We’ll be attending Maker Faire Bay Area this month and we’d love to see as many of you there as we can, so be sure to swing by the Raspberry Pi stand and say hi!
Our North America team will be on-hand and hands-on all weekend to show you the wonders of the Raspberry Pi, with some great tech experiments for you to try. Do you like outer space? Of course, why wouldn’t you? So come try out the Sense HAT, our multi-sensor add-on board that we created especially for our two Astro Pi units aboard the International Space Station!
We’ll also have stickers, leaflets, and a vast array of information to share about the Raspberry Pi, our clubs and programmes, and how you can get more involved in the Raspberry Pi community.
And that’s not all!
Matt Richardson, Executive Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation North America and all-round incredible person, will be making an appearance on the Make: Electronics by Digi-Key stage at 3pm Saturday 18 May to talk about Making Art with Raspberry Pi.
And I’m presenting too! On the Sunday, I’ll be on the DIY Content Creators Stage at 12:30pm with special guests Joel “3D Printing Nerd” Telling and Estefannie Explains it All for a live recording of my podcast to discuss the importance of community for makers and brands.
There will also be a whole host of incredible creations by makers from across the globe, and a wide variety of talks and presentations throughout the weekend. So if you’re a fan of creative contraptions and beastly builds, you’ll be blown away at this year’s Maker Faire.
Showcasing your projects
If you’re planning to attend Maker Faire to showcase your project, we want to hear from you. Leave a comment below with information on your build so we can come and find you on the day. Our trusty videographer Fiacre and I will be scouting for our next favourite Raspberry Pi make, and we’ll also have Andrew with us, who is eager to fill the pages of HackSpace magazine with any cool, creative wonders we find — Pi-related or otherwise!
Maker Fair Bay Area 2019 will be running at the San Mateo County Event Center from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 May.
Pi VizuWall is a multi-Raspberry Pi MPI computing system with a difference. And the difference is servo motors!
Pi VizWall at Maker Faire Miami
We can thank Estefannie for this gem. While attending Maker Faire Miami earlier this month, she shared a video of Pi VizWall on her Instagram Stories. And it didn’t take long for me to ask for an introduction to the project’s owner, Matt Trask.
I sent Matt a series of questions in relation to the project so I could write a blog post, but Matt’s replies were so wonderfully detailed that it seems foolish to try and reword them.
So here are the contents of Matt’s email replies, in their entirety, for you all to enjoy.
Parallel computing system
The project is a parallel computing system built according to the Beowulf cluster architecture, the same as most of the world’s largest and fastest supercomputers. It runs a system called MPI (Message Passing Interface) that breaks a program up into smaller pieces that can be sent over the network to other nodes for execution.
A Beowulf cluster at Michigan Tech
Beowulf clusters and MPI were invented in 1994 by a pair of NASA contractors, and they totally disrupted the high-performance computer industry by driving the cost of parallel computing way down. By now, twenty-five years later, the Beowulf cluster architecture is found in approximately 88% of the world’s largest parallel computing systems.
Going back to university
I’m currently an undergraduate student at Florida Atlantic University, completing a neglected Bachelor’s Degree from 1983. In the interim, I have had a wonderful career as a Computer Engineer, working with every generation of Personal Computer technology. My main research that I do at the University is focused on a new architecture for parallel clusters that uses traditional Beowulf hardware (enterprise-class servers with InfiniBand as the interconnect fabric) but modifies the Linux operating system in order to combine the resources (RAM, processor cores) from all the nodes in the cluster and make them appear as a single system that is the sum of all the resources. This is also known as a ‘virtual mainframe’.
The Ninja Gap
In the world of parallel supercomputers (branded ‘high-performance computing, or HPC), system manufacturers are motivated to sell their HPC products to industry, but industry has pushed back due to what they call the “Ninja Gap”. MPI programming is hard. It is usually not learned until the programmer is in grad school at the earliest, and given that it takes a couple of years to achieve mastery of any particular discipline, most of the proficient MPI programmers are PhDs. And this, is the Ninja Gap — industry understands that the academic system cannot and will not be able to generate enough ‘ninjas’ to meet the needs of industry if industry were to adopt HPC technology.
Studying Message Passing Interface
As part of my research into parallel computing systems, I have studied the process of learning to program with MPI and have found that almost all current practitioners are self-taught, coming from disciplines other than computer science. Actual undergraduate CS programs rarely offer MPI programming. Thus my motivation for building a low-cost cluster system with Raspberry Pis, in order to drive down the entry-level costs.
This parallel computing system, with a cost of under $1000, could be deployed at any college or community college rather than just at elite research institutions, as is done [for parallel computing systems] today.
The system is entirely open source, using only standard Raspberry Pi 3B+ boards and Raspbian Linux. The version of MPI that is used is called MPICH, another open-source technology that is readily available.
Perhaps one of the more interesting features of the cluster is that each of the Pi boards is mounted on a clear acrylic plate that is attached to a hinging mechanism. Each node is capable of moving through about 90 degrees under software control because a small electric servo motor is embedded in the hinging mechanism. The acrylic parts are laser-cut, and the hinge parts have been 3D printed for this prototype.
Raspbian Linux, like every other Linux version, contains information about CPU utilization as part of the kernel’s internal data. This performance data is available through the /proc filesystem at runtime, allowing a relatively simple program to maintain percent-busy averages over time. This data is used to position the node via its servo, with a fully idle node laying down against the backboard and a full busy node rotating up to ninety degrees.
Visualizing node activity
The purpose of this motion-related activity is to permit the user to visualize the operation of the cluster while executing a parallel program, showing the level of activity at each node via proportional motion. Thus the name Pi VizuWall.
Other than the twelve Pi 3s, I used 12 Tower Pro micro servos (SG90 Digital) and assorted laser-cut acrylic and 3D-printed parts (AI and STL files available on request), as well as a 14-port Ethernet switch for interconnects and two 12A 6-port USB power supplies along with Ethernet cable and USB cables for power.
The future of Pi VizuWall
The original plan for this project was to make a 4ft × 8ft cluster with 300 Raspberry Pis wired as a Beowulf cluster running MPICH. When I proposed this project to my Lab Directors at the university, they balked at the estimated cost of $20–25K and suggested a scaled-down prototype first. We have learned a number of lessons while building this prototype that should serve us well when we move on to building the bigger one. The first lesson is to use CNC’d aluminum for the motor housings instead of 3D-printed plastic — we’ve seen some minor distortion of the printed plastic from the heat generated in the servos. But mainly, this will permit us to have finer resolution when creating the splines that engage with the shaft of the servo motor, solving the problem of occasional slippage under load that we have seen with this version.
The other major challenge was power distribution. We look forward to using the Pi’s PoE capabilities in the next version to simplify power distribution. We also anticipate evaluating whether the Pi’s wireless LAN capability is suitable for carrying the MPI message traffic, given that the wired Ethernet has greater bandwidth. If the wireless bandwidth is sufficient, we will potentially use Pi Zero W computers instead of Pi 3s, doubling the number of nodes we can install on a 4×8’ backboard.
