Tag Archives: Uncategorized

Eben at Techcrunch Disrupt

via Raspberry Pi

Eben was speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt in London yesterday, where he had a display board and HAT to show off, and some other bits of news. You’ll get to see a PiTop (a laptop kit that’s currently going great guns on Indiegogo), be tantalised with some details about the A+, and learn about what we think is important if you’re growing a hardware business: enjoy!


ToyCollect. A robot under the sofa.

via Raspberry Pi

On Saturday December 6 (we’re letting you know ahead of time so you’ve got absolutely no excuse for not finishing your build in time), there’s going to be a special event at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam, held at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. Pi Wars is a robot competition: unlike the televised Robot Wars you’ve seen in the past, though, nobody’s robot is going to be destroyed. There are a number of challenges to compete in (none of which involve circular saws, which will please some of you and sadden others), some additional prizes for things like innovation and feature-richness – along with the Jim Darby Prize for Excessive Blinkiness, and more. We’re absurdly excited about it. You can listen to Mike Horne, the organiser of the Cam Jam (and writer of The Raspberry Pi Pod blog, and occasional helper-outer at Pi Towers) explain more about what’ll happen on the day, on this episode of the Raspi Today podcast.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.33.12

Mike’s expecting people to come from all over the country (it’s amazing how far people travel to come to the Cam Jam – I bumped into friends from Sheffield and from Devon at the last one). It should be a blast. We hope to see you there.

I was thinking about Pi Wars this morning, when an email arrived from Austria, complete with some robot video. Dr Alexander Seewald used a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino to build a tiny little robot, small enough to fit under the sofa, to rummage around and rescue his two-year-old daughter’s lost toys. (I do not have a two-year-old daughter, but I do have cats, who take great delight in hiding things under the sofa. Once, horrifyingly, we found a mummified burger down there. It had been some months since we’d eaten burgers. I could use one of these robots.)

The robot has a Pi camera on the front, with a nice bright LED, so the operator (using a tablet) can see where the bits of LEGO are. The voiceover’s in German, but even if you don’t speak the language you should be able to get a clear idea of what’s going on here.

Dr Seewald has made complete instructions available, so you can make your own ToyCollect robot: there’s everything you need from a parts list to code on his website (in English). It’s a nice, complete project to get you started on building a robot that has some use around the house – let us know if you attempt your own. And see you at Pi Wars!

Seeking the next Alan Turing – the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge

via Raspberry Pi

Last week saw the London Film Festival open with the premier of The Imitation Game, a film which chronicles the awe-inspiring work of Alan Turing cracking the German naval Enigma machine at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code breaking centre during WWII.


Alan Turing was a man of startling intellect and one of the founding fathers of computer science. After his work at Bletchley, Alan Turing went on to make significant contributions to the development of ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at National Physical Laboratory (NPL), and later on the Manchester Mark 1 at Manchester University. Turing was a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, computer scientist, mathematical biologist, and also a marathon and ultra-distance runner (all qualities to which I can only aspire and fail to measure up on every count). Of course, the tragedy of his life is how he was persecuted and prosecuted for his sexuality, which ultimately led to him taking his own life. This injustice was eventually recognised by the British Government in 2012, leading to a posthumous pardon by HM Queen Elizabeth in 2013. To this day Alan Turing remains one of the most notable figures in the development of computing in the UK.


As an undergraduate at King’s College Cambridge, Alan Turing studied mathematics. It was during this time he did his seminal work on computation. Turing devised a methodology of describing hypothetical abstract machines, and demonstrated such machines are capable of performing any mathematical computation if it could be represented as an algorithmTuring machines are a central object of study in the theory of computation. Building on this earlier work in 1949 Turing proposed an experiment, the Turing test. In this test Turing attempted to understand and define the basis of machine “intelligence”. Turing’s assertion was that a computational device could be said to be “intelligent” if a human interrogator could not distinguish between the responses from the machine and that of another human being, through conversation alone. To this day the Turing test continues to spark debate around the meaning of artificial intelligence, so in homage of his work we’ve created an educational resource – a whole scheme of work for KS2 and KS3 – for teachers to explore the Turing experiment.

Turing Test lesson plan

At Bletchley, Turing had a bit of a reputation. He was nicknamed “The Prof” in recognition of his curious mannerism, his intellect and his understanding of computation. Here at Pi Towers, we are keen on all things computing, and we are always looking for ways to grow the next generation of Turings, so in conjunction with ARM Holdings and Oxford University we are proud to support and sponsor the UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge.


The Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge is open to all schools in the UK, for pupils from Year 2 to Year 13, and runs during the week beginning November 10. The challenge is free to enter, takes about 40 minutes and is completed online. If you are not sure what to expect, you can have a go at questions from previous year’s competitions here, but if you are interested in taking part in this year’s competition your school must register by October 31. Not in the UK ? Don’t worry, this is only the UK chapter of an international competition, so you can find out your national organising body at the Bebras site under countries.

OSHWA Board Nominees

via Open Source Hardware Association

This year, we have 10 board nominees for 2 open seats on the OSHWA board. Board members will hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. As every nominee answered “Yes” to having 5 hours a month to give to the board, we did not include that question in each nominee’s data. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carrying out compliance of the organization’s purposes and bylaws. The vote will be open on Oct. 20 and Oct 21. Since the post is so long, here is also a .pdf spreadsheet of the nominees. Members will be emailed a link to vote. Here are the nominees in random order:

Toni Klopfenstein

Why do you want to be on the board?

