Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! I hope you’ve been doing well. Despite how it feels, a brand-new March is just around the corner. Here at The MagPi, we like to celebrate March with our annual #MonthOfMaking event, where we want to motivate you to get making.
But what should I make?
Making what? Anything you want. Flex your creative building skills with some programming, or circuity, or woodworking, metalwork, knitting, baking, photography, and whatever else you’ve been wanting to try out. Just make it, and share it with the hashtag #MonthOfMaking.
In The MagPi 103 we have a big feature on alternative ways you can make — at least alternative to what we usually cover in the magazine. From sewing and embroidery to recycling and animation, we hope you’ll be inspired to try something new.
Try something new with Raspberry Pi Pico
I’ve got a few projects lined up myself, including some Raspberry Pi Pico stuff I’ve been mulling over.
Speaking of: we also show you some easy Raspberry Pi Pico projects to celebrate its recent release! You’ll discover all the ways you can get started with and learn more about Raspberry Pi’s first microcontroller.
All this and our usual selection of articles on weather maps, on-air lights, meme generators, hardware reviews, and much more is packed into issue 103!
Get The MagPi 103 now
You can grab the brand-new issue right now online from the Raspberry Pi Press store, or via our app on Android or iOS. You can also pick it up from supermarkets and newsagents, but make sure you do so safely while following all your local guidelines.
Finally, there’s also a free PDF you can download. Good luck during the #MonthOfMaking, folks! I’ll see y’all online.
Fans of the Stargate SG-1 series, prepare to be inspired: a fellow aficionado has fashioned his own model of the show’s iconic portal. Nicola King takes an interstellar trip in the latest issue of The MagPi Magazine.
When Kristian Tysse began making some projects on his new 3D printer, he soon became aware that the possibility of printing his own ‘working’ Stargate SG-1 model was within his grasp at last. “I suddenly realised I might now have enough knowledge about 3D printing, Raspberry Pi, motors, and programming to actually make a Stargate model of my own,” he tells us. “I wanted people who are familiar with the show to immediately know what it was, and tried to make it work as best I could, while staying as true as possible to the feeling and essence of the TV show.”
Kristian also wanted to use a Raspberry Pi within this fully interactive, light-up, moving-parts project as “it is a powerful device with lots of flexibility. I do like that it functions as a full computer with an operating system with all the possibility that brings.”
You only have to look at the model to see just how much 3D printing was needed to get all of the parts ready to piece together, and Kristian created it in segments. But one of the key parts of his model is the DHD or Dial Home Device which viewers of the series will be familiar with. “The DHD functions as a USB keyboard and, when the keys are used, it sends signals to the (Python) program on Raspberry Pi that engages the different motors and lights in a proper Stargate way,” he enthuses. “If a correct set of keys/symbols are pressed on the DHD, the wormhole is established – illustrated on my Stargate with an infinity mirror effect.”
However, the DHD was a challenge, and Kristian is still tweaking it to improve how it works. He admits that writing the software for the project was also tricky, “but when I think back, the most challenging part was actually making it ‘functional’, and fitting all the wires and motors on it without destroying the look and shape of the Stargate itself.”
Kristian admits to using a little artistic licence along the way, but he is keen to ensure the model replicates the original as far as possible. “I have taken a few liberties here and there. People on the social media channels are quick to point out differences between my Stargate and the one in the series. I have listened to most of those and done some changes. I will implement some more of those changes as the project continues,” he says. He also had to redesign the project several times, and had a number of challenges to overcome, especially in creating the seven lit, moving chevrons: “I tried many different approaches before I landed on the right one.”
The results of Kristian’s time-intensive labours are truly impressive, and show what you can achieve when you are willing to put in the hours and the attention to detail. Take a look at Kristian’s extremely detailed project pageto see more on this super-stellar make.
Issue #101 of The MagPi Magazine out NOW
Never want to miss an issue? Subscribe to The MagPi and we’ll deliver every issue straight to your door. Also, if you’re a new subscriber and get the 12-month subscription, you’ll get a completely free Raspberry Pi Zero bundle with a Raspberry Pi Zero W and accessories.
Most of you probably know that The MagPi didn’t start off official, though: eight and a half years ago, intrepid community members came together to create The MagPi as a fanzine, and it ran as one for 30 issues (plus one special) until early 2015, when it became part of Raspberry Pi and went official.
For 70 issues now, the rest of the team and I have worked hard to bring Raspberry Pi fans a monthly magazine packed full of amazing content from the global Raspberry Pi (and wider maker) community. In the last six-ish years, I’ve built robots with you, stuffed Raspberry Pi Zeros into games controllers, lit up my Christmas tree, written far too many spooky puns, gone stargazing, recorded videos for numerous Raspberry Pi launches, and tried to help everyone who wanted to get their hands on the (in)famous issue 40.
Celebrating a milestone
I could go on, but I already have: for issue 100 we’re celebrating 100 incredible moments in Raspberry Pi history, from its humble beginnings to becoming the third best-selling computer ever, and one of the few to be on the International Space Station.
One of those moments was the release of Raspberry Pi 400, an incredibly cool model of Raspberry Pi that elicited a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from me when mine arrived in the post. We give it the full MagPi breakdown with benchmarks and interviews, courtesy of our good friend Gareth Halfacree.
How to get issue 100
But wait, there’s more! We’ve managed to squeeze in our usual array of projects, tutorials, reviews, and community reports as well. Expect cool robots, funky guitars, handheld console building guides, and case reviews.
Never want to miss an issue? Subscribe to The MagPi and we’ll deliver every issue straight to your door. Also, if you’re a new subscriber and get the 12-month subscription, you’ll get a completely free Raspberry Pi Zero bundle with a Raspberry Pi Zero W and accessories.
I really think you’ll like this issue. Here’s to another 100.
How do you create a 3D model of a historic graveyard? With eight Raspberry Pi computers, as Rob Zwetsloot discovers in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, out now.
“In the city centre of Dundee is a historical burial ground, The Howff,” says Daniel Muirhead. We should probably clarify that he’s a 3D artist. “This old graveyard is densely packed with around 1500 gravestones and other funerary monuments, which happens to make it an excellent technical challenge for photogrammetry photo capture.”
This architecture, stone paths, and vibrant flora is why Daniel ended up creating a 3D-scanning rig out of eight Raspberry Pi computers. And the results are quite stunning.
“The goal of this project was to capture photos for use in generating a 3D model of the ground,” he continues. “That model will be used as a base for attaching individual gravestone models and eventually building up a full composite model of this complex subject. The ground model will also be purposed for rendering an ultra-high-resolution map of the graveyard. The historical graveyard has a very active community group that are engaged in its study and digitisation, the Dundee Howff Conservation Group, so I will be sharing my digital outputs with them.”
