We’re pleased to share that Dr Sue Sentance, our Chief Learning Officer, is receiving a Suffrage Science award for Mathematics and Computing today.
The Suffrage Science award scheme celebrates women in science. Sue is being recognised for her achievements in computer science and computing education research, and for her work promoting computing to the next generation.
Sue is an experienced teacher and teacher educator with an academic background in artificial intelligence, computer science, and education. She has made a substantial contribution to research in computing education in school over the last ten years, publishing widely on the teaching of programming, teacher professional development, physical computing, and curriculum change. In 2017 Sue received the BERA Public Engagement and Impact Award for her services to computing education. Part of Sue’s role at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is leading our Gender Balance in Computing research programme, which investigates ways to increase the number of girls and young women taking up computing at school level.
As Dr Hannah Dee, the previous award recipient who nominated Sue, says: “[…] The work she does is important — researchers need to look at what happens in schools, particularly when we consider gender. Girls are put off computing long before they get to universities, and an understanding of how children learn about computing and the ways in which we can support girls in tech is going to be vital to reverse this trend.”
Sue says, “I’m delighted and honoured that Hannah nominated me for this award, and to share this honour with other women also dedicated to furthering the fields of mathematics, computing, life sciences, and engineering. It’s been great to see research around computing in school start to gather pace (and also rigour) around the world over the last few years, and to play a part in that. There is still so much to do — many countries have now introduced computing or computer science into their school curricula as a mandatory subject, and we need to understand better how to make the subject fully accessible to all, and to inspire and motivate the next generation.”
Aside from her role in the Gender Balance in Computing research programme, Sue has led our work as part of the consortium behind the National Centre for Computing Education and is now our senior adviser on computing subject knowledge, pedagogy, and the Foundation’s computing education research projects. Sue also leads the programme of our ongoing computing education research seminar series, where academics and educators from all over the world come together online to hear about and discuss some of the latest work in the field.
Every year, we support the PA Raspberry Pi Competition for UK schools, run by PA Consulting. In this free competition, teams of students from schools all over the UK imagine, design, and create Raspberry Pi–powered inventions.
The PA Raspberry Pi Competition aims to inspire young people aged 8 to 18 to learn STEM skills, teamwork, and creativity, and to move toward a career in STEM.
We invite all UK teachers to register if you have students at your school who would love to take part!
Among all the entries, judges from the tech sector and the Raspberry Pi Foundation choose the finalists with the most outstanding inventions in their age group.
The final teams get to take part in an exciting awards event to present their creations so that the final winners can be selected. This round’s PA Raspberry Pi Awards Ceremony takes place on Wednesday 28 April 2021, and PA Consulting are currently considering whether this will be a physical or virtual event.
All teams that participate in the competition will be rewarded with certificates, and there’s of course the chance to win trophies and prizes too!
You can prepare with our free online courses
If you would like to boost your skills so you can better support your team, then sign up to one of our free online courses designed for educators:
Find out more at the PA Raspberry Pi Competition webinar!
To support teachers in guiding their teams through the competition, PA Consulting will hold a webinar on 12 November 2020 at 4.30–5.30pm. Sign up to hear first-hand what’s involved in taking part in the PA Raspberry Pi Competition, and use the opportunity to ask questions!
We are delighted to share the news that Carrie Anne Philbin, Raspberry Pi’s Director of Educator Support, has been awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.
Carrie Anne was one of the first employees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and has helped shape our educational programmes over the past six years. Before joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne was a computing teacher, YouTuber, and author.
She’s also a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion in computing; she co-founded a grassroots movement of computing teachers dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and she has mentored young girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a fantastic role model and source of inspiration to her colleagues, educators, and young people.
From history student to computing teacher and YouTuber
As a young girl, Carrie Anne enjoyed arts and crafts and when her dad bought the family a Commodore 64, she loved the graphics she could make on it. She says, “I vividly remember typing in the BASIC commands to create a train that moved on the screen with my dad.” Being able to express her creativity through digital patterns sparked her interest in technology.
After studying history at university, Carrie Anne followed her passion for technology and became an ICT technician at a secondary school, where she also ran several extra-curricular computing clubs for the students. Her school encouraged and supported her to apply for the Graduate Teacher Programme, and she qualified within two years.
Carrie Anne admits that her first experience in a new school as a newly qualified teacher was “pretty terrifying”, and she says her passion for the subject and her sense of humour are what got her through. The students she taught in her classroom still inspire her today.
Showing that computing is for everyone
As well as co-founding CAS #include, a diversity working group for computing teachers, Carrie Anne started the successful YouTube channel Geek Gurl Diaries. Through video interviews with women working in tech and hands-on computer science tutorials, Carrie Anne demonstrates that computing is fun and that it’s great to be a girl who likes computers.
On the back of her own YouTube channel’s success, Carrie Anne was invited to host the Computer Science video series on Crash Course, the extremely popular educational YouTube channel created by Hank and John Green. There, her 40+ videos have received over 2 million views so far.
Discovering the Raspberry Pi Foundation
Carrie Anne says that the Raspberry Pi computer brought her to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and that she stayed “because of the community and the Foundation’s mission“. She came across the Raspberry Pi while searching for new ways to engage her students in computing, and joined a long waiting list to get her hands on the single-board computer. After her Raspberry Pi finally arrived, she carried it in her handbag to community meetups to learn how other people were using it in education.
Since joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne has helped to build an incredible team, many of them also former computing teachers. Together they have trained thousands of educators and produced excellent resources that are used by teachers and learners around the world. Most recently, the team created the Teach Computing Curriculum of over 500 hours of free teaching resources for primary and secondary teachers; free online video lessons for students learning at home during the pandemic (in partnership with Oak National Academy); and Isaac Computer Science, a free online learning platform for A level teachers and students.
