All posts by Laura Sach

Our brand-new Christmas resources

Post Syndicated from Laura Sach original

It’s never too early for Christmas-themed resources — especially when you want to make the most of them in your school, Code Club or CoderDojo! So here’s the ever-wonderful Laura Sach with an introduction of our newest festive projects.

A cartoon of people singing Christmas carols - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

In the immortal words of Noddy Holder: “it’s Christmaaaaaaasssss!” Well, maybe it isn’t quite Christmas yet, but since the shops have been playing Mariah Carey on a loop since the last pumpkin lantern hit the bargain bin, you’re hopefully well prepared.

To get you in the mood with some festive fun, we’ve put together a selection of seasonal free resources for you. Each project has a difficulty level in line with our Digital Making Curriculum, so you can check which might suit you best. Why not try them out at your local Raspberry Jam, CoderDojo, or Code Club, at school, or even on a cold day at home with a big mug of hot chocolate?

Jazzy jumpers

A cartoon of someone remembering pairs of jumper designs - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Jazzy jumpers (Creator level): as a child in the eighties, you’d always get an embarrassing and probably badly sized jazzy jumper at Christmas from some distant relative. Thank goodness the trend has gone hipster and dreadful jumpers are now cool!

This resource shows you how to build a memory game in Scratch where you must remember the colour and picture of a jazzy jumper before recreating it. How many jumpers can you successfully recall in a row?

Sense HAT advent calendar

A cartoon Sense HAT lit up in the design of a Christmas pudding - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Sense HAT advent calendar (Builder level): put the lovely lights on your Sense HAT to festive use by creating an advent calendar you can open day by day. However, there’s strictly no cheating with this calendar — we teach you how to use Python to detect the current date and prevent would-be premature peekers!

Press the Enter key to open today’s door:

(Note: no chocolate will be dispensed from your Raspberry Pi. Sorry about that.)

Code a carol

A cartoon of people singing Christmas carols - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Code a carol (Developer level): Have you ever noticed how much repetition there is in carols and other songs? This resource teaches you how to break down the Twelve days of Christmas tune into its component parts and code it up in Sonic Pi the lazy way: get the computer to do all the repetition for you!

No musical knowledge required — just follow our lead, and you’ll have yourself a rocking doorbell tune in no time!

Naughty and nice

A cartoon of Santa judging people by their tweets - Raspberry Pi Christmas Resources

Naughty and nice (Maker level): Have you been naughty or nice? Find out by using sentiment analysis on your tweets to see what sort of things you’ve been talking about throughout the year. For added fun, why not use your program on the Twitter account of your sibling/spouse/arch nemesis and report their level of naughtiness to Santa with an @ mention?

raspberry_pi is 65.5 percent NICE, with an accuracy of 0.9046692607003891

It’s Christmaaaaaasssss

With the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to get started on your Christmas projects! Whether you’re planning to run your Christmas lights via a phone app, install a home assistant inside an Elf on a Shelf, or work through our Christmas resources, we would like to see what you make. So do share your festive builds with us on social media, or by posting links in the comments.

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Decrypt messages and calculate Pi: new OctaPi projects

Post Syndicated from Laura Sach original

Back in July, we collaborated with GCHQ to bring you two fantastic free resources: the first showed you how to build an OctaPi, a Raspberry Pi cluster computer. The second showed you how to use the cluster to learn about public key cryptography. Since then, we and GCHQ have been hard at work, and now we’re presenting two more exciting projects to make with your OctaPi!

A happy cartoon octopus holds a Raspberry Pi in each tentacle.

Maker level

These new free resources are at the Maker level of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Digital Making Curriculum — they are intended for learners with a fair amount of experience, introducing them to some intriguing new concepts.

Whilst both resources make use of the OctaPi in their final steps, you can work through the majority of the projects on any computer running Python 3.

Calculate Pi

A cartoon octopus is struggling to work out the value of Pi


Calculating Pi teaches you two ways of calculating the value of Pi with varying accuracy. Along the way, you’ll also learn how computers store numbers with a fractional part, why your computer can limit how accurate your calculation of Pi is, and how to distribute the calculation across the OctaPi cluster.