SelfieBot is a project Kim and I originally made for our booth at Seattle Mini Maker Faire 2017. Now, you can build your own! A full tutorial for SelfieBot is up on the Adafruit Learning System at https://learn.adafruit.com/raspberry-pi-selfie-bot/ This was our first Raspberry Pi project, and is an experiment in DIY AI.
Pasties, projects, and plans
Last year, I built a Raspberry Pi photobooth for a friend’s wedding, complete with a thermal printer for instant printouts, and a Twitter feed to keep those unable to attend the event in the loop. I called the project PastyCam, because I built it into the paper mache body of a Cornish pasty, and I planned on creating a tutorial blog post for the build. But I obviously haven’t. And I think it’s time, a year later, to admit defeat.
The wedding was in Cornwall, so the Cornish pasty totally makes sense, alright?
But lucky for us, Sophy Wong has gifted us all with SelfieBot.
If you subscribe to HackSpace magazine, you’ll recognise Sophy from issue 4, where she adorned the cover, complete with glowing fingernails. And if you’re like me, you instantly wanted to be her as soon as you saw that image.
Makers should also know Sophy from her impressive contributions to the maker community, including her tutorials for Adafruit, her YouTube channel, and most recently her work with Mythbusters Jr.
Filming for #MythbustersJr is wrapped, and I’m heading home to Seattle. What an incredible summer filled with amazing people. I’m so inspired by every single person, crew and cast, on this show, and I’ll miss you all until our paths cross again someday
SelfieBot at MakerFaire
I saw SelfieBot in passing at Maker Faire Bay Area earlier this year. Yet somehow I managed to not introduce myself to Sophy and have a play with her Pi-powered creation. So a few weeks back at World Maker Faire New York, I accosted Sophy as soon as I could, and we bonded by swapping business cards and Pimoroni pins.
SelfieBot is more than just a printing photo booth. It giggles, it talks, it reacts to movement. It’s the robot version of that friend of yours who’s always taking photos. Always. All the time, Amy. It’s all the time! *ahem*
SelfieBot consists of a Raspberry Pi 2, a Pi Camera Module, a 5″ screen, an accelerometer, a mini thermal printer, and more, including 3D-printed and laser-cut parts.
Getting SelfieBot ready for Maker Faire Bay Area next weekend! Super excited to be talking on Sunday with @kpimmel – come see us and meet SelfieBot!
If you want to build your own SelfieBot — and obviously you do — then you can find a complete breakdown of the build process, including info on all parts you’ll need, files for 3D printing, and so, so many wonderfully informative photographs, on the Adafruit Learning System!
While at World Maker Faire New York last weekend, I found myself chatting to a rather lovely gentleman by the name of Mac Pierce. During our conversation, Mac mentioned a project he’d worked on called As We Are, an interactive art installation located in the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
“So it’s this 14-foot head covered in LEDs…”, Mac began, and after his brief explanation, I found myself grabbing nearby makers to have him tell them about the project too. I was hooked! I hadn’t even seen photos of the sculpture, yet I was hooked. And true to his word, Mac had the press release for As We Are sitting in my inbox when I returned to Pi Towers.
DCL, an award-winning fabricator of architectural specialties and custom experiential design elements, worked with artist Matthew Mohr to develop, engineer and fabricate this 14ft, 7,000lb, interactive digital sculpture. Featuring custom LED modules, an integrated 3D photobooth, 32 cameras, and a touch-screen display – this unique project combines technologies to present a seamless experience for visitors to display their own portrait on the sculpture.
As We Are
The brainchild of artist Matthew Mohr, As We Are was engineered and produced by DCL, an award-winning Boston-based fabricator whose greatest achievement to date, in my opinion at least, is hiring Mac Pierce.
DCL built the 14-foot structure using 24 layers of aluminium ‘ribs’ covered in custom Sansi LED modules. These modules add up to an astounding 850000 individual LEDs, allowing for crisp detail of images displayed by the build.
When a visitor to the Convention Center steps inside the interactive sculpture, they’re met with a wall of 32 Raspberry Pis plus Camera Modules. The Pis use facial recognition software to 3D scan the visitor’s face and flattened the image, and then map the face across the outer surface of the structure.
Matthew Mohr was inspired to show off the diversity of Columbus, OH, while also creating a sense of oneness with As We Are. Combining technology and interaction, the sculpture has been called “the ultimate selfie machine”.
If you’re in or near Columbus and able to visit the installation, we’d love to see your photos, so please share them with us on our social media platforms.
You see now why I was dumbstruck when Mac told me about this project, yes?
Always tell us
Had it not been for a chance encounter with Mac at Maker Faire, we may never have heard of As We Are. While Matthew Mohr and DCL installed the sculpture in 2017, very little fuss was made about the use of Raspberry Pis within it, and it completely slipped under our radar. So if you are working on a project for your business, as a maker, or for any other reason, and you’re using a Raspberry Pi, please make sure to let us know by emailing co[email protected].
This month sees two wonderful events where you can meet the Raspberry Pi team, both taking place on the weekend of September 22 and 23 in the USA.
And for more impromptu fun, you can also hang out with our Social Media Editor and fellow Pi enthusiasts on the East Coast on September 24–28.
Coolest Projects North America
In the Discovery Cube Orange County in Santa Ana, California, team members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation North America, CoderDojo, and Code Club will be celebrating the next generation of young makers at Coolest Projects North America.
Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we are bringing Coolest Projects to North America for a spectacular event!
While project submissions for the event are now closed, you can still get the last FREE tickets to attend this showcase on Sunday, September 23.
For those on the east side of the continent at World Maker Faire New York, we’ll have representation in the form of Alex, our Social Media Editor.
The East Coast’s largest celebration of invention, creativity, and curiosity showcases the very best of the global Maker Movement. Get immersed in hundreds of projects and multiple stages focused on making for social good, health, technology, electronics, 3D printing & fabrication, food, robotics, art and more!
Alex will be adorned in Raspberry Pi stickers while exploring the cornucopia of incredible projects on show. She’ll be joined by Raspberry Pi’s videographer Brian, and they’ll gather footage of Raspberry Pis being used across the event for videos like this one from last year’s World Maker Faire:
Labelled ‘the world’s first hackable, customisable, dead simple, robotic coffee maker’, and powered by a Raspberry Pi, Mugsy allows you to take control of every aspect of the coffee-making process: from grind size and water temperature, to brew and bloom time.
So if you’re planning to attend World Maker Faire, either as a registered exhibitor or an attendee showing off your most recent project, we want to know! Share your project in the comments so we can find you at the event.
A week of New York and Boston meetups
Lastly, since she’ll be in New York, Alex will be out and about after MFNY, meeting up with members of the Raspberry Pi community. If you’d be game for a Raspberry Pi-cnic in Central Park, Coffee and Pi in a cafe, or any other semi-impromptu meetup in the city, let us know the best days for you between Monday, September 24 to Thursday, September 27! Alex will organise some fun gatherings in the Big Apple.