On what she wants to empower young people to do
Carrie Anne says, “We’re living in an ever-changing world that is facing many challenges right now: climate change, democracy and human rights, oh and a global pandemic. These are issues that young people care about. I’ve witnessed this year after year at our international Coolest Projects technology showcase event for young people, where passionate young creators present the tech solutions they are already building to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. I believe that equipped with a deeper understanding of technology, young people can change the world for the better, in ways we’ve not even imagined.”
Carrie Anne has already achieved a huge amount in her career, and we honestly believe that she is only just getting started. On behalf of all your colleagues at the Foundation and all the educators and young people whose lives you’ve changed, congratulations Carrie Anne!
Technology should be for everyone, but it has to be built by everyone to be for everyone. At Raspberry Pi, we work to empower everyone to become a tech creator and shape our collective digital future, and we hope that our work will help to increase the tech sector’s diversity.
I asked Carrie Anne Philbin, our Director of Educator Support, and Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director at WeAreTheCity, about their thoughts on how we can make the tech sector more diverse, and what part role models, education, and professional development play in this.
Vanessa, WeAreTheCity helps organisations foster a strong female workforce, and provides opportunities for women to network and develop their skills. Why do you think it’s important for women and people from minority backgrounds to support each other in the professional world?
Vanessa Vallely: I believe it is important for everyone to support each other. It is important that we work as a collective and collaborate, as at the end of the day we are all trying to achieve the same goal. 17% women in tech [in the UK] is not enough.
“We want more women in tech, and we want them to represent all aspects of society.” – Vanessa Vallely OBE
We cannot be what we cannot see, therefore asking women who are already working in tech to stand up and own their role model status is a great start.
What can individuals do to address the lack of diversity in the tech sector?
Carrie Anne Philbin: Firstly, let’s recognise that we need the tech sector to be more representative of the population of the world. It’s problematic to have a small subsection of society be the controllers of a growing digital world.
Then, we need to be the change we want to see in the industry. Let’s try different avenues and then let’s be open about our challenges and successes.
VV: I believe every woman in the tech sector is a role model to future generations. There are a number of things individuals can do, for example go back to their schools and tell their tech stories, or contribute/write blogs. This doesn’t just raise their profile, it puts their story out there for others to aspire to. I think this is really important, especially if the individual is from a background where role models are less visible. There are lots of different organisations and networks that facilitate individuals getting involved in their school or early career initiatives which has made it easier to get involved and give back.
CAP: As a woman in the computing field, I think it is important that I hold the door open for other women coming through in my wake, and that I highlight where I can, great work by others.
Ever since I realised that my skills and knowledge in computing were useful and allowed me to be creative in a whole new way, I’ve championed computer science as a subject that everyone should experience. Once you’ve created your first computer program or built your first network, you’ll never want to stop.
Carrie Anne, how does your coding session at WATC’s WeAreTechWomen conference today tie into this?
CAP: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to teach computing well, and about how young people can have great learning experiences so they can become the makers and creators of tomorrow.
“Technology is not a mystery, nor is it hard to learn. I want to dispel this myth for everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or economic status.” – Carrie Anne Philbin
During my session at WeAreTechWomen, I hope to support attendees to write their first creative python program, based on a project I wrote for Code Club to create a virtual pet. It is my hope that the session will be the spark of inspiration that gets more women and men from diverse backgrounds excited about being creators of technology.
You’ve built a career in tech education as a teacher, YouTuber, and Director at Raspberry Pi. How can beginners get comfortable creating with tech?
CAP: There isn’t anything magical about technology, and once you know this, you can start to explore with confidence, much like our ancestors when they learned that the earth was round and not flat.
“Phrases like ‘I’m not good with technology’ or ‘It’s all too complicated for me’ are reassuring to say in a society where the accepted view is that maths and science are hard, and where this view is reinforced by our media. But it is OK to be a beginner, it is OK to learn something new, and it is OK to play, explore, fail, and succeed on the journey.” – Carrie Anne Philbin
However you like to learn, be it on your own or with others, there is a way that suits you! I’ve always been quite project-minded: I have ideas about things I want to make, and then go and see if I can. This is how I stumbled across the Raspberry Pi in 2012 — it seemed like an accessible and cheap way to make my automation dreams come true. It also wasn’t too bad at randomly generating poems.
Aside from teacher-led instruction or independent exploration, another way is to learn with others in a relaxed and informal setting. If you’re a young person, then clubs like Code Club and CoderDojo are perfect. If you’re an adult, then attending a Raspberry Jam or conferences like WeAreTechWomen can provide a supportive environment.
“By being kinder to ourselves and seeing ourselves as life-long learners, it is easier to overcome insecurity and build confidence.” – Carrie Anne Philbin
A great way to approach new learning is at your own pace, and thanks to technology, we have access to online training courses with great videos, exercises, and discussion — many of these are completely free and let you connect with a community of learners as well.
How do you think educating the next generation about computing will change the makeup of the tech sector?
CAP: We’re in an exciting phase for computing education. The world has woken up to the importance of equipping our young people with the knowledge and skills for an ever increasing digital landscape. This means computer science is gaining more prominence in school curricula and giving all children the opportunity to discover the subject.
“Education can be democratising, and I expect to see the makeup of the tech sector reflect this movement in the next five to twenty years.” – Carrie Anne Philbin
Unlike physics or music, computing is still a relatively young field, so we need to do more research into what is encouraging and what isn’t, particularly when we work with young people in schools or clubs.
We’re still learning how to teach computing, and particularly programming, well to encourage greater diversity, so it’s great to see such a vast Gender Balance in Computing research project underway as part of the National Centre for Computing Education here in England. It’s not too late for schools in England to get involved in this project either…
The German charity Save Nemo works to protect coral reefs, and they are developing Nemo-Pi, an underwater “weather station” that monitors ocean conditions. Right now, you can vote for Save Nemo in the Google.org Impact Challenge.
