Join us for Digital Making at Home: this week, young people can learn about using the Sense HAT — or its emulator — with us! With Digital Making at Home, we invite kids all over the world to code along with us and our new videos every week.
What happens when you give two linguists jobs at Raspberry Pi? They start thinking they can do digital making, even though they have zero coding skills! Because if you don’t feel inspired to step out of your comfort zone here — surrounded by all the creativity, making, and technology — then there is no hope you’ll be motivated to do it anywhere else.
Maja and Nina, our translation team, and coding beginners
Maja and I support the community of Raspberry Pi translation volunteers, and we wanted to build something to celebrate them and the amazing work they do! Our educational content is already available in 26 languages, with more than 400 translations on our projects website. But our volunteer community is always translating more content, and so off we went, on an ambitious (by our standards!) mission to create a Raspberry Pi–powered translation notification system. This is a Raspberry Pi that pulls GitHub data to display a message on a Sense HAT and play a tune whenever we add fresh translated content to the Raspberry Pi projects website!
Breaking it down
There were three parts to the project: two of them were pretty easy (displaying a message on a Sense HAT and playing a tune), and one more challenging (pulling information about new translated content added to our repositories on GitHub). We worked on each part separately and then put all of the code together.
Mandatory for coding: baked goods and tea
Displaying a message on Sense HAT and playing a sound
At first we wanted the Sense HAT to display fireworks, but we soon realised how bad we both are at designing animations, so we moved on to displaying a less creative but still satisfying smiley face, followed by a message saying “Hooray! Another translation!” and another smiley face.
We used the sense_hat and time modules, and wrote a function that can be easily used in the main body of the program. You can look at the comments in the code above to see what each line does:
So we could add the fun tune, we learned how to use the Pygame library to play sounds. Using Pygame it’s really simple to create a function that plays a sound: once you have the .wav file in your chosen location, you simply import and initialise the pygame module, create a Sound object, and provide it with the path to your .wav file. You can then play your sound:
We’ve programmed our translation notification system to play the meow sound three times, using the sleep function to create a one-second break between each sound. Because why would you want one meow if you can have three?
Pulling repository information from GitHub
This was the more challenging part for Maja and me, so we asked for help from experienced programmers, including our colleague Ben Nuttall. We explained what we wanted to do: pull information from our GitHub repositories where all the projects available on the Raspberry Pi projects website are kept, and every time a new language directory is found, to execute the sparkles and meow functions to let us and EVERYONE in the office know that we have new translations! Ben did a bit of research and quickly found the PyGithub library, which enables you to manage your GitHub resources using Python scripts.
Check out the comments to see what the code does
The script runs in an infinite loop, checking all repositories in the ‘raspberrypilearning’ organisation for new translations (directories with names in form of xx-XX, eg. fr-CA) every 60 minutes. Any new translation is then printed and preserved in memory. We had some initial issues with the usage of the PyGithub library: calling .get_commits() on an empty repository throws an exception, but the library doesn’t provide any functions to check whether a repo is empty or not. Fortunately, wrapping this logic in a try...except statement solved the problem.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?
Our ideas for further development
We’re pretty proud that the whole Raspberry Pi office now hears a meowing cat whenever new translated content is added to our projects website, but we’ve got plans for further development of our translation notification system. Our existing translated educational resources have already been viewed by over 1 million users around the world, and we want anyone interested in the translations our volunteers make possible to be able to track new translated projects as the go live!
One way to do that is to modify the code to tweet or send an email with the name of the newly added translation together with a link to the project and information on the language in which it was added. Alternatively, we could adapt the system to only execute the sparkles and meow functions when a translation in a particular language is added. Then our more than 1000 volunteers, or any learner using our translations, could set up their own Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT to receive notifications of content in the language that interests them, rather than in all languages.
We need your help
Both ideas pose a pretty big challenge for the inexperienced new coders of the Raspberry Pi translation team, so we’d really appreciate any tips you have for helping us get started or for improving our existing system! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
The Sense HAT is kitted out with an 8×8 RGB LED matrix and a five-button joystick, and it houses an array of useful sensors, including an accelerometer and gyroscope.