You can also join her in Boston, Massachusetts, on Friday, September 28, where Alex will again be looking to meet up with makers and Pi enthusiasts — let us know if you’re game!
This is weird
Does anyone else think it’s weird that I’ve been referring to myself in the third person throughout this post?
Say hi to Archimedes – the robot owl with a Google AIY brain. Built with Raspberry Pi + Arduino! Here are some insights into pitfalls of the build process. I made this li’l guy to demo the AIY Vision Kit for Maker Faire 2018… but he’s not going away anytime soon!
Google AIY Project Kits
Google released the Pi-powered AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, providing the entire set of build ingredients with issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine. You loved it, we loved it, and later that year they followed up the Voice Kit’s success with the Vision Kit, also based on the Raspberry Pi.
As the name indicates, the Voice Kit completes tasks in response to voice commands, just like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The Vision Kit allows makers to experiment with neural networking to implement image recognition in their projects.
Planning for Maker Faire
When the hackster.io team was asked to contribute a project to Google’s stand at Maker Faire Bay Area this year, their in-house self-confessed hardware and robotics nerd Alex Glow took on the challenge.
I took a really, really long time to figure out what to build — what it would look like, how it would animate, how it would dispense the stickers…in the end, I went with this cute and fairly challenging design.
And so, Alex brought Archimedes the robotic owl into the world — and the world is a cuter place for it.
Archimedes the owl
Having set up the Google AIY Vision Kit — you can find Alex’s live build video here — she raided a HackerBox for a pan/tilt gimble. The gimble was far more robust than simple servos, and since Alex wanted to bring Archimedes to more events after Maker Faire, she needed something that would take the wear and tear.
337 Likes, 18 Comments – Alex Glow (@glowascii) on Instagram: “it’ll be fun trying to explain this one // i tried: bit.ly/robotowl”
For Maker Faire, she modified Archimedes to be a shoulder-mounted familiar, but Alex initially mounted him on a box that would open to reveal a prize if Archimedes detected a certain facial expression. For this, she introduced an Arduino into the mix, using the board to control three servos: two for the gimble and the third for the box lid.
Archimedes’s main objective is to hunt out faces and read their expressions. Because of this, his head is always moving so he can take in his surroundings like a real owl.
I combined the AIY Kit’s LED and Joy Detection demos (found in /gpiozero and /joy, respectively). I wanted to make the LED pin turn on when it finds a happy face, but weirdly, this code does the opposite. Someday, I will be enough of a software wizard to figure out why…
Alex designed the owl’s body using OnShape, with the intention of keeping the Raspberry Pi and AIY tech inside. Then she 3D printed the body using the Lulzbot Taz 6 and very hackster-blue filament.
We love Mugsy, the Raspberry Pi coffee robot that has smashed its crowdfunding goal within days! Our latest YouTube video shows our catch-up with Mugsy and its creator Matthew Oswald at Maker Faire New York last year.
Labelled ‘the world’s first hackable, customisable, dead simple, robotic coffee maker’, Mugsy allows you to take control of every aspect of the coffee-making process: from grind size and water temperature, to brew and bloom time. Feeling lazy instead? Read in your beans’ barcode via an onboard scanner, and it will automatically use the best settings for your brew.
Looking to start your day with your favourite coffee straight out of bed? Send the robot a text, email, or tweet, and it will notify you when your coffee is ready!
Learning through product development
“Initially, I used [Mugsy] as a way to teach myself hardware design,” explained Matthew at his Editor’s Choice–winning Maker Faire stand. “I really wanted to hold something tangible in my hands. By using the Raspberry Pi and just being curious, anytime I wanted to use a new technology, I would try to pull back [and ask] ‘How can I integrate this into Mugsy?’”
By exploring his passions and using Mugsy as his guinea pig, Matthew created a project that not only solves a problem — how to make amazing coffee at home — but also brings him one step closer to ‘making things’ for a living. “I used to dream about this stuff when I was a kid, and I used to say ‘I’m never going to be able to do something like that.’” he admitted. But now, with open-source devices like the Raspberry Pi so readily available, he “can see the end of the road”: making his passion his livelihood.
With only a few days left on the Kickstarter campaign, Mugsy has reached its goal and then some. It’s available for backing from $150 if you provide your own Raspberry Pi 3, or from $175 with a Pi included — check it out today!
Some things don’t get the credit they deserve. For one of our engineers, Billy, the Locate My Computer feature is near and dear to his heart. It took him a while to build it, and it requires some regular updates, even after all these years. Billy loves the Locate My Computer feature, but really loves knowing how it’s helped customers over the years. One recent story made us decide to write a bit of a greatest hits post as an ode to one of our favorite features — Locate My Computer.
What is it?
Locate My Computer, as you’ll read in the stories below, came about because some of our users had their computers stolen and were trying to find a way to retrieve their devices. They realized that while some of their programs and services like Find My Mac were wiped, in some cases, Backblaze was still running in the background. That created the ability to use our software to figure out where the computer was contacting us from. After manually helping some of the individuals that wrote in, we decided to build it in as a feature. Little did we know the incredible stories it would lead to. We’ll get into that, but first, a little background on why the whole thing came about.
Identifying the Customer Need
“My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.”
Mat — In December 2010, we saw a tweet from @DigitalRoyalty which read: “My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.” Our CEO was manning Twitter at the time and reached out for the whole story. It turns out that Mat Miller had his laptop stolen, and while he was creating some restores a few days later, he noticed a new user was created on his computer and was backing up data. He restored some of those files, saw some information that could help identify the thief, and filed a police report. Read the whole story: Digital 007 — Outwitting The Thief.
Mark — Following Mat Miller’s story we heard from Mark Bao, an 18-year old entrepreneur and student at Bentley University who had his laptop stolen. The laptop was stolen out of Mark’s dorm room and the thief started using it in a variety of ways, including audition practice for Dancing with the Stars. Once Mark logged in to Backblaze and saw that there were new files being uploaded, including a dance practice video, he was able to reach out to campus police and got his laptop back. You can read more about the story on: 18 Year Old Catches Thief Using Backblaze.
After Mat and Mark’s story we thought we were onto something. In addition to those stories that had garnered some media attention, we would occasionally get requests from users that said something along the lines of, “Hey, my laptop was stolen, but I had Backblaze installed. Could you please let me know if it’s still running, and if so, what the IP address is so that I can go to the authorities?” We would help them where we could, but knew that there was probably a much more efficient method of helping individuals and businesses keep track of their computers.
Some of the Greatest Hits, and the Mafia Story
In May of 2011, we launched “Locate My Computer.” This was our way of adding a feature to our already-popular backup client that would allow users to see a rough representation of where their computer was located, and the IP address associated with its last known transmission. After speaking to law enforcement, we learned that those two things were usually enough for the authorities to subpoena an ISP and get the physical address of the last known place the computer phoned home from. From there, they could investigate and, if the device was still there, return it to its rightful owner.
