Tag Archives: Programmes

Young people’s Astro Pi code is sent to the International Space Station

Post Syndicated from Fergus Kirkpatrick original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/young-peoples-astro-pi-code-is-sent-to-the-international-space-station/

Young people taking part in the European Astro Pi Challenge are about to have their computer programs sent to the International Space Station (ISS). Astro Pi is run annually in collaboration by us and ESA Education, and offers two ways to get involved: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

This year, over 25,000 young people from across Europe and eligible ESA Member States are getting their programs ‘uplinked’ to the Astro Pi computers aboard the ISS, where they will be running over the next few weeks. 

Mission Zero teams send their art into space

Mission Zero is an exciting activity for kids with little or no experience with coding. We invite young people to create a Python program that displays an 8×8 pixel image or animation. This program then gets sent to the ISS, and each pixel art piece is displayed for 30 seconds on the LED matrix display of the Astro Pi computers on the ISS.

Two Astro Pis on board the International Space Station.
Astro Pis on the ISS

We picked the theme ‘fauna and flora’ as the inspiration for young people’s pixel art, as it proved so popular last year, and we weren’t disappointed: this year, 24,378 young people submitted 16,039 Mission Zero creations!  

We’ve tested every program and are pleased to announce that 15,942 Mission Zero programs will be sent to run on the ISS from mid May. 

Once again, we have been amazed at the wonderful images and animations that young people have created. Seeing all the images that have been submitted is one of the most enjoyable and inspiring things to do as we work on the Astro Pi Challenge. Here is a little selection of some of our favourites submitted this year:

A selection of pixel art images and animation inspired by nature submitted by young people.
A selection of Mission Zero submissions

Varied approaches: How different teams calculate ISS speed

For Mission Space Lab, we invite more experienced young coders to take on a scientific challenge: to calculate the speed that the ISS orbits Earth. 

Teams are tasked with writing a program that uses the Astro Pis’ sensors and visible light camera to capture data for their calculations, and we have really enjoyed seeing the different approaches the teams have taken. 

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.

Some teams decided to calculate the distance between two points in photos of the Earth’s surface and combine this with how long it took for the ISS to pass over the points to find the speed. This particular method uses feature extraction and needs to account for ground sampling distance — how many square metres are represented in one pixel in an image of the ground taken from above — to get an accurate output.  

We’ve also seen teams use data from the gyroscope to calculate the speed using the angle readings and photos to get their outputs. Yet other teams have derived the speed using equations of motion and sampling from the accelerometer.

An example of features of the earth’s surface being matched across two different images.
Feature extraction example taken from images captured by the Astro Pis

All teams that took multiple samples from the Astro Pi sensors, or multiple images, had to decide how to output a final estimate for the speed of the ISS. Most teams opted to use the mean average. But a few teams chose to filter their samples to choose only the ‘best’ ones based on prior knowledge (Bayesian filtering), and some used a machine learning model and the Astro Pi’s machine learning dongle to select which images or data samples to use. Some teams even provided a certainty score along with their final estimate.

236 Mission Space Lab teams awarded flight status

However the team choses to approach the challenge, before their program can run on the ISS, we need to make sure of a few things. For a start, we check that they’ve followed the challenge rules and meet the ISS security requirements. Next, we check that the program can run without errors on the Astro Pis as the astronauts on board the ISS can’t stop what they’re doing to fix any problems. 

So, all programs submitted to us must pass a rigorous testing process before they can be sent into space. We run each program on several replica Astro Pis, then run all the programs sequentially, to ensure there’s no problems. If the program passes testing, it’s awarded ‘flight status’ and can be sent to run in space.

The Astro Pi computers inside the International Space Station.

This year, 236 teams have been awarded flight status. These teams represent 889 young people from 22 countries in Europe and ESA member states. The average age of these young people is 15, and 27% of them are girls. The UK has the most teams achieving flight status (61), followed by the Czech Republic (23) and Romania (22). You can see how this compares to last year and explore other breakdowns of participant data in the annual Astro Pi impact report.  

Our congratulations to all the Mission Space Lab teams who’ve been awarded flight status: it is a great achievement. All these teams will be invited to join a live online Q&A with an ESA astronaut in June. We can’t wait to see what questions you send us for the astronaut.

A pause to recharge the ISS batteries 

Normally, the Astro Pi programs run continuously from the end of April until the end of May. However, this year, there is an interesting event happening in the skies above us that means that programs will pause for a few days. The ISS will be moving its position on the ‘beta angle’ and pivoting its orientation to maximise the sunlight that it can capture with its solar panels. 