The organisation says there are two major threats to coral reefs: divers, and climate change. To make diving saver for reefs, Save Nemo installs buoy anchor points where diving tour boats can anchor without damaging corals in the process.
In addition, they provide dos and don’ts for how to behave on a reef dive.
To monitor the effects of climate change, and to help divers decide whether conditions are right at a reef while they’re still on shore, Save Nemo is also in the process of perfecting Nemo-Pi.
This Raspberry Pi-powered device is made up of a buoy, a solar panel, a GPS device, a Pi, and an array of sensors. Nemo-Pi measures water conditions such as current, visibility, temperature, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide concentrations, and pH. It also uploads its readings live to a public webserver.
The Save Nemo team is currently doing long-term tests of Nemo-Pi off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia. They are also working on improving the device’s power consumption and durability, and testing prototypes with the Raspberry Pi Zero W.
The web dashboard showing live Nemo-Pi data
Save Nemo aims to install a network of Nemo-Pis at shallow reefs (up to 60 metres deep) in South East Asia. Then diving tour companies can check the live data online and decide day-to-day whether tours are feasible. This will lower the impact of humans on reefs and help the local flora and fauna survive.
A healthy coral reef
Nemo-Pi data may also be useful for groups lobbying for reef conservation, and for scientists and activists who want to shine a spotlight on the awful effects of climate change on sea life, such as coral bleaching caused by rising water temperatures.
A bleached coral reef
Vote now for Save Nemo
If you want to help Save Nemo in their mission today, vote for them to win the Google.org Impact Challenge:
Click “Abstimmen” in the footer of the page to vote
Click “JA” in the footer to confirm
Voting is open until 6 June. You can also follow Save Nemo on Facebook or Twitter. We think this organisation is doing valuable work, and that their projects could be expanded to reefs across the globe. It’s fantastic to see the Raspberry Pi being used to help protect ocean life.
It’s a public holiday here today (yes, again). So, while we indulge in the traditional pastime of barbecuing stuff (ourselves, mainly), here’s a little trove of Pi projects that cater for our various furry friends.
Nicole Horward created Project Floofball for her hamster, Harold. It’s an IoT hamster wheel that uses a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor to log how far Harold runs.
JaganK3 used to work long hours that meant he couldn’t be there to feed his dog on time. He found that he couldn’t buy an automated feeder in India without paying a lot to import one, so he made one himself. It uses a Raspberry Pi to control a motor that turns a dispensing valve in a hopper full of dry food, giving his dog a portion of food at set times.
He also added a web cam for live video streaming, because he could. Find out more in JaganK3’s Instructable for his pet feeder.
Shark laser cat toy
Sam Storino, meanwhile, is using a Raspberry Pi to control a laser-pointer cat toy with a goshdarned SHARK (which is kind of what I’d expect from the guy who made the steampunk-looking cat feeder a few weeks ago). The idea is to keep his cats interested and active within the confines of a compact city apartment.
All of these makers are generous in acknowledging the tutorials and build logs that helped them with their projects. It’s lovely to see the Raspberry Pi and maker community working like this, and I bet their projects will inspire others too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m late for a barbecue.
Michael Portera‘s trading card scanner uses LEGO, servo motors, and a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module to scan Magic: The Gathering cards and look up their prices online. This is a neat and easy-to-recreate project that you can adapt for whatever your, or your younger self’s, favourite trading cards are.
For those of you who aren’t this nerdy [Janina is 100% this nerdy – Ed.], Magic: The Gathering (or MTG for short) is a trading card game first launched in 1993. It’s based on a sprawling fantasy multiverse storyline, and is very heavy on mechanics — the current comprehensive rules fill 228 pages! You can imagine it as being a bit like Dungeons and Dragons, with less role-playing and more of a chess vibe. Unlike in chess, however, you can beat your MTG opponent in one turn with just the right combination of cards. If that’s your style of play, that is.
Scanning trading cards
So far, there are around 20000 official MTG cards, and, as with other types of trading cards, some of them are worth a lot of money.
Michael is one of the many people who were keen MTG players in their youth. Here’s how he came up with his project idea:
I was really into trading cards as a kid. I recently came across a lot of Magic: The Gathering cards in a box and thought to myself — I wonder how many cards I have and how much they’re worth?! Logging and looking these up manually would take a while, so I decided to see if I could automate some of the process. Somehow, the process led to building a platform out of Lego and leveraging AWS S3 and Rekognition.
LEGO, servos and camera
To build the housing of the scanner, Michael used LEGO, stating “I’m not good at wood working, and I thought that it might be rough on the cards.” While he doesn’t provide a build plan for the housing, Michael only used bricks from in the LEGO Medium Creative Brick Box he bought for the project. In addition, his tutorial includes a lot of pictures to guide you.
Servo motors spin plastic wheels to move single cards from a stack set into the scanner. Michael positioned a Raspberry Pi Camera Module so that it can take a picture of the title of each card as it is set before the lens. The length of the camera’s ribbon cable gave Michael a little difficulty, so he recommends getting an extension for it if you’re planning to recreate the build.
Optical character recognition and MTG card price API
On the software side, Michael wrote three scripts. One is a Python script to control the servos and take pictures. This, he says, “[records] about 20–25 cards a minute.”
Another script identifies the cards and looks up their prices automatically. Michael tried out OpenCV and Tesseract for optical character recognition (OCR) first, before settling on AWS S3 and Rekognition for storing and processing images, respectively. You’ll need an AWS account to do this — Michael used the free tier, which he says allows him to process 5000 pictures per month.
A sizeable collection
Finally, the data that Rekognition sends back gets processed by another Python script that looks up the identified cards on the TCGplayer API to find their price.