Bridgette — Once the feature went live the stories got even more interesting. Almost immediately after we launched Locate My Computer, we were contacted by Bridgette, who told us of a break-in at her house. Luckily no one was home at the time, but the thief was able to get away with her iMac, DSLR, and a few other prized possessions. As soon as she reported the robbery to the police, they were able to use the Locate My Computer feature to find the thief’s location and recover her missing items. We even made a case study out of Bridgette’s experience. You can read it at: Backblaze And The Stolen iMac.
“Joe” — The crazy recovery stories didn’t end there. Shortly after Bridgette’s story, we received an email from a user (“Joe” — to protect the innocent) who was traveling to Argentina from the United States and had his laptop stolen. After he contacted the police department in Buenos Aires, and explained to them that he was using Backblaze (which the authorities thought was a computer tracking service, and in this case, we were), they were able to get the location of the computer from an ISP in Argentina. When they went to investigate, they realized that the perpetrators were foreign nationals connected to the mafia, and that in addition to a handful of stolen laptops, they were also in the possession of over $1,000,000 in counterfeit currency! Read the whole story about “Joe” and how: Backblaze Found $1 Million in Counterfeit Cash!
The Maker — After “Joe,” we thought that our part in high-profile “busts was over, but we were wrong. About a year later we received word from a “maker” who told us that he was able to act as an “internet super-sleuth” and worked hard to find his stolen computer. After a Maker Faire in Detroit, the maker’s car was broken into while they were getting BBQ following a successful show. While some of the computers were locked and encrypted, others were in hibernation mode and wide open to prying eyes. After the police report was filed, the maker went to Backblaze to retrieve his lost files and remembered seeing the little Locate My Computer button. That’s when the story gets really interesting. The victim used a combination of ingenuity, Craigslist, Backblaze, and the local police department to get his computer back, and make a drug bust along the way. Head over to Makezine.com to read about how:How Tracking Down My Stolen Computer Triggered a Drug Bust.
Una — While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.
And the Hits Keep on Coming
The most recent story came from “J,” and we’ll share the whole thing with you because it has a really nice conclusion:
Back in September of 2017, I brought my laptop to work to finish up some administrative work before I took off for a vacation. I work in a mall where traffic [is] plenty and more specifically I work at a kiosk in the middle of the mall. This allows for a high amount of traffic passing by every few seconds. I turned my back for about a minute to put away some paperwork. At the time I didn’t notice my laptop missing. About an hour later when I was gathering my belongings for the day I noticed it was gone. I was devastated. This was a high end MacBook Pro that I just purchased. So we are not talking about a little bit of money here. This was a major investment.
Time [went] on. When I got back from my vacation I reached out to my LP (Loss Prevention) team to get images from our security to submit to the police with some thread of hope that they would find whomever stole it. December approached and I did not hear anything. I gave up hope and assumed that the laptop was scrapped. I put an iCloud lock on it and my Find My Mac feature was saying that laptop was “offline.” I just assumed that they opened it, saw it was locked, and tried to scrap it for parts.
Towards the end of January I got an email from Backblaze saying that the computer was successfully backed up. This came as a shock to me as I thought it was wiped. But I guess however they wiped it didn’t remove Backblaze from the SSD. None the less, I was very happy. I sifted through the backup and found the person’s name via the search history. Then, using the Locate my Computer feature I saw where it came online. I reached out on social media to the person in question and updated the police. I finally got ahold of the person who stated she bought it online a few weeks backs. We made arrangements and I’m happy to say that I am typing this email on my computer right now.
J finished by writing: “Not only did I want to share this story with you but also wanted to say thanks! Apple’s find my computer system failed. The police failed to find it. But Backblaze saved the day. This has been the best $5 a month I have ever spent. Not only that but I got all my stuff back. Which made the deal even better! It was like it was never gone.”
Have a Story of Your Own?
We’re more than thrilled to have helped all of these people restore their lost data using Backblaze. Recovering the actual machine using Locate My Computer though, that’s the icing on the cake. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to build here at Backblaze, and we really enjoy hearing stories from people who have used our service to successfully get back up and running, whether that meant restoring their data or recovering their actual computer.
If you have any interesting data recovery or computer recovery stories that you’d like to share with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share it with Billy and the rest of the Backblaze team. We love hearing them!
Raspberry Pi LED Light Schroeder Piano – Twinkle Little Star
Keys? Where we’re going you don’t need keys!
This project, created by either Yolanda or Ken Fisher (or both!), uses an array of LEDs and photoresistors to form a MIDI sequencer. Twelve LEDs replace piano keys, and another three change octaves and access the menu.
Each LED is paired with a photoresistor, which detects the emitted light to form a closed circuit. Interrupting the light beam — in this case with a finger — breaks the circuit, telling the Python program to perform an action.
We’re all hoping this is just the scaled-down prototype of a full-sized LED grand piano
Using Pygame, the 2fishy team can access 75 different instruments and 128 notes per instrument, making their wooden piano more than just a one-hit wonder.
The duo made the piano’s body out of plywood, hardboard, and dowels, and equipped it with a Raspberry Pi 2, a speaker, and the aforementioned LEDs and photoresistors.
A Raspberry Pi 2 and speaker sit within the wooden body, with LEDs and photoresistors in place of the keys.
A complete how-to for the build, including some rather fancy and informative schematics, is available at Instructables, where 2fishy received a bronze medal for their project. Congratulations!
If you’d like to learn more about using Pygame, check out The MagPi’s Make Games with Python Essentials Guide, available both in print and as a free PDF download.
And for more music-based projects using a variety of tech, be sure to browse our free resources.
We came to see Toby and Brian Bahn, physics teacher for Dover High School and leader of the Dover Robotics club, so they could tell us about the inner workings of the Tic-Tac-Toe Robot project, and how the Raspberry Pi fit within it. Check out our video for Toby’s explanation of the build and the software controlling it.
Toby’s original robotic arm prototype used a weight to direct the pen on and off the paper. He later replaced this with a servo motor.
Toby documented the prototyping process for the robot on the Dover Robotics blog. Head over there to hear more about the highs and lows of building a robotic arm from scratch, and about how Toby learned to integrate a Raspberry Pi for both software and hardware control.
The finished build is a tic-tac-toe beast, besting everyone who dares to challenge it to a game.
And in case you’re wondering: no, none of the Raspberry Pi team were able to beat the Tic-Tac-Toe Robot when we played against it.
We always love seeing Raspberry Pis being used in schools to teach coding and digital making, whether in the classroom or during after-school activities such as the Dover Robotics club and our own Code Clubs and CoderDojos. If you are part of a coding or robotics club, we’d love to hear your story! So make sure to share your experiences and projects in the comments below, or via our social media accounts.
At events like Maker Faire New York, we love offering visitors the chance to try out easy, inviting, and hands-on activities, so we teamed up with maker Ben Light to create interactive physical computing blocks.