Over the last few years through my work at SparkFun Electronics, I have seen the great benefits and necessity of having a unified Open Hardware community. I would like to be on the board to continue improving and strengthening this community, and to help the community by working towards more common, widely known standards for open source hardware. For myself personally, all OSHWA-hosted events I have attended previously have been of great personal benefit and growth, and have given me the opportunity to meet many people and see many projects from the open source hardware community that I may not otherwise get a chance to work with.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?


What qualifies you to be a board member?

My current role at SparkFun Electronics includes maintaining and distributing our documentation via tools like GitHub, so I am well aware of many ambiguities the current open hardware definition has. I am passionate about helping the community grow and improve based on what feedback I see from the community in that role, as well as my previous role in tech support, where I was able to see many of the places that users of open hardware run into trouble or get confused.

I also am skilled at working with people of many different backgrounds and experience levels with open source hardware, and have the communication skills necessary to enable productive communication between extremely technical open-hardware ‘veterans’ and complete newbies to the field.

I also am very self-motivated, and good at prioritizing work that is not necessarily well-defined or clearly driven by others.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Tamer Elzayyat

Why do you want to be on the board?

To utilize my knowledge and experience.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?

No, but I am a member in many organizations.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

PhD research now in electronics, and aim in same way.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Matt Joyce

Why do you want to be on the board?

I need something worthwhile to do. A raison d’tre. OSHW is an amazing organization supported by amazing people. I’d love to help push it forward, pull it up, and let it rest on my shoulder as needed. Of course more likely than not with the community behind it, it would more likely be like riding a jet powered tiger.

I’d still love to help out if I can. So I offer my assistance.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?


What qualifies you to be a board member?

I believe in the mission deeply. I’m honest. I have no incentives to work against or for anyone. I am surrounded by some of the best hardware folks in NYC. And, I’m generally a pretty good person.

I don’t think a board should want more than that out of its members.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Michael Weinberg

Why do you want to be on the board?

While not as important as actual design and creation of OSHW, legal and licensing issues have the potential to have a huge impact on its development and growth. OSS serves as a guide, but not a perfect analogy, for hardware. I want to be on the board of OSHWA to try and help make sure that legal and policy structures are in place to foster OSHW. I also want to make sure that the OSHWA does everything it can to encourage the development of easy to understand best practices that allow non-lawyers to easily navigate some of these thorny issues.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?


What qualifies you to be a board member?

I’ve never been qualified for anything I’ve ever done. That being said, I helped organized the OH/DC event that brought open source hardware to policymakers in Washington, DC, helped OSHWA with some of the legal issues in its FAQ, talked about policy and legal issues surrounding OSHW at a few Open Hardware Summits, and write about OSHW legal issues every once in a while.
I am not, however, proficient in KiCad. If that’s a requirement I probably shouldn’t be on the board. Not that I wouldn’t like to be proficient in KiCad or anything. Just that I’m not right now.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Nahid Alam (nominated by Addie Wagenknecht)

Why do you want to be on the board?

Nahid served as the review chair for this years OHSummit and I [Addie] found her to be dependable, dedicated and easy to work with, she always was available for calls, meetings and was quick to respond to emails. In addition she is a member of the OSH community. She is founder at litehouse.io

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?

Nahid served on the board of Chicktech (http://chicktech.org) and helped them with arranging robotic workshop (http://chicktech.org/programs/past-events/chicktech-high-school-2013-psu/) for woc and girls in tech.

She also arranges a monthly hardware meetup (http://www.meetup.com/Bay-Area-Modular-Electronics-Meetup/)

What qualifies you to be a board member?

Please see above. I highly recommend her -Addie

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Lars Zimmermann

Why do you want to be on the board?

To push and support open source hardware and help to develop it. With being on the board I hope to get more grip, a network and possibilities to do this beyond the scale I am already doing this. 

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?


What qualifies you to be a board member?

I advocate for open source hardware for years now, as open source economist. I am not an engineer. For that reason I have different motivations and viewpoints on the matter.

I like to explore the potential of open source for hardware in other fields than electronics. My current main interests are to make open source hardware work/bring it to the discussion for a circular economy as well as for the future of our freedom and democracy.

I initiated and am part of different projects focussing on open source hardware like:

The Open It Agency: http://openitagency.eu

The IPO Tables: http://ipotables.net (new)

Baubus: http://baubus.de (new)

OWi: http://owiowi.net

I write about open source hardware in my blog, there you can find also more projects: http://bloglz.de

I did research and do workshops and consulting on open source hardware business models. I wrote the chapter about business models for an upcoming book about open source hardware “building open source hardware”.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Joshua Pearce

Why do you want to be on the board?

I want to help legitimize open source hardware as a concept to ease government and investor funding of its development, accelerate commercialization and catalyze mass-scale deployment. I want open source hardware to be the established default rather than the exception. I would also like to help the OSHWA build a centralized database to house all kinds of OSH to make it easier to find, use, adapt and share.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?