To move the rig throughout the graveyard, Daniel used himself as the major moving part. With the eight Raspberry Pi cameras taking a photo every two seconds, he was able to capture over 180,000 photos over 13 hours of capture sessions.
“The rig was held above my head and the cameras were angled in such a way as to occlude me from view, so I was not captured in the photographs which instead were focused on the ground,” he explains. “Of the eight cameras, four were the regular model with 53.5 ° horizontal field of view (FoV), and the other four were a wide-angle model with 120 ° FoV. These were arranged on the rig pointing outwards in eight different directions, alternating regular and wide-angle, all angled at a similar pitch down towards the ground. During capture, the rig was rotated by +45 ° for every second position, so that the wide-angles were facing where the regulars had been facing on the previous capture, and vice versa.” Daniel worked according to a very specific grid pattern, staying in one spot for five seconds at a time, with the hopes that at the end he’d have every patch of ground photographed from 16 different positions and angles.
“With a lot of photo data to scan through for something fairly complex, we wondered how well the system had worked. Daniel tells us the only problems he had were with some bug fixing on his code: “The images were separated into batches of around 10,000 (1250 photos from each of the eight cameras), plugged into the photogrammetry software, and the software had no problem in reconstructing the ground as a 3D model.”
Accessible 3D surveying
He’s now working towards making it accessible and low-cost to others that might want it. “Low-cost in the triple sense of financial, labour, and time,” he clarifies. “I have logged around 8000 hours in a variety of photogrammetry softwares, in the process capturing over 300,000 photos with a regular camera for use in such files, so I have some experience in this area.”
“With the current state of technology, it should be possible with around £1000 in equipment to perform a terrestrial photo-survey of a town centre in under an hour, then with a combined total of maybe three hours’ manual processing and 20 hours’ automated computer processing, generate a high-quality 3D model, the total production time being under 24 hours. It should be entirely plausible for a local community group to use such a method to perform weekly (or at least monthly) 3D snapshots of their town centre.”
Spookify your home in time for Halloween with Rob Zwetsloot and these terror-ific projects!
We picked four of our favourites from a much longer feature in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, so make sure you check it out if you need more Haunted House hacks in your life.
Raspberry Pi Haunted House
This project is a bit of a mixture of indoors and outdoors, with a doorbell on the house activating a series of spooky effects like a creaking door, ‘malfunctioning’ porch lights, and finally a big old monster mash in the garage.
MagPi magazine talked to its creator Stewart Watkiss about it a few years ago and he revealed how he used a PiFace HAT to interface with home automation techniques to create the scary show, although it can be made much easier these days thanks to Energenie. Our favourite part, though, is still the Home Alone-esque monster party that caps it off.
The dreaded dark lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings watched over Middle-earth in the form of a giant flaming eye atop his black tower, Barad-dûr. Mike Christian’s version sits on top of a shed in Saratoga, CA.
It makes use of the Snake Eyes Bonnet from Adafruit, with some code modifications and projecting onto a bigger eye. Throw in some cool lights and copper wires and you get a nice little effect, much like that from the films.
A classic indoor Halloween decoration (and outdoor, according to American movies) is the humble Jack-o’-lantern. While you could carve your own for this kind of project (and we’ve seen many people do so), this version uses a pre-cut, 3D-printed pumpkin.
If you want to put one outside as well, we highly recommend you add some waterproofing or put it under a porch of some kind, especially if you live in the UK.
You’re unlikely to trick someone already in your house with a random door that has appeared out of nowhere, but while they’re investigating they’ll get the scare of their life. This door was created as a ‘sequel’ to a Scary Porch, and has a big monitor where a window might be in the door. There’s also an array of air-pistons just behind the door to make it sound like someone is trying to get out.
There are various videos that can play on the door screen, and they’re randomised so any viewers won’t know what to expect. This one also uses relays, so be careful.
This project is the brainchild of the element14 community and you can read more about how it was made here.
How do you get internet over three miles up the Himalayas? That’s what the 17000 ft Foundation and Sujata Sahu had to figure out. Rob Zwetsloot reports in the latest issue of the MagPi magazine, out now.
Living in more urban areas of the UK, it can be easy to take for granted decent internet and mobile phone signal. In more remote areas of the country, internet can be a bit spotty but it’s nothing compared with living up in a mountain.
“17000 ft Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation in India, set up to improve the lives of people settled in very remote mountainous hamlets, in areas that are inaccessible and isolated due to reasons of harsh mountainous terrain,” explains its founder, Sujata Sahu. “17000 ft has its roots in high-altitude Ladakh, a region in the desolate cold desert of the Himalayan mountain region of India. Situated in altitudes upwards of 9300 ft and with temperatures dropping to -50°C in inhabited areas, this area is home to indigenous tribal communities settled across hundreds of tiny, scattered hamlets. These villages are remote, isolated, and suffer from bare minimum infrastructure and a centuries-old civilisation unwilling but driven to migrate to faraway cities in search of a better life. Ladakh has a population of just under 300,000 people living across 60,000 km2 of harsh mountain terrain, whose sustenance and growth depends on the infrastructure, resources, and support provided by the government.”
The local governments have built schools. However, they don’t have enough resources or qualified teachers to be truly effective, resulting in a problem with students dropping out or having to be sent off to cities. 17000 ft’s mission is to transform the education in these communities.
High-altitude Raspberry Pi
“The Foundation today works in over 200 remote government schools to upgrade school infrastructure, build the capacity of teachers, provide better resources for learning, thereby improving the quality of education for its children,” says Sujata. “17000 ft Foundation has designed and implemented a unique solar-powered offline digital learning solution called the DigiLab, using Raspberry Pi, which brings the power of digital learning to areas which are truly off-grid and have neither electricity nor mobile connectivity, helping children to learn better, while also enabling the local administration to monitor performance remotely.”
Each school is provided with solar power, Raspberry Pi computers to act as a local internet for the school, and tablets to connect to it. It serves as a ‘last mile connectivity’ from a remote school in the cloud, with an app on a teacher’s phone that will download data when it can and then update the installed Raspberry Pi in their school.
“The solution has now been implemented in 120 remote schools of Ladakh and is being considered to be implemented at scale to cover the entire region,” adds Sujata. “It has now run successfully across three winters of Ladakh, withstanding even the harshest of -50°C temperatures with no failure. In the first year of its implementation alone, 5000 students were enrolled, with over 93% being active. The system has now delivered over 60,000 hours of learning to students in remote villages and improved learning outcomes.”
It’s already helping to change education in the area during the winter. Many villages (and schools) can shut down for up to six months, and families who can’t move away are usually left without a functioning school. 17000 ft has changed this.
