Need a project for the week? We’ve got one for you. Learn to build a Raspberry Pi robot buggy and control it via voice, smart device or homemade controller with our free online resources.
Build your robot buggy
To build a basic Raspberry Pi-powered robot buggy, you’ll need to start with a Raspberry Pi. For our free tutorial, the team uses a Raspberry Pi 3B+, though you should be good with most models.
You’ll also need some wheels, 12v DC motors, and a motor controller board, along with a few other peripherals such as jumper wires and batteries.
Our project resource will talk you through the whole set up, from setting up your tech and assembling your buggy, to writing code that will allow you to control your buggy with Python.
Control your robot buggy
Our follow-up resource will then show you how to set up your Android smartphone or Google AIY kit as a remote control for your robot. Or, for the more homebrew approach, you can find out how to build your own controller using a breadboard and tactile buttons.
Make your robot buggy do cool things
And, lastly, you can show off your coding skills, and the wonder of your new robot by programming it to do some pretty neat tricks, such as line following. Our last tutorial in the Buggy Robot trio will show you how to use sensors and write a line-following algorithm.
The William Gates Building in Cambridge will this weekend be home to Pi Wars, the “two-day family-friendly event in which teams compete for prestige and prizes on non-destructive challenge courses”. As the name suggests, all robots competing in the Pi Wars events have Raspberry Pi innards, and we love seeing the crazy creations made by members of the community.
Rejoice! It’s time for a new issue of Hackspace magazine, packed with things for you to make, build, hack, and create!
HackSpace magazine issue 9
Tools: they’re what separates humans from the apes! Whereas apes use whatever they find around them to get honey, pick pawpaws, and avoid prickly pears, we humans take the step of making things with which to make other things. That’s why in this issue of HackSpace magazine, we look at 50 essential tools to make you better at making (and by extension better at being a human). Take a look, decide which ones you need, and imagine the projects that will be possible with your shiny new stuff.
In issue 9, we feature Konichiwakitty, known as Rachel Wong to her friends, who is taking the maker world by storm with her range of electronic wearables.
Alongside making wearables and researching stem cells, she also advocates for getting young people into crafting, including making their own wearables!
Remap is a fantastic organisation. It’s comprised of volunteer makers and builders who use their skills to adapt the world and build tech to help people with disabilities. Everyone in the maker community can do amazing stuff, and it’s wonderful that so many of you offer your time and skills for free to benefit people in need.
The band Echo and the Bunnymen famously credited a drum machine as a band member, and with our tutorial, you too can build your own rhythm section using a Teensy microcontroller, a breadboard, and a few buttons.
And if that’s not enough electro beats for you, we’ve also got a guide to generating MIDI inputs with a joystick — because keyboards and frets are so passé.
Having shiny new stuff on its own isn’t enough to spur most people to action. No, they need a reason to make, for example total mechanical dominance over their competitors. Offering an arena for such contests is the continuing mission of Tim Richardson, who along with Mike Horne created Pi Wars.
In its five-ish years, Pi Wars has become one of the biggest events on the UK maker calendar, with an inspired mix of robots, making, programming, and healthy competition. We caught up with Tim to find out how to make a maker event, what’s next for Pi Wars, and how to build a robot to beat the best.
Do you ever lie awake at night wondering how many strangers on the internet like you? If so (or if you have a business with a social media presence, which seems more likely), you might be interested in our tutorial for a social media follower counter.
This build takes raw numbers from the internet’s shouting forums and turns them into physical validation, so you can watch your follower count increase in real time as you shout into the void about whether Football’s Coming Home.
And there’s more…
In this issue, you can also:
See how to use the Google AIY Projects Vision kit to turn a humble water pistol into a single-minded dousing machine that doesn’t feel pity, fear, or remorse
Find out how to make chocolate in whatever shape you want
Learn from a maker who put 20 hours work into a project only to melt her PCBs and have to start all over again (spoiler alert: it all worked out in the end)
If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF.
“Subscribe now” may not be subtle as a marketing message, but we really think you should. You’ll get the magazine early, plus a lovely physical paper copy, which has really good battery life.
Oh, and 12-month print subscribers get an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express loaded with inputs and sensors and ready for your next project.
With the recent announcement of the 2019 Pi Wars dates, we’ve collected some essential online resources to help you get started in the world of competitive robots.
Before you can strap chainsaws and flamethrowers to your robot, you need to learn some basics. Sorry.
As part of our mission to put digital making into the hands of people across the globe, the Raspberry Pi Foundation creates free project tutorials for hardware builds, Scratch projects, Python games, and more. And to get you started with robot building, we’ve put together a series of buggy-centric projects!
For issue 51, The MagPi commissioned ace robot builder Brian Cortiel to create a Build a remote control robot feature. The magazine then continued the feature in issue 52, adding a wealth of sensors to the robot. You can download both issues as free PDFs from The MagPi website. Head here for issue 51 and here for issue 52.