I am on the advisory board for the AMSE Additive Manufacturing Challenge (IAM3D) and have agreed to sit on the Advisory Board for Adopting Appropriate Technology (ADAPT) as a Framework for the Technology and Engineering Education Curriculum for the National Science Foundation’s DRK-12 Grant Program. In Canada, I was on the board of advisors for Hearthmakers Energy Cooperative in 2009 and the Advisory Committee of the Sustainable Energy Applied Research Centre from 2011. I have also sat on numerous advisory boards for small stat-up companies and NPOs.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I have a well-documented track record as a major advocate of open-source hardware in academia and the popular press. I have published extensively on both the technology of 1) open source appropriate technology (OSH for sustainable development), 2) RepRap 3-D printing (OSH for distributed manufacturing), 3) OSH for scientific equipment development and 4) policy against closed IP. For example, I published the seminal call for OSH scientific equipment in the journal Science (a top journal) and followed up with the book Open Source Lab (2014) published by Elsevier (the top scientific publisher) to help legitimize the now burgeoning field. I also published in Nature (another top journal) a piece challenging both patents as a innovation source and the public funding of closed research. My work is regularly covered by the mainstream media, where I am careful to ensure the meme of “open source hardware is a technically superior method of development” at every opportunity. For example, see the Newsweek article on our open source metal 3D printer for less than <$1200.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Theodore Ullrich

Why do you want to be on the board?

I was at the very first OSHW meeting at Eyebeam in 2010. Here are some photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/teddesigns/sets/72157623642265534/

I started and run a product design and development consultancy, called Tomorrow Lab (http://tomorrow-lab.com). Since day one, Tomorrow Lab has always looked to uphold and create Open Source Hardware, however it has been difficult to keep commercialization as a priority when you are also trying to stay ‘open’. That being said, I’m interested in pushing to merge the two towards everyone’s benefit. I believe you have to resolve these issues in order for OSHW to flourish.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?

Tomorrow Lab is is on the World2NYC Board with the NYCEDC, and the NextTopMakers Board.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

Ultimately, I see the role of a Board Member to guide the application of the organization’s goals to current activities and opportunities. Its all about staying relevant. Therefore, a connection to industry is an important qualification.

As an engineer, industrial designer, and startup founder, I am familiar with the needs of the hardware community. I meet with new hardware startups in NYC almost daily. My business consults for dozens of them per year. I believe the insights available from a person in my position would offer value for OSHWA.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Rose Swan Meacham

Ensuring that new technology and hardware is made available to everyone is essential to fostering innovations that will improve the standard of living and education for us all. I strongly believe that anyone (no matter what age, gender, race, or economic background) is capable of contributing to scientific discovery in transformative ways.

This is a topic I feel extremely passionate about and I strongly believe that Open Source Hardware can be used by communities world-wide to fill in for failing governmental systems such as clean living standards, STEM education and private healthcare. By unifying innovators with new ideas for creating, improving, or sharing Open Source Hardware I believe we can help individuals make visible impact on their communities worldwide.

I would be honored to invest my energy and resources to ensure that Open Source Hardware is made both accessible and easy to work with by people from all backgrounds.

If allowed to serve on the board for OSHWA, I would organize educational events within schools and community spaces for the general public, including STEM topics for young adults (especially girls!), where open source hardware is used as a way to fuel interest and share technical skills.

I had the privilege of giving a TEDx Talk last year about Women In Science and through my research learned that while the number of girls in many undergraduate STEM programs outnumbers boys, the number of graduate level female students reversed to the minority. Among women surveyed in PhD level mathematics courses at Columbia, the majority attributed this to feelings of being undervalued and a lack of support from their peers.

Creating a common voice and networking space through OSHWA would help disseminate new knowledge about developing Open Source Hardware, but it would also provide the support many minority and underprivileged individuals need to be successful in STEM fields.

It is important to take advantage of an online network to help connect OSHWA members with likeminded Makers worldwide. This network could include live streamed panel discussions that we host, video lectures from experts who lead our outreach educational events, and an encyclopedia of source code and data on Open Source Hardware.

These entries could reference StackOverflow and resources like Arduino’s Forum to help provide our community with the tools necessary to advance their own hardware projects and share improvements on existing schematics. In a sense, it could become a new user-driven forum for learning about the Open Hardware movement and advancing its progress by supporting those who are working with new designs.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?

The most recent non-profit organization that I worked with was the Imagine Science Film Festival, which organizes an annual film festival in New York, as well as events throughout the year that make science accessible to the general public through film. The events were designed to make accurate, often esoteric scientific concepts more engaging and relatable through panel discussions and interactive activities for all ages.

The experience I gained would be extremely valuable to help with fundraising and creating a stronger global network of like-minded Makers. My responsibilities included planning and attending board meetings and developing new strategies that could help bridge the gap between art and science. I managed volunteers and hosted film screenings, panels with scientists and artists, planned educational events, fundraising parties, and started the first overseas outreach program which hosted film events and workshops in Saudi Arabia, Ireland, France, and Ecuador.

I worked directly with investors and sponsors, including Nature, Science/AAS, Google, Vimeo, NY Science Exchange, and universities such as NYU, New School, and Rockefeller to maintain the support we needed to bring quality content to the general public for free whenever possible. For example, I worked with Google and the University College Dublin to create the Mobile Science Cinema Truck – a private theater that was designed to bring science-themed activities and films to underprivileged areas throughout Ireland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTt4XfCcHxI

Another example includes an educational series that I organized with the New York Hall of Science to teach children about biological sciences and how to create their own animations. The culmination of the event was a screening of their films that was hosted online from our sponsor Vimeo and in theaters throughout New York during the film festival.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

The mission of OSHWA is very dear to me and I believe that my unique research experience would enable me to make a tangible difference.