“In the winter of 2018 and 2019, for the first time in a few decades, parents and community members from many of these hamlets decided to take advantage of their DigiLabs and opened them up for their children to learn despite the harsh winters and lack of teachers,” Sujata explains. “Parents pooled in to provide basic heating facilities (a Bukhari – a wood- or dung-based stove with a long pipe chimney) to bring in some warmth and scheduled classes for the senior children, allowing them to learn at their own pace, with student data continuing to be recorded in Raspberry Pi and available for the teachers to assess when they got back. The DigiLab Program, which has been made possible due to the presence of the Raspberry Pi Server, has solved a major problem that the Ladakhis have been facing for years!”
How can people help?
Sujata says, “17000 ft Foundation is a non-profit organisation and is dependent on donations and support from individuals and companies alike. This solution was developed by the organisation in a limited budget and was implemented successfully across over a hundred hamlets. Raspberry Pi has been a boon for this project, with its low cost and its computing capabilities which helped create this solution for such a remote area. However, the potential of Raspberry Pi is as yet untapped and the solution still needs upgrades to be able to scale to cover more schools and deliver enhanced functionality within the school. 17000 ft is very eager to help take this to other similar regions and cover more schools in Ladakh that still remain ignored. What we really need is funds and technical support to be able to reach the good of this solution to more children who are still out of the reach of Ed Tech and learning. We welcome contributions of any size to help us in this project.”
Fancy tracking the ISS’s trajectory? All you need is a Raspberry Pi, an e-paper display, an enclosure, and a little Python code. Nicola King looks to the skies
Standing on his balcony one sunny evening, the perfect conditions enabled California-based astronomy enthusiast Sridhar Rajagopal to spot the International Space Station speeding by, and the seeds of an idea were duly sown. Having worked on several projects using tri-colour e-paper (aka e-ink) displays, which he likes for their “aesthetics and low-to-no-power consumption”, he thought that developing a way of tracking the ISS using such a display would be a perfect project to undertake.
“After a bit of searching, I was able to find an open API to get the ISS location at any given point in time,” explains Sridhar. I also knew I wouldn’t have to worry about the data changing several times per second or even per minute. Even though the ISS is wicked fast (16 orbits in a day!), this would still be well within the refresh capabilities of the e-paper display.”
His ISS Tracker works by obtaining the ISS location from the Open Notify API every 30 seconds. It appends this data point to a list, so older data is available. “I don’t currently log the data to file, but it would be very easy to add this functionality,” says Sridhar. “Once I have appended the data to the list, I call the drawISS method of my Display class with the positions array, to render the world map and ISS trajectory and current location. The world map gets rendered to one PIL image, and the ISS location and trajectory get rendered to another PIL image.”
Each latitude/longitude position is mapped to the corresponding XY co-ordinate. The last position in the array (the latest position) gets rendered as the ISS icon to show its current position. “Every 30th data point gets rendered as a rectangle, and every other data point gets rendered as a tiny circle,” adds Sridhar.
From there, the images are then simply passed into the e-paper library’s display method; one image is rendered in black, and the other image in red.
Little wonder that the response received from friends, family, and the wider maker community has been extremely positive, as Sridhar shares: “The first feedback was from my non-techie wife who love-love-loved the idea of displaying the ISS location and trajectory on the e-paper display. She gave valuable input on the aesthetics of the data visualisation.”
In addition, he tells us that other makers have contributed suggestions for improvements. “JP, a Hackster community user […] added information to make the Python code a service and have it launch on bootup. I had him contribute his changes to my GitHub repository – I was thrilled about the community involvement!”
Housed in a versatile, transparent ProtoStax enclosure designed by Sridhar, the end result is an elegant way of showing the current position and trajectory of the ISS as it hurtles around the Earth at 7.6 km/s. Why not have a go at making your own display so you know when to look out for the space station whizzing across the night sky? It really is an awesome sight.
Adrien Castel’s idea of converting an old electronic toy into a retro games machine was no flight of fancy, as David Crookes discovers
The 1980s was a golden era for imaginative electronic toys. Children would pester their parents for a Tomytronic 3D or a Nintendo Game & Watch. And they would enviously eye anyone who had a Tomy Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard with its promise of replicating the thrill of driving (albeit without the traffic jams).
All of the buttons, other than the joystick, are original to the toy – as are the seven red LED lights
Two years ago, maker Matt Brailsford turned that amazing toy into a fully working Out Run arcade machine and Adrien Castel was smitten. “I loved the fact that he’d upcycled an old toy and created something that could be enjoyed as a grown-up,” he says. “But I wanted to push the simulation a bit further and I thought a flying sim could do the trick.”
“I didn’t want to modify the look of the toy”
Ideas began flying around Adrien’s mind. “I knew what I wanted to achieve so I made an overall plan in my head,” he recalls. First he found the perfect toy: a battery-powered Sky Fighter F-16 tabletop game made by Dival. He then decided to base his build around a Raspberry Pi 3A+. “It’s the perfect hardware for projects like this because of its flexibility,” Adrien says.
The toy needed some work. Its original bright red joystick was missing and Adrien knew he’d have to replace the original screen with a TFT LCD. To do this, he 3D-printed a frame to fit the TFT display and he created a smaller base for the replacement joystick. Adrien also changed the microswitches for greater sensitivity but he didn’t go overboard with the changes.
The games can make use of the full screen. Adrien would have liked a larger screen, but the original ratio oddly lay between 4:3 and 16:9, making a bigger display harder to find
“I knew I would have to adapt some parts for the joystick and for the screen, but I didn’t want to modify the look of the toy,” Adrien explains. “To be honest, modifying the toy would have involved some sanding and painting and I was worried that it would ruin the overall effect of the project if it was badly executed.”
A Raspberry Pi 3A+ sits at the heart of the Pi Commander, alongside a mini audio amplifier, and it’s wired up to components within the toy
As such, a challenge was set. “I had to keep most of the original parts such as throttle levers and LEDs and adapt them to the new build,” he says. “This meant getting them to work together with the system and it also meant using the original PCB, getting rid of the components and re-routing the electronics to plug on the GPIOs.”
There were some enhancements. Adrien soldered a PAM8403 3W class-D audio amplifier to Raspberry Pi and this allowed a basic speaker to replace the original for better sound. But there were some compromises too.
The original PCB was used and the electronics were re-routed. All the components need to work between 3.3 to 5V with the lowest possible amperage while fitting into a tight space
“At first I thought the screen could be bigger than the one I used, but the round shape of the cockpit didn’t give much space to fit a screen larger than four inches.” He also believes the project could be improved with a better joystick: “The one I’ve used is a simple two-button arcade stick with a jet fighter look.”
