most of this is very straightforward — setting up a password, signing up to send anonymous usage stats, etc. — but there are a few sections which require a little more thought.

We recommend enabling the connectivity check and the plug-ins blacklist to help keep things nice and stable. If you plan on using OctoPrint as your slicer as well as a monitoring tool, then you can use this step to import a Cura profile. However, we recommend skipping this step as it’s much quicker (and you can use a slicer of your choice) to slice the model on your computer, and then send the finished G-code over.

Finally, we need to put in our printer details. Above, we’ve included some of the specs of the Creality Ender-3 as an example. If you can’t find the exact details of your printer, a quick web search should show what you need for this section.

The General tab can have anything in it, it’s just an identifier for your own use. Print bed & build volume should be easy to find out — if not, you can measure your print bed and find out the position of the origin by looking at your Cura printer profile. Leave Axes as default; for the Hotend and extruder section, defaults are almost certainly fine here (unless you’ve changed your nozzle; 0.4 is the default diameter for most consumer printers).

OctoPrint is better with a camera

Now that you’re set up with OctoPrint, you’re ready to start printing. Turn off your Raspberry Pi, then plug it into your 3D printer. After it has booted up, open OctoPrint again in your browser and take your newly WiFi-enabled printer for a spin by clicking the Connect button. After it has connected, you’ll be able to set the hot end and bed temperature, then watch as the real-time readings are updated.

In the Control tab, we can see the camera stream (if you’re using one) and the motor controls, as well as commands to home the axes. There’s a G-code file viewer to look through a cross-section of the currently loaded model, and a terminal to send custom G-code commands to your printer. The last tab is for making time-lapses; however, there is a plug-in available to help with this process.

Undoubtedly the easiest way to set up video monitoring of your prints is to use the official Raspberry Pi Camera Module. There are dozens of awesome mounts on Thingiverse for a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, to allow you to get the best angle of your models as they print. There are also some awesome OctoPrint-themed Raspberry Pi cases to house your new printer brains. While it isn’t officially supported by OctoPrint, you can use a USB webcam instead if you have one handy, or just want some very high-quality video streams. The OctoPrint wiki has a crowdsourced list of webcams known to work, as well as a link for the extra steps needed to get the webcam working correctly.

As mentioned earlier, our recommended way of printing a model using OctoPrint is to first use your slicer as you would if you were creating a file to save to a microSD card. Once you have the file, save it somewhere handy on your computer, and open the OctoPrint interface. In the bottom left of the screen, you will see the Upload File button — click this and upload the G-code you wish to print.

You’ll see the file/print details appear, including information on how long it’ll take for the object to print. Before you kick things off, check out the G-code Viewer tab on the right. You can not only scroll through the layers of the object, but, using the slider at the bottom, you can see the exact pattern the 3D printer will use to ‘draw’ each layer. Now click Print and watch your printer jump into action!

OctoPrint has scores of community-created plug-ins, but our favourite, Octolapse, makes beautiful hypnotic time-lapses. What makes them so special is that the plug-in alters the G-code of whatever object you are printing so that once each layer has finished, the extruder moves away from the print to let the camera take an unobstructed shot of the model. The result is an object that seems to grow out of the build plate as if by magic. You’ll not find a finer example of it than here.

Satisfying 3D Prints TimeLapse episode 7 (Prusa I3 Mk3 octopi)

3D Printing timelapses of models printed on the Prusa i3 MK3! Here’s another compilation of my recent timelapses. I got some shots that i think came out really great and i hope you enjoy them! as always if you want to see some of these timelapses before they come out or want to catch some behind the scenes action check out my instagram!

Thanks to Glenn and HackSpace magazine

This tutorial comes fresh from the pages of HackSpace magazine issue 26 and was written by Glenn Horan. Thanks, Glenn.

To get your copy of HackSpace magazine issue 26, visit your local newsagent, the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or the Raspberry Pi Press online store.

Fans of HackSpace magazine will also score themselves a rather delightful Adafruit Circuit Playground Express with a 12-month subscription. Sweet!

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Raspberry Pi capacitive-touch musical Christmas tree

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What, your Christmas tree ISN’T touch-enabled?