My experience working for non-profit companies and sitting on boards gives me a pre-established network and resources I could draw from to help develop OSHWA. But perhaps more importantly, as a recent masters graduate from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, I have hands-on experience working with Open Source Hardware. I am currently applying this knowledge as a researcher in a Neuroscience Lab at NYU and developing a new experiment with collaborators in the Psychology and Neuroscience departments at Princeton University.

With new efforts being made by researchers to make their experiments available to the general public for free, I can see a huge potential for immense discovery by people outside of academia in the next decade. But a link between access to research and open source hardware and technology needs to be formed. I would like to start new movements among researchers to connect directly with the Open Source Hardware community to make the new technology developed in laboratories available to everyone. For example, Jack Andraka, was in high school when he invented a revolutionary test for pancreatic cancer and attributed his discovery to Aaron Swartz.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


James “Laen” Neal

Why do you want to be on the board?

I believe in open source–software as well as hardware– as a tool for the advancement of technology. I think OSHWA does excellent work promoting the philosophy of open source, and I’d like to lend my skills and resources to helping further its goals.

Do you currently serve on the boards of other organizations?


What qualifies you to be a board member?

As a maker, I develop open source hardware. As a hobbyist, I use open source hardware. As the owner of a manufacturing service, the main group I want to serve are people making open source hardware.

Do you have an interest in serving as the board President?


Conversations with Two Summit Scholarship Recipients

via Open Source Hardware Association

OSHWA gave financial assistance to several women to attend the 2014 Open Hardware Summit in Rome, Italy. Below are conversations with two of these scholarship recipients, one from Pune, India, and the other from Colorado, USA. Both women have wonderful thoughts to share, plus Toni Klopfenstein is seeking a seat on the OSHWA Board in the upcoming election. Please read on to hear their stories.

Sphoorti Headshot

What is your name?
Sphoorti Joglekar

What is your age?

Where do you live?
Pune, India

Where are you from originally?
Pune, India

What is your title at your job?
Member of Technical Staff, Airtight Networks (Pune, India)

What do you do specifically for work?
I work on kernel and driver level features for the company’s product.

Why did you want to attend the Open Hardware Summit? Before attending, what did you hope to get out of it?
I was introduced to the open hardware community while working on my thesis project, and robotics and embedded applications have always been my interest. Before attending the Summit, I hoped for an opportunity to meet and learn from people contributing and making a huge difference in the open source hardware world. And the Summit provided me with that, and more!

What does open source hardware mean to you?
I am a beginner, and I am learning a lot about open source hardware and looking for mentors to guide me in my journey.

What do you see as the biggest struggle with open source hardware?
Being a beginner to the open hardware community, I find the absence of hackerspaces and FAB Labs a challenge.

What are your thoughts on the gender and/or racial issues around open source hardware as a subject overall?
I feel more and more women should get involved in open hardware community.

What did you get out of The Summit? What was your favorite part?
I gained a lot out of the Summit. I met fellow scholarship recipients, and also Alicia, Addie, Aileen, Becky and Phoenix who are really great at what they do. I came to know about the various open hardware projects people are working on worldwide through the talks session on Day 1 of the Summit. The second day was more about community participation and building a strong community through the workshops that were conducted.

Most importantly, I gained confidence to interact with really talented people on this huge platform and I am so thankful to OSHWA for encouraging me to attend and interact with all these people.


Toni's Headshot

What is your name?
Toni Klopfenstein

What is your age?

Where do you live?
Boulder, CO

Where are you from?
Monument, CO

What is your title at your job?
Quality Assurance Engineer, Sparkfun Electronics (Boulder, CO)

What do you do specifically for work?
I manage all Github repositories, work on circuit boards where the original engineer no longer works at SFE, organize the Hackers in Residence that come to work with our engineering team, assist with board revisions when necessary, and act as a liaison between engineering and tech support.

Why did you want to attend the Open Hardware Summit? Before attending, what did you hope to get out of it?
I was interested in getting to listen to and share ideas with other folks in this arena, and to strengthen our community. My hope was to leave the Summit with new people to collaborate with, and determine where we need to improve.

At last year’s Summit someone discussed open hardware farm tools, which was fascinating and really opened my eyes to the diversity of open hardware, and the fact that it is not just about circuit boards. I’m eager to see what this year has in store, and to learn more about other exciting projects. Even though it’s different from my own work, it’s important to take into consideration these other ideas to allow me to make better working decisions myself.

I hope to represent SFE well at The Summit. I want to truly listen to other ideas out there, and be sure that as leaders in this movement, we are staying true to the community and working with them, not accidentally against them. Communication, listening, and gathering is key.

What does open source hardware mean to you?
Open source hardware means there are no secrets or black boxes filled with things that you cannot see into. It is accessible so you can learn about something, and then go find its data sheets somewhere to learn even more. It’s not a product that is full of secrets and made specifically for one specific company. There are far fewer trade secrets, and much more accessibility.

What do you see as the biggest struggle with open source hardware?
How do you translate open hardware information to people? How do you share this kind of documentation with people and ensure that it is accessible? The common consumer can use open source software quite easily, but there are larger challenges with hardware.

What are your thoughts on the gender and/or racial issues around open source hardware as a subject overall?
This scholarship was created to ensure that women, and their voices, have a place at the table. The Summit is a brainchild of two women, which is important because this is still a very male-dominated industry.