By using the retro gaming OS Recalbox (based on EmulationStation and RetroArch), however, he’s been able to perfect the overall feel. “Recalbox allowed me to create a custom front end that matches the look of a jet fighter,” he explains. It also means the Pi Commander plays shoot-’em-up games alongside open-source simulators like FlightGear (flightgear.org). “It’s a lot of fun.”
Read The MagPi for free!
Find more fantastic projects, tutorials, and reviews in The MagPi #93, out now! You can get The MagPi #95 online at our store, or in print from all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.
Don’t forget our super subscription offers, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months.
Most Raspberry Pi projects we feature debut privately and with little fanfare – at least until they’re shared by us.
The El Carrillon project, however, could hardly have made a more public entrance. In September 2019 it was a focal point of Argentina’s 49th annual Fiesta Nacional de la Flor (National Flower Festival), where its newly overhauled bell tower proudly rang out a brand-new, Raspberry Pi-enabled tune.
Many years ago, festival organisers created custom hardware with a PIC (programmable interface) microcontroller to control 18 tuned bells. Each bell is associated with a musical note, from A3 to D5 with all the semitones. Until its long overdue update, the tower’s 18 bells had rung the tune to Ayer, also known as Yesterday by The Beatles. They now have a brand-new repertoire of MIDI-based tunes, including the theme from Star Wars.
For Gerardo Richarte, the originator of the project, there was a little extra pressure: his dad is on the board of the NGO that organises Fiesta Nacional de la Flor, and challenged his son to come up with a way to update the bells so different songs could be played.
Ringing the changes
With the challenge accepted, Mariano Martinez Peck explains, “We chose Raspberry Pi because it was inexpensive, yet powerful enough to run Linux, Python, and VA Smalltalk. We could find ready-made HATs that actually matched the pinout of the existing flat cables without much hacking, and only a minimal amount of other hardware was needed. In addition, there was plenty of documentation, materials, tutorials, and GPIO libraries available.”
The bells had a pre-existing driver module
The project aim was to be able to run a mobile-friendly website within Raspberry Pi Zero that allowed control, configuration, and playback of MIDI songs on the bell tower. “In addition, we wanted to allow live playing from a MIDI keyboard,” says Mariano. The project developed as a live test and iteration update, but the final build only came together when Mariano and Gerardo’s moment in the spotlight arrived and El Carrillon rang out the first new tunes.
Coding a classic
The decades-old chimes were controlled by assembly code. This was superseded by Python when the team made the switch to Raspberry Pi Zero. Mariano explains, “Raspberry Pi allowed us to use Python to directly interface with both the old and new hardware and get the initial project working.”
However, the Python code was itself replaced by object-oriented VA Smalltalk code – an environment both Mariano and Gerardo are adept at using. Mariano says, “Smalltalk’s live programming environment works really well for fast, iterative development and makes software updates quick and easy without the need for recompilation that lower-level languages [such as assembly or C/C++] would need.”
El Carrillon’s bells can now play any MIDI file on Raspberry Pi, and the notes of the song will be mapped to the tuned bells. However, as the testing process revealed, some songs are more recognisable than others when reproduced on chimes.
A final feature enabled Gerardo to bag some brownie points with his father-in-law. He recently added a web interface for controlling, configuring, and playing songs, meaning the bells can now be controlled remotely and the song selected via a smartphone app.
The El Carrillon bell tower forms a striking backdrop to the flower festival and other cultural events
Read The MagPi for free!
Find more amazing projects and tutorials in The MagPi #92, out now! You can get The MagPi #92 online at our store, or in print from all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.
If you read The MagPi, it’s safe to say you like making in some way. The hobby has exploded in popularity over the last few years, thanks in no small part to a burgeoning online community and the introduction of low-cost computing with Raspberry Pi.
Last year we decided to celebrate making with a month-long online event called #MonthOfMaking. The idea was simply to get people to share what they’re making online, whatever it was. Whether you’re turning on your first LED with code or sending rockets to the moon, we want to create a space where you can share your proud achievements. So, let’s get making.
What is #MonthOfMaking?
#MonthOfMaking is simply an excuse to get people inspired to make something. And by make, we mean electronics, engineering, art, and craft projects. Get your creative powers buzzing and make something that you can show to the world.
There’s no skill-level threshold to participating either. If you’ve been wanting to start learning, this can be your jumping-on point. By sharing your builds with the community, you can learn and grow. Here are some simple rules to sum it all up:
Find a new project, continue with one you’re working on, or finally crack on with something you’ve been putting off.
Take pictures of your build progress and share it online with the hashtag #MonthOfMaking.
If you can help someone with a problem, give them a hand.
Getting ideas and inspiration
We’ve all been there. Sat down at a work bench or desk, staring at some components and thinking… what can I make with this? What would I like to make? Like any other creative pursuit, you’ll need some inspiration. If the projects in the magazine haven’t inspired you, then here are some website suggestions…
Instructables is one of the oldest sites out there for finding amazing project guides and ideas, and we’ve been fans of it for years. The best part is you can search by specific project types as well, including Raspberry Pi if you’d like to keep it on‑brand. They’ve recently added more arts and crafts stuff if you fancy trying your hand at knitting.
Hackaday and Hackster
For more serious hacks for more advanced makers, Hackaday and Hackster have some great projects that really take a deep dive into a project. If you’re curious as to the limits of electronics and programming, these may be the place to look. Equally, if you want to do something huge with a lot of computer power, they should be your first stop.
Raspberry Pi projects
There are so many amazing things on the Raspberry Pi projects site that can help you with your first steps in just about any field of making. It’s also home to loads of great and simple home-grown projects that are perfect for young makers and older makers alike.
Planning your build
Step 01 Read and understand
Basing your build on a tutorial you’ve seen? Seen a few things you’d like to combine into something else? Always make sure to read the instructions you’ve found properly so that you know if it’s within your skill level.
Step 02 Order supplies
Write a list of what you need. Always double‑check you have the component you think you have. Sometimes you may need to buy from separate places, so just make sure the delivery times work for you.
Step 03 Follow along and be safe
Need adult supervision for a project? Absolutely get some. Even adults need to be wary, so always take safety precautions and wear protective clothing when needed. Make sure to follow any tutorials you’ve found as closely as you can.
Read The MagPi for free!
The rest of our #MonthOfMaking guide, along with loads more amazing projects and tutorials, can be found in The MagPi #91, out today, including our starter electronics guide! You can get The MagPi #91 online at our store, or in print from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge and all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.
We have a new US subscription offer!