Capacitive Touch Christmas Tree How To | Raspberry Pi | Bare Conductive Pi Cap

Turn your Christmas tree into a capacitive touch-interactive musical instrument using a Raspberry Pi and a Bare Conductive Pi Cap. You’ll be rocking around the Christmas tree in no time! /* Bare Conductive */ Pi Cap: https://www.bareconductive.com/shop/pi-cap/ Touch Board: https://www.bareconductive.com/shop/touch-board/ Code: https://github.com/BareConductive/picap-touch-mp3-py #RasberryPi #BareConductive #Christmas

Using the Bare Conductive Pi Cap, Davy Wybiral hooked up his fairy lights and baubles to a Raspberry Pi. The result? Musical baubles that allow the user to play their favourite festive classics at the touch of a finger. These baubles are fantastic, and it’s easy to make your own. Just watch the video for Davy’s how-to.

The code for Bare Conductive’s Pi Cap polyphonic touch MP3 utility can be found in this GitHub repo, and you can pick up a Pi Cap on the Bare Conductive website. Then all you need to do is hook up your favourite tree decorations to the Pi Cap via insulated wires, and you’re good to go. It’s OK if your decorations aren’t conductive: you’ll actually be touching the wires and not the ornaments themselves.

And don’t worry about touching the wires, it’s perfectly safe. But just in this instance. Please don’t make a habit of touching wires.

Make sure to subscribe to Davy on YouTube (we did) and give him a like for the baubles video. Also, leave a comment to tell him how great it is, because nice comments are lovely, and we should all be leaving as many of them as we can on the videos for our favourite creators.

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Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping Guide 2019

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Stuck for what to buy your friends and family this Christmas? Whether you’re looking to introduce someone to Raspberry Pi and coding, or trying to find the perfect gift for the tech-mad hobbyist in your life, our Christmas Shopping Guide 2019 will help you complete your shopping list. So, let’s get started…

The good ol’ Raspberry Pi

They’ve asked for a Raspberry Pi but not told you which one they want? You know they like coding but don’t know where to start? They’re an avid baker and you think they may have spelt ‘pie’ wrong on their Christmas list? No problem, we’ve got you sorted.

Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit

With everything you need to get started using Raspberry Pi 4, the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit contains our official mouse, keyboard with an integrated USB hub, USB-C power adapter, case, two micro HDMI leads, our Beginner’s Guide and, of course, the 4GB Raspberry Pi 4. Available from our Approved Resellers and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, the Desktop Kit is the perfect gift for anyone who’s wanting to get started with coding and digital making, or who’s simply looking to upgrade their current home computer to a smaller, less power-hungry setup.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or find your nearest Approved Reseller online.

Raspberry Pi Zero W

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

The smallest Raspberry Pi still packs a punch despite its size and price. For $10, Raspberry Pi Zero W is perfect for embedding into projects and, with onboard Bluetooth and wireless LAN, there are fewer cables to worry about. Buy a Raspberry Pi Zero W with or without pre-soldered header pins, and pop it in someone’s stocking this Christmas as a great maker surprise.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or find your nearest Approved Reseller online.

Get Started with Raspberry Pi 3A+

 

This isn’t just a book: it’s a book with a computer on the front. Getting Started with Raspberry Pi is a great gift for anyone curious about coding and, at £35, it’s a pretty affordable gift to give this festive season. Alongside the 116-page getting-started guide, the package also contains a Raspberry Pi 3A+, official case, and 16GB micro SD card pre-loaded with NOOBs. Raspberry Pi 3A+ can be powered with a good-quality micro USB phone charger, and it can be connected to any TV or computer display via standard HDMI. Grab a keyboard and mouse — you’ll be surprised how many people have a keyboard and mouse lying around — and you’re good to go!

Order your gift today from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, with international shipping available.

A full range of all Raspberry Pi variants, official accessories, and add-ons can be found on our products page.

A Raspberry Pie

Don’t be lazy, make your own!

Books

Raspberry Pi Press has released a small library’s worth of publications these last few months — have you ordered all your copies yet?