What did you get out of The Summit? What was your favorite part?
The 2014 Summit was very valuable for me. During the first day, I got to learn about many new open-source projects that I was not aware of yet. One that really stood out to me was the Open Seed Initiative, which again, was great to learn about as it reminded me that “open hardware” doesn’t necessarily just mean electronics, but instead can include a wide range of materials and supplies, including agricultural items.

The talks on the first day overall were also really inspiring, especially getting to see so many new faces (at least to me!) in the open hardware field.

The workshops on the second day were also great. Not only did I get to learn some interesting insights about running an open hardware business from Eric Pan of Seeed Studio, but I got to work with folks from companies that I am familiar with from a business standpoint, but not from a personal standpoint. Because of this, for me personally, it helped create a more personal connection for me to other companies in the open source field that I would not necessarily have gotten the chance to meet otherwise. In my opinion, events like that help enforce the community aspect of open hardware, which is important and is something that could still be improved greatly.

RACHEL-Pi – delivering education worldwide

via Raspberry Pi

Liz: If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed more and more frequent mentions over the last year of a piece of kit called RACHEL-Pi. RACHEL is an offline server, run on a Raspberry Pi, full of educational content from teaching curriculums, Khan Academy materials, Wikipedia, classic literature, reference material and textbooks; alongside vital community materials like medical and first aid textbooks.

We’re very proud to be able to support World Possible’s RACHEL-Pi project through our education fund. It’s being used all over the world in remote places where the internet is unavailable – and this year it’s gone from strength to strength. Here’s Jeremy Schwartz, the Executive Director of World Possible, to show you what they’ve been doing with the project in the last year.

What an incredible 12 months it has been. World Possible has seen RACHEL-Pi (our Raspberry Pi-based educational server) deployed in scores of countries – often in the most remote of locations – delivering a world of educational content to tens of thousands of students previously far removed from the great online learning tools those of us reading this blog take for granted almost every day.

1 2 4

How’d we get here?

It’s worth taking a few seconds to get some history on World Possible’s RACHEL server. In 2009, World Possible (an all-volunteer team, mostly from Cisco) curated a package of creative commons resources (Wikipedia, Khan Academy, CK12 textbooks, and much more) for offline distribution. Coupling the content with open-source web server software, we could create “Remote Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning,” (“R.A.C.H.E.L.”) – a locally cached web server accessed through any connected web browser (with no need for internet connectivity).

RACHEL is accessed via a web browser

RACHEL is accessed via a web browser

Probably more naïve than anything, an attempted round of pilot projects of RACHEL (which at the time was a power-hungry NAS device) in 2009, in Sierra Leone, failed in pretty dramatic fashion.

The failure took a real toll on World Possible and forced us to rethink RACHEL distribution, ultimately building a distribution network of partnerships with on-the-ground teams that could do the hard part for us, and many of which still lead the RACHEL distribution charge today:

UConnect in Uganda and East Africa more broadly - read more

UConnect in Uganda and East Africa more broadly – read more

Despite the early successes of those groups, we still didn’t have the final piece of the puzzle that has exploded RACHEL deployment today (development of open-source educational resources + uniform standards of web browsers + proliferation of low cost computing hardware and storage). In comes the Raspberry Pi, giving us the ability to create a plug-and-play webserver and hotspot at a price point that we can distribute to masses of people without any required computer literacy background.

Is it working? – “Content is king; distribution is King Kong”

Almost exactly a year ago, a partnership with the Gates-Backed Riecken Libraries in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as a funding leap of faith by a few loved donors and the Rotary Club of Portola/Woodside Valley (CA), allowed us to launch a new phase of World Possible and RACHEL-Pi focused on creating, curating, and distributing relevant content from and within disconnected communities. A good old fashioned sneaker-net, delivering locally relevant (and often locally created) digital educational content to disconnected schools, libraries, orphanages and community centers.

The World Possible team in Guatemala is now led by Israel Quic, a native Mayan, initially attracted to RACHEL-Pi as a means of preserving and teaching his Mayan heritage and language to local communities.

Israel Quic presents RACHEL at Campus Tec, the technology department of University de la Valle

Israel Quic presents RACHEL at Campus Tec, the technology department of University de la Valle

Israel quickly saw an opportunity to collect more locally relevant agricultural and political resources than we currently distribute as part of our Spanish-language RACHEL-Pi. In April, the fruits of his labor truly began to sprout, when word came from one agricultural community, an early RACHEL-Pi recipient, which built a drip irrigation system out of old plastic bottles after discovering how to do it from a single teacher’s smartphone while researching our Guatemalan content on their RACHEL-Pi.

A  drip irrigation systems made from old plastic bottles, using how-to content from RACHEL-Pi

A drip irrigation system made from old plastic bottles, using how-to content from RACHEL-Pi

The successes only caused us to redouble our efforts. Aided by our local Facebook page, World Possible Guatemala solicits offers of help and requests for RACHEL from across the country.

Current RACHEL-Pi installations in Guatemala

Current RACHEL-Pi installations in Guatemala

Installations of RACHEL-Pi in community centers and libraries are often made available 24/7, enabling anyone with a smart phone to come learn, research, and explore.