A picture of the International Space Station.
The International Space Station

The ISS normally takes 90 minutes to complete its orbit, 45 minutes of which is in sunlight, and 45 minutes in darkness. When it moves along the beta angle, it will be in continual sunlight, allowing it to capture lots of solar energy and recharge its batteries. While in its new orientation, the ISS is exposed to increased heat from the sun so the window shutters must be closed to help the astronauts stay cool. That means taking photos of the Earth’s surface won’t be possible for a few days.

What next?

Once all of the programs have run, we will send the Mission Space Lab teams the data collected during their experiments. All successful Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab teams and mentors will also receive personal certificates to recognise their mission completion.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Astro Pi Challenge participants, and especially to all successful teams.

The post Young people’s Astro Pi code is sent to the International Space Station appeared first on Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Learn how to teach computing to 5- to 11-year-olds

Post Syndicated from Rosa Brown original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/introducing-our-new-course-pathway-for-educators-teaching-computing-to-5-to-11-year-olds/

Introducing children to computing concepts from a young age can help develop their interest and attachment to the subject. While parents might wonder what the best tools and resources are for this, primary and K1–5 educators also need to know what approaches work with their learners.

Girls writing programs on their computers.

‘Teaching computing to 5- to 11-year-olds’ is one of the new course pathways we’ve designed to help educators spark young people’s interest in the subject. Our online courses are made by a team of writers, videographers, illustrators, animators, copy editors, presenters, and subject matter experts. They work together over months of production to create high-quality educational video content for participants all over the world.

This course pathway offers advice and practical activities to: 

  • Support young people to create and solve problems with technology
  • Promote the relevance of computing in young people’s lives
  • Create inclusive learning experiences   

Our new course pathway for primary educators  

The nine courses included give you a comprehensive understanding of teaching computing to younger learners (5- to 11-year-olds). All the courses have been written by a team of subject matter experts, education professionals, and teachers. Some of the courses cover a specific topic, such as programming or physical computing, while others help educators reflect on their teaching practice

Child using Scratch on a laptop.
With Scratch, young people can learn how to program their own games, animations, stories, and more!

All of the courses include a range of ideas to use in your own programming sessions. The activities will help you to introduce concepts like computer networks and the internet to young learners in a relatable way. There are also activities to help learners progress within a topic, such as moving from a block-based programming language like Scratch to a text-based one like Python.      

What will I gain from the courses? 

The courses are an opportunity to: 

  • Discover new computing activities
  • Get support from our team of course facilitators
  • Meet other educators from around the world!  

Do I need any previous experience with computing?

These courses will give you everything you need to teach computing to young learners. No computing experience is required. 

There is also no specific order in which you need to complete the courses. We want educators to complete the courses in an order that makes sense to them.


If you are new to teaching computing, ‘Get started teaching computing in primary schools’ is the place to start. The four-week course will encourage you to think about why it’s important for your learners to build their understanding around computing. You’ll discover how to support learners to become digital makers who can use technology to solve problems. Everyone who registers on the course will have access to an action plan to help implement what they have learnt into their teaching practice.            

Who is the pathway for? 

These are free courses for anyone, anywhere, who is interested in teaching young people about computing. 

A teacher aids children in the classroom

How much time will I spend on each course? 

All of the courses take between two and four weeks to complete, based on participants spending two hours a week on a course. You will have free access to each course for the length of time it takes to complete it. For example, if it’s a two week course, like ‘Creating an inclusive classroom: approaches to supporting learners with SEND in computing’, you will have two weeks of free access to the course. 

Discover what you could learn with ‘Teaching computing to 5- to 11-year-olds’ today.

The post Learn how to teach computing to 5- to 11-year-olds appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How do we create engaging online courses for computing educators?

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/creating-free-online-courses-training-computing-computer-science-teachers-educators/

With our online courses programme, launched in 2017, we made it our mission to provide computing educators with the best possible free training we can design. Five years on, here are some of the key stats about the courses’ impact:

  • We’ve produced and launched 35 free online courses 
  • We’ve created over 650 educational course videos 
  • More than 234,000 learners have participated in the courses
  • Over 19,000 teachers in England have participated through the National Centre for Computing Education
A teacher attending Picademy laughs as she works through an activity

Designed and created in-house, each and every course is a real cross-team effort that involves a lot of careful planning and a number of different stages. Here we’re taking you behind the scenes to show you how we make our courses, introduce you to the people involved, and explain how we ensure our courses are of high quality.

But first, here’s some quick answers to questions you may have:

Our free online courses — key questions answered

What are the courses? 

They are online training courses to help you learn about computing and computing education. The courses are hosted on the FutureLearn website. They are asynchronous, meaning you can take them whenever and wherever you want.

Are the courses free?