Pre-orders are now open for our glorious Code the Classics, so secure your copy now for the 13 December release date, with free UK shipping. And, while you’re on our Raspberry Pi Press page, check out our latest range of publications to suit all techy interests: Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi will show the budding gamer in your life how to build their own Raspberry Pi retro arcade to play their Code the Classics favourites on, while Book of Making 2 and Raspberry Pi Projects Book 5 will inspire them to make all manner of amazing projects, from electronics and woodworking to crafts and rockets.

An Introduction to C and GUI programming by Simon Long

If they’re already full to the brim with Raspberry Pi, why not treat them to our Get Started with Arduino guide so they can expand upon their electronics skills. We also offer a host of established publications at discounted prices, including Sophy Wong’s Wearable Tech Projects, An Introduction to C & GUI Programming, and previous volumes of the Book of Making and the Raspberry Pi Projects Book.

Visit the Raspberry Pi Press online store, or head to the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge to find all our publications. You may also find a selection in your local WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, or Barnes & Noble.

Magazine subscriptions

Subscriptions are available for all of our magazines. 12-month subscribers to The MagPi magazine will receive a free Raspberry Pi, while a 12-month subscription to HackSpace magazine will net you a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express.

Subscribers to Wireframe magazine, Custom PC magazine, and Digital SLR Photography will save up to 49% compared to newsstand prices, with many subscription options to choose from.

Babbage Bear

Everyone needs a Babbage Bear. Your new Babs will come complete with their own Raspberry Pi-branded shirt. And, with some felt, stuffing, and a stapler, you can make them as festive as ours in no time!

Order yours online, or buy Babbage at the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

Great third-party add-ons and essential kit

The Pi Hut’s 3D Xmas Tree

This newest iteration of The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree includes programmable RGB LEDs! Simply detach the two halves of the tree from their frame, slot them together, and place them onto the GPIO pins of your Raspberry Pi. With the provided libraries of code, the tree will be lit up and merry before you know it.

How about programming it to flash to your favourite Christmas song? Get yours today from The Pi Hut and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

Pimoroni Pirate Radio

“Pirate Audio Speaker,” Pimoroni explain “is perfect for making a Lilliputian radio, sound effect player, or even as a teeny-weeny games console!”

Attach this HAT to any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and start creating a whole host of wonderful audio-visual projects — such as a Christmas #1 jukebox — to get you in the mood for your office party.

Available from the Pimoroni website and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

PocketMoneyTronics GPIO Christmas Tree

This super-cute GPIO add-on allows users to write their own light shows via GPIO. Available for £4 from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and the PocketMoneyTronics website, it’s a nice festive addition to any coders stocking.

Full instructions are provided with the kit, and are also available online. Buy the kit pre-soldered or loose, depending on your giftee’s soldering skills.

Visit the websites of all our Approved Resellers for more great Raspberry Pi gifts. Find your local Approved Reseller by selecting your country from the dropdown menu on any Raspberry Pi Products page.

Essential kit

Fill their maker kit this festive season, with a whole host of great components and tools. A soldering iron is a great way for coders to start bringing their projects out into the real world, allowing them to permanently add sensors, lights, buttons, etc. to their Raspberry Pi. They’ll also need one if they want to add header pins to the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero and $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W.

You can never have enough LEDs. Available in a variety of sizes and colours, you can find packs of LEDs online or in your local electronics store.

Never underestimate the importance of a cutting mat. Not only will it save your tabletop from craft knife cuts and soldering iron burns, but they also look great in photos for when its time to show of their latest project!

Amazon Smile

If you plan on making online purchases via Amazon, please consider selecting the Raspberry Pi Foundation via Amazon Smile! Your items will still be the same cost to you, but Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to help us continue to make free computer science education available to adults  and young people everywhere.

  • Amazon Smile for the UK
  • Amazon Smile for the US
  • For those of you based elsewhere, we’re pretty sure that you just need to add smile. before amazon in the Amazon web address you use in your country, so give that a try. If that doesn’t work, try searching for Amazon Smile via your prefered search engine.

Our gift to you

We wanted to give you a gift this festive season, so we asked the incredibly talented Sam Alder to design an illustration for you to print or use as your desktop wallpaper.

The poster is completely free for you to use and can be opened by clicking on the image above. We just ask that you don’t sell it, print it onto a t-shirt or mug, tattoo it onto your body, or manipulate it. But do feel free to print it as a poster for your home, classroom, or office, or to upload it as your computer wallpaper. And, when you do, be sure to take a photo and share it with us on social media.