To test robot makers’ abilities, previous Pi Wars events have included a series of non-destructive challenges: the balloon-popping Pi Noon, the minimal maze, and an obstacle course. Each challenge calls for makers to equip their robot with various abilities, such as speed, manoeuvrability, or line-following functionality.
Duck shoot, 81 points! Nice one bub. #piwars https://t.co/UCSWaEOJh8
The Pi Wars team has shared a list of hints and tips from Brian Corteil that offer a great place to start your robotics journey. Moreover, many Pi Wars competitors maintain blogs about their build process to document the skills they learn, and the disasters along the way.
This year’s blog category winner, David Pride’s Pi and Chips website, has a wealth of robot-making information.
If you’d like to give your robot a robust, good-looking body, check out PiBorg, robot-makers extraordinaire. Their robot chassis selection can help you get started if you don’t have access to a laser cutter or 3D printer, or if you don’t want to part with one of your Tupperware boxes to house your robot.
And now for the chainsaws!
Robot-building is a great way to learn lots of new skills, and we encourage everyone to give it a go, regardless of your digital making abilities. But please don’t strap chainsaws to your Raspberry Pi–powered robot unless you are trained in the ways of chainsaw-equipped robot building. The same goes for flamethrowers, cattle prods, and anything else that could harm another person, animal, or robot.
Pi Wars 2019 will be taking place on 30 and 31 March in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory William Gates Building. If you’d like to take part, you can find more information here.
Hi folks, Rob from The MagPi here! You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ was released, the updated version of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. It’s better, faster, and stronger than the original and it’s also the main topic in The MagPi issue 68, out now!
Everything you need to know about the new Raspberry Pi 3B+
What goes into ‘plussing’ a Raspberry Pi? We talked to Eben Upton and Roger Thornton about the work that went into making the Raspberry Pi 3B+, and we also have all the benchmarks to show you just how much the new Pi 3B+ has been improved.
Super fighting robots
Did you know that the next Pi Wars is soon? The 2018 Raspberry Pi robotics competition is taking place later in April, and we’ve got a full feature on what to expect, as well as top tips on how to make your own kick-punching robot for the next round.
More to read
Still want more after all that? Well, we have our usual excellent selection of outstanding project showcases, reviews, and tutorials to keep you entertained.
See pictures from Raspberry Pi’s sixth birthday, celebrated around the world!
This includes amazing projects like a custom Pi-powered, Switch-esque retro games console, a Minecraft Pi hack that creates a house at the touch of a button, and the Matrix Voice.
With a Pi and a 3D printer, you can make something as cool as this!
Get The MagPi 68
Issue 68 is available today 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 new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
New subscription offer!
Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.
You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
Here we are, hauling ourselves out of the Christmas and New Year holidays and into January proper. It’s dawning on me that I have to go back to work, even though it’s still very cold and gloomy in northern Europe, and even though my duvet is lovely and warm. I found myself envying beings that hibernate, and thinking about beings that hibernate, and searching for things to do with hedgehogs. And, well, the long and the short of it is, today’s blog post is a short meditation on the hedgehog cam.
Someone called Barker has installed a Raspberry Pi–based hedgehog cam in a location with a distant view of a famous Alp, and as well as providing live views by visible and infrared light for the dedicated and the insomniac, they also make a sped-up version of the previous night’s activity available. With hedgehogs usually being in hibernation during January, you mightn’t see them in any current feed — but don’t worry! You’re guaranteed a few hedgehogs on Barker’s website, because they have also thrown in some lovely GIFs of hoggy (and foxy) divas that their camera captured in the past.
Or, if you’re thinking that a robot mascot is more dependable than real animals for the fluffiness you need in order to start your January with something like productivity and with your soul intact, you might like to put your own spin on our robot buggy.
While we’re on the subject of getting to grips with the new year, do take a look at yesterday’s blog post, in which we suggest a New Year’s project that’s different from the usual resolutions. However you tackle 2018, we wish you an excellent year of creative computing.
David Pride, known to many of you as an active member of our maker community, has done it again! His FRED-209 build combines a Nerf gun, 3D printing, a Raspberry Pi Zero, and robotics to make one neat remotely controlled Nerf tank.
David says he worked on FRED-209 over the summer in order to have some fun with Nerf guns, which weren’t around when he was a kid. He purchased an Elite Stryfe model at a car boot sale, and took it apart to see what made it tick. Then he set about figuring out how to power it with motors and a servo.
To control the motors, David used a ZeroBorg add-on board for the Pi Zero, and he set up a PlayStation 3 controller to pilot his tank. These components were also part of a robot that David entered into the Pi Wars competition, so he had already written code for them.
3D printing for FRED-209
During prototyping for his Nerf tank, which David named after ED-209 from RoboCop, he used lots of eBay loot and several 3D-printed parts. He used the free OpenSCAD software package to design the parts he wanted to print. If you’re a novice at 3D printing, you might find the printing advice he shares in the write-up on his blog very useful.