Don’t forget our amazing subscription offers, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months. Until the end of March, you can get a twelve-month subscription in the US for only $60! Head to magpi.cc/usa to find out more.
In issue 88 of The MagPi, we discovered that Raspberry Pi 4 can be kept cooler than usual if placed on its side. This gave us an idea, and thanks to many Top People, it resulted in the small, simple, and very practical Raspberry Pi 4 stand that you will find on the cover of all physical copies of The MagPi 90.
To complement this gift, we also got heat tester extraordinaire Gareth Halfacree to put the stand and several cooling cases through their paces to see just how well they can keep Raspberry Pi 4 nice and cool.
The stand also has an extra benefit: you can place three Raspberry Pis in it at once! A good idea if you plan to do a little cluster computing with a few Raspberry Pi 4s.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
While the Raspberry Pi 4 stand is a pretty big deal all by itself, issue 90 of The MagPi also includes a guide to building the ultimate smart mirror — including a bit of voice control!
While a magic mirror may not show you who the fairest of them all is (I can answer that question for you: it’s me), our guide will definitely show you the easiest way to set up your own magic mirror. It’ll be straightforward, thanks to the complete step-by-step tutorial we’ve put together for you.
Projects and more!
Feeling the urge to make something new with Raspberry Pi? Then take a look at our amazing selection of project showcases, and at a feature of some easy starter projects to help you get inspired. All this, along with our usual selection of reviews, tutorials, and community news, in The MagPi 90!
Get The MagPi 90 today
You can get The MagPi issue 90 online in our store with international delivery available, or from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge and all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.
The stand is available with print copies of the magazine
We’re always going to beat the drum for projects that seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities. That’s why we fell in love with the Airdrum, which was created to allow anyone, in particular people with disabilities, to play a musical instrument.
This video demonstrates the speaker functionality with playing a song from a midi file on the Raspberry pi using Fluidsynth. (The hand movement is just for fun) The Airdrum is powered by a power supply for demonstration purposes.
Raspberry Pi Airdrum
Designed by two Dutch electrical engineering students, Alessandro Verdiesen and Luuk van Kuijk, the project came to life during their first year at university. “We aimed to develop a musical instrument that could be used to generate music by moving,” explains Alessandro, who has recently been working on a fully modular version 2.0.
After speaking with therapists and health care institutions, the pair decided to make a drum that could be played by moving objects above a set of panels and they put Raspberry Pi at its heart. “The basic functionality of the Airdrum is to detect the distance of an object above each connected panel and play a sound,” says Alessandro. “These panels contain IR distance sensors and coloured LEDs for visual feedback.”
Sorting the bass-ics
From the outset, Alessandro and Luuk needed their project to be accessible, affordable, adjustable and, in the latest iteration, modular, with each drummable section containing an Arduino Mini, an IR sensor, and LEDs. They also wanted the instrument to have a broader appeal and be suitable for everybody, including professional musicians, so it had to sound as good as it played.
“We needed it to be as versatile as it can be and allow people to choose custom sounds, colours, and lights while being a standalone instrument and a multi-purpose input/output device,” Alessandro reveals. To make it easy to place the modules together, they used magnetic connections between the panels. This allowed them to be placed together in various configurations, with a minimum of two per Airdrum.
These speaker modules can bookend the sensor panels, although the sound can be outputted via the Raspberry Pi to a different sound system too
With a structured plan that divided milestones into electrical, mechanical, and software components, the pair used 3D printing for the enclosure, which allowed rapid prototyping for quick interactions. They used speaker panels to bookend the modules for auditive feedback.
Each of the panels includes a buck converter so that the current through the connectors can be drawn to a minimum. The master module panel contains Raspberry Pi 3 running custom programs written in C and Python, as well as the free, open-source software synthesiser FluidSynth. It connects to the other panels through I2C, constantly polling the panels for their measurements and for the configuration of their colour.
“If an object has been detected, the Raspberry Pi generates a sound and outputs it on the AUX audio jack,” says Alessandro. “This output is then used by the mono D-class amplifiers in the speaker panels to make the tones audible.”
Custom-made Airdrum detecting modules fit snugly into their 3D-printed cases and can be arranged in a full circle if you have enough of them
The pair chose Raspberry Pi because of its versatility and technical prowess. “The Airdrum needed something powerful enough to run software to generate audio through MIDI using the input from the panels and the Raspberry Pi is a great universal and low-cost development board with integrated DAC for audio,” explains Alessandro. “It also has a I2C bus to act as a data transfer master unit and they’re compact enough to fit inside of the casing. The Raspberry Pi enables easy implementation of future upgrades, too.”
Indeed, the pair want to explore the MIDI possibilities and connect the Airdrum with a smartphone or tablet. An app is being planned, as is a built-in synthesiser. “The people we have shown the Airdrum to have been very enthusiastic,” Alessandro says. “That has been very motivating.”
Read The MagPi for free!
There’s loads more amazing projects and tutorials in The MagPi #89, out today, including our 50 tools and tips for makers, and a huge accessory guide! You can get The MagPi #89 online at our store, or in print from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge and all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.
We love Raspberry Pi for how it’s helping a new generation of children learn to code, how it’s resulted in an explosion of new makers of all ages, and how it’s really easy to turn any TV into a smart TV.
While we always have a few Raspberry Pi computers at hand for making robots and cooking gadgets, or just simply coding a Scratch game, there’s always at least one in the house powering a TV. With the release of the super-powered Raspberry Pi 4, it’s time to fully upgrade our media centre to become a 4K-playing powerhouse.
We asked Wes Archer to take us through setting one up. Grab a Raspberry Pi 4 and a micro-HDMI cable, and let’s get started.
Get the right hardware
Only Raspberry Pi 4 can output at 4K, so it’s important to remember this when deciding on which Raspberry Pi to choose.
Raspberry Pi has been a perfect choice for a home media centre ever since it was released in 2012, due to it being inexpensive and supported by an active community. Now that 4K content is fast becoming the new standard for digital media, the demand for devices that support 4K streaming is growing, and fortunately, Raspberry Pi 4 can handle this with ease! There are three versions of Raspberry Pi 4, differentiated by the amount of RAM they have: 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB. So, which one should you go for? In our tests, all versions worked just fine, so go with the one you can afford.
Raspberry Pi Cases
Flirc Raspberry Pi 4 case
Made of aluminium and designed to be its own heatsink, the Flirc case for Raspberry Pi 4 is a perfect choice and looks great as part of any home media entertainment setup. This will look at home in any home entertainment system.
Official Raspberry Pi 4 case (in black and grey)
The official Raspberry Pi 4 case is always a good choice, especially the black and grey edition as it blends in well within any home entertainment setup. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hack the case to hold a small fan for extra cooling.