You can also download a wider version of the image.

Happy gift-giving this 2019!

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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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From inspiration to innovation: Hands-On Coding blocks

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Marcos Navas is a Union City Technology Facilitator with Union City school district in New Jersey and an active member of the maker, STEM, and coding communities. He was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators in the United States. Recently, he completed a fellowship with IDEO’s Teachers Guild and launched Hands-on Coding, a company that makes physical coding blocks for learners. Hands-On Coding blocks allow students to physically build computer programs and act out their code in the real world. They turn the human into a computer and teach children not only how to solve problems, but also how to express themselves.

In this blog post, Marcos shares how his experience at Picademy helped him successfully combine his skills as a teacher with an entrepreneurial drive.

Marcos Navas — Hands-On Coding

At Picademy North America

The day before my flight to San Jose Airport to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, I was busy in my garage makerspace. It’s strange when and how inspiration strikes, but it did — at 1am while I was preparing for Picademy. While looking at the Raspberry Pi and all the coding languages, I began thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hold the code in my hands and manipulate it?” So I began tinkering with the 3D printer and created a repeat block — and that’s how the story of Hands-On Coding begins.

A girl playing with hands-on coding blocks at a desk

The following day, I was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators (RCEs) in America. I walked into a room full of innovative and creative teachers from all over the country. Over the next two days, we were introduced to the world of Raspberry Pi and the coding basics we needed to create our first project. It was here that I understood the power of coding and how it is the language of the future. I truly believed then — and now! — how impactful coding could be if integrated into schools.

With so many talented people in attendance, I decided to share my 3D-printed coding blocks. After receiving many “oohs” and “aahs” from my peers along with several order requests, I realized that my idea could turn into something much bigger!

Marcos Navas selfie — Hands-On Coding

FAIL: First Attempt In Learning

One of the major takeaways from Picademy was Carrie Anne Philbin’s intro slide titled “FAIL: First Attempt In Learning.” But, for me, the word ‘fail’ turned into ‘fear’: being new to coding and the Raspberry Pi was daunting. Through persistence, though, I embraced growth, and worked my way out of those fears; I began to gain more confidence, which led to new ideas and experiences. And I learned that changing my perspective on failure was the key to embracing it. Some time after Picademy, this same message was repeated to me by Reshma Suajani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, who saw my coding blocks and said: “Don’t let the fear of failure get in your way.” So I let failure drive me instead.

kids playing with hands-on coding blocks

Hands-On Coding blocks

After Picademy, I met with Sam Patterson, another amazing RCE, at his local makerspace. During our conversation, I handed him one of my first coding block prototypes and asked for his thoughts. His words got me thinking about kinesthetic coding and the physical movements of acting out code to build understanding.

Two years later, in July 2018, after developing partnerships, distribution channels, and a fantastic shipping department (me), we delivered our first Hands-On Coding blocks! Hands-On Coding now consists of me and my partners Laura Fleming and Joann Presby, and our goal is to revolutionize coding by making it a more physical and tangible educational idea open to various types of learners. We hope to teach the fundamentals of computational thinking and computer science through the use of blocks and the absence of any technological device; you don’t need to learn coding in front of a screen. Our endgame is to help humanity learn to design solutions to problems in our world.

Kids playing with hands-on coding blocks

After Picademy

My experience at Picademy was just the start of my journey. I not only gained an understanding of the importance of coding in education and the versatility of the Raspberry Pi computer, but also grew out my shell and gained the confidence I needed to put ideas into actions. I became a TED Innovative Educator and an IDEO Teachers Guild Fellow, I launched Hands-on Coding, and I created numerous relationships and ambassadorships with an array of edtech companies. I understood that just because I am an educator or teacher that doesn’t mean I can’t follow my own dreams and aspirations and be a teacherpreneur! I do not have any secrets or magic to this process. Rather, a dream, action, and hard work can lead you to many worlds of possibilities.

Picademy and online training

Keep up to date with Picademy, including the release of 2019 dates, by following the #Picademy hashtag on Twitter. You’ll also find more information on our Picademy page.