Michael says he’s very satisfied with the accuracy of the project’s OCR. He found out that the 920 Magic: The Gathering cards he scanned are worth about $275 in total. He provides a full write-up plus code over on hackster.io.
And for my next trick…
You might be thinking what I’m thinking: the logical next step for this project is to turn it into a card sorter. Then you could input a list of the card deck you want to put together, and presto! The device picks out the right cards from your collection. Building a Commander deck just became a little easier!
What trading cards would you use this project with, and how would you extend it? Also, what’s your favourite commander? Let me know in the comments!
Attention, case modders: take a look at the Brutus 2, an extremely snazzy computer case with a partly transparent, animated side panel that’s powered by a Pi. Daniel Otto and Carsten Lehman have a current crowdfunder for the case; their video is in German, but the looks of the build speak for themselves. There are some truly gorgeous effects here.
Vorbestellungen ab sofort auf https://www.startnext.com/brutus2 Weitere Infos zu uns auf: https://3nb.de https://www.facebook.com/3nb.de https://www.instagram.com/3nb.de Über 3nb: – GbR aus Leipzig, gegründet 2017 – wir kommen aus den Bereichen Elektronik und Informatik – erstes Produkt: der Brutus One ein Gaming PC mit transparentem Display in der Seite Kurzinfo Brutus 2: – Markencomputergehäuse für Gaming- /Casemoddingszene – Besonderheit: animiertes Seitenfenster angesteuert mit einem Raspberry Pi – Vorteile von unserem Case: o Case ist einzeln lieferbar und nicht nur als komplett-PC o kein Leistungsverbrauch der Grafikkarte dank integriertem Raspberry Pi o bessere Darstellung von Texten und Grafiken durch unscharfen Hintergrund
What’s case modding?
Case modding just means modifying your computer or gaming console’s case, and it’s very popular in the gaming community. Some mods are functional, while others improve the way the case looks. Lots of dedicated gamers don’t only want a powerful computer, they also want it to look amazing — at home, or at LAN parties and games tournaments.
The Brutus 2 case
The Brutus 2 case is made by Daniel and Carsten’s startup, 3nb electronics, and it’s a product that is officially Powered by Raspberry Pi. Its standout feature is the semi-transparent TFT screen, which lets you play any video clip you choose while keeping your gaming hardware on display. It looks incredibly cool. All the graphics for the case’s screen are handled by a Raspberry Pi, so it doesn’t use any of your main PC’s GPU power and your gaming won’t suffer.
To use Brutus 2, you just need to run a small desktop application on your PC to choose what you want to display on the case. A number of neat animations are included, and you can upload your own if you want.
So far, the app only runs on Windows, but 3nb electronics are planning to make the code open-source, so you can modify it for other operating systems, or to display other file types. This is true to the spirit of the case modding and Raspberry Pi communities, who love adapting, retrofitting, and overhauling projects and code to fit their needs.
Daniel and Carsten say that one of their campaign’s stretch goals is to implement more functionality in the Brutus 2 app. So in the future, the case could also show things like CPU temperature, gaming stats, and in-game messages. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from integrating features like that yourself.
If you have any questions about the case, you can post them directly to Daniel and Carsten here.
The crowdfunding campaign
The Brutus 2 campaign on Startnext is currently halfway to its first funding goal of €10000, with over three weeks to go until it closes. If you’re quick, you still be may be able to snatch one of the early-bird offers. And if your whole guild NEEDS this, that’s OK — there are discounts for bulk orders.
Matt Van Gastel breathed new life into his great-grandparents’ 1930s Westinghouse with a Raspberry Pi, an amplifier HAT, Google Music, and some serious effort. The result is a really beautiful, striking piece.
With a background in radio electronics, Matt Van Gastel had always planned to restore his great-grandparents’ mid-30s Westinghouse radio. “I even found the original schematics glued to the bottom of the base of the main electronics assembly,” he explains in his Instructables walkthrough. However, considering the age of the piece and the cost of sourcing parts for a repair, he decided to take the project in a slightly different direction.
“I pulled the main electronics assembly out quite easily, it was held in by four flat head screws […] I decided to make a Steampunk themed Jukebox based off this main assembly and power it with a Raspberry Pi,” he writes.
Matt added JustBoom’s Amp HAT to a Raspberry Pi 3 to boost the sound quality and functionality of the board.
He spent a weekend prototyping and testing the electronics before deciding on his final layout. After a little time playing around with different software, Matt chose Mopidy, a flexible music server written in Python. Mopidy lets him connect to his music-streaming service of choice, Google Music, and also allows airplay connectivity for other wireless devices.
Stripping out the old electronics from inside the Westinghouse radio easily made enough space for Matt’s new, much smaller, setup. Reserving various pieces for the final build, and scrubbing the entire unit to within an inch of its life with soap and water, he moved on to the aesthetics of the piece.
LED Nixie tubes, a 1950s DC voltmeter, and spray paint all contributed to the final look of the radio. It has a splendid steampunk look that works wonderfully with the vintage of the original radio.
Retrofit and steampunk Raspberry Pi builds
From old pub jukeboxes to Bakelite kitchen radios, we’ve seen lots of retrofit audio visual Pi projects over the years, with all kinds of functionality and in all sorts of styles.
Americana – does exactly what it says on the tin jukebox
OK, fine. You’re after something properly frightening. How about the haunted magic mirror by Kapitein Haak, or this one, with added Philips Hue effects, by Ben Eagan. As if your face first thing in the morning wasn’t shocking enough.
If you find those rigid-faced, bow-lipped, plastic dolls more sinister than sweet – and you’re right to do so: they’re horrible – you won’t like this evil toy. Possessed by an unquiet shade, it’s straight out of my nightmares.