David found the 3D printing of the 24–cm-long lid of FRED-209 tricky
On eBay, David found some cool-looking chunky wheels, but these turned out to be too heavy for the motors. In the end, he decided to use a Rover 5 chassis, which changed the look of FRED-209 from ‘monster truck’ to ‘tank’.
Next step: teach it to use stairs
The final result looks awesome, and David’s video demonstrates that it shoots very accurately as well. A make like this might be a great defensive project for our new apocalypse-themed Pioneers challenge!
Taking FRED-209 further
David will be uploading code and STL files for FRED-209 soon, so keep an eye on his blog or Twitter for updates. He’s also bringing the Nerf tank to the Cotswold Raspberry Jam this weekend. If you’re attending the event, make sure you catch him and try FRED-209 out yourself.
Never one to rest on his laurels, David is already working on taking his build to the next level. He wants to include a web interface controller and a camera, and is working on implementing OpenCV to give the Nerf tank the ability to autonomously detect targets.
Pi Wars 2018
I have a feeling we might get to see an advanced version of David’s project at next year’s Pi Wars!
The 2018 Pi Wars have just been announced. They will take place on 21-22 April at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, and you have until 3 October to apply to enter the competition. What are you waiting for? Get making! And as always, do share your robot builds with us via social media.
This column is from The MagPi issue 55. 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.
David Pride’s experiences in computer education came slightly later in life. He admits to not being a grade-A student: he left school with few qualifications, unable to pursue further education at university. There was, however, a teacher who instilled in him a passion for computers and coding which would stick with him indefinitely.
David joined us at the St James’s Palace community celebration, mingling with the likes of the Duke of York, plus organisers of Jams and clubs, such as Grace and Femi
Welcome to the Community
Twenty years later, back in 2012, David heard of the Raspberry Pi – a soon-to-be-released “new little marvel” that he instantly fell for, head first. Despite a lack of knowledge in Linux and Python, he experimented and had fun. He found a Raspberry Jam and, with it, Pi enthusiasts like Mike Horne and Peter Onion. The projects on display at the Jam were enough to push David further into the Raspberry Pi rabbit hole and, after working his way through several Python books, he began to take steps into the world of formal higher education.
David’s determination to access and complete further education in computing has earned him a three-year PhD studentship. Not bad for a “lousy student”
Back to School
With a Mooc qualification from Rice University under his belt, he continued to improve upon his self-taught knowledge, and was fortunate enough to be accepted to study for a master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire. With a distinction for his final dissertation, David completed the course with an overall distinction for his MSc, and was recently awarded a fully funded PhD studentship with The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute.
Self-playing xylophones, Wiimote air drums, Lego sorters, Pi Wars robots, and more. David is continually hacking toys, giving them new Pi-powered life
Maker of things
The portfolio of projects that helped him to achieve his many educational successes has provided regular retweet material for the Raspberry Pi Twitter account, and we’ve highlighted his fun, imaginativework on this blog before. His builds have travelled to a range of Jams and made their way to the Raspberry Pi and Code Club stands at the Bett Show, as well as to our birthday celebrations.
“Pi & Chips – with a little extra source”
His website, the pun-tastic Pi and Chips, is home to the majority of his work; David also links to YouTube videos and walk-throughs of his projects, and relates his experiences at various events. If you’ve followed any of the action across the Raspberry Pi social media channels – or indeed read any previous issues of The MagPi magazine – you’ll no doubt have seen a couple of David’s projects.
Many readers will have come across the wonderful 4-Bot before, and it has even made an appearance alongside David in a recent Bloomberg interview. Considering the trillions of possible game positions, David made a compromise and, if you’re lucky, you may just be able to beat it
The 4-Bot, a robotic second player for the family game Connect Four, allows people to go head to head with a Pi-powered robotic arm. Using a Python imaging library, the 4-Bot splits the game grid into 42 squares, and recognises them as being red, yellow, or empty by reading the RGB value of the space. Using the minimax algorithm, 4-Bot is able to play each move within 25 seconds. Believe us when we say that it’s not as easy to beat as you’d hope. Then there’s his more recent air drum kit, which uses an old toy found at a car boot sale together with a Wiimote to make a functional air drum that showcases David’s toy-hacking abilities… and his complete lack of rhythm. He does fare much better on his homemade laser harp, though!
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!
In case you missed it: in yesterday’s post, we released our Raspberry Jam Guidebook, a new Jam branding pack and some more resources to help people set up their own Raspberry Pi community events. Today I’m sharing some insights from Jams I’ve attended recently.
Preston Raspberry Jam
The Preston Jam is one of the most long-established Jams, and it recently ran its 58th event. It has achieved this by running like clockwork: on the first Monday evening of every month, without fail, the Jam takes place. A few months ago I decided to drop in to surprise the organiser, Alan O’Donohoe. The Jam is held at the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire. The format is quite informal, and it’s very welcoming to newcomers. The first half of the event allows people to mingle, and beginners can get support from more seasoned makers. I noticed a number of parents who’d brought their children along to find out more about the Pi and what can be done with it. It’s a great way to find out for real what people use their Pis for, and to get pointers on how to set up and where to start.