San Lucas Toliman RACHEL-Pi wifi access point

San Lucas Toliman RACHEL-Pi wifi access point

Facebook post of Biblioteca Comunitaria Rija’tzuul Na’ooj

Facebook post of Biblioteca Comunitaria Rija’tzuul Na’ooj

San Juan del Obispo in Sacatapequéz is an agricultural community where middle school kids are using RACHEL to learn not only how to grow and irrigate, but also how to cultivate mushrooms and make fresh peach jam. Along the way they get business skills as well.

The mission in Guatemala is still just beginning, but the lessons learned and successes are providing a key roadmap for World Possible. Make available valuable educational resources, supplement them with locally relevant vocational and cultural content, get buy-in from local community volunteers, and distribute… distribute… distribute. The results are truly inspirational.

What’s next? – “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Globally, the RACHEL effort is still driven by the hundreds of groups that download RACHEL and distribute independently in their own communities. Everything we do is free to download through our website, FTP site, BitTorrent sync, or even shared Dropbox. The Raspberry Pi has also made it so anyone can do this on their own, a powerful democratization of access to a world-class education.

World Possible will continue to support these groups through our own volunteer network, through independent advice, and by creating the best package of content available. Even more today, a biweekly newsletter is connecting thousands of RACHEL advocates in nearly 40 countries who have been through the process and can provide best practices to new users locally.

What excites us most is our ability to replicate the successes that have been achieved in Guatemala. In Micronesia, Professor Hosman and her students curated a RACHEL for the state of Chuuk. She’s now working with Inveneo to deploy RACHEL to the entire region’s network of schools.

Grace, a teacher at Akoyikoyi School in Chuuk, receives a RACHEL-Pi

Grace, a teacher at Akoyikoyi School in Chuuk, receives a RACHEL-Pi

In Kenya and East Africa, thanks to a generous grant from this very Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’ve just completed a hire (Bonface Masaviru) to follow the roadmap that Israel Quic laid out in Guatemala. Bonface is spreading RACHEL throughout Kenyan schools…

… and working with local volunteers such as Zack Matere to help us curate RACHEL Shamba (an offline package of farming resources):


Where we can, we’ll look to our long-time distribution partners to help create full labs to access RACHEL-Pi. Here in Uganda, Romeo Rodriguez gives his “children” their first ever look at technology in a new library thanks to a full “digital library-in-a-box” from World Possible.

We’ll continue to find ways to hire additional country managers, local to their communities, who have proven their dedication to RACHEL, to involve indigenous people in creating and distributing the content they currently lack.

If you’d like to be part of the mission, we’d love to have you. A great group of development volunteers can be reached at rachelproject@googlegroups.com. If you have networking expertise, we can pair you with a group that might need your help deploying RACHEL – info@worldpossible.org.

If you want to join the Raspberry Pi Foundation in supporting our efforts financially, we’d love it – donate here.

If you want us to come talk to your group, or help deploy RACHEL, we’d love that also – please don’t hesitate to get involved! Thank you to all of the individuals and groups who already have; there is so much more we can do together.

Compute Module IO Board Hardware Design Files Now Available!

via Raspberry Pi

Back in April we announced the Compute Module, and since then we’ve had a lot of interest from manufacturers who are looking to design the module into real products. We’ve already had orders for significant numbers of modules.

It has taken a little while to spin up the wheels of mass production, but they are now well and truly turning, and behind the scenes our initial customers who have already made orders are now getting their modules. Now that production is in full swing, Compute Modules will soon be available to the masses from the usual partners, for $30 in volumes of 100 or more, or individually if you pay a premium. Premier Farnell have the ability to back-order here and RS Components here.

When we announced the Compute Module we released all the schematics for the module itself and also the schematics for our ‘get you started’ Compute Module development board, the Compute Module IO Board. We had always promised to also release the full CAD for the IO board, and today we are doing just that!


Compute Module IO Board as viewed in the CAD tool

The design files are the Cadence OrCAD schematic file, Cadence Allegro PCB file and the full board Gerbers, bill of materials (BOM) and PDF version of the schematic. People should be able to take the design and easily modify it, or just take the Gerber files and create copies of the board if that’s what they want to do.

As a bonus we are also releasing the full CAD for the Camera and Display adaptors as well.

These design files can be found here and are released under a modified BSD licence (the licence is included in the zip with the design files).

Note that the only difference from the official Raspberry Pi Compute Module IO Board is that this publicly released one does not (and cannot, without permission from Raspberry Pi) have the Raspberry Pi logo on it. We have also removed the CE and FCC compliance logos, as again this is something board manufacturers are responsible for: you must perform your own certification for any clones or derivatives of this board.

Spreading the Jam

via Raspberry Pi

Today we’re launching a new section of our website for information about Raspberry Jams – events and meetups for Raspberry Pi users. We want to promote community events and make it easier for people to set up their own; and to spread the great sense of community that we see around the Pi even further.


Jams come in a variety of flavours: some have talks, demos and workshops; some just provide space for people to work on projects together. Some are small, just a few people sitting around a table; some are held in universities with hundreds in attendance.

The new Jam section has a map and calendar of all upcoming events, and you can submit your own to be added. It contains a page of information on how to set up and run your own Jam, and gives examples of featured Jams for inspiration.

Thanks to Mike Horne for his help on putting this together!

Goblin detector and Jam review – a guest post from 8-year-old Annabel

via Raspberry Pi

Liz: Annabel Oakley is eight years old. That makes her our youngest ever guest blogger! Here’s her account of a day out at a the PyCon UK Raspberry Jam in September at Coventry University, and the goblin-scaring project she made with her Raspberry Pi. Thanks very much, Annabel – and thanks also to Dad, who helped out with the Goblin Detector and drove the car!