And it’s these two sensors that Instructables user Ashu_d has used for their Impact Recorder for Vehicles.
Impact Recorder for Vehicles
“Impact Recorder is designed to record impact sustained to a vehicle while driving or stationary,” Ashu_d explains. Alongside the Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT, the build also uses a Raspberry Pi Camera Module to record footage, saving video and/or picture files to the SD card for you to examine after a collision. “The impacts are stored in the database in the form of readings as well as video/picture.”
By following Ashu_d’s Instructables tutorial, you’re essentially building yourself a black box for your car, recording impact data as the Sense HAT records outside the standard parameters of your daily commute.
“Upon impact, remote users can be verified in real time,” they continue, “and remote users can then watch the saved video or take remote access to the Pi Camera Module and watch events accordingly.”
Ashu_d goes into great detail on how to use Node-RED and MQTT to complete the project, how you can view video in real time using VLC, and how each element works to create the final build over at Instructables.
I have a soft spot for Raspberry Pi word clocks. True, they may not be as helpful as your standard clock face if you need to tell the time super quickly, but at least they’re easier to read than this binary clock built by engineerish.
“But Alex,” I hear you cry, “word clocks are so done. We’re over them. They’re so 2018. What’s so special about a word clock that you feel it to be worthy of a blog post?”
And the answer, dear reader, is Snake, the best gosh darn game to ever grace the screen of a mobile phone, ever — sorry, Candy Crush.
You’re most likely aware of the Astro Pi Challenge. In case you’re not, it’s a wonderfully exciting programme organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) and us at Raspberry Pi. Astro Pi challenges European young people to write scientific experiments in code, and the best experiments run aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on two Astro Pi units: Raspberry Pi 1 B+ and Sense HATs encased in flight-grade aluminium spacesuits.
It’s very cool. So, so cool. As adults, we’re all extremely jealous that we’re unable to take part. We all love space and, to be honest, we all want to be astronauts. Astronauts are the coolest.
So imagine our excitement at Pi Towers when ESA shared this photo on Friday:
This is a Soyuz vehicle on its way to dock with the International Space Station. And while Soyuz vehicles ferry between earth and the ISS all the time, what’s so special about this occasion is that this very photo was captured using a Raspberry Pi 1 B+ and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, together known as Izzy, one of the Astro Pi units!
So if anyone ever asks you whether the Raspberry Pi Camera Module is any good, just show them this photo. We don’t think you’ll need to provide any further evidence after that.
Where are the limits of human technology? And can we somehow avoid them? This is where quantum computers become very interesting.
Qrasp — quantum computing on a Raspberry Pi
After seeing a press announcement for IBM’s Q System One, the first-ever commercial quantum computer, IBM Q Ambassador Hassi Norlen decided he wanted his own, and reached for his trusty Raspberry Pi to build one.
“This will not be easy,” he admits on his Medium blog post for the Qrasp project. “IBM Q System One is, after all, a cloud-based quantum computing offering, with the main hardware, cryostats, quantum chips, and all locked away in the IBM labs.”
Hassi goes on to explain the list of required ingredients for building your own Qrasp, including the Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, and the programs one can run on the finished device.
It’s a great blog post, and to save me summarising it here, check it out for yourself. You’ll also find a link to the GitHub repo for Qrasp, and other tidbits of information on making the most out of the final build.
SPECIAL NOTE*** THE FULL TUTORIAL WILL BE AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK April Fools! What a terrible day. So many pranks. You can’t believe anything you read. People invading your space. The mental and physical anguish of enduring the day. It’s time to fight back! Let’s catch the perps in action by making a device that always watches.
A Raspberry Pi Zero W, a small camera, and a rechargeable Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery constitute the bulk of this project’s tech. A pair of 3D-printed parts, and gelatine-solidified Coke Zero make up the fake fizzy body.
“So let’s make this video as short as possible and just buy a cheap pre-made spy cam off of Amazon. Just kidding,” Tinkernut jokes in the tutorial video for the project, before going through the step-by-step process of using the Raspberry Pi to “DIY this the right way”.
