Tag Archives: Your Projects

FluSense takes on COVID-19 with Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi devices are often used by scientists, especially in biology to capture and analyse data, and a particularly striking – and sobering – project has made the news this week. Researchers at UMass Amherst have created FluSense, a dictionary-sized piece of equipment comprising a cheap microphone array, a thermal sensor, an Intel Movidius 2 neural computing engine, and a Raspberry Pi. FluSense monitors crowd sounds to forecast outbreaks of viral respiratory disease like seasonal flu; naturally, the headlines about their work have focused on its potential relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A photo of Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device alongside a logo from the Amherst University of Massachusetts

Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device. Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The device can distinguish coughing from other sounds. When cough data is combined with information about the size of the crowd in a location, it can provide an index predicting how many people are likely to be experiencing flu symptoms.

It was successfully tested in in four health clinic waiting rooms, and now, PhD student Forsad Al Hossain and his adviser, assistant professor Tauhidur Rahman, plan to roll FluSense out in other large spaces to capture data on a larger scale and strengthen the device’s capabilities. Privacy concerns are mitigated by heavy encryption, and Al Hossain and Rahman explain that the emphasis is on aggregating data, not identifying sickness in any single patient.

The researchers believe the secret to FluSense’s success lies in how much of the processing work is done locally, via the neural computing engine and Raspberry Pi: “Symptom information is sent wirelessly to the lab for collation, of course, but the heavy lifting is accomplished at the edge.”

A bird's-eye view of the components inside the Flu Sense device

Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

FluSense offers a different set of advantages to other tools, such as the extremely popular self-reporting app developed by researchers at Kings College Hospital in London, UK, together with startup Zoe. Approaches like this rely on the public to sign up, and that’s likely to skew the data they gather, because people in some demographic groups are more likely than others to be motivated and able to participate. FluSense can be installed to capture data passively from groups across the entire population. This could be particularly helpful to underprivileged groups who are less likely to have access to healthcare.

Makers, engineers, and scientists across the world are rising to the challenge of tackling COVID-19. One notable initiative is the Montreal General Hospital Foundation’s challenge to quickly design a low-cost, easy to use ventilator which can be built locally to serve patients, with a prize of CAD $200,000 on offer. The winning designs will be made available to download for free.

There is, of course, loads of chatter on the Raspberry Pi forum about the role computing has in beating the virus. We particularly liked this PSA letting you know how to free up some of your unused processing power for those researching treatments.

screenshot of the hand washer being built from a video on instagram

Screenshot via @deeplocal on Instagram

And to end on a cheering note, we *heart* this project from @deeplocal on Instagram. They’ve created a Raspberry Pi-powered soap dispenser which will play 20 seconds of your favourite song to keep you at the sink and make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough to properly protect yourself.

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Ashley’s top five projects for Raspberry Pi first-timers

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It is time. Time to go to that little stack of gifts from well-wishers who have badged you as “techie” or noted that you “play computer games”. Armed with this information, they decided you’d like to receive one of our small and perfectly formed Raspberry Pis. You were thrilled. You could actually make a thing.

Except you haven’t. You had to go to that job thingy, and talk to that partner thingy, and wash and feed those children thingies. Don’t worry, we’re not offended. We know that embarking on your first coding project is daunting and that the community has taken off like a rocket so there are eight bajillion ideas floating around. Good job we’re here to help, then, isn’t?

First-timer project 01

Some of us have found ourselves spending more time with our online communities recently. Those whose digital family of choice is to be found on Reddit should see an uptick in their personal ‘Karma’ if they’re spending more time digging into “the front page of the internet”. If you’d like to see a real-world indicator of the fruits of your commenting/sharing/Let-Me-Google-That-For-You labour, a super-easy Raspberry Pi first-timer project is building a Karma counter, like this one we found on Reddit.

Now, Squiddles1227 is one of those flash 3D printer-owning types, but you could copy the premise and build your own crafty Karma-themed housing around your counter.

On a similar note (and featuring a comprehensive ‘How To’), GiovanniBauer on instructables.com used his Raspberry Pi to create an Instagram follower counter. Developed on Raspbian with Node.js, this project walk-through should get you started on whichever social media counter project you’d like to have a bash at.

First-timer project 02

We know this is a real-life Raspberry Pi first-timer project because the Reddit post title says so. Ninjalionman1 made an e-ink calendar using a Raspberry Pi Zero so they can see their daily appointments, weather report, and useful updates.

We mined the original Reddit thread to find you the comment linking to all the info you need about hardware and setup. Like I said, good job we’re here.

First-timer project 03

Raspberry Pi 3 and 4, as well as Raspberry Pi Zero W, come with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. This means you can build something to let your lockdown-weary self take your emotional-health-preserving music/podcasts/traditional chant soundtrack with you as you migrate around your living space. “Mornings in the lounge… mid-afternoons at the kitchen table…” – we feel you.