About half way through the evening, the organisers gather everyone round to watch a few short presentations. At the Jam I attended, most of these talks were from children, which was fantastic to see: Josh gave a demo in which he connected his Raspberry Pi to an Amazon Echo using the Alexa API, Cerys talked about her Jam in Staffordshire, and Elise told everyone about the workshops she ran at MozFest. All their talks were really well presented. The Preston Jam has done very well to keep going for so long and so consistently, and to provide such great opportunities and support for young people like Josh, Cerys and Elise to develop their digital making abilities (and presentation skills). Their next event is on Monday 1 May.
Manchester Raspberry Jam and CoderDojo
I set up the Manchester Jam back in 2012, around the same time that the Preston one started. Back then, you could only buy one Pi at a time, and only a handful of people in the area owned one. We ran a fairly small event at the local tech community space, MadLab, adopting the format of similar events I’d been to, which was very hands-on and project-based – people brought along their Pis and worked on their own builds. I ran the Jam for a year before moving to Cambridge to work for the Foundation, and I asked one of the regular attendees, Jack, if he’d run it in future. I hadn’t been back until last month, when Clare and I decided to visit.
The Jam is now held at The Shed, a digital innovation space at Manchester Metropolitan University, thanks to Darren Dancey, a computer science lecturer who claims he taught me everything I know (this claim is yet to be peer-reviewed). Jack, Darren, and Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder and Trustee Pete Lomas put on an excellent event. They have a room for workshops, and a space for people to work on their own projects. It was wonderful to see some of the attendees from the early days still going along every month, as well as lots of new faces. Some of Darren’s students ran a Minecraft Pi workshop for beginners, and I ran one using traffic lights with GPIO Zero and guizero.
The next day, we went along to Manchester CoderDojo, a monthly event for young people learning to code and make things. The Dojo is held at The Sharp Project, and thanks to the broad range of skills of the volunteers, they provide a range of different activities: Raspberry Pi, Minecraft, LittleBits, Code Club Scratch projects, video editing, game making and lots more.
The Cambridge Raspberry Jam is a big event that runs two or three times a year, with quite a different format to the smaller monthly Jams. They have a lecture theatre for talks, a space for workshops, lots of show-and-tell, and even a collection of retailers selling Pis and accessories. It’s a very social event, and always great fun to attend.
The organisers, Mike and Tim, who wrote the foreword for the Guidebook, also run Pi Wars: the annual Raspberry Pi robotics competition. Clare and I went along to this year’s event, where we got to see teams from all over the country (and even one from New Mexico, brought by one of our Certified Educators from Picademy USA, Kerry Bruce) take part in a whole host of robotic challenges. A few of the teams I spoke to have been working on their robots at their local Jams throughout the year. If you’re interested in taking part next year, you can get a team together now and start to make a plan for your 2018 robot! Keep an eye on camjam.me and piwars.org for announcements.
Ely Cathedral has surprisingly good straight line speed for a cathedral. Great job Ely Makers! #PiWars
Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers
As well as working on supporting other Jams, I’ve also been running my own for the last few months. Held at our own offices in Cambridge, Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers is a monthly event for people of all ages. We run workshops, show-and-tell and other practical activities. If you’re in the area, our next event is on Saturday 13 May.
In 2013 and 2014, Alan O’Donohoe organised the Raspberry Jamboree, which took place in Manchester to mark the first and second Raspberry Pi birthdays – and it’s coming back next month, this time organised by Claire Dodd Wicher and Les Pounder. It’s primarily an unconference, so the talks are given by the attendees and arranged on the day, which is a great way to allow anyone to participate. There will also be workshops and practical sessions, so don’t miss out! Unless, like me, you’re going to the new Norwich Jam instead…
Start a Jam near you
If there’s no Jam where you live, you can start your own! Download a copy of the brand new Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips on how to get started. It’s not as hard as you’d think! And we’re on hand if you need any help.
Visiting Jams and hearing from Jam organisers are great ways for us to find out how we can best support our wonderful community. If you run a Jam and you’d like to tell us about what you do, or share your success stories, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email me at [email protected], and we’ll try to feature your stories on the blog in future.
For those unfamiliar with the setup, Pi Wars contestants use home-brew Raspberry Pi-powered robots to compete across seven challenge courses. There’s also a host of other categories, including prizes for Artistic and Technical Merit, as well as an award for ‘Funniest Robot’!
With only a few days to go until the big weekend, we’ve wrangled Pi Wars 2017 hosts, Mike and Tim, to give us the lowdown on everything you need to know before the main event.