After accessing the Zero W from his laptop via SSH, Tinkernut opted for using the rpi_camera_surveillance_system Python script written by GitHub user RuiSantosdotme to control the spy cam. Luckily, this meant no additional library setup, and basically no lag on the video feed.
What we want to do is create a script that activates the camera and serves it to a web page so that we can access it from any web browser. There are plenty of different ways to do this (Motion, Raspivid, etc), but I found a simple Python script that does everything I need it to do and doesn’t require any extra software or libraries to install. The best thing about it is that the lag time is practically unnoticeable.
With the code in place, every boot-up of the Raspberry Pi automatically launches both the script and a web page of the live video, allowing for constant monitoring of potential sneaks and thieves.
The projects is powered by a 1500mAh LiPo battery and the Adafruit LiPo charger. It also includes a simple on/off switch, which Tinkernut wired to the charger and the Pi’s PP1 and PP6 connector pads.
Tinkernut decided to use a Coke Zero bottle for the build, incorporating 3D-printed parts to house the Pi, and a mix of Coke and gelatine to create a realistic-looking filling for the bottle. However, the setup can be transferred to pretty much any hollow item in your home, say, a cookie jar or a cracker box. So get creative and get spying!
A complete spy cam how-to
If you’d like to make your own secret spy cam, you can find a tutorial for Tinkernut’s build at hackster.io, or follow along with his video below. Also make sure to subscribe his YouTube channel to be updated on all his newest builds — they’re rather splendid.
Learn how to take a regular Coke Zero bottle, cram a Raspberry Pi and webcam inside of it, and have it still look like a regular Coke Zero bottle. Why would you want to do this? To spy on those irritating April Fooligans!!!
The Ruiz brothers at Adafruit have used Phillip Burgess’s PixieDust code to turn a 64×64 LED Matrix and a Raspberry Pi Zero into an awesome sand toy that refuses to defy the laws of gravity. Here’s how to make your own.
Simulated LED Sand Physics! These LEDs interact with motion and looks like they’re affect by gravity. An Adafruit LED matrix displays the LEDs as little grains of sand which are driven by sampling an accelerometer with Raspberry Pi Zero!
As the latest addition to their online learning system, Adafruit have produced the BIG LED Sand Toy, or as I like to call it, Have you seen this awesome thing Adafuit have made?
Alongside the aforementioned ingredients, the project utilises the Adafruit LIS3DH Triple-Axis Accelerometer. This sensor is packed with features, and it allows the Raspberry Pi to control the virtual sand depending on how the toy is moved.
The Ruiz brothers inserted an SD card loaded with Raspbian Lite into the Raspberry Pi Zero, installed the LED Matrix driver, cloned the Adafruit_PixieDust library, and then just executed the code. They created some preset modes, but once you’re comfortable with the project code, you’ll be able to add your own take on the project.
Accelerometers and Raspberry Pi
This isn’t the first time a Raspberry Pi has met an accelerometer: the two Raspberry Pis aboard the International Space Station for the Astro Pi mission both have accelerometers thanks to their Sense HATs.
Comprised of a bundle of sensors, an LED matrix, and a five-point joystick, the Sense HAT is a great tool for exploring your surroundings with the Raspberry Pi, as well as for using your surroundings to control the Pi. You can find a whole variety of Sense HAT–based projects and tutorials on our website.
And if you’d like to try out the Sense HAT, including its onboard accelerometer, without purchasing one, head over to our online emulator, or use the emulator preinstalled on Raspbian.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that today is 28 February, which is as close as you’re going to get to our sixth birthday, given that we launched on a leap day. For the last three years, we’ve launched products on or around our birthday: Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015; Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016; and Raspberry Pi Zero W in 2017. But today is a snow day here at Pi Towers, so rather than launching something, we’re taking a photo tour of the last six years of Raspberry Pi products before we don our party hats for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.
Before there was Raspberry Pi, there was the Broadcom BCM2763 ‘micro DB’, designed, as it happens, by our very own Roger Thornton. This was the first thing we demoed as a Raspberry Pi in May 2011, shown here running an ARMv6 build of Ubuntu 9.04.