Earlier this month we covered Adafruit’s haunted portrait how-to. This build by Dominick Marino takes that concept to new, terrifying, heights.
This recreation of Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise is Pi-powered, it’s mobile, and it talks. You can remotely control it, and I am not even remotely OK with it. That being said, if you’re keen to have one of your own, be my guest. Just follow the guide on Instructables. It’s your funeral.
Make your Halloween
It’s been a great year for scary Raspberry Pi makes, and we hope you have a blast using your Pi to get into the Halloween spirit.
And speaking of spirits, Matt Reed of RedPepper has created a Pi-based ghost detector! It uses Google’s Speech Neural Network AI to listen for voices in the ether, and it’s live-streaming tonight. Perfect for watching while you’re waiting for the trick-or-treaters to show up.
Halloween: that glorious time of year when you’re officially allowed to make your friends jump out of their skin with your pranks. For those among us who enjoy dressing up, Halloween is also the occasion to go all out with costumes. And so, dear reader, we present to you: a steampunk tentacle hat, created by Derek Woodroffe.
Derek is an engineer who loves all things electronics. He’s part of Extreme Kits, and he runs the website Extreme Electronics. Raspberry Pi Zero-controlled Tesla coils are Derek’s speciality — he’s even been on one of the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures with them! Skip ahead to 15:06 in this video to see Derek in action:
The first Lecture from Professor Saiful Islam’s 2016 series of CHRISTMAS LECTURES, ‘Supercharged: Fuelling the future’. Watch all three Lectures here: http://richannel.org/christmas-lectures 2016 marked the 80th anniversary since the BBC first broadcast the Christmas Lectures on TV. To celebrate, chemist Professor Saiful Islam explores a subject that the lectures’ founder – Michael Faraday – addressed in the very first Christmas Lectures – energy.
Wearables are electronically augmented items you can wear. They might take the form of spy eyeglasses, clothes with integrated sensors, or, in this case, headgear adorned with mechanised tentacles.
Why did Derek make this? We’re not entirely sure, but we suspect he’s a fan of the Cthulu mythos. In any case, we were a little astounded by his project. This is how we reacted when Derek tweeted us about it:
@ExtElec @extkits This is beyond incredible and completely unexpected.
In fact, we had to recover from a fit of laughter before we actually managed to type this answer.
Making a steampunk tentacle hat
Derek made the ‘skeleton’ of each tentacle out of a net curtain spring, acrylic rings, and four lengths of fishing line. Two servomotors connect to two ends of fishing line each, and pull them to move the tentacle.
Then he covered the tentacles with nylon stockings and liquid latex, glued suckers cut out of MDF onto them, and mounted them on an acrylic base. The eight motors connect to a Raspberry Pi via an I2C 8-port PWM controller board.
The Pi makes the servos pull the tentacles so that they move in sine waves in both the x and y directions, seemingly of their own accord. Derek cut open the top of a hat to insert the mounted tentacles, and he used more liquid latex to give the whole thing a slimy-looking finish.
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
You can read more about Derek’s steampunk tentacle hat here. He will be at the Beeston Raspberry Jam in November to show off his build, so if you’re in the Nottingham area, why not drop by?
Wearables for Halloween
This build is already pretty creepy, but just imagine it with a sensor- or camera-powered upgrade that makes the tentacles reach for people nearby. You’d have nightmare fodder for weeks.
With the help of the Raspberry Pi, any Halloween costume can be taken to the next level. How could Pi technology help you to win that coveted ‘Scariest costume’ prize this year? Tell us your ideas in the comments, and be sure to share pictures of you in your get-up with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Tim Rowledge produces and sells wonderful replicas of the cases which our Astro Pis live in aboard the International Space Station. Here is the story of how he came to do this. Over to you, Tim!
When the Astro Pi case was first revealed a couple of years ago, the collective outpouring of ‘Squee!’ it elicited may have been heard on board the ISS itself. People wanted to buy it or build it at home, and someone wanted to know whether it would blend. (There’s always one.)
The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the original Astro Pi flight case — gorgeous, isn’t it?
Replicating the Astro Pi case
Some months later the STL files for printing your own Astro Pi case were released, and people jumped at the chance to use them. Soon reports appeared saying you had to make quite a few attempts before getting a good print — normal for any complex 3D-printing project. A fellow member of my local makerspace successfully made a couple of cases, but it took a lot of time, filament, and post-print finishing work. And of course, a plastic Astro Pi case simply doesn’t look or feel like the original made of machined aluminium — or ‘aluminum’, as they tend to say over here in North America.
A batch of tops designed by Tim
I wanted to build an Astro Pi case which would more closely match the original. Fortunately, someone else at my makerspace happens to have some serious CNC machining equipment at his small manufacturing company. Therefore, I focused on creating a case design that could be produced with his three-axis device. This meant simplifying some parts to avoid expensive, slow, complex multi-fixture work. It took us a while, but we ended up with a design we can efficiently make using his machine.
Tim’s first lasered case
And the resulting case looks really, really like the original — in fact, upon receiving one of the final prototypes, Eben commented:
“I have to say, at first glance they look spectacular: unless you hold them side by side with the originals, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s changed. I’m looking forward to seeing one built up and then seeing them in the wild.”
Inside the Astro Pi case
Making just the bare case is nice, but there are other parts required to recreate a complete Astro Pi unit. Thus I got my local electronics company to design a small HAT to provide much the same support the mezzanine board offers: an RTC and nice, clean connections to the six buttons. We also added well-labelled, grouped pads for all the other GPIO lines, along with space for an ADC. If you’re making your own Astro Pi replica, you might like the Switchboard.
The electronics supply industry just loves to offer *some* of what you need, so that one supplier never has everything: we had to obtain the required stand-offs, screws, spacers, and JST wires from assorted other sources. Jeff at my nearby Industrial Paint & Plastics took on the laser engraving of our cases, leaving out copyrighted logos etcetera.