In response to the need for hands-on, easy and inviting activities at events such as Maker Faire New York, we teamed up with maker Ben Light to create our interactive physical computing blocks.
Getting hands-on experience at events
At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we often have the opportunity to engage with families and young people at events such as Maker Faires and STEAM festivals. When we set up a booth, it’s really important to us that we provide an educational, fun experience for everyone who visits us. But there are a few reasons why this can be a challenge.
For one, you have a broad audience of people with differing levels of experience with computers. Moreover, some people want to take the time to learn a lot, others just want to try something quick and move on. And on top of that, the environment is often loud, crowded, and chaotic…in a good way!
Creating our physical computing blocks
We were up against these challenges when we set out to create a new physical computing experience for our World Maker Faire New York booth. Our goal was to give people the opportunity to try a little bit of circuit making and a little bit of coding — and they should be able to get hands-on with the activity right away.
Inspired by Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio, we sketched out physical computing blocks which let visitors use the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins without needing to work with tiny components or needing to understand how a breadboard works. We turned the sketches over to our friend Ben Light in New York City, and he brought the project to life.
As you can see, the activity turned out really well, so we hope to bring it to more events in the future. Thank you, Ben Light, for collaborating with us on it!
Joe Herman’s Pi Film Capture project combines old projectors and a stepper motor with a Raspberry Pi and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, to transform his grandfather’s 8- and 16-mm home movies into glorious digital films.
Joe’s grandfather, Leo Willmott, loved recording home movies of his family of eight children and their grandchildren. He passed away when Joe was five, but in 2013 Joe found a way to connect with his legacy: while moving house, a family member uncovered a box of more than a hundred of Leo’s film reels. These covered decades of family history, and some dated back as far as 1939.
Kodachrome film reels of the type Leo used
This provided an unexpected opportunity for Leo’s family to restore some of their shared history. Joe immediately made plans to digitise the material, knowing that the members of his extensive family tree would provide an eager audience.
Building Pi Film Capture
After a failed attempt with a DSLR camera, Joe realised he couldn’t simply re-film the movies — instead, he would have to capture each frame individually. He combined a Raspberry Pi with an old Super 8 projector, and set about rigging up something to do just that.
He went through numerous stages of prototyping, and his final hardware setup works very well. A NEMA 17 stepper motor moves the film reel forward in the projector. A magnetic reed switch triggers the Camera Module each time the reel moves on to the next frame. Joe hacked the Camera Module so that it has a different focal distance, and he also added a magnifying lens. Moreover, he realised it would be useful to have a diffuser to ‘smooth’ some of the faults in the aged film reel material. To do this, he mounted “a bit of translucent white plastic from an old ceiling fixture” parallel with the film.
Joe’s 16-mm projector, with embedded Raspberry Pi hardware
In addition to capturing every single frame (sometimes with multiple exposure settings), Joe found that he needed intensive post-processing to restore some of the films. He settled on sending the images from the Pi to a more powerful Linux machine. To enable processing of the raw data, he had to write Python scripts implementing several open-source software packages. For example, to deal with the varying quality of the film reels more easily, Joe implemented a GUI (written with the help of PyQt), which he uses to change the capture parameters. This was a demanding job, as he was relatively new to using these tools.
The top half of Joe’s GUI, because the whole thing is really long and really thin and would have looked weird on the blog…
If a frame is particularly damaged, Joe can capture multiple instances of the image at different settings. These are then merged to achieve a good-quality image using OpenCV functionality. Joe uses FFmpeg to stitch the captured images back together into a film. Some of his grandfather’s reels were badly degraded, but luckily Joe found scripts written by other people to perform advanced digital restoration of film with AviSynth. He provides code he has written for the project on his GitHub account.
For an account of the project in his own words, check out Joe’s guest post on the IEEE Spectrum website. He also described some of the issues he encountered, and how he resolved them, in The MagPi.
What does Pi Film Capture deliver?
Joe provides videos related to Pi Film Capture on two sites: on his YouTube channel, you’ll find videos in which he has documented the build process of his digitising project. Final results of the project live on Joe’s Vimeo channel, where so far he has uploaded 55 digitised home videos.
Shot on 8mm by Leo Willmott, captured and restored by Joe Herman (Not a Wozniak film, but placed in that folder b/c it may be of interest to Hermans)
We’re beyond pleased that our tech is part of this amazing project, helping to reconnect the entire Herman/Willmott clan with their past. And it was great to be able to catch up with Joe, and talk about his build at Maker Faire last year!
Maker Faire New York 2017
We’ll be at Maker Faire New York again on the 23-24 September, and we can’t wait to see the amazing makes the Raspberry Pi community will be presenting there!
Are you going to be at MFNY to show off your awesome Pi-powered project? Tweet us, so we can meet up, check it out and share your achievements!
Hey folks! Rob here, with another roundup of the latest The MagPi magazine. MagPi 61 focuses on some incredible ‘must make’ Raspberry Pi Zero W projects, 3D printers and – oh, did someone mention the Google AIY Voice Projects Kit?
Make amazing Raspberry Pi Zero W projects with our latest issue
Inside MagPi 61
In issue 61, we’re focusing on the small but mighty wonder that is the Raspberry Pi Zero W, and on some of the very best projects we’ve found for you to build with it. From arcade machines to robots, dash cams, and more – it’s time to make the most of our $10 computer.
And if that’s not enough, we’ve also delved deeper into the maker relationship between Raspberry Pi and Ardunio, with some great creations such as piano stairs, a jukebox, and a smart home system. There’s also a selection of excellent tutorials on building 3D printers, controlling Hue lights, and making cool musical instruments.
Spin it, DJ!
Get the MagPi 61
The new issue is out right now, and you can pick up a copy at WH Smith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center over the next few days. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS app. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
Subscribe for free goodies
Some of you have asked me about the goodies that we give out to subscribers. This is how it works: if you take out a twelve-month print subscription to The MagPi, you’ll get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables, absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
TL;DR We’re an increasingly medium-sized design/manufacturing/e-commerce business with workshops in Sheffield, UK, and Essen, Germany, and we employ almost 40 people. We’re totally lovely. Thanks for supporting us!
We’ve come a long way, baby
I’m sitting looking out the window at Sheffield-on-Sea and feeling pretty lucky about how things are going. In the morning, I’ll be flying east for Maker Faire Tokyo with Niko (more on him later), and to say hi to some amazing people in Shenzhen (and to visit Huaqiangbei, of course). This is after I’ve already visited this year’s Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin.
Pimoroni started out small, but we’ve grown like weeds, and we’re steadily sauntering towards becoming a medium-sized business. That’s thanks to fantastic support from the people who buy our stuff and spread the word. In return, we try to be nice, friendly, and human in everything we do, and to make exciting things, ideally with our own hands here in Sheffield.