BCM2763 micro DB
Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi, 2011-style
A few months later, along came the first batch of 50 “alpha boards”, designed for us by Broadcom. I used to have a spreadsheet that told me where in the world each one of these lived. These are the first “real” Raspberry Pis, built around the BCM2835 application processor and LAN9512 USB hub and Ethernet adapter; remarkably, a software image taken from the download page today will still run on them.
Raspberry Pi alpha board
We shot some great demos with this board, including this video of Quake III:
A little something for the weekend: here’s Eben showing the Raspberry Pi running Quake 3, and chatting a bit about the performance of the board. Thanks to Rob Bishop and Dave Emett for getting the demo running.
Pete spent the second half of 2011 turning the alpha board into a shippable product, and just before Christmas we produced the first 20 “beta boards”, 10 of which were sold at auction, raising over £10000 for the Foundation.
Beta boards on parade
Here’s Dom, demoing both the board and his excellent taste in movie trailers:
See http://www.raspberrypi.org/ for more details, FAQ and forum.
Rather to Pete’s surprise, I took his beta board design (with a manually-added polygon in the Gerbers taking the place of Paul Grant’s infamous red wire), and ordered 2000 units from Egoman in China. After a few hiccups, units started to arrive in Cambridge, and on 29 February 2012, Raspberry Pi went on sale for the first time via our partners element14 and RS Components.
The first 2000 Raspberry Pis
The first Raspberry Pi from the first box from the first pallet
We took over 100000 orders on the first day: something of a shock for an organisation that had imagined in its wildest dreams that it might see lifetime sales of 10000 units. Some people who ordered that day had to wait until the summer to finally receive their units.
Even as we struggled to catch up with demand, we were working on ways to improve the design. We quickly replaced the USB polyfuses in the top right-hand corner of the board with zero-ohm links to reduce IR drop. If you have a board with polyfuses, it’s a real limited edition; even more so if it also has Hynix memory. Pete’s “rev 2” design made this change permanent, tweaked the GPIO pin-out, and added one much-requested feature: mounting holes.
Revision 1 versus revision 2
If you look carefully, you’ll notice something else about the revision 2 board: it’s made in the UK. 2012 marked the start of our relationship with the Sony UK Technology Centre in Pencoed, South Wales. In the five years since, they’ve built every product we offer, including more than 12 million “big” Raspberry Pis and more than one million Zeros.
Celebrating 500,000 Welsh units, back when that seemed like a lot
Economies of scale, and the decline in the price of SDRAM, allowed us to double the memory capacity of the Model B to 512MB in the autumn of 2012. And as supply of Model B finally caught up with demand, we were able to launch the Model A, delivering on our original promise of a $25 computer.
A UK-built Raspberry Pi Model A
In 2014, James took all the lessons we’d learned from two-and-a-bit years in the market, and designed the Model B+, and its baby brother the Model A+. The Model B+ established the form factor for all our future products, with a 40-pin extended GPIO connector, four USB ports, and four mounting holes.
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ — entering the era of proper product photography with a bang.
While James was working on the Model B+, Broadcom was busy behind the scenes developing a follow-on to the BCM2835 application processor. BCM2836 samples arrived in Cambridge at 18:00 one evening in April 2014 (chips never arrive at 09:00 — it’s always early evening, usually just before a public holiday), and within a few hours Dom had Raspbian, and the usual set of VideoCore multimedia demos, up and running.
We launched Raspberry Pi 2 at the start of 2015, pairing BCM2836 with 1GB of memory. With a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 clocked at 900MHz, we’d increased performance sixfold, and memory fourfold, in just three years.
Nobody mention the xenon death flash.
And of course, while James was working on Raspberry Pi 2, Broadcom was developing BCM2837, with a quad-core 64-bit Arm Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.2GHz. Raspberry Pi 3 launched barely a year after Raspberry Pi 2, providing a further doubling of performance and, for the first time, wireless LAN and Bluetooth.
All our recent products are just the same board shot from different angles
Zero to hero
Where the PC industry has historically used Moore’s Law to “fill up” a given price point with more performance each year, the original Raspberry Pi used Moore’s law to deliver early-2000s PC performance at a lower price. But with Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, we’d gone back to filling up our original $35 price point. After the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, we started to wonder whether we could pull the same trick again, taking the original Raspberry Pi platform to a radically lower price point.