Annabel wanted a project to show at the  computer conference. She decided to make a Goblin Detector which would sound a buzzer and flash a light, when her brother or sister went in her bedroom.


Annabel used a Raspberry Pi computer and a motion sensor.

Annabel and goblin detector
Her dad showed her what to do, and Annabel wired it up and wrote the program to control it.

goblin detector
The program was written in a computer language called Python. The Goblin Detector has a motion sensor in a margarine tub. It connects to the Raspberry Pi using three wires.


The Raspberry Pi has an add-on called Pibrella which gives it three lights, a buzzer and a button. It waits 5 seconds to let you get out of
the room, then it waits for movement. When it sees movement, it sounds a buzzer. You can press the button to stop the buzzer, and it will wait for movement again.

The motion sensor is very cheap, only £3, and can be found in light switches which turn off automatically. It has three wires:

• Positive
• Signal
• Negative

The program waits for a high current on the Signal wire, which means it has seen some movement. You can find out how to make and
program one yourself on Annabel’s dad’s website.

Then Annabel and her dad set off for the computer conference. The ticket was only £5 for children!

Annabel, book
When Annabel got there, she got given a goody bag which included a brand new Raspberry Pi, a book and other goodies!

Annabel wrote a program to put the words “Hello World” on the screen in Minecraft.


Some teachers were also at the conference. The teachers were learning how children used computers.

There were also some computer programmers helping the children and
teachers. The grown-ups were not allowed to touch the keyboards. The children had to do everything themselves! There were lots of grown-up computer programmers around to help out, and some of the children were already experts.

Lots of people were interested in Annabel’s Goblin Detector.

We let the children take it apart and program it for themselves. It was easy to put it back together.

Most of the children at the computer conference were girls. There was a whole pack of Brownies!


Annabel also saw some robots which  could be programmed to dance.

Annabel made a friend called Sam and they wrote a program to take lots of photos, and then turn those photos into an animated video.

sam and annabel
There were some famous programmers helping out, such as Carrie Ann Philbin and Ben Nuttall, who work for the Raspberry Pi charity.

Miss Philbin, famous programmer
Sam and Annabel had to show off their animation to everyone else.


You can watch their 8-second animation here.

Make a Tweeting Babbage

via Raspberry Pi

At Picademy, our awesome free training course for teachers, I run a workshop to introduce teachers to using the camera module with Python, and show them how to wire up a GPIO button they can use to trigger the camera. I always make a point of saying “now you know this, what can you make it do?” and suggest some uses for the setup – stop-motion animation, motion sensing or sending pictures to Twitter.

On the second day of Picademy, we give teachers the chance to work in teams on a project of their choice, and there’s always at least one group that extends upon the camera workshop. At Picademy #3 in July, one group decided to take a Babbage Bear apart, shove a Pi inside and have it take pictures and tweet them – it was great fun to help them build the project and we got some funny pictures out of it…

Then at Picademy #4 last month, another group took the idea further and made Abuse Bear – a Babbage that tweeted a picture when punched! Perhaps this one’s not quite such a good idea for the classroom. Again, some brilliant pictures…

The idea has been so popular at Picademy that I decided to write the Tweeting Babbage project up as an educational resource! There’s a full set of instructions for building up the code to send simple text tweets from Python, taking pictures with the camera, wiring up the GPIO button, uploading pictures to Twitter, putting it all together and performing surgery on the bear to insert the hardware.


Making the incision


Removing the eye


Inserting the camera


Intel Raspberry Pi Inside

I was at PyCon Ireland in Dublin this weekend, where I gave a talk about Raspberry Pi in education. I brought the modified Babbage along (yes, I got it through airport security) and showed the pictures above during my talk. There was a very audible aww of sentimental attachment to the cute bear I just introduced them to.


Tweeting Babbage: the finished product

Go check out the resource and make your own Tweeting Babbage!

Subscribe to the Raspberry Pi in Education Newsletter

via Raspberry Pi

As an educational charity, education is at the heart of what we do here at Raspberry Pi. This year has seen the education team grow in number, resulting in the development of our new learning and teaching materials (a set of resources we’re adding to all the time), a free teacher training programme (Picademy), the introduction of competitions like the Poster Competition and the current Sonic Pi competition, all at the same time as running and participating in outreach events across the globe.

Spot Raspberry Pi Edu team members from Picademy cohort 4!

Spot Raspberry Pi Edu team members from Picademy cohort 4!

We often contribute posts to this blog to inform you, our wonderful community, about what we have been up to, and about future developments; and you often respond and interact with us to help us improve.

To help us inform teachers, school IT administrators, governors, head teachers, home educators and parents about what’s up in the world of Raspberry Pi in education, we have created a new email newsletter to keep educators and other interested folk up to date on all of our projects.

Our inaugural issue of the newsletter

Our inaugural issue of the newsletter

You can sign up for our newsletter here, and enjoy a monthly email penned by one of the Raspberry Pi Education Team. It is super easy to both subscribe and unsubscribe to the newsletter, and we shall be keeping an archive of all issues on the education page of the website. We promise never to use your email address for spam, and we promise never to sell it, fold, bend, spindle or mutilate it. Go and sign up – we think you’ll find it really useful!