Aluminium Heatsink Case for Raspberry Pi 4
Another case made of aluminium, this is effectively a giant heatsink that helps keep your Raspberry Pi 4 cool when in use. It has a choice of three colours – black, gold, and gunmetal grey – so is a great option if you want something a little different.
Optional Raspberry Pi add-ons
Maxtor 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD
4K content can be quite large and your storage will run out quickly if you have a large collection. Having an external hard drive connected directly to your Raspberry Pi using the faster USB 3.0 connection will be extremely handy and avoids any streaming lag.
Raspberry Pi Fan SHIM
The extra power Raspberry Pi 4 brings means things can get quite hot, especially when decoding 4K media files, so having a fan can really help keep things cool. Pimoroni’s Fan SHIM is ideal due to its size and noise (no loud buzzing here). There is a Python script available, but it also “just works” with the power supplied by Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins.
Raspberry Pi TV HAT
If you are feeling adventurous, you can add a Raspberry Pi TV HAT to your 4K media centre to enable the DVR feature in Kodi to watch live TV. You may want to connect your main aerial for the best reception. This will add a perfect finishing touch to your 4K media centre.
Rii i8+ Mini Wireless Keyboard
If your TV does not support HDMI-CEC, allowing you to use your TV remote to control Kodi, then this nifty wireless keyboard is extremely helpful. Plug the USB dongle into your Raspberry Pi, turn on the keyboard, and that’s it. You now have a mini keyboard and mouse to navigate with.
Read more for free…
Looking to read the rest of this article? We don’t blame you. Build the ultimate 4K home theatre PC using a Raspberry Pi 4 and Kodi is this month’s feature article for the brand-new MagPi magazine issue 87, out today.
Gamifying boxing with a special punchbag that allows you to fight Luke Skywalker? Rob Zwetsloot starts a training montage to check it out.
Did you know that the original version of Street Fighter had a variant where you could punch the buttons to get Ryu to attack? The harder you smacked the kick button, the more damage it would do. These apparently wore out very quickly, which is why watching Street Fighter tournaments these days is akin to watching someone playing the piano. Albeit with six buttons and a joystick.
What if you could bring this back? And combine it with other arcade classics and staples? Meet Richard Kirby’s Pi Fighter.
A new challenger!
“Pi Fighter is essentially a real-world old-school fighting video game,” Richard tells us. “The player chooses an opponent and challenges them to a sparring match. Each player has a certain number of health points that decrement each time the other player lands an attack. Instead of clicking a joystick or mouse button, the player hits a heavy bag. The strength of the hit is measured by an accelerometer. [A Raspberry] Pi translates the acceleration of the heavy bag (measured in G) into the number of health points to decrement from the opponent. [Raspberry] Pi runs your opponent, which attacks you — you don’t actually get hit, but your health points decrement each time they attack.”
Use a heavy bag to get a good workout and a good idea of your punch strength, Rocky IV style
It’s a remarkably simple idea, and it started off as just an app that used a smartphone’s accelerometer. Translating that to a Raspberry Pi is just a case of adding an accelerometer of its own.
3… 2… 1… Fight!
“I realised it could be used to measure the overall strength of a punch, but it was hard to know how that would translate into an actual punch, hence the idea to use a heavy bag,” Richard explains. “This appealed to me as I studied karate and always enjoyed hitting a heavy bag. It is always difficult to gauge your own strength, so I thought it would be useful to actually measure the force. The project ended up consuming a good amount of time, as you would expect when you are learning.”
While Pi Fighter is already used at events, Richard says “[i]t needs a bit of tuning and coding to get everything right […]. It could be a never-ending project for me. You can always fix things and make the software more robust, the user interface more usable, etc. It isn’t mass-rollout ready, but I have never had it fail at a key moment such as presenting at a Raspberry Jam or Raspberry Pint. It (mostly) gets better every time I put some effort into it.”
If you find yourself at Raspberry Pint in London, make sure to do a bit of a warm-up first — you might find yourself head-to-head in a boxing match with a Jedi. Here’s hoping they don’t know Teräs Käsi.
The MagPi magazine puts Raspberry Pi 4 to the ultimate test as writer and all-round tech tinkerer PJ Evans uses it for a week as his desktop computer.
When Raspberry Pi 4 was launched earlier in 2019, the significant improvements in processor speed, data throughput, and graphics handling lead to an interesting change of direction for this once humble small computer. Although it’s impressive that you can run a full Linux operating system on a $35 device, a lot of people were just using their Raspberry Pi to get Scratch or Python IDLE up and running. Many people were skipping the graphical side altogether and using smaller models, such as Raspberry Pi Zero, for projects previously covered by Arduino and other microcontrollers.
Raspberry Pi desktop experience
Raspberry Pi 4 was different. Tellingly, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new all-in-one kit and named it the Desktop Kit. For the first time truly in Raspberry Pi history, the new model was considered powerful enough to be used as a daily computer without any significant compromise. Challenge accepted. We asked PJ Evans to spend a week using a Raspberry Pi 4 as his only machine. Here’s what happened.
Day 1 | Monday
Our new favourite single-board computer comes in a selection of RAM sizes: 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB. Given a price difference of £20 between the 1GB and 4GB versions, it made sense to go right for the top specification. That’s the version included in the official Desktop Kit that I went out and bought for £105 (inc. VAT) at the official Raspberry Pi store; it normally retails for $120 plus local taxes. My last laptop was £1900. I’m not suggesting that the two can be reasonably compared in terms of performance, but £1795 minus the cost of a monitor is a difference worth remarking upon.
Back at the office, I inspected the contents. For your money you get: a 4GB version of Raspberry Pi 4, thoughtfully already installed in the new official case; the official keyboard and mouse; the new USB-C power supply; a 16GB microSD card preloaded with the Raspbian Buster operating system; and a copy of The Official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide 252-page book. It’s very well packaged and presented, with little plastic waste. The book is the icing on the cake if you are looking at this set for a young person’s first computer, short-circuiting the ‘now what do I do?’ stage. What pleased me, in particular, was the inclusion of two micro-HDMI cables in the kit, allowing me to set up a dual-screen system without delay.
I set up my new workstation next to my existing laptop, with two 1080p monitors that only had DVI connectors, so I had to get a couple of £2 adapters and an additional cable to get sound out of the audio jack of my Raspberry Pi. Time for an initial test-drive. Booting up into Raspbian Buster was quick, about ten seconds, and connection to WiFi easy. There’s no doubting the feel of the speed improvements. Yes, I’ve read all the benchmark tests, but I wanted to know how that translates to user experience. This new kit does not disappoint.