The result was Raspberry Pi Zero. Priced at just $5, with a 1GHz BCM2835 and 512MB of RAM, it was cheap enough to bundle on the front of The MagPi, making us the first computer magazine to give away a computer as a cover gift.
MagPi issue 40 in all its glory
We followed up with the $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W, launched exactly a year ago. This adds the wireless LAN and Bluetooth functionality from Raspberry Pi 3, using a rather improbable-looking PCB antenna designed by our buddies at Proant in Sweden.
RS Components limited-edition blue Raspberry Pi 1 Model B
Brazilian-market Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
Visible-light Camera Module v2
Learning about injection moulding the hard way
250 pages of content each month, every month
Forward the Foundation
Why does all this matter? Because we’re providing everyone, everywhere, with the chance to own a general-purpose programmable computer for the price of a cup of coffee; because we’re giving people access to tools to let them learn new skills, build businesses, and bring their ideas to life; and because when you buy a Raspberry Pi product, every penny of profit goes to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation in its mission to change the face of computing education.
We’ve had an amazing six years, and they’ve been amazing in large part because of the community that’s grown up alongside us. This weekend, more than 150 Raspberry Jams will take place around the world, comprising the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend.
If you want to know more about the Raspberry Pi community, go ahead and find your nearest Jam on our interactive map — maybe we’ll see you there.
Right now, 400km above the Earth aboard the International Space Station, are two very special Raspberry Pi computers. They were launched into space on 6 December 2015 and are, most assuredly, the farthest-travelled Raspberry Pi computers in existence. Each year they run experiments that school students create in the European Astro Pi Challenge.
Left: Astro Pi Vis (Ed); right: Astro Pi IR (Izzy). Image credit: ESA.
The European Columbus module
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the European Columbus module. The Columbus module is the European Space Agency’s largest single contribution to the ISS, and it supports research in many scientific disciplines, from astrobiology and solar science to metallurgy and psychology. More than 225 experiments have been carried out inside it during the past decade. It’s also home to our Astro Pi computers.
Here’s a video from 7 February 2008, when Space Shuttle Atlantis went skywards carrying the Columbus module in its cargo bay.
Our Astro Pi computers will be joining in the celebrations by displaying a digital birthday candle that the crew can blow out. It works by detecting an increase in humidity when someone blows on it. The video below demonstrates the concept.
The exact Astro Pi code that will run on the ISS today is available for you to download and run on your own Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT. You’ll notice that the program includes code to make it stop automatically when the date changes to 8 February. This is just to save time for the ground control team.
If you have a Raspberry Pi and a Sense HAT, you can use the terminal commands below to download and run the code yourself:
When you see a blank blue screen with the brightness increasing, the Sense HAT is measuring the baseline humidity. It does this every 15 minutes so it can recalibrate to take account of natural changes in background humidity. A humidity increase of 2% is needed to blow out the candle, so if the background humidity changes by more than 2% in 15 minutes, it’s possible to get a false positive. Press Ctrl + C to quit.
Please tweet pictures of your candles to @astro_pi – we might share yours! And if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the candle on the ISS during the NASA TV event at 16:30 GMT today.
Every school year, we run the European Astro Pi challenge to find the next generation of space scientists who will program two space-hardened Raspberry Pi units, called Astro Pis, living aboard the International Space Station.
Italian ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli with the Astro Pi units. Image credit ESA.
Astro Pi Mission Zero
The 2017–2018 challenge included the brand-new non-competitive Mission Zero, which guaranteed that participants could have their code run on the ISS for 30 seconds, provided they followed the rules. They would also get a certificate showing the exact time period during which their code ran in space.
We asked participants to write a simple Python program to display a personalised message and the air temperature on the Astro Pi screen. No special hardware was needed, since all the code could be written in a web browser using the Sense HAT emulator developed in partnership with Trinket.
Students coding #astropi emulator to scroll a message to astronauts on @Raspberry_Pi in space this summer. Try it here: https://t.co/0KURq11X0L #Rm9Parents #CSforAll #ontariocodes
And now it’s time…
We received over 2500 entries for Mission Zero, and we’re excited to announce that tomorrow all entries with flight status will be run on the ISS…in SPAAACE!