Handmade with love
We’ve made it onto a few ‘fastest-growing’ lists, and we’re in the top 500 of the Inc. 5000 Europe list. Adafruit did it first a few years back, and we’ve never gone wrong when we’ve followed in their footsteps.
The slightly weird nature of Pimoroni means we get listed as either a manufacturing or e-commerce business. In reality, we’re about four or five companies in one shell, which is very much against the conventions of “how business is done”. However, having seen what Adafruit, SparkFun, and Seeed do, we’re more than happy to design, manufacture, and sell our stuff in-house, as well as stocking the best stuff from across the maker community.
Product and process
The whole process of expansion has not been without its growing pains. We’re just under 40 people strong now, and have an outpost in Germany (also hilariously far from the sea for piratical activities). This means we’ve had to change things quickly to improve and automate processes, so that the wheels won’t fall off as things get bigger. Process optimization is incredibly interesting to a geek, especially the making sure that things are done well, that mistakes are easy to spot and to fix, and that nothing is missed.
At the end of 2015, we had a step change in how busy we were, and our post room and support started to suffer. As a consequence, we implemented measures to become more efficient, including small but important things like checking in parcels with a barcode scanner attached to a Raspberry Pi. That Pi has been happily running on the same SD card for a couple of years now without problems 😀
We also hired a full-time support ninja, Matt, to keep the experience of getting stuff from us light and breezy and to ensure that any problems are sorted. He’s had hugely positive impact already by making the emails and replies you see more friendly. Of course, he’s also started using the laser cutters for tinkering projects. It’d be a shame to work at Pimoroni and not get to use all the wonderful toys, right?
As Emma, Sandy, Lydia, and Tanya gel as a super creative team, we’re starting to create more formal educational resources, and to make kits that are suitable for a wider audience. Things like our Pi Zero W kits are products of their talents.
Emma is our new Head of Marketing. She’s really ‘The Only Marketing Person Who Would Ever Fit In At Pimoroni’, having been a core part of the Sheffield maker scene since we hung around with one Ben Nuttall, in the dark days before Raspberry Pi was a thing.
Through a series of fortunate coincidences, Niko and his equally talented wife Mena were there when we cut the first Pibow in 2012. They immediately pitched in to help us buy our second laser cutter so we could keep up with demand. They have been supporting Pimoroni with sourcing in East Asia, and now Niko has become a member of the Pirates’ Council and the Head of Engineering as we’re increasing the sophistication and scale of the things we do. The Unicorn HAT HD is one of his masterpieces.
ALL the HATs!
We see ourselves as a wonderful island of misfit toys, and it feels good to have the best toy shop ever, and to support so many lovely people. Business is about more than just profits.
Where do we go to, me hearties?
So what are our plans? At the moment we’re still working absolutely flat-out as demand from wholesalers, retailers, and customers increases. We thought Raspberry Pi was big, but it turns out it’s just getting started. Near the end of 2016, it seemed to reach a whole new level of popularity—and still we continue to meet people to whom we have to explain what a Pi is. It’s a good problem to have.
We need a bigger space, but it’s been hard to find somewhere suitable in Sheffield that won’t mean we’re stuck on an industrial estate miles from civilisation. That would be bad for the crew—we like having world-class burritos on our doorstep.
The good news is, it looks like our search is at an end! Just in time for the arrival of our ‘Super-Turbo-Death-Star’ new production line, which will enable to make devices in a bigger, better, faster, more ‘Now now now!’ fashion \o/
Spacious, but not spacious enough!
We’ve got lots of treasure in the pipeline, but we want to pick up the pace of development even more and create many new HATs, pHATs, and SHIMs, e.g. for environmental sensing and audio applications. Picade will also be getting some love to make it slicker and more hackable.
We’re also starting to flirt with adding more engineering and production capabilities in-house. The plan is to try our hand at anodising, powder-coating, and maybe even injection-moulding if we get the space and find the right machine. Learning how to do things is amazing, and we love having an idea and being able to bring it to life in almost no time at all.
This is where the magic happens
There are so many people involved in supporting our success, and some people we love for just existing and doing wonderful things that make us want to do better. The biggest shout-outs go to Liz, Eben, Gordon, James, all the Raspberry Pi crew, and Limor and pt from Adafruit, for being the most supportive guiding lights a young maker company could ever need.
A note from us
It is amazing for us to witness the growth of businesses within the Raspberry Pi ecosystem. Pimoroni is a wonderful example of an organisation that is creating opportunities for makers within its local community, and the company is helping to reinvigorate Sheffield as the heart of making in the UK.
If you’d like to take advantage of the great products built by the Pirates, Monkeys, Robots, and Ninjas of Sheffield, you should do it soon: Pimoroni are giving everyone 20% off their homemade tech until 6 August.
Pimoroni, from all of us here at Pi Towers (both in the UK and USA), have a wonderful birthday, and many a grog on us!
We at the Raspberry Pi Foundation find it incredibly rewarding to help people make and share things they love. It’s amazing to be part of an incredibly creative community of makers. And we’re not the only ones who feel this way: for this year’s Maker Faire UK, the team over at NUSTEM created the Heart of Maker Faire, a Pi-powered art installation that is a symbol of this unique community. And to be perfectly frank, it’s bloody gorgeous.
NUSTEM’s new installation for Maker Faire UK 2017, held on 1st & 2nd April at the Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Visitors wrote notes about things they love, and sealed them in jars. They then read their heart rates, and used the control boxes to associate their jar and heart rate with a space on the shelves.
A heart for the community
NUSTEM is a STEM outreach organisation from Northumbria University, and the makers there are always keen to build interactive projects that get people excited about technology. So at this year’s Faire, attendees passing their installation were invited to write down something close to their heart, put that note in a jar, and measure their heart rate. Then they could connect their heart rate, via a QR code, to a space on a shelf lined with LEDs. Once they placed the jar in their space, the LEDs started blinking to imitate their heart beat. With this art piece, the NUSTEM team wants to say something about “how we’re all individuals, but about our similarities too”.
This is no small build – it uses more than 2,000 NeoPixel LEDs, as well as five Raspberry Pis, among other components. Two Pi 3s are in charge of registering people’s contributions and keeping track of their jars. A Pi Zero W acts as a central hub, connecting its bigger siblings via WiFi, and storing a MySQL database of the jars’ data. Finally, two more Pi 3s control the LEDs of the Heart via a script written in Processing. The NUSTEM team has made the code available here for you “to laugh at” (their words, not mine!)
The heart, ready to be filled with love
A heart for art
Processing is an open-source programming language used to create images, graphs, and animations. It can respond to keyboard and mouse input, so you can write games with it as well. Moreover, it runs on the Pi, and you can use it to talk to the Pi’s GPIO pins, as the Heart of Maker Faire team did. Hook up buttons, sensors, and LEDs, and get ready to create amazing interactive pieces of art! If you’d like to learn more, read Matt’s blog post, or watch the talk he gave about Processing at our fifth birthday party earlier this year.