Crowds gather around the Obstacle Course from the 2015 competition
Pi Wars 2017
This is the third time the competition has been run, and this time we’re running the event over two days:
Saturday – School teams.
Sunday – Beginner, Intermediate and Pro/Veteran teams.
With teams coming all the way from the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Wales and Scotland as well as England, it truly is an international competition! There are more than 65 teams competing across the weekend. Judging by some of the tweets we’ve been seeing, there’s likely to be some fierce competition!
Special guest and head judge
Lucy rightly running from House Robot, Sir Killalot, on the set of BBC Robot Wars
We are very fortunate to welcome BBC Robot Wars judge Dr. Lucy Rogers as our special guest and head judge. Away from Robot Wars, Lucy is an independent designer and maker, and famously introduced Raspberry Pi-controlled animatronics to the Blackgang Chine theme park on the Isle of Wight.
In addition to the competing teams, there will be plenty of show-and-tell tables featuring robotics projects, plus an extensive marketplace featuring your favourite vendors.
Where is it?
The event takes place at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory (William Gates Building). There is free parking a (very) short walk away, and there is catering on site (or bring a packed lunch!). It’s a nice family-friendly day out. You can chat to the stall holders and teams (when they’re not running between challenges!), and generally find out what is possible with the Raspberry Pi, some robotics components, a healthy dose of programming and a maker’s mindset!
The William Gates Building
What have we been doing to prepare?
Tim has been hard at work designing and building courses for our seven challenges, which are:
Straight-line speed test (autonomous) – get down the course as fast as possible without touching the walls.
The minimal maze (autonomous) – get around the maze without touching the walls.
The line follower (autonomous) – follow the black line for as many circuits as possible.
Slightly deranged golf (remote-controlled) – a beautiful, mystery course that will have a special component added to it by Pi Borg!
The obstacle course (remote-controlled) – who knows what’s in store this year?
Skittles (remote-controlled) – knock the pins down, score points.
Pi Noon – the robot vs robot duel (remote-controlled) – pop the other robot’s balloon before the time runs out.
Mike has been fiercely sending out emails to competitors, exhibitors, volunteers, vendors and our wonderful Pi Wars 2017 sponsors, without whom we would be unable to run the event. He’s also busy constructing individual timetables for each team, so everyone knows exactly where they need to be for their challenge runs.
We’re really looking forward to the weekend – it’s all coming together, and with the help of our volunteers, you can be assured of a warm welcome to the venue. So, grab your tickets and prepare for an epic showdown between dozens of robots, all powered by your favourite single-board computer!
The future of Pi Wars
There is an upcoming Pi Wars-style competition in Pennsylvania, USA on 3 June (The MagPi Magazine published a blog about this today), and we’re expecting another USA competition at some point, as well as a possible Pi Wars Scotland. As for the future of the Cambridge-based event? Let’s get this one out of the way first!
Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Grace Owolade-Coombes runs the fantastically inclusive South London Raspberry Jam with her son Femi. In this guest post, she gives us the low-down on how the Jam got started. Enjoy!
Grace and Femi Owolade-Coombes
Our Jam has been running for over a year now; we’ve had three really big events and one smaller family hack day. Let me begin by telling you about how the idea of running a Jam arose in the first place.
Around three years ago, I read about how coding was going to be part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools and, as a teacher in the FE sector, I was intrigued. As I also had a young and inquisitive son, who was at primary school at the time, I felt that we should investigate further.
I later attended a short course at the National STEM Learning Centre in York, during which one of the organisers told me about the Raspberry Pi Foundation; he suggested I come to a coding event back at the Centre a few weeks later with my family. We did, and Femi loved the Minecraft hack.
Note from Alex: not the actual Minecraft hack but I’ll be having words with our resource gurus because this would be brilliant!
The first Raspberry Jam we attended was in Southend with Andy Melder and the crew: it showed us just how welcoming the Jam community can be. Then I was lucky enough to attend Picademy, which truly was a transformative experience. Ben Nuttall showed me how to tweet photographs with the Pi, which was the beginning of me using Twitter. I particularly loved Clive Beale’s physical computing workshop which I took back and delivered to Femi.
Picademy gave Grace the confidence to deliver Raspberry Pi training herself.
After Picademy, I tweeted that I was now a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and immediately got a request from Dragon Hall, Convent Garden to run a workshop – I didn’t realise they meant in three days’ time! Femi and I bit the bullet and ran our first physical computing workshop together. We haven’t looked back since.
Femi went on to join the Festival of Code, which he loved.
Around this time, Femi was attending a Tourettes Action support group, where young people with Tourette’s syndrome, like him, met up. Femi wanted to share his love of coding with them, but he felt that they might be put off as it can be difficult to spend extended amounts of time in public places when you have tics. He asked if we could set up a Jam that was inclusive: it would be both autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly. There was such a wealth of support, advice, and volunteers who would help us set up that it really wasn’t a hard decision to make.
Grace and Femi set up an Indiegogo campaign to help fund their Jam.