Brute-force Enigma

A cartoon octopus tries to break an Enigma code

Decrypt the message before time runs out!

Brute-force Enigma sends you back in time to take up the position of a WWII Enigma operator. Learn how to encrypt and decrypt messages using an Enigma machine simulated entirely in Python. Then switch roles and become a Bletchley Park code breaker — except this time, you’ve got a cluster computer on your side! You will use the OctaPi to launch a brute-force crypt attack on an Enigma-encrypted message, and you’ll gain an appreciation of just how difficult this decryption task was without computers.

Our own OctaPi

A GIF of the OctaPi cluster computer at Pi Towers
GCHQ has kindly sent us a fully assembled, very pretty OctaPi of our own to play with at Pi Towers — it even has eight snazzy Unicorn HATs which let you display light patterns and visualize simulations! Visitors of the Raspberry Jam at Pi Towers can have a go at running their own programs on the OctaPi, while we’ll be using it to continue to curate more free resources for you.

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OctaPi: cluster computing and cryptography

Post Syndicated from Laura Sach original

When I was a teacher, a question I was constantly asked by curious students was, “Can you teach us how to hack?” Turning this idea on its head, and teaching the techniques behind some of our most important national cyber security measures, is an excellent way of motivating students to do good. This is why the Raspberry Pi Foundation and GCHQ have been working together to bring you exciting new resources!

More computing power with the OctaPi

You may have read about GCHQ’s OctaPi computer in Issue 58 of the MagPi. The OctaPi is a cluster computer joining together the power of eight Raspberry Pis (i.e. 32 cores) in a distributed computer system to execute computations much faster than a single Pi could perform them.

OctaPi cluster

Can you feel the power?

We have created a brand-new tutorial on how to build your own OctaPi at home. Don’t have eight Raspberry Pis lying around? Build a TetraPi (4) or a HexaPi (6) instead! You could even build the OctaPi with Pi Zero Ws if you wish. You will be able to run any programs you like on your new cluster computer, as it has all the software of a regular Pi, but is more powerful.

OctaPi at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Understanding cryptography

You probably use public key cryptography online every day without even realising it, but now you can use your OctaPi to understand exactly how it keeps your data safe. Our new OctaPi: public key cryptography resource walks you through the invention of this type of encryption (spoiler: Diffie and Hellman weren’t the first to invent it!). In it, you’ll also learn how a public key is created, whether a brute force attack using the OctaPi could be used to find out a public key, and you will be able to try breaking an encryption example yourself.

These resources are some our most advanced educational materials yet, and fit in with the “Maker” level of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Digital Making Curriculum. The projects are ideal for older students, perhaps those looking to study Computer Science at university. And there’s more to come: we have two other OctaPi resources in the pipeline to make use of the OctaPi’s full capabilities, so watch this space!

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Build your own Crystal Maze at Home

Post Syndicated from Laura Sach original

I recently discovered a TV channel which shows endless re-runs of the game show The Crystal Maze, and it got me thinking: what resources are available to help the younger generation experience the wonder of this iconic show? Well…

Enter the Crystal Maze

If you’re too young to remember The Crystal Maze, or if you come from a country lacking this nugget of TV gold, let me explain. A band of fairly useless contestants ran around a huge warehouse decked out to represent four zones: Industrial, Aztec, Futuristic, and Medieval. They were accompanied by a wisecracking host in a fancy coat, Richard O’Brien.

A GIF of Crystal Maze host Richard O'Brien having fun on set. Build your own Raspberry Pi Crystal Maze

Richard O’Brien also wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show so, y’know, he was interesting to watch if nothing else.

The contestants would enter rooms to play themed challenges – the categories were mental, physical, mystery, and skill – with the aim of winning crystals. If they messed up, they were locked in the room forever (well, until the end of the episode). For every crystal they collected, they’d be given a bit more time in a giant crystal dome at the end of the programme. And what did they do in the dome? They tried to collect pieces of gold paper while being buffeted by a wind machine, of course!