Lasering the top of a case
Get your own Astro Pi case
Should you like to buy one of our Astro Pi case kits, pop over to www.astropicase.com, and we’ll get it on its way to you pronto. If you’re an institutional or corporate customer, the fully built option might make more sense for you — ordering the Pi and other components, and having a staff member assemble it all, may well be more work than is sensible.
Tim’s first full Astro Pi case replica, complete with shiny APEM buttons
To put the kit together yourself, all you need to do is add a Pi, Sense HAT, Camera Module, and RTC battery, and choose your buttons. An illustrated manual explains the process step by step. Our version of the Astro Pi case uses the same APEM buttons as the units in orbit, and whilst they are expensive, just clicking them is a source of great joy. It comes in a nice travel case too.
This is Tim. Thanks, Tim!
Take part in Astro Pi
If having an Astro Pi replica is not enough for you, this is your chance: the 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge is open! Do you know a teenager who might be keen to design a experiment to run on the Astro Pis in space? Are you one yourself? You have until 29 October to send us your Mission Space Lab entry and become part of the next generation of space scientists? Head over to the Astro Pi website to find out more.
After making a delightful Bitcoin lottery using a Raspberry Pi, Sean Hodgins brings us more Pi-powered goodness in time for every maker’s favourite holiday: Easter! Just kidding, it’s Halloween. Check out his hair-raising new build, the Haunted Jack in the Box.
This project uses a raspberry pi and face detection using the pi camera to determine when someone is looking at it. Plenty of opportunities to scare people with it. You can make your own!
Imagine yourself wandering around a dimly lit house. Your eyes idly scan a shelf. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twangy melody! What was that? You take a closer look…there seems to be a box in jolly colours…with a handle that’s spinning by itself?!
You freeze, unable to peel your eyes away, and BAM!, out pops a maniacally grinning clown. You promptly pee yourself. Happy Halloween, courtesy of Sean Hodgins.
Eerie disembodied voice: You’re welco-o-o-ome!
How has Sean built this?
Sean purchased a jack-in-the-box toy and replaced its bottom side with one that would hold the necessary electronic components. He 3D-printed this part, but says you could also just build it by hand.
The bottom of the box houses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and a servomotor which can turn the windup handle. There’s also a magnetic reed switch which helps the Pi decide when to trigger the Jack. Sean hooked up the components to the Pi’s GPIO pins, and used an elastic band as a drive belt to connect the pulleys on the motor and the handle.
Sean explains that he has used a lot of double-sided tape and superglue in this build. The bottom and top are held together with two screws, because, as he describes it, “the Jack coming out is a little violent.”
But if I explain it, it won’t be scary anymore! OK, fiiiine.
With the help of a a Camera Module and OpenCV, Sean implemented facial recognition: Jack knows when someone is looking at his box, and responds by winding up and popping out.
Testing the haunting script
Sean’s Python script is available here, but as he points out, there are many ways in which you could adapt this code, and the build itself, to be even more frightening.
So very haunted
What would you do with this build? Add creepy laughter? Soundbites from It? Lighting effects? Maybe even infrared light and a NoIR Camera Module, so that you can scare people in total darkness? There are so many possibilities for this project — tell us your idea in the comments.
Joe Birch has built a simple device that converts online news stories to Braille, inspired by his family’s predisposition to loss of eyesight. He has based his BrailleBox on Android Things, News API, and a Raspberry Pi 3.
Braille is a symbol system for people with visual impairment which represents letters and numbers as raised points. Commercial devices that dynamically produce Braille are very expensive, so Joe decided to build a low-cost alternative that is simple to recreate.
News API is a tool for fetching JSON metadata from over 70 online news sources. You can use it to integrate headlines or articles into websites and text-based applications.
To create the six nubs necessary to form Braille symbols, Joe topped solenoids with wooden balls. He then wired them up to GPIO pins of the Pi 3 via a breadboard.
One of the solenoids Joe built into the BrailleBox
Next, he took control of the solenoids using Android Things. He set up the BrailleBox software to start running on boot, and added a push button. When he presses the button, the program fetches a news story using News API, and the solenoids start moving.
Since Joe is an Android Engineer, looking through his write-up and code for BrailleBox might be useful for anyone interested in Android Things.
If you like this project, make sure you keep an eye on Joe’s Twitter, since he has plans to update the BrailleBox design. His next step is to move on from the prototyping stage and house all the hardware inside the box. Moreover, he is thinking about adding a potentiometer so that users can choose their preferred reading speed.
If you want to find our community’s conversation about accessibility and assistive technology, head to the forums. And if you’re working to make computing more accessible, or if you’ve built an assistive project, let us know in the comments or on social media, so that we can boost the signal!
Three researchers from Michigan State University have developed a low-cost, open-source fingerprint reader which can detect fake prints. They call it RaspiReader, and they’ve built it using a Raspberry Pi 3 and two Camera Modules. Joshua and his colleagues have just uploaded all the info you need to build your own version — let’s go!
Sadly not the real output of the RaspiReader
We’ve probably all seen a movie in which a burglar crosses a room full of laser tripwires and then enters the safe full of loot by tricking the fingerprint-secured lock with a fake print. Turns out, the second part is not that unrealistic: you can fake fingerprints using a range of materials, such as glue or latex.
The RaspiReader team collected live and fake fingerprints to test the device
If the spoof print layer capping the spoofer’s finger is thin enough, it can even fool readers that detect blood flow, pulse, or temperature. This is becoming a significant security risk, not least for anyone who unlocks their smartphone using a fingerprint.