There are 1771 Python programs with flight status, which will run back-to-back on Astro Pi VIS (Ed). The whole process will take about 14 hours. This means that everyone will get a timestamp showing 1 February, so we’re going to call this day Mission Zero Day!
Part of each team’s certificate will be a map, like the one below, showing the exact location of the ISS while the team’s code was running.
The grey line is the ISS orbital path, the red marker shows the ISS’s location when their code was running. Produced using Google Static Maps API.
The programs will be run in the same sequence in which we received them. For operational reasons, we can’t guarantee that they will run while the ISS flies over any particular location. However, if you have submitted an entry to Mission Zero, there is a chance that your code will run while the ISS is right overhead!
Go out and spot the station
Spotting the ISS is a great activity to do by yourself or with your students. The station looks like a very fast-moving star that crosses the sky in just a few minutes. If you know when and where to look, and it’s not cloudy, you literally can’t miss it.
Source Andreas Möller, Wikimedia Commons.
The ISS passes over most ground locations about twice a day. For it to be clearly visible though, you need darkness on the ground with sunlight on the ISS due to its altitude. There are a number of websites which can tell you when these visible passes occur, such as NASA’s Spot the Station. Each of the sites requires you to give your location so it can work out when visible passes will occur near you.
Visible ISS pass star chart from Heavens Above, on which familiar constellations such as the Plough (see label Ursa Major) can be seen.
A personal favourite of mine is Heavens Above. It’s slightly more fiddly to use than other sites, but it produces brilliant star charts that show you precisely where to look in the sky. This is how it works:
Mission Zero certificates will be arriving in participants’ inboxes shortly. We would like to thank everyone who participated in Mission Zero this school year, and we hope that next time you’ll take it one step further and try Mission Space Lab.
Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab are two really exciting programmes that young people of all ages can take part in. If you would like to be notified when the next round of Astro Pi opens for registrations, sign up to our mailing list here.
Recreate Snake, the favourite mobile phone game from the late nineties, using a slug*, a Raspberry Pi, a Sense HAT, and our free resource!
*A virtual slug. Not a real slug. Please leave the real slugs out in nature.
Move aside, Angry Birds! On your bike, Pokémon Go! When it comes to the cream of the crop of mobile phone games, Snake holds the top spot.
I could while away the hours…
You may still have an old Nokia 3310 lost in the depths of a drawer somewhere — the drawer that won’t open all the way because something inside is jammed at an odd angle. So it will be far easier to grab your Pi and Sense HAT, or use the free Sense HAT emulator (online or on Raspbian), and code Snake SLUG yourself. In doing so, you can introduce the smaller residents of your household to the best reptile-focused game ever made…now with added mollusc.
To try out the game for yourself, head to our resource page, where you’ll find the online Sense HAT emulator embedded and ready to roll.
It’ll look just like this, and you can use your computer’s arrow keys to direct your slug toward her tasty treats.
The Raspberry Pi Sense HAT was originally designed and made as part of the Astro Pi mission in December 2015. With an 8×8 RGB LED matrix, a joystick, and a plethora of on-board sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, it’s a great add-on for your digital making toolkit, and excellent for projects involving data collection and evaluation.
I need your help. This is a call out for those between 11- and 16-years-old in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Something has gone very, very wrong and only you can save us. I’ve collected together as much information for you as I can. You’ll find it at http://www.raspberrypi.org/pioneers.
In August we intercepted an emergency communication from a lonesome survivor. She seemed to be in quite a bit of trouble, and asked all you young people aged 11 to 16 to come up with something to help tackle the oncoming crisis, using whatever technology you had to hand. You had ten weeks to work in teams of two to five with an adult mentor to fulfil your mission.
We received your world-saving ideas, and our savvy survivor pulled together a ragtag bunch of apocalyptic experts to help us judge which ones would be the winning entries.
Dr Shini Somara is an advocate for STEM education and a mechanical engineer. She was host of The Health Show and has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, PBS Digital, and Sky. You can check out her work hosting Crash Course Physics on YouTube.