Circuitdigest.com posted this comprehensive walk-through to show you how a Raspberry Pi can convert an ordinary speaker with a 3.5mm jack into a wireless Bluetooth speaker.

First-timer project 04

PCWorld.com shared 10 Raspberry Pi projects they bet anyone can do, and we really like the look of this one. It shows you how to give a “dumb” TV extra smarts, like web browsing, which could be especially useful if screen availability is limited in a multi-user household.

The PCWorld article recommends using a Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4, and points out that this is a much cheaper option than things like Chromebits and Compute Sticks.

First-timer project 05

Lastly, electromaker.io have hidden the coding education vegetables in the Minecraft tomato sauce using Raspberry Pi. The third post down on this thread features a video explaining how you can hack your kids’ favourite game to get them learning to code.

The video blurb also helpfully points out that Minecraft comes pre-installed on Raspbian, making it “one of the greatest Pi projects for kids.”

If you’re not quite ready to jump in and try any of the above, try working your way through these really simple steps to set up your Raspberry Pi and see what it can do. Then come back here and try one of these first-timer projects, share the results of your efforts, tag us, and receive a virtual round of applause!

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Stay busy in your Vault with a Raspberry Pi Zero Pipboy

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While being holed up in the Vaults living off our stash of Nuke cola, we’ve come across this mammoth junk-build project, which uses Raspberry Pi Zero W to power a working Pipboy.

Pipboy scrap build

No Description

UK-based JustBuilding went full Robert House and, over several months, built the device’s body by welding together scrap plastic. Raspberry Pi Zero W serves as the brain, with a display header mounted to the GPIO pins. The maker wrote a Pipboy-style user interface, including demo screens, in Python — et voilà…

Lucky for him, semiconductors were already invented but, as JustBuilding admits, this is not what we’d call a beginner’s project. Think the Blue Peter show’s Tracey Island extravaganza, except you don’t have crafty co-presenters/builders, and you also need to make the thing do something useful (for our US readers who just got lost there, think Mr Rogers with glitter glue and outdoor adventure challenges).

The original post on Instructables is especially dreamy, as JustBuilding has painstakingly produced a really detailed, step-by-step guide for you to follow, including in-the-making photos and links to relevant Raspberry Pi forum entries to help you out where you might get stuck along the way.

And while Raspberry Pi can help you create your own post-apocalyptic wristwear, we’re still working on making that Stealthboy personal cloaking device a reality…

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the following is the kind of Pipboy you can knock up for yourself (though we really like JustBuilding’s arts’n’crafts upcycling style):

3D Printed Pipboy 3000 MKIV with Raspberry Pi

Find out how to 3D print and build your own functional Pipboy 3000 using a Raspberry Pi and Adafruit 3.5″ PiTFT. The pypboy python program for the Raspberry …

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Building a split mechanical keyboard with a Raspberry Pi Zero controller

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Looking to build their own ergonomic mechanical split keyboard, Gosse Adema turned to the Raspberry Pi Zero W for help.

So long, dear friend

Gosse has been happily using a Microsoft Natural Elite keyboard for years. You know the sort, they look like this:

Twenty years down the line, the keyboard has seen better days and, when looking for a replacement, Gosse decided to make their own.

This is my the first mechanical keyboard project. And this will be for daily usage. Although the possibilities are almost endless, I limit myself to the basic functionality: An ergonomic keyboard with mouse functions.

Starting from scratch

While searching for new switched, Gosse came across a low-profile Cherry MX that would allow for a thinner keyboard. And what’s the best device to use when trying to keep the profile of your project as thin as possible? Well, hello there, Raspberry Pi Zero W, aren’t you looking rather svelte today.

After deciding to use a Raspberry Pi as the keyboard controller over other common devices, Gosse took inspiration from an Adafruit tutorial on turning Raspberry Pi into a USB gadget, and from “the usbarmory Github page of Chris Kuethe”, which describes how to create a USB gadget with a keyboard.

Build your own

There is a lot *A LOT* of information on how Gosse built the keyboard on Instructables and, if we try to go into any detail here, our word count is going to be in the thousands. So, let’s just say this: the project uses some 3D printing, some Python code, and some ingenuity to create a lovely-looking final keyboard. If you want to make your own, Gosse has provided absolutely all the information you need to do so. So check it out, and be sure to give Gosse some love via the comments section on Instructables.

Mechanical keyboards

Also, if you’re unsure of how a mechanical keyboard differs from other keyboards, we made this handy video for you all!

How do mechanical keyboards work?

So, what makes a mechanical keyboard ‘mechanical’? And why are some mechanical keyboards more ‘clicky’ than others? Custom PC’s Edward Chester explains all. …

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Raspberry Pi vs antibiotic resistance: microbiology imaging with open source hardware

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The Edwards Lab at the University of Reading has developed a flexible, low-cost, open source lab robot for capturing images of microbiology samples with a Raspberry Pi camera module. It’s called POLIR, for Raspberry Pi camera Open-source Laboratory Imaging Robot. Here’s a timelapse video of them assembling it.