Raspbian has matured impressively as an OS. For my daily desktop scenario, the jewel in the crown is Chromium: having such a capable web browser is what makes this whole experiment feasible. Others have upped their game, too: Firefox has come a long way, and many other browsers are now available, such as Vivaldi. A check of some of my most visited sites showed Chromium to be just as capable as Chrome on my regular machine. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t as snappy and I hit a few bumps, but we’ll get to that.
A day of impressions
I’m no expert when it comes to GPUs, but I was impressed with the dual-monitor support. The setup worked first time and didn’t seem to have any detrimental effect on the machine’s performance. I was expecting slow window drawing or things getting ‘stuck’, but this wasn’t the case.
By the end of the first day, I was getting used to the keyboard and mouse too. They are a nice mixture of being both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The keyboard comes with a three-port hub, so you can connect the mouse if you wish. It does not have the build quality and precision of my daily wireless keyboard and trackpad, but for a fraction of the price, I was surprised how much I got for my money. By the end of the week, I’d grown quite fond of it.
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In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, this year’s Pi Wars was space-themed. Visitors to the two-day event — held at the University of Cambridge in March — were lucky enough to witness a number of competitors and demonstration space-themed robots in action.
Among the most impressive was the Yuri 3 mini Mars rover, which was designed, lovingly crafted, and operated by Airbus engineer John Chinner. Fascinated by Yuri 3’s accuracy, we got John to give us the inside scoop.
John is on the STEM Ambassador team at Airbus and has previously demonstrated its prototype ExoMars rover, Bridget (you can drool over images of this here: magpi.cc/btQnEw), including at the BBC Stargazing Live event in Leicester. Realising the impressive robot’s practical limitations in terms of taking it out and about to schools, John embarked on a smaller but highly faithful, easily transportable Mars rover. His robot-building experience began in his teens with a six-legged robot he took along to his technical engineering apprenticeship interview and had walk along the desk. Job deftly bagged, he’s been building robots ever since.
Yuri is a combination of an Actobotics chassis based on one created by Beatty Robotics plus 3D-printed wheels and six 12 V DC brushed gears. Six Hitec servo motors operate the steering, while the entire rover has an original Raspberry Pi B+ at its heart.
Yuri 3 usually runs in ‘tank steer’ mode. Cannily, the positioning of four of its six wheels at the corners means Yuri 3’s wheels can each be turned so that it spins on the spot. It can also ‘crab’ to the side due to its individually steerable wheels.
The part more challenging for home users is the ‘gold thermal blanket’. The blanket ensures that the rover can maintain working temperature in the extreme conditions found on Mars. “I was very fortunate to have a bespoke blanket made by the team who make them for satellites,” says John. “They used it as a training exercise for the apprentices.”
John has made some bookmarks from the leftover thermal material which he gives away to schools to use as prizes.
While designing Yuri 3, it probably helped that John was able to sneak peeks of Airbus’s ExoMars prototypes being tested at the firm’s Mars Yard. (He once snuck Yuri 3 onto the yard and gave it a test run, but that’s supposed to be a secret!) Also, says John, “I get to see the actual flight rover in its interplanetary bio clean room”.
As part of the European Space Agency mission ExoMars, Airbus is building and integrating the rover in Stevenage. “What a fantastic opportunity for exciting outreach,” says John. “After all the fun with Tim Peake’s Principia mission, why not make the next British astronaut a Mars rover? … It is exciting to be able to go and visit Stevenage and see the prototype rovers testing on the Mars Yard.”
John also mentions that he’d love to see Yuri 3 put in an appearance at the Raspberry Pi Store; in the meantime, drooling punters will have to build their own Mars rover from similar kit. Or, we’ll just enjoy John’s footage of Yuri 3 in action and perhaps ask very nicely if he’ll bring Yuri along for a demonstration at an event or school near us.
John wrote about the first year of his experience building Yuri 3 on his blog. And you can follow the adventures of Yuri 3 over on Twitter: @Yuri_3_Rover.
Never let it be said that some makers won’t jump in at the deep end for their ambitious experiments with the Raspberry Pi. When Ievgenii Tkachenko fancied a challenge, he sought to go where few had gone before by creating an underwater drone, successfully producing a working prototype that he’s now hard at work refining.
Inspired by watching inventors on the Discovery Channel, Ievgenii has learned much from his endeavour. “For me it was a significant engineering challenge,” he says, and while he has ended up submerging himself within a process of trial-and-error, the results so far have been impressive.
The project began with a loose plan in Ievgenii’s head. “I knew what I should have in the project as a minimum: motions, lights, camera, and a gyroscope inside the device and smartphone control outside,” he explains. “Pretty simple, but I didn’t have a clue what equipment I would be able to use for the drone, and I was limited by finances.”
Bearing that in mind, one of his first moves was to choose a Raspberry Pi 3B, which he says was perfect for controlling the motors, diodes, and gyroscope while sending video streams from a camera and receiving commands from a control device.
The Raspberry Pi 3 sits in the housing and connects to a LiPo battery that also powers the LEDs and motors
“I was really surprised that this small board has a fully functional UNIX-based OS and that software like the Node.js server can be easily installed,” he tells us. “It has control input and output pins and there are a lot of libraries. With an Ethernet port and wireless LAN and a camera, it just felt plug-and-play. I couldn’t find a better solution.”
The LEDs are attached to radiators to prevent overheating, and a pulse driver is used for flashlight control
Working with a friend, Ievgenii sought to create suitable housing for the components, which included a twin twisted-pair wire suitable for transferring data underwater, an electric motor, an electronic speed control, an LED together with a pulse driver, and a battery. Four motors were attached to the outside of the housing, and efforts were made to ensure it was waterproof. Tests in a bath and out on a lake were conducted.
With a WiFi router on the shore connected to the Raspberry Pi via RJ45 connectors and an Ethernet cable, Ievgenii developed an Android application to connect to the Raspberry Pi by address and port (“as an Android developer, I’m used to working with the platform”). This also allowed movement to be controlled via the touchscreen, although he says a gamepad for Android can also be used. When it’s up and running, the Pi streams a video from the camera to the app — “live video streaming is not simple, and I spent a lot of time on the solution” — but the wired connection means the drone can only currently travel as far as the cable length allows.
The camera was placed in this transparent waterproof case attached to the front of the waterproof housing
In that sense, it’s not perfect. “It’s also hard to handle the drone, and it needs to be enhanced with an additional controls board and a few more electromotors for smooth movement,” Ievgenii admits. But as well as wanting to base the project on fast and reliable C++ code and make use of a USB 4K camera, he can see the future potential and he feels it will swim rather than sink.