This is where Anil K. Jain comes in: Professor Jain leads a biometrics research group. Under his guidance, Joshua J. Engelsma and Kai Cao set out to develop a fingerprint reader with improved spoof-print detection. Ultimately, they aim to help the development of more secure commercial technologies. With their project, the team has also created an amazing resource for anyone who wants to build their own fingerprint reader.
So that replicating their device would be easy, they wanted to make it using inexpensive, readily available components, which is why they turned to Raspberry Pi technology.
The Raspireader and its output
Inside the RaspiReader’s 3D-printed housing, LEDs shine light through an acrylic prism, on top of which the user rests their finger. The prism refracts the light so that the two Camera Modules can take images from different angles. The Pi receives these images via a Multi Camera Adapter Module feeding into the CSI port. Collecting two images means the researchers’ spoof detection algorithm has more information to work with.
Real on the left, fake on the right
The Camera Adaptor uses the RPi.GPIO Python package. The RaspiReader performs image processing, and its spoof detection takes image colour and 3D friction ridge patterns into account. The detection algorithm extracts colour local binary patterns … please don’t ask me to explain! You can have a look at the researchers’ manuscript if you want to get stuck into the fine details of their project.
Build your own fingerprint reader
I’ve had my eyes glued to my inbox waiting for Josh to send me links to instructions and files for this build, and here they are (thanks, Josh)! Check out the video tutorial, which walks you through how to assemble the RaspiReader:
Building a cost-effective, open-source, and spoof-resilient fingerprint reader for $160* in under an hour. Code: https://github.com/engelsjo/RaspiReader Links to parts: 1. PRISM – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WL3OBK4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (Better fit) https://www.thorlabs.com/thorproduct.cfm?partnumber=PS611 2. RaspiCams – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012V1HEP4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 3. Camera Multiplexer https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012UQWOOQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 4. Raspberry Pi Kit: https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Clear-Power-Supply/dp/B01C6EQNNK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1507058509&sr=8-6&keywords=raspberry+pi+3b Whitepaper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.07887 * Prices can vary based on Amazon’s pricing. P.s.
You can find a parts list with links to suppliers in the video description — the whole build costs around $160. All the STL files for the housing and the Python scripts you need to run on the Pi are available on Josh’s GitHub.
Enhance your home security
The RaspiReader is a great resource for researchers, and it would also be a terrific project to build at home! Is there a more impressive way to protect a treasured possession, or secure access to your computer, than with a DIY fingerprint scanner?
It’s no secret that we love music projects at Pi Towers. On the contrary, we often shout it from the rooftops like we’re in Moulin Rouge! But the PianoAI project by Zack left us slack-jawed: he built an AI on a Raspberry Pi that listens to his piano playing, and then produces improvised, real-time accompaniment.
Zack has published an excellent write-up of how he built PianoAI. It’s a very readable account of the progress he made and the obstacles he had to overcome while writing PianoAI, and it includes more example videos. It’s hard to add anything to Zack’s own words, so I shan’t try.
Some of Zack’s notes for his AI
If you just want to try out PianoAI, head over to his GitHub. He provides a detailed guide that talks you through how to implement and use it.
Did you realise the Sense HAT has been available for over two years now? Used by astronauts on the International Space Station, the exact same hardware is available to you on Earth. With a new Astro Pi challenge just launched, it’s time for a retrospective/roundup/inspiration post about this marvellous bit of kit.
The Sense HAT on a Pi in full glory
The Sense HAT explained
We developed our scientific add-on board to be part of the Astro Pi computers we sent to the International Space Station with ESA astronaut Tim Peake. For a play-by-play of Astro Pi’s history, head to the blog archive.
Just to remind you, this is all the cool stuff our engineers have managed to fit onto the HAT:
Use the LED matrix and joystick to recreate games such as Pong or Flappy Bird. Of course, you could also add sensor input to your game: code an egg drop game or a Magic 8 Ball that reacts to how the device moves.
It’s also possible to incorporate Sense HAT data into your digital art! The Python Turtle module and the Processing language are both useful tools for creating beautiful animations based on real-world information.
A Sense HAT project that also uses this principle is Giorgio Sancristoforo’s Tableau, a ‘generative music album’. This device creates music according to the sensor data:
“There is no doubt that, as music is removed by the phonographrecord from the realm of live production and from the imperative of artistic activity and becomes petrified, it absorbs into itself, in this process of petrification, the very life that would otherwise vanish.”
Our online resource shows you how to record the information your HAT picks up. Next you can analyse and graph your data using Mathematica, which is included for free on Raspbian. This resource walks you through how this software works.
But you can also stick to terrestrial scientific investigations. For example, why not build a weather station and share its data on your own web server or via Weather Underground?
Your code in space!
If you’re a student or an educator in one of the 22 ESA member states, you can get a team together to enter our 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge. There are two missions to choose from, including Mission Zero: follow a few guidelines, and your code is guaranteed to run in space!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a large record collection must be in want of a good shelving system. Valentin Galea has solved this problem by developing the Vinyl Shelf Finder. In this build, a web-based app directs a pan-and-tilt laser to point out your record of choice among your collection.
People love to collect stuff. Stamps; soap bars; Troll dolls; belly button fluff (no, really); if you can think of a tangible item, someone out there in the world is collecting it. Of course, every collector needs to solve two issues — which system to use for cataloguing and sorting their collection, and how to best retrieve items from it. This is where Valentin’s Vinyl Shelf Finder comes in. He says:
My vinyl collection is pretty modest — about 500 records in one vertical shelf and a couple of boxes. This is enough to get cumbersome when I’m searching for specific stuff, so I came up with the idea of a automated laser pointer finder.