Moving pictures

via Raspberry Pi

Earlier this year, we blogged about a shampoo ad that was running in the Swedish subway. A Pi hooked up to a motion sensor triggered a video effect on a billboard, so the model’s hair blew around in what looked like a response to the wind created every time a train came into the station.

Swedish ad agency Garberg have done something similar to that original project – but this time something’s different (and all their work on this ad has been pro bono). This has become the most-viewed video in Sweden this week, and it brought us all up short. We think it’ll have the same effect on you.

Chinese Democracy

via Raspberry Pi

We were directed to a Facebook page from Hong Kong this week. It’s been set up by one of the people involved in the peaceful demonstrations that are being called the Umbrella Revolution, protesting about Beijing’s insistence on vetting and controlling the list of candidates for they city’s Chief Executive, effectively preventing free elections in Hong Kong.

Our very own Dave Honess is in Hong Kong this week (nothing to do with the demonstrations – he’s gone to see some Hong Kong friends for a holiday that’s been planned for a long time). He tweeted these pictures on arriving:

Eben and I were also in Hong Kong a little while before the demonstrations started, talking to some components suppliers after our press and community tour of China and Taiwan, and visiting friends – the mood was sombre, and many of the people we spoke to were expressing grave concern about what’s next for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is much on our minds here at Raspberry Pi at the moment, and we wish all our friends in the city the very best.

So then. Why am I blogging about Hong Kong? It all comes back to that Facebook page I mentioned up at the top: it’s been set up to host time-lapse footage of the enormous pro-democracy crowds that have been gathering in Central since September 26. And that footage has been collected using a Raspberry Pi and a webcam, all set up in a biscuit tin and secured with duct tape.

Biscuit tin

Biscuit tin in position

Here’s one of the videos taken by the apparatus last week.

This footage is incredible – you can see more videos from the biscuit tin on Vimeo.

What more can we say? This sort of application of the Raspberry Pi, which is as simple as anything (you can learn how to make your own time-lapse camera here in our learning resources section), is an extraordinary leap from what we originally intended the Pi to be – a device to teach school kids computer science. Making technology cheap and accessible has some applications that go way beyond education.

Insert Juggling Pun Here

via Raspberry Pi

Martin, our financial director, dropped by for a budget meeting yesterday. “How’s it going, Liz?”

“I’m trying to think up a title for a blog post. There’s this juggler who was on America’s got Talent, who’s using programmable juggling clubs that light up and synchronise. They’re powered by a Pi. And the person who built them is a totally amazing sixteen-year-old girl who interns at NASA.”

“Don’t ask me for ideas,” said Martin. “I’m an accountant.”

Juggling with magical Pi clubs, on a long exposure setting

Juggling with magical Pi clubs, on a long exposure setting

Let’s start with that sixteen-year-old girl. Lauren Egts is pretty exceptional. She’s a busy and incredibly articulate advocate for open source software, she’s a seasoned Pi hacker (check out the summer vacation project she worked on at NASA, which was also Pi-powered). And we are absolutely love the fact that there’s a Raspberry Pi in her LinkedIn profile photo.

Lauren got an email from the company she did work experience with last summer, saying they’d been approached by a juggler (Charles Peachock, whose juggling got him into the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent) who, in the way of modern jugglers (we think), needed some technical support. He wanted clubs to use in his act that could have lights embedded which could be synchronised to a routine, and Lauren’s former colleagues thought she’d be able to help. Lauren, being Lauren, rose to the challenge, and the results are pretty spectacular.


You can read Lauren’s explanation of how she hacked together the juggling pin setup over at opensource.com. RasPi Today also interviewed her about the project. You can see the Pi-powered clubs in action in Charles Peachock’s demo reel: he starts using them at 3m 39s in – it’s a very short segment of the video, and the quality’s not the best, but the whole video’s worth watching. Who knew that gravity worked quite like that?

Even now, our very own Ben Nuttall is trying to work out how to make his elbows do that thing.

The MagPi issue 27: out now!

via Raspberry Pi

Is that the date already? The new issue of The MagPi, the free magazine written and produced by members of the Raspberry Pi community, is available today.

The MagPi issue 27

Editor Ash Stone says:

Welcome to Issue 27 of The MagPi magazine. This month’s issue is packed cover to cover with something for just about everyone!

Are you tired of controlling your Raspberry Pi with the same old mouse and keyboard? Have you ever wished you could have the ergonomic feel of a console controller in your hands when playing some of those retro games we have written about in past issues? If you answered yes to either of these questions, why not take a look at Mark Routledge’s fantastic article describing how to do just that.

Alec Clews talks us through the use of Git, a free version control software package that we also use here at The MagPi to ensure that all of the team work on the most up to date copy of each issue. This is a great read, especially if you work with any type of document or file as part of a team.

As you can see from our front cover, we return to the popular world of Minecraft in Dougie Lawson’s clever article on building QR code structures inside the game. We also have more physical computing from ModMyPi, and a great father and son story on building and funding a Raspberry Pi project through Kickstarter.

Of course we have not forgotten about programming. William Bell continues his popular C++ series and we also have part three of our game programming series using FUZE BASIC. Start thinking of some game ideas now because in the next issue we will have a game programming competition.

If you want even more from The MagPi this month then why not join us on the 11th October at the SWAMP Fest event (see this month’s Events page) where we will have our own stand. We look forward to seeing you there.

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue and don’t forget to like our Facebook page and leave a comment at www.facebook.com/MagPiMagazine.