A GIF of a boring prize being announced to the competing team. Build your own Raspberry Pi Crystal Maze

Collect enough gold paper and you win a mediocre prize. Fail to collect enough gold paper and you win a mediocre prize. Like I said: TV gold.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Here are some free resources that will help you recreate the experience of The Crystal Maze in your living room…without the fear of being locked in.

Marble maze

Image of Crystal Maze Board Game

Photo credit: Board Game Geek

Make the classic Crystal Maze game, but this time with a digital marble! Use your Sense HAT to detect pitch, roll, and yaw as you guide the marble to its destination.

Bonus fact: marble mazes featured in the Crystal Maze board game from the 1990s.

Buzz Wire

Crystal Maze Buzz Wire game screengrab

Photo credit: Board Game Geek

Guide the hook along the wire and win the crystal! Slip up and buzz three times, though, and it’s an automatic lock-in. The beauty of this make is that you can play any fail sound you like: burp wire, anyone? Follow the tutorial by community member David Pride, which he created for the Cotswold Jam.

Laser tripwire

Crystal Maze laser trip wire screengrab

Photo credit: Marc Gerrish

Why not recreate the most difficult game of all? Can you traverse a room without setting off the laser alarms, and grab the crystal? Try your skill with our laser tripwire resource!

Forget the crystal! Get out!

I would love to go to a school fête where kids build their own Crystal Maze-style challenges. I’m sure there are countless other events which you could jazz up with a fun digital making challenge, though the bald dude in a fur coat remains optional. So if you have made your own Crystal Maze challenge, or you try out one of ours, we’d love to hear about it!

Here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we take great pride in the wonderful free resources we produce for you to use in classes, at home, and in coding clubs. We publish them under a Creative Commons licence, and they’re an excellent way to develop your digital making skills. And massive thanks to David Pride and the Cotswold Jam for creating and sharing your great resources for free.

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Hour of Code 2016

Post Syndicated from Laura Sach original

What could you do in an hour? Perhaps you could watch an episode of a TV show, have a luxurious bath, or even tidy the house a bit! But what if you could spend an hour learning a skill that might influence the future of your career, and perhaps your whole life?


The Hour of Code is a worldwide initiative which aims to get as many people as possible to have a go at programming computers. Our aim is to put digital making into the hands of as many people as possible, so here at Pi Towers we have cooked up some exciting projects for you to try, all of which can be completed in an hour.

Have a go at making a version of a whoopee cushion (a favourite Christmas cracker toy in my house) using physical computing, invent your own lyrics for The Twelve Days of Christmas, or simulate your cat floating in space. Many of the projects don’t even require a Raspberry Pi: you can get started with Scratch just by visiting a website.

Physical computing projects

Physical computing projects
Make a fast-paced reaction game with a Pi and an Explorer HAT

Scratch projects

Ada's Poetry Generator
Program your own animation in Scratch

Astro Pi projects

Sense HAT Random Sparkles
Simulate the effects of weightlessness in space using Scratch

Programming projects

N days of Christmas
Generate cat memes with JavaScript

We are also holding a digital making event at Pi Towers on Wednesday 7 December: if you can travel to Cambridge, then register, join in and achieve your hour of code!

Whether you are a child or an adult, it is never too late to start learning to code. When I was a teacher, I always loved participating in the Hour of Code: the students couldn’t quite believe they were given an hour to do something they would willingly do for fun. What they didn’t know is that the teachers secretly had a lot of fun testing out the projects too, although some of the resulting sounds did cause a few raised eyebrows in the staff room!

Once you’ve started coding, you might not want to stop, so head over to our resources section for more inspirational projects to tackle. Intrepid teachers can download the second issue of the MagPi Educator’s Edition to find out how to take things further in the classroom. The sky’s the limit! Well, actually, if you’re doing one of our Astro Pi projects, space is the limit…

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