Measuring antibiotic resistance with colour-changing dye

The robot is useful for all kinds of microbiology imaging, but at the moment the lab is using it to measure antimicrobial resistance in bacteria. They’re doing this by detecting the colour change in a dye called resazurin, which changes from blue to pink in the presence of metabolically active cells: if bacteria incubated with antibiotics grow, their metabolic activity causes the dye to turn pink. However, if the antibiotics stop or impede the growth of the bacteria, their lower levels of metabolic activity will cause less colour change, or none at all. In the photo below, the colourful microtitre plate holds bacterial samples with and without resistance to the antibiotics against which they’re being tested.

POLIR, an open source 3D printer-based Raspberry Pi lab imaging robot

An imaging system based on 3D-printer designs

The researchers adapted existing open source 3D printer designs and used v-slot aluminium extrusion (this stuff) with custom 3D-printed joints to make a frame. Instead of a printer extrusion head, a Raspberry Pi and camera module are mounted on the frame. An Arduino running open-source Repetier software controls x-y-z stepper motors to adjust the position of the computer and camera.

Front and top views of POLIR

Open-source OctoPrint software controls the camera position by supplying scripts from the Raspberry Pi to the Arduino. OctoPrint also allows remote access and control, which gives researchers flexibility in when they run experiments and check progress. Images are acquired using a Python script configured with the appropriate settings (eg image exposure), and are stored on the Raspberry Pi’s SD card. From there, they can be accessed via FTP.

More flexibility, lower cost

Off-the-shelf lab automation systems are extremely expensive and remain out of the reach of most research groups. POLIR cost just £600.

The system has a number of advantages over higher-cost off-the-shelf imaging systems. One is its flexibility: the robot can image a range of sample formats, including agar plates like those in the video above, microtitre plates like the one in the first photograph, and microfluidic “lab-on-a-comb” devices. A comb looks much like a small, narrow rectangle of clear plastic with striations running down its length; each striation is a microcapillary with capacity for a 1μl sample, and each comb has ten microcapillaries. These microfluidic devices let scientists run experiments on a large number of samples at once, while using a minimum of space on a lab bench, in an incubator, or in an imaging robot like POLIR.

POLIR accommodates 2160 individual capillaries and a 96 well plate, with room to spare

High spatial and temporal resolution

For lab-on-a-comb images, POLIR gives the Reading team four times the spatial resolution they get with a static camera. The moveable Raspberry Pi camera with a short focus yields images with 6 pixels per capillary, compared to 1.5 pixels per capillary using a $700 static Canon camera with a macro lens.

Because POLIR is automated, it brings higher temporal resolution within reach, too. A non-automated system, by contrast, can only be used for timelapse imaging if a researcher repeatedly intervenes at fixed time intervals. Capturing kinetic data with timelapse imaging is valuable because it can be significant if different samples reach the same endpoint but at different rates, and because some dyes can give a transient signal that would be missed by an endpoint measurement alone.

Dr Alexander Edwards of the University of Reading comments:

We built the robot with a simple purpose, to make antimicrobial resistance testing more robust without resorting to expensive and highly specialised lab equipment […] The beauty of the POLIR kit is that it’s based on open source designs and we have likewise published our own designs and modifications, allowing everyone and anyone to benefit from the original design and the modifications in other contexts. We believe that open source hardware is a game changer that will revolutionise microbiological and other life science lab work by increasing data production whilst reducing hands-on labour time in the lab.

You can find POLIR on GitLab here. You can also read more, and browse more figures, in the team’s open-access paper, Exploiting open source 3D printer architecture for laboratory robotics to automate high-throughput time-lapse imaging for analytical microbiology.

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Make a hamster feeder with Raspberry Pi Zero

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People make marvellous things for their pets with Raspberry Pi. Here’s a splendid hamster feeder tutorial from Christopher Barnatt of Explaining Computers, just perfect if you’re after a small project for this weekend.

Raspberry Pi Zero Hamster Feeder

Raspberry Pi servo-controlled pet feeder, using a Raspberry Pi Zero and two SG90 servo motors. This project builds on the servo control code and setup from m…

All you need to build your hamster feeder is a Raspberry Pi Zero and peripherals, a couple of servos, some plasticard, sellotape and liquid polyadhesive, and some jumper wires. The video takes you very clearly through the entire set-up, from measurements to wiring details to Python code (which is available to download). As Christopher explains, this will allow you to feed your hamster controlled portions of food at suitable intervals, so that it doesn’t eat the lot in one go and, consequently, explode. What’s not to love?

Check out the Explaining Computers YouTube channel for more clear, detailed videos to help you do more with computing. And for more Raspberry Pi projects, head to our own Raspberry Pi projects, with hundreds of ideas for beginners and beyond available in English and many other languages.

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