“Similar drones are used for boat inspections, and they can also be used by rescue squads or for scientific purposes,” he points out. “They can be used to discover a vast marine world without training and risks too. In fact, now that I understand the Raspberry Pi, I know I can create almost anything, from a radio electronic toy car to a smart home.”
The MagPi magazine
This article was lovingly borrowed from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine. Pick up your copy of issue 80 from your local stockist, online, or by downloading the free PDF.
Running on a smart mirror, YogAI uses a database of postures, image recognition software, and the magic of mirrors to not only show users their current posture but to also teach them how to correct their posture to reach peak yogi-ness. Here’s Rob Zwetsloot from The MagPi magazine with more.
We’ve seen many ‘magic mirror’ projects over the past few years, featuring a TV screen behind the glass to show useful information, but YogAI takes the concept to a whole new level by providing an AI personal trainer to guide and correct your yoga positions.
Self-confessed fitness nuts Salma Mayorquin and Terry Rodriguez thought that having a personal trainer could be a way to keep track of their fitness progress, so why not try to make a virtual one? “With [deep learning] models like pose estimation, we figured there was a way we could make a program that could track how we were exercising and started experimenting from there,” says Terry.
“YogAI guides users through a flow of yoga poses, offering generally helpful advice when the camera senses a user not in the correct pose,” explains Salma. “At the heart, YogAI uses pose estimation to find reference key points on the body. This is used to understand and classify common yoga poses.”
Users interact with YogAI through both visual feedback via the mirror display, and a voice interface — using the Snips AIR voice assistant — which enables the user to give spoken commands to start, stop, pause, and restart a yoga session. YogAI also talks back through the Flite voice synthesiser to guide the yogi to achieve the correct poses.
While a prototype magic mirror only took the experienced makers a week to build, training the AI to recognise yoga poses in real time was a trickier task. “We need our computer vision models to run quickly so that we have enough resolution in time to identify the move,” reveals Terry.
Strike a pose
A Raspberry Pi 3 interprets the camera images in real time, detecting key body points to display the pose on the mirror and classify it using a deep-learning model trained with a dataset of around 35000 samples.
However, the pair found that the Pi could only run image inference at one frame every 4–5 seconds, resulting in lag. A workaround was soon found: “Shrinking our pose estimation models down using TensorFlow Lite, we were able to bring our frame rate from 0.2 fps to 2.5 fps,” says Salma. “For faster inference, we will look for ways to reduce the model further. We also believe upgrading to the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 will increase the performance significantly.”
“Overall, the accuracy across a dozen common poses is roughly 80%,” divulges Terry. “Not surprisingly, we find similar pose variants, e.g. warrior poses, can be a source of confusion. When the head/face is blocked, the pose estimates degrade, which impacts our classification of poses like downward dog.”
More intense exercise
As well as using the system for yoga, Salma and Terry are planning to adapt YogAI to monitor more energetic workouts. “We’re interested in strength training, and others have suggested dance and karate katas,” says Terry. “We think YogAI is well-positioned to perform more general health and personal wellness tasks.”
“We want to integrate with popular health wearables,” adds Salma. “A smart watch with an accelerometer and heart rate monitor can introduce a lot of important context to bring YogAI closer to our vision for a smart mirror yoga instructor and toward a personal wellness platform.”
Chances are you’ve never heard of the Dutch table shuffleboard variant Sjoelen. But if you have, then you’ll know it has a basic premise – to slide wooden pucks into a set of four scoring boxes – but some rather complex rules.
It may seem odd that a game which relies so much on hand-eye coordination and keeping score could be deemed a perfect match for a project commissioned by a beer brand. Yet Grant Gibson is toasting success with his refreshing interpretation of Sjoelen, having simplified the rules and incorporated a Raspberry Pi to serve special prizes to the winners.
“Sjoelen’s traditional scoring requires lots of addition and multiplication, but our version simply gives players ten pucks and gets them to slide three through any one of the four gates within 30 seconds,” Grant explains.
As they do this, the Pi (a Model 3B) keeps track of how many pucks are sliding through each gate, figures how much time the player has left, and displays a winning message on a screen. A Logitech HD webcam films the player in action, so bystanders can watch their reactions as they veer between frustration and success.
Taking the plunge
Grant started the project with a few aims in mind: “I wanted something that could be transported in a small van and assembled by a two-person team, and I wanted it to have a vintage look.” Inspired by pinball tables, he came up with a three-piece unit that could be flat-packed for transport, then quickly assembled on site. The Pi 3B proved a perfect component.
“We used infrared (IR) sensors to detect when a puck passed through the gate bar to score a point,” Grant adds. “Because of the speed of the pucks, we had to poll each of the four IR sensors over 100 times per second to ensure that the pucks were always detected. Optimising the Python code to run fast enough, whilst also leaving enough processing power to run a full-screen web browser and HD webcam, was definitely the biggest software challenge on this project.”
The Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins are used to trigger the dispensing of a can of Heverlee beer to the winner. These are stocked inside the machine, but building the vending mechanism was a major headache, since it needed to be lightweight and compact, and to keep the cans cool.
No off-the-shelf vending unit offered a solution, and Grant’s initial attempts with stepper motors and clear laser-cut acrylic gears proved disastrous. “After a dozen successful vends, the prototype went out of alignment and started slicing through cans, creating a huge frothy fountain of beer. Impressive to watch, but not a great mix with electronics,” Grant laughs.
Instead, he drew up a final design that was laser‑cut from poplar plywood. “It uses automotive central locking motors to operate a see-saw mechanism that serve the cans. A custom Peltier-effect heat exchanger, and a couple of salvaged PC fans, keep the cans cool inside the machine,” reveals Grant.
“I’d now love to make a lightweight version sometime, perhaps with a folding Sjoelen table and pop-up scoreboard screen, that could be carried by one person,” he adds. We’d certainly drink to that.
Hi folks! Rob from The MagPi here. This month in issue 79 of The MagPi, we’re doing something a little different: we invite all of you (yes, you!) to join us in the #MonthOfMaking.
Learn more about the #MonthOfMaking inside issue 79!
What does this mean? Well, throughout March, we want you to post pictures of your works-in-progress and completed projects on Twitter with the hashtag #MonthOfMaking.
As well as showing off the cool stuff you’re creating, we also want you to feel comfortable to ask for help with projects, and to share top tips for those that might be struggling.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a massive feature in issue 79 of The MagPi, out now, to help you decide. On top of various project ideas for different skill levels, our feature includes some essential resources to look at, as well as inspirational YouTubers to follow, and some competitions you might want to take part in!
So, go forth and make! I’m really looking forward to seeing what you all get up to during this inaugural #MonthOfMaking!
Get The MagPi 79
You can get The MagPi 79 from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the issue online: check it out on our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF.
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