We were fortunate to have met Marc Grossman during the Festival of Code: with his amazing skills and experience with Code Club, we set up together. For our first Jam, we had young coding pioneers from the community, such as Yasmin Bey and Isreal Genius, to join us. We were also blessed with David Whale‘s company and Kano even did a workshop with us. There are too many amazing people to mention.
Grace and Femi held the first South London Raspberry Jam, an autism- and Tourette’s syndrome-friendly event for five- to 15-year-olds, at Deptford Library in October 2016, with 75 participants.
We held a six-session Code Club in Catford Library followed by a second Jam in a local community centre, focusing on robotics with the CamJam EduKit 3, as well as the usual Minecraft hacks.
Our third Jam was in conjunction with Kano, at their HQ, and included a SEN TeachMeet with Computing at School (CAS). Joseph Birks, the inventor of the Crumble, delivered a great robot workshop, and Paul Haynes delivered a Unity workshop too.
Femi often runs workshops at our Jams. We try to encourage young coders to follow in Femi’s footsteps and deliver sessions too: it works best when young people learn from each other, and we hope the confidence they develop will enable them to help their friends and classmates to enjoy coding too.
All welcome to this event in London SAT, 12 DEC 2015 AT 13:00 2nd South London Raspberry Jam 2015 Bellingham… https://t.co/TPYC9Ontot
Now we are taking stock of our amazing journey to learn about coding, and preparing to introduce it to more people. Presently we are looking to collaborate with the South London Makerspace and the Digital Maker Collective, who have invited Femi to deliver robot workshops at Tate Modern. We are also looking to progress to more project-based activities which fit with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Pioneers challenges.
South London Raspberry Jam has participated in both Pi Wars and Astro Pi.
Femi writes about all the events we attend or run: see hackerfemo.com or check out our website and sign up to our mailing list to keep informed. We are just about to gather a team for the Pioneers project, so watch out for updates.
This column is from The MagPi issue 50. 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.
Category: Makers Day job: Michael is a web developer, while Tim works as a performance architect. Website
Michael Horne and Tim Richardson have become regular faces within the Raspberry Pi community, and with good reason. For those local to the Cambridge area, the pair are best known for running the city’s Raspberry Jam – The CamJam – as well as events such as the Birthday Bash and the successful Pi Wars, the next instalment of which is due in April 2017. They’re also responsible for many photos and videos you’ll have seen on our blog over the years.
On 8 September, Michael and Tim demonstrated some of their projects and kits at the #10MillionPi House of Commons celebrations
Those further afield may have found themself in possession of a CamJam EduKit from The Pi Hut. Available in several varieties, and accompanied by educational resources on the CamJam website, EduKits provide the components necessary for newcomers to the Raspberry Pi to understand physical computing. From sensors to traffic light LEDs, the affordable kits offer everyone the chance to get to grips with digital making, regardless of their skills or experience.
From a small room at the Centre of Mathematical Sciences to multiple rooms and hundreds of attendees, the Cambridge Raspberry Jam continues to grow within the birthplace of the Pi. The EduKit range – providing everyone with the necessary components to learn LED coding, sensors, and more – is available via The Pi Hut.
And if that’s not enough, the online presence of Tim and Michael continues to permeate the social platforms of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Both are active within the Twittersphere: you’ll no doubt have shared a joke or received advice from either @Geeky_Tim or @recantha. And if you happen to look for information or updates on Raspberry Pi products, projects, or updates, Michael’s website is most likely to be sitting in your browser history.
Michael’s Music Box is his favourite project: it’s a kit that fits neatly into his hand, allowing for the playback and distortion of notes through various button presses and dial twists.
For the pair, the Raspberry Pi was a subject of interest pre-launch, with both ordering one from the start. Tim, the eager tinkerer, began his Pi journey from delivery day, while Michael admits to letting his collect a little dust before finally diving in.
Tim is most proud of this Weather Clock, a swish-looking display of numbers and icons that indicate the date and time, along with both current and forecast weather conditions
At first, Michael attended the Milton Keynes Raspberry Jam, learning to solder in order to begin work on a project, the Picorder. Having noticed the Cambridge Raspberry Jam would no longer be running in the home town of the Raspberry Pi, and ensuring he wouldn’t step on a few toes in the process, Michael decided to launch his own Jam at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. “It was so badly organised that I hadn’t even visited and seen the room beforehand”, he admits. “It was just 30 people at that first one!” This lack of organisational skills would soon be remedied by the introduction of Tim Richardson into the mix. Of future events, Tim notes, “With two of us doing the organisation, we were able to do a lot more. I wanted to get vendors to the event so people could buy stuff for their Pis.” They also put together workshops and, later, presentations. The workshops in turn led to the creation of the CamJam EduKit, a means for workshop attendees to take components home and continue their builds there.
Cake, project builds, and merriment: the Raspberry Pi Birthday Bash’s continued success draws people from across the globe to join the team in celebrating the Raspberry Pi, the community, and the future.