Matt Richardson: Art with Processing on the Raspberry Pi Sunday 5th March 2017 Raspberry Pi Birthday Event 2017 Filmed and edited by David and Andrew Ferguson. This video is not an official video published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. No copyright infringement intended.
To help you get started, we’re providing a free learning resource introducing you to the basics of Processing. We’d love to see what you create, so do share a link to your masterworks in the comments!
World Maker Faire
We’ll be attending World Maker Faire in New York on the 23rd and 24th of September. Will you be there?
The maker of one of our favourite projects from this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area took the idea of an ’embedded device’ and ran with it: Ronald McCollam has created a wireless, completely epoxy-encased Pi build – screen included!
*cue epic music theme* “Welcome…to resin in resin.”
Of course, this build is not meant to be a museum piece: Ronald embedded a Raspberry Pi 3 with built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth to create a hands-on demonstration of the resin.io platform, for which he is a Solution Architect. Resin.io is useful for remotely controlling groups of Linux-based IoT devices. In this case, Ronald used it to connect to the encased Pi. And yes, he named his make Resin-in-resin – we salute you, sir!
“Life uh…finds a way.”
Before he started the practical part of his project, he did his research to find a suitable resin. He found that epoxy types specifically designed for encasing electronics are very expensive. In the end, Ronald tried out a cheap type, usually employed to coat furniture, by encasing an LED. It worked perfectly, and he went ahead to use this resin for embedding the Pi.
This was the first time Ronald had worked with resin, so he learned some essential things about casting. He advises other makers to mix the epoxy very, very slowly to minimize the formation of bubbles; to try their hands on some small-scale casting attempts first; and to make sure they’re using a large enough mold for casting. Another thing to keep in mind is that some components of the make will heat up and expand while the device is running.
His first version of an encased Pi was still connected to the outside world by its USB cable:
Updates don’t get more “hands off” than a Raspberry Pi encased in epoxy — @resin_io inside resin! Come ask me about it at @DockerCon!
Not satisfied with this, he went on to incorporate an inductive charging coil as a power source, so that the Pi could be totally insulated in epoxy. The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Matt Richardson got a look the finished project at Maker Faire Bay Area:
If you’re at @makerfaire, you must check out what @resin_io is showing. A @Raspberry_Pi completely enclosed in resin. Completely wireless. https://t.co/djVjoLz3hI
The charging coil delivers enough power to keep the Pi running for several hours, but it doesn’t allow secure booting. After some head-scratching, Ronald came up with a cool solution to this problem: he added a battery and a magnetic reed switch. He explains:
[The] boot process is to use the magnetic switch to turn off the Pi, put it on the charger for a few minutes to allow the battery to charge up, then remove the magnet so the Pi boots.
“God help us, we’re in the hands of engineers.”
He talks about his build on the resin.io blog, and has provided a detailed project log on Hackaday. For those of you who want to recreate this project at home, Ronald has even put together an Adafruit wishlist of the necessary components.
Does this resin-ate with you?
What’s especially great about Ronald’s posts is that they’re full of helpful tips about getting started with using epoxy resin in your digital making projects. So whether you’re keen to build your own wireless Pi, or just generally interested in embedding electronic components in resin, you’ll find his write-ups useful.
If you have experience in working with epoxy and electronic devices and want to share what you’ve learned, please do so in the comments!
Following a conversation in the Pi Towers kitchen about introducing coding to a slightly older demographic, we sent our Events Assistant Olivia on a mission to teach her mum how to code. Here she is with her findings.
“I can’t code – I’m too old! I don’t have a young person to help me!”
I’ve heard this complaint many times, but here’s the thing: there are Raspberry Pi resources for all ages and abilities! I decided to put the minds of newbie coders at rest, and prove that you can get started with coding whatever your age or experience. For this task, I needed a little help. Here, proudly starring in her first Raspberry Pi blog, is my mum, Helen Robinson.
My mum is great, but she’s not the most tech-savvy person. She had never attempted any coding before this challenge.
Coding spinning flowers
To prove how easy it is to follow Raspberry Pi resources, I set her the challenge of completing the Spinning Flower Wheel project. She started by reading the Getting Started leaflet that we use on the Raspberry Pi stand at events such as Bett or Maker Faire. You can find the resource here, or watch Carrie Anne talk you through the project here.
She then made her flower pot (which admittedly is more of a heart pot, as I only had heart stickers).
My mum, with her love-ly heart pot.
She followed the resource to write her code in Python. Then, for the moment of truth, she pressed run. Her reaction was priceless.
Although I sat with her throughout the build, I merely took photos while she did all the work. I’m proud to say that she completed the project all by herself – without help from me, or from “a young person”. I just made the tea!
We had so much fun completing the resource, and we would encourage all those curious about coding to give it a go. If my mum managed to do it – and enjoy it – anyone can!
This column is from The MagPi issue 51. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.
Making things can change your life. It did for me, and I hear the same from others all the time.
After I graduated from university in 2003, I jumped immediately into the workforce. I landed in New York City’s entertainment industry, which is where I’d dreamed of working since I was young. I was excited to be a staffer on a major television show, where I learned what it takes to produce a weekly drama series. I slowly worked my way up the ladder in the industry over a few years.
There’s a lot to admire about how film and television content is produced. A crew of over one hundred people with creative and technical talents come together to create a piece of entertainment, under the watchful eye of the director. It’s an enormous piece of creative collaboration, but it’s also a business. Everyone does their part to make it happen. It’s incredible to see a show get made.
I had found a niche in the television industry that I did well in, but eventually I hit a rut. I had a small role in a big piece of work. I wanted to be more creative, and to have more autonomy and influence over what I was helping to create. It was at that time that I started closely following what makers were doing.
Feeling inspired by the work of others, I started to make things with microcontrollers and electronics. I’d then share information on how to recreate these projects online. Eventually, I was contributing projects to Make: magazine and I was soon able to make money from making things for companies, writing about how to make, and writing about what others were making. Soon enough, I was in a position to leave the television industry and work as a maker full-time.
That eventually led to my current job, doing outreach for Raspberry Pi in the United States. It’s incredibly gratifying work and despite the long road to get here, I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing. The spare time I invested in making things as a hobby has paid off greatly in a new career that gives me creative freedom and a much more interesting work day.
Matt meets maker Gerald Burkett at World Maker Faire New York 2016.
Make it happen
I meet people all the time who have stories about how making has had an impact on their lives. At World Maker Faire New York recently, I met student Gerald Burkett, who told me his story of becoming a maker. He said, “I’m doing things I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of just four years ago, and it’s changed my life for the better.” And Gerald is having an impact on others as well. Even though he will be graduating soon, he’s encouraging the school’s administration to foster makers in the student body. He says that they “deserve an inviting environment where creativity is encouraged, and access to tools and supplies they couldn’t otherwise obtain in order to prototype and invent.”
Because of more accessible technology like the Raspberry Pi and freely available online resources, it’s easier than ever to make the things that you want to see in the world. Whether you are a student or you are far down a particular career path, it’s easier than ever to explore making as a passion and, potentially, also a livelihood.