The Vinyl Shelf Finder
Valentin keeps an online record of his vinyl collection using Discogs. He entered each LP’s shelf position into the record, and wrote a Node.js app to access the Discogs database. The mobile app has a GUI from which he chooses records based on their name and cover image. To build the hardware, he mounted a Pimoroni Pan-Tilt HAT on a Raspberry Pi, and affixed a laser pointer to the HAT. When he selects a record in the app, the pan-and-tilt laser moves to point out the LP’s location.
my latest hobby prj: #vinyl finder – with lazers and #raspberrypi #iot and #nodejs – https://t.co/IGGzQDgUFI https://t.co/7YBE3svGyE
Not only does the app help Valentin find records – he has also set it up to collect listening statistics using the Last.fm API. He plans to add more sophisticated statistics, and is looking into how to automate the entry of the shelf positions into his database.
If you’re interested in the Vinyl Shelf Finder, head over to Valentin’s GitHub to learn more, and to find out about updates he is making to this work in progress.
Vinyl + Pi
We’ve previously blogged about Mike Smith’s kaleidoscopic Recordshelf build — maybe he and Valentin could team up to create the ultimate, beautiful, practical vinyl-shelving system!
If you listen to lots of LP records and would like to learn about digitising them, check out this Pi-powered project from Mozilla HQ. If, on the other hand, you have a vinyl player you never use, why not make amazing art with it by hacking it into a CNC Wood Burner?
Are you a collector of things common or unusual? Could Raspberry Pi technology help make your collection better? Share your ideas with us in the comments!
At some point, many of you will have become exasperated with your AI personal assistant for not understanding you due to your accent – or worse, your fantastic regional dialect! A vending machine from Coca-Cola Sweden turns this issue inside out: the Dialekt-o-maten rewards users with a free soft drink for speaking in a Swedish regional dialect.
Thirsty fans along with journalists were invited to try Dialekt-o-maten at Stureplan in central Stockholm. Depending on how well they could pronounce the different phrases in assorted Swedish dialects – they were rewarded an ice cold Coke with that destination on the label.
The machine, which uses a Raspberry Pi, was set up in Stureplan Square in Stockholm. A person presses one of six buttons to choose the regional dialect they want to try out. They then hit ‘record’, and speak into the microphone. The recording is compared to a library of dialect samples, and, if it matches closely enough, voila! — the Dialekt-o-maten dispenses a soft drink for free.
Code for the Dialekt-o-maten
The team of developers used the dejavu Python library, as well as custom-written code which responded to new recordings. Carl-Anders Svedberg, one of the developers, said:
Testing the voices and fine-tuning the right level of difficulty for the users was quite tricky. And we really should have had more voice samples. Filtering out noise from the surroundings, like cars and music, was also a small hurdle.
While they wrote the initial software on macOS, the team transferred it to a Raspberry Pi so they could install the hardware inside the Dialekt-o-maten.
Even though Sweden has only ten million inhabitants, there are more than 100 Swedish dialects. In some areas of Sweden, the local language even still resembles Old Norse. The Dialekt-o-maten recorded how well people spoke the six dialects it used. Apparently, the hardest one to imitate is spoken in Vadstena, and the easiest is spoken in Smögen.
Speech recognition with the Pi
Because of its audio input capabilities, the Raspberry Pi is very useful for building devices that use speech recognition software. One of our favourite projects in this vein is of course Allen Pan’s Real-Life Wizard Duel. We also think this pronunciation training machine by Japanese makers HomeMadeGarbage is really neat. Ideas from these projects and the Dialekt-o-maten could potentially be combined to make a fully fledged language-learning tool!
How about you? Have you used a Raspberry Pi to help you become multilingual? If so, do share your project with us in the comments or via social media.
David Pride, known to many of you as an active member of our maker community, has done it again! His FRED-209 build combines a Nerf gun, 3D printing, a Raspberry Pi Zero, and robotics to make one neat remotely controlled Nerf tank.
David says he worked on FRED-209 over the summer in order to have some fun with Nerf guns, which weren’t around when he was a kid. He purchased an Elite Stryfe model at a car boot sale, and took it apart to see what made it tick. Then he set about figuring out how to power it with motors and a servo.
To control the motors, David used a ZeroBorg add-on board for the Pi Zero, and he set up a PlayStation 3 controller to pilot his tank. These components were also part of a robot that David entered into the Pi Wars competition, so he had already written code for them.
3D printing for FRED-209
During prototyping for his Nerf tank, which David named after ED-209 from RoboCop, he used lots of eBay loot and several 3D-printed parts. He used the free OpenSCAD software package to design the parts he wanted to print. If you’re a novice at 3D printing, you might find the printing advice he shares in the write-up on his blog very useful.
David found the 3D printing of the 24–cm-long lid of FRED-209 tricky
On eBay, David found some cool-looking chunky wheels, but these turned out to be too heavy for the motors. In the end, he decided to use a Rover 5 chassis, which changed the look of FRED-209 from ‘monster truck’ to ‘tank’.
Next step: teach it to use stairs
The final result looks awesome, and David’s video demonstrates that it shoots very accurately as well. A make like this might be a great defensive project for our new apocalypse-themed Pioneers challenge!
Taking FRED-209 further
David will be uploading code and STL files for FRED-209 soon, so keep an eye on his blog or Twitter for updates. He’s also bringing the Nerf tank to the Cotswold Raspberry Jam this weekend. If you’re attending the event, make sure you catch him and try FRED-209 out yourself.
Never one to rest on his laurels, David is already working on taking his build to the next level. He wants to include a web interface controller and a camera, and is working on implementing OpenCV to give the Nerf tank the ability to autonomously detect targets.
Pi Wars 2018
I have a feeling we might get to see an advanced version of David’s project at next year’s Pi Wars!
The 2018 Pi Wars have just been announced. They will take place on 21-22 April at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, and you have until 3 October to apply to enter the competition. What are you waiting for? Get making! And as always, do share your robot builds with us via social media.
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