The transition of the kits to The Pi Hut took place in July 2014, allowing for greater variety and fewer nights filling bags on the living room floor. More recently, the pair joined the Raspberry Pi team in celebration of the #10MillionPi milestone, bringing their projects to the Houses of Parliament to help introduce more people to the Raspberry Jam scene. And of their continued future within the community? The much-anticipated Pi Wars will be taking place over the first weekend in April 2017, offering all ages and abilities the chance to put their robotic creations to the test against a series of challenges.
The popular robotics competition allows teams of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts to battle head-to-head in a series of non-destructive challenges. Rolling into its third year, the next Pi Wars is set to run across the first weekend of April 2017.
British Engineer Andy Moxon recently contacted us to highlight a Pi Wars event he was organising in Kosovo.
I write to inform you about an event I am running akin to Pi Wars, here in the newly independent country of Kosovo, South-East Europe.
I am a British engineer and have been living in Kosovo as a volunteer for the last two and a half years. For the past eight months I have been working with two groups of twelve to fifteen year old students in a club we have called ‘Young Innovators’. It is an after-school club centred around the Raspberry Pi. We have mainly focused on physical computing, with the aim of building Raspberry Pi powered robots, similar to those that compete in Pi Wars.
Eager to see the outcome of the event, Liz asked if he would write a blog post for us and, being the lovely chap he is, Andy agreed. We think Mike and Tim, creators of the original Pi Wars, will be thrilled to see this.
Here’s his rundown of the successful event:
Many people are confused about the country of Kosovo, and there’s much that could be written here to rectify this – perhaps most important to us is the fact that it declared independence from Serbia just eight years ago.However, even more importantly (for this blog at least!), the country is not without Python coding, physical computing, robots and a good number of Raspberry Pis.
Since the start of 2016, I’ve been running an after-school club called ‘Young Innovators’, diving into the world of the Raspberry Pi, to prepare for our (much smaller) version of Pi Wars, happening this December.Based in the small town of Shtime, the club aims to bring to life maths and physics, while also teaching the students programming and robotics.
In one sense our robots are pretty standard.A single Raspberry Pi Zero is powered by a thin mobile phone power bank, and four AA batteries power two motors via a L293D motor-controller chip.At the front, we have a HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor and two infra-red line sensors underneath. Additionally, we use two additional infra-red sensors to count wheel revolutions, having painted white stripes on our wheels using nail polish!This opens the robots up to some interesting autonomous challenges, such as the three-point turn, which was included in the last Pi Wars competition.
An area which has caused a lot of excitement in the club has been the recent introduction of an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer.Using FreeCAD (available for the Pi2 and above) we have designed the chassis of the robots from nothing.This has been a tough but worthwhile exercise, demonstrating the wonders of 3D prototyping.
At the time of writing, the robots have been screwed together and the electronics connected.We’re now in the thick of programming using Pygame (now integral to Python), preparing our eight robots for the battle.
Big thanks must go to the Raspberry Pi blogging community.I first used a Raspberry Pi just a year ago and, without the dedication of excellent bloggers, we would never have been able to reach this stage.
If you’re a bit Grinchy when it comes to Christmas, there’s plenty of non-festive fun to be found too:
Learn to use VNC Viewer
Find out how to build a sunrise alarm clock
Read our in-depth guide to Amiga emulation
Discover the joys of parallel computing
There’s also a huge amount of community news this month. The MagPi has an exclusive feature on Pioneers, our new programme for 12- to 15-year-olds, and news about Astro Pi winning the Arthur Clarke Award.
The MagPi outlines our new Pioneers programme in detail
After that, we see some of the most stylish projects ever. Inside is the beautiful Sisyphus table; that’s a moving work of art, a facial recognition door lock, and a working loom controlled by a Raspberry Pi.
The MagPi interviews the maker of this amazing Sisyphus table
If that wasn’t enough, we also have a big feature on adding sensors to your robots. These can be used to built a battle-bot ready for the upcoming Pi Wars challenge.
Rob from The MagPi here! We’re absolutely thrilled finally to be able to share with you The MagPi 50, our landmark issue with a super special feature on the 50 greatest Raspberry Pi projects of all time, the top 20 of which were voted on by you, the Raspberry Pi community.
The MagPi 50, out right this instant
As well as the thousands who voted, we had a panel of judges choosing the best projects in a few special categories. Eben Upton, the man behind Raspberry Pi, gave us his picks of software projects. Philip Colligan, CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, carefully selected some incredible humanitarian projects. Liz Upton, Director of Communications/my boss, made some tough decisions in the young makers category. Finally, Michael Horne and Tim Richardson of CamJam and Pi Wars fame presided over the Pi robots.
Hopefully your favourite project made its way into the top 50! It was a hard task whittling it down to this number, and to be perfectly honest we could probably feature another 50 projects next month that are equally good. The Raspberry Pi community has done some incredible things over the last four years and change, and I’m immensely proud that we can share some of the outstanding work you folk have done in this issue.