If you’re reading this and you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your job, I understand that feeling and encourage you to pursue making with vigour. There’s a good chance that what you make can change your life. It worked for me.
Surely if he had been given the opportunity, Sisyphus would have engineered a way out of his eternal punishment of rolling a boulder up a hill. It’s just too bad for him that Raspberry Pi wasn’t around to help. While it’s a far cry from his arduous task, the Pi has been used to power Bruce Shapiro’s Sisyphus, a continuous and ever-changing kinetic art piece that creates unique design patterns in sand using a small metal ball.
Sisyphus is truly mesmerising. We learned this first-hand: at Maker Faire New York earlier this month, it captured the attention of not only the Raspberry Pi crew, but also thousands of attendees throughout the weekend. Sisyphus momentarily drowned out the noise and action of the Faire.
You can think of Sisyphus as a cross between an Etch A Sketch and Spirograph, except this is no toy.
Under the table is a two-motor robot (the “Sisbot”) that moves a magnet which draws a steel ball through the sand. The motors are controlled by a small Raspberry Pi computer which plays a set of path files, much like a music player plays an MP3 file.
Bruce is using Kickstarter in the hope of transitioning Sisyphus from what’s currently a large art installation exhibited around the world into a beautiful piece to be enjoyed in the home, as both furniture and art.
Sisyphus- Stunning art/furniture kickstarter (fully funded in <a day) by friend Bruce Shapiro. https://t.co/ijxHQ0fYb5
Of all works I made, Sisyphus stood out – it was my first CNC machine to break out of the studio/shop. No longer tasked with cutting materials to be used in making sculptures, it was the sculpture itself. It was also unique in another way – I wanted to live with it in my home. I’ve spent the last three years perfecting a home version that’s beautiful, user-friendly, near-silent, and that will run for years.
Like most great Maker Faire projects, it’s centred around a wonderful community. The collaboration and access to tools in Shapiro’s local makerspace helped develop the final design seen today. While Shapiro’s original makerspace has since closed its doors, Shapiro and his fellow members opened up what is now Nordeast Makers. It’s where the production for Sisyphus will take place.
The Kickstarter products come in three styles: an end table, and two different coffee tables. You might want to find another place to display your coffee table books, though, so as to keep Sisyphus’s designs visible…
This Kickstarter won’t be running forever, so be sure to pledge if you love the sound of the Sisyphus.
It’s been five years since we made our first appearance at Maker Faire New York. Back in 2011, we were still showing demonstrations of the Raspberry Pi, prior to its release the following spring. This year, we had prominent billing alongside the robots and rockets!
Robots, rockets, and Raspberry Pi!
Maker Faire New York ran from 1-2 October, and was as great an experience as ever. We brought a bunch of Raspberry Pis showcasing our brand-new Pixel desktop environment. Greg Annandale’s gorgeous photo of the Brooklyn Bridge was a stunning backdrop to the Sense HAT activities we had organised.
Doing some pixel art with @Raspberry_Pi at #MFNY16 #MakerFaire #MakerFaireNYC
Joining the stalwart US Pi team of Matt and Courtney were Carrie Anne, Sam, and Lorna, as well as Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Kerry Bruce, who came all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A community college instructor with a passion for STEM education, Kerry was a real trouper and a valuable addition to the team.
When we arrived at Corona Park to get set up, we were concerned about the inclement weather. Given that the Faire is outside, the prospect of running our Pi activities in an open-sided marquee was somewhat daunting.
The team tried hard not to let the rain dampen their ardour for science…
We braved the elements to take a photo in front of the famous Unisphere, to explore the park a bit, and to geek out over the history of the place. I can’t have been the only one who was excited to see the towers on the New York State Pavilion in real life, after multiple viewings of Men in Black.
Team @Raspberry_Pi for #MakerFaire NY 2016! Come visit us and tell us about your makes!
Fortunately, the weather improved for the Faire; we didn’t have to remove electrical equipment from puddles! Resident design genius Sam decorated our tables with Pi-themed cartoons, including one answering this common question: how do you connect a Raspberry Pi to a computer?
Here’s what happens when @samalderhyde shows up at your event! #MakerFaire #wmfny16 @makerfaire
We loved pointing to Sam’s cheery Pi character when explaining that the tiny board was the computer. It was great to see people’s surprise at the Pi’s power.
Matt and Carrie Anne both gave speeches: Carrie Anne’s presentation, “Digital Making: Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom and Integrating STEAM Project-Based Learning”, was part of the Make: Education series, while Matt explained how to get started with the Raspberry Pi on the Show and Tell stage.
Go see @MattRichardson at @makerfaire’s Show & Tell Stage at 11:30 (in 10 min). He’s giving a intro to Raspberry Pi.
We heard great reports from the attendees, and we saw a lot of visitors to the stand who had been enthused by what they heard.
As in previous years, there were many excellent Raspberry Pi-based projects, as well as familiar faces from the Pi community. There was an excellent display of Pi-controlled Lego Mindstorms robots. We also met the guys from Pi Supply showcasing their new JustBoom equipment, bringing affordable high-quality audio to Raspberry Pi users. Eager experimenters of all ages came to try out our Sense HAT activities, and to tell us about the Pi projects they had made at home. One man was even wearing a Pi Zero as a necklace! Other visitors included Steven Welch, who updated us on the work his team are doing with Pis at CERN (we’ve blogged about this), and Henry Feldman of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who is using the Raspberry Pi and Camera Module for edge detection in laparoscopic surgery.
We also found a number of excellent projects with more artistic applications. Joe Herman had uncovered a cache of old 8mm and 16mm family movies, and was digitising them and projecting them via a modified vintage movie projector equipped with a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module. You can find out more on Joe’s GitHub.
Joe Herman’s Pi-powered projector. Image from Maker Faire.
Joe’s project wasn’t the only great Pi art project. Following on from Sam Blanchard’s amazing SeeMore, one of the main showpieces of last year’s Faire, we were incredibly excited to see another Pi-powered art piece in pride of place this year. The first thing to greet attendees visiting the Faire in the New York Hall of Science was the Pi-powered Sisyphus kinetic art table. We think it’s so amazing, we’ll be devoting a whole post to it, so keep an eye out!
For several of us, it was our first visit to the Faire and to New York, which really added to our excitement. One of the greatest things was meeting so many happy Pi fans, and introducing newcomers to the fun you can have with one. We lost count of the excellent animations we saw kids (and adults) create on the Sense HAT, and the joyful exclamations as another person got their first piece of Python code working; this is one of the most rewarding parts of our work. We can’t wait for the next Maker Faire! If you couldn’t attend, be sure to check out our tour video here:
Let Carrie Anne and Matt take you on a tour of World Maker Faire 2016. Join them as they explore the faire, introduce the Raspberry Pi stand, PIXEL and Sam’s artwork, and chat to the teams from Ready Set STEM and Pi Supply.
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