Our free online training courses offer another way to learn about introducing coding into the classroom, and much more. And you can discover more stories and support from educators like Marcos in Hello World, the computing and digital making magazine for educators, which is available for free.

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Can’t Drive This, the 4D arcade machine

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A Raspberry Pi–powered arcade display with hidden interactive controls won over the crowds at Gamescom. Rosie Hattersley and Rob Zwetsloot got the inside scoop.

Pixel Maniacs is a Nuremberg-based games maker that started out making mobile apps. These days it specialises in games for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. You Can’t Drive is its first foray into gaming with a Raspberry Pi.

If you’re going to add a little something extra to wow the crowd at the Gamescom video games trade fair, a Raspberry Pi is a surefire way of getting you noticed. And that’s the way Pixel Maniacs went about it.

The Nuremberg-based games developer retrofitted an arcade machine with a Raspberry Pi to showcase its intentionally silly Can’t Drive This precarious driving game at Gamescom.

This two-player co-operative game involves one player building the track while the other drives along it.

Complete with wrecking balls, explosions, an inconvenient number of walls, and the jeopardy of having to construct your road as you negotiate your way, at speed, across an ocean to the relative safety of the next lump of land, Can’t Drive This is a fast‑paced racing game.

Splash action

Pixel Maniacs then took things up a notch by providing interactive elements, building a mock 4D arcade game (so-named because they feature interactive elements such as motion cabinets). The fourth dimension, in this case, saw the inclusion of a water spray, fan, and console lights. For its Gamescom debut, Pixel Maniacs presented Can’t Drive This in a retro arcade cabinet, where hordes of gaming fans gathered round its four-way split screen to enjoy the action.

Getting to the heart of the matter and replacing the original 1980s kit with modern-day processors and Pi-powered additions

Adding Raspberry Pi gaming to the mix was about aiding the game development process as much as anything. Andy Holtz, Pixel Maniacs’ software engineer, told The MagPi that the team wanted an LED matrix with 256 RGB LEDs to render sprite-sheet animations. “We knew we needed a powerful machine with enough RAM, and a huge community, to get the scripts running.”

Pixel Maniacs’ offices have several Raspberry Pi–controlled monitors and a soundboard, so the team knew the Pi’s potential.

The schematic for the 4D arcade machine, showing the importance of the Raspberry Pi as a controller.

The arcade version of the game runs off a gaming laptop cunningly hidden within the walls of the cabinet, while the Raspberry Pi delivers the game’s surprise elements such as an unexpected blast from a water spray. A fan can be triggered to simulate stormy weather, and lights start flashing crazily when the cars crash. Holtz explains that the laptop “constantly sends information about the game’s state to the Raspberry Pi, via a USB UART controller. The Pi reads these state messages, converts them, and sends according commands to the fans, water nozzle, camera, and the LED light matrix. So when players drive through water, the PC sends the info to the Pi, and [the latter] turns on the nozzle, spraying them.”

Having played your heart out, you get a photo-booth-style shot of you in full-on gaming action.

The arcade idea came about when Pixel Maniacs visited the offices of German gaming magazine M! Games and spied an abandoned, out-of-order 1980s arcade machine lurking unloved in a corner. Pixel Maniacs set about rejuvenating it, Da Doo Ron Ron soundtrack and all.

Sustained action

Ideas are one thing; standing up to the rigours of a full weekend’s uninterrupted gameplay at the world’s biggest games meet is something else. Holtz tells us, “The Raspberry Pi performed like a beast throughout the entire time. Gamescom was open from 9am till 8pm, so it had to run for eleven hours straight, without overheating or crashing. Fortunately, it did. None of the peripherals connected to the Pi had any problems, and we did not have a single crash.”

A Raspberry Pi 3B+ was used to trigger the water spray, lights, and fans, bringing an extra element to the gameplay, as well as rendering the arcade machine’s graphics.

Fans were enthusiastic too, with uniformly positive feedback, and one Gamescom attendee attempting to buy the arcade version there and then. As Andy Holtz says, though, you don’t sell your baby. Instead, Pixel Maniacs is demoing it at games conventions in Germany this autumn, before launching Can’t Drive This across gaming platforms at the end of the year.

This article was printed in The MagPi issue 75. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

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