But wait, there’s more! As well as our big community celebration, we also have our usual selection of excellent tutorials, news, and reviews. If the reveal of USB and Ethernet booting on Pi 3 piqued your interest a few weeks ago, we have a full eight-page guide on how you can do that yourself. We cover the #10MillionPi event at the Houses of Parliament in the news, along with some wonderful Raspberry Pi-powered tech that’s being used in the health industry.
Also, here’s Mike’s dancing skeleton from the Pi Bakery, in plenty of time for you to get your own spooky version ready for Halloween. We love it.
Danse Macabre or Skeleton Dance is a project in the MagPi Magazine No.50 October 2016. It uses the spectrum board from The MagPi No. 46 June 2016 ( https://vimeo.com/167914646 ) , to make one to three skeletons dance to music.
Get a free Pi Zero Want to make sure you never miss an issue? Subscribe today and get a Pi Zero bundle featuring the new, camera-enabled Pi Zero, and a cable bundle that includes the camera adapter.
Free Pi Zeros and posters: what’s not to love about a MagPi subscription?
Free Creative Commons download As always, you can download your copy of The MagPi completely free. Grab it straight from the issue page for The MagPi 50.
Don’t forget, though, that like sales of the Raspberry Pi itself, all proceeds from the print and digital editions of the magazine go to help the Foundation achieve its charitable goals. Help us democratise computing!
We hope you enjoy this issue. We’re off for a cup of tea. See you soon!
Pi Wars is a challenge-based robotics competition in which every robot must be controlled by a Raspberry Pi. It’s great fun, and it will all be kicking off once again on 1st-2nd April 2017. For the first time, we are extending the event to run over two days, as we have been overwhelmed with interested applicants.
Another victim succumbs to the obstacle course and its turntable of doom
We have always tried to encourage young robot builders to get involved in CamJam and in Pi Wars. Previously we have held Pi Wars in September and December, but this did not allow school teams enough time to build, program, test, and otherwise prepare their robot around their schoolwork. We therefore decided to move the event date to later in the academic year: we think April is late enough for schools to have run enough robot club sessions, but early enough not to clash with exams.
People of all ages take part. Here’s Amy, aided by Heffalump and friends, showing Eben her robot.
This time around, we have a celebrity judge: Dr Lucy Rogers from the BBC’s Robot Wars will be putting your robots through their paces.
Dr Lucy Rogers in conversation with an old friend
In previous years, we have categorised robots by cost (in 2014) and size (in 2015). This time, we are going to group teams into the following categories:
Schools and other clubs
Families and groups of friends
Professional or expert hobbyist(s)
This means that robot teams will be competing against their peers, rather than against those with different skill levels – so, it will be, for instance, school vs school and family vs family (in a non-Mafia kind of way).
This is the kind of thing you see at Pi Wars: your friendly Director of Communications commandeers a gigantic Big Trak.
This year’s list of challenges is available on the Pi Wars website. As well as winning points for their performance in a range of challenges, this year’s robots are also being given points for artistic and technical merit. There’s even a prize for the funniest robot (the competition does start on April Fool’s Day, after all!) and a pre-event blogging competition which encourages teams write about themselves, and their journey from a collection of parts to a working robot.
We’ve come up with a list of general rules and also rules for each challenge. Perhaps the most important one this year is a requirement that your robot must be sub-A4 in size. This still leaves quite a lot of room for flexibility in design, whilst at the same time levelling the playing field. It also means that those teams who are using kits are in with a better chance of competing against those who make their robot from scratch.
To apply to enter the competition, please fill in the application form. Feel free to take as much time over your application, and provide as much information as possible.
If you’re interested in robotics and technology, but you don’t want to build your own robot this time, you are still very welcome to come and watch the competition. Spectator tickets will go on sale later in the year. We only charge for adults, so it’s great for those on limited incomes. Join our mailing list to be notified when tickets are available, or keep an eye on piwars.org.
The game is afoot! Competitors at Pi Wars 2015
If you’re an altruistic type, you may be wondering if there’s some way you can help with Pi Wars. As with all big events, we need a team of volunteers to make the day go smoothly. Rather than having just a few marshals who spend the entire day helping, we aim to have as many people as possible so that everyone can spend most of the day watching the robots take on the challenges. Depending on the number of people who volunteer, helpers spend approximately two hours doing marshalling activities. Judges generally spend slightly more time judging, but we aim to give everyone a chance to experience the event as a spectator as well as helping us out! If you’d like to help out, please do contact us. We’ll be delighted to hear from you! We are also very happy to hear from potential sponsors: you can check out our website for more information on sponsorship, and on what we can offer in return.
To whet your appetite for the upcoming competition, or if you have never been to Pi Wars and want to know what it’s like on the day, we’d like to leave you with Matt Manning’s video of last year’s event…
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