Yes! All our courses are free when you sign up for time-limited access, which gives you full access to the learning materials for the complete course duration. FutureLearn also has a paid-for ‘unlimited’ option, where you receive a certificate for each course you take.


Are the courses right for me? 

They are aimed at educators, particularly classroom teachers, but they are also beneficial to anyone who wants to learn more about computing.

How long does a course take?

To help you structure your learning, our courses are divided into three or four weeks, but it’s up to you how quickly you work through them. You can complete a course in one afternoon, or spread your learning out and study for 30 minutes a day over three or four weeks. This flexibility makes it easy to fit a course into a busy schedule. 

How can I access the courses?


What goes into creating an engaging online course?

Creating our online courses is a team effort involving writers, videographers, illustrators, animators, copy editors, presenters, and subject matter experts working together over months of production. The entire process is guided by our online course producers, Martin O’Hanlon, Ross Exton, and Michael Conterio, who know a thing or two about creating high-quality learning experiences. We spoke to them about what it takes to create an engaging course. 

The educators working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
The educators at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. On screen: Ross Exton. Left to right in person: Michael Conterio, Martin O’Hanlon.

Hi guys. You’ve created courses on a wide range of computing subjects. How do you decide what the focus of your next course is going to be?

Martin: We are driven by the needs of teachers. “What are teachers telling us they want to learn? Or what are the gaps in the curriculum where our learners need additional support?”

For example, our Introduction to Machine Learning and AI course was introduced as a result of feedback from teachers that while the subject wasn’t necessarily on the curriculum, they felt underprepared to answer questions from students or provide context when teaching other topics.

A woman holds up a Raspberry Pi computer in front of a laptop screen.

How do you then go about planning it out and turning that plan into an actual course structure?

Michael: Working with the course authors, we’ll generally agree on the big topics we want to cover or questions that we want to answer. We’ll often also have individual elements that we want to fit in somewhere, for example an activity involving making a learning resource more accessible. From there it’s a case of taking the bigger topics and working out how we can split them up into smaller chunks, until we get down to individual learning activities.

Ross: But then we’ll end up shuffling things around until we are happy — not only that we’ve got everything that we wanted to cover, but that the overall structure makes sense. We often talk about the ‘narrative’ of a course.

What is your approach to pedagogy in online courses?

Martin: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation we have a set of 12 pedagogy principles that we use through our learning resources (including online courses). We take particular care to lead with concepts, model processes, and activities; add variety for our learners; and include opportunities to create projects. 

The Raspberry Pi Foundation's 12 principles of computing pedagogy: lead with concepts; structure lessons; make concrete; unplug, unpack, repack; work together; read and explore code first; foster program comprehension; model everything; challenge misconceptions; create projects; get hands-on; add variety.
Learn more about the 12 principles in the free special edition of Hello World, The Big book of Computing Pedagogy, downloadable in PDF format.

Can you tell us about some of the pitfalls with course writing that you’ve learned along the way?

Michael: Because the learner is not present, you have to be incredibly precise with instructions as you can’t help learners directly as they are working through the content. And even if you think something is obvious, it’s easy for learners to accidentally miss an instruction, so it’s generally good to try to keep them together rather than spread out.

Martin: Luckily, it is often possible to tell from comments that learners have shared when something is hard to understand so we can improve future runs of the course.

How important is the media you add to the courses, like animations and videos? What is the process for creating this type of content?

Ross: It’s essential! It brings the abstract concepts of computing to life. The media in our courses helps our learners to visualise the ideas we’re presenting in ways that are engaging and relatable. 


As we’re writing the course, we capture every creative idea that will best support our learners in gaining the knowledge and skills that they need. From ‘how-to’ guides with live coding, to physical computing demonstrations, or animations of robots, we think carefully about each image and video and how we’re not just telling the learner something, but showing them.

We then work with a brilliantly talented team of illustrators, animators, videographers, and presenters to create all of that media. 

A videographer preparing to film a course presenter.
And… action! We film all the video content for courses in-house, working closely with the educators who present the content.

There are lots of opportunities for social learning within the courses. Can you explain more about its importance and how we integrate it?

Ross: Social learning is a really important part of our online courses experience. Over the past year we have made significant investment to make it easier for participants to share programs they’ve written as part of their learning, for example, and for facilitators to provide support.

Martin: It is important people have the opportunity to share their learning with others. This is something often lost when taking an online course and it can feel like you are ‘on your own’. 

In the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online courses learners are given the opportunity to ask questions, share what they have created, and provide their own insight in the comments. Educators from the Foundation facilitate the courses — responding to comments and providing advice is a big part of what they do.

Thank you Martin, Michael, and Ross. 

What new online course would you like us to create? Tell us in the comments below.

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