Prof Lewis Dartnell is an astrobiologist and author of the book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch.
Emma Stephenson has a background in aeronautical engineering and currently works in the Shell Foundation’s Access to Energy and Sustainable Mobility portfolio.
151 Likes, 3 Comments – Shini Somara (@drshinisomara) on Instagram: “Currently sifting through the entries with the other judges of #makeyourideas with…”
Our survivor is currently putting your entries to good use repairing, rebuilding, and defending her base. Our judges chose the following projects as outstanding examples of world-saving digital making.
This is our entry to the pioneers ‘Only you can save us’ competition. Our team name is Computatrum. Hope you enjoy!
Are you facing an unknown enemy whose only weakness is Nerf bullets? Then this is the robot for you! We loved the especially apocalyptic feel of the Computatron’s cleverly hacked and repurposed elements. The team even used an old floppy disc mechanism to help fire their bullets!
Thousands of lines of code… Many sheets of acrylic… A camera, touchscreen and fingerprint scanner… This is our entry into the Raspberry Pi Pioneers2017 ‘Only YOU can Save Us’ theme. When zombies or other survivors break into your base, you want a secure way of storing your crackers.
The Robot Apocalypse Committee is back, and this time they’ve brought cheese! The crew designed a cheese- and cracker-dispensing machine complete with face and fingerprint recognition to ensure those rations last until the next supply drop.
Hi! We are PiChasers and we entered the Raspberry Pi Pionners challenge last time when the theme was “Make it Outdoors!” but now we’ve been faced with another theme “Apocolypse”. We spent a while thinking of an original thing that would help in an apocolypse and decided upon a ‘text-only phone’ which uses local radio communication rather than cellular.
This text-based communication device encased in a tupperware container could be a lifesaver in a crisis! And luckily, the Pi Chasers produced an excellent video and amazing GitHub repo, ensuring that any and all survivors will be able to build their own in the safety of their base.
Pioneers Entry Team Name: The Three Musketeers Team Participants: James, Zach and Tom
We all know that zombies are terrible at geometry, and the Three Musketeers used this fact to their advantage when building their zombie security system. We were impressed to see the team working together to overcome the roadblocks they faced along the way.
We appreciate what you’re trying to do: Zombie Trolls
Playing piggy in the middle with zombies sure is a unique way of saving humankind from total extinction! We loved this project idea, and although the Zombie Trolls had a little trouble with their motors, we’re sure with a little more tinkering this zombie-fooling contraption could save us all.
Our judges also wanted to give a special commendation to the following teams for their equally awesome apocalypse-averting ideas:
PiRates, for their multifaceted zombie-proofing defence system and the high production value of their video
Byte them Pis, for their beautiful zombie-detecting doormat
Unatecxon, for their impressive bunker security system
Team Crompton, for their pressure-activated door system
Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a beloved maker in your life? Maybe you’d like to give a relative or friend a taste of the world of coding and Raspberry Pi? Whatever you’re looking for, the Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list will point you in the right direction.
For those getting started
Thinking about introducing someone special to the wonders of Raspberry Pi during the holidays? Although you can set up your Pi with peripherals from around your home, such as a mobile phone charger, your PC’s keyboard, and the old mouse dwelling in an office drawer, a starter kit is a nice all-in-one package for the budding coder.
If you’re looking for something for a confident digital maker, you can’t go wrong with adding to their arsenal of electric and electronic bits and bobs that are no doubt cluttering drawers and boxes throughout their house.
Components such as servomotors, displays, and sensors are staples of the maker world. And when it comes to jumper wires, buttons, and LEDs, one can never have enough.
You could also consider getting your person a soldering iron, some helpings hands, or small tools such as a Dremel or screwdriver set.
And to make their life a little less messy, pop it all inside a Really Useful Box…because they’re really useful.
For kit makers
While some people like to dive into making head-first and to build whatever comes to mind, others enjoy working with kits.
The Naturebytes kit allows you to record the animal visitors of your garden with the help of a camera and a motion sensor. Footage of your local badgers, birds, deer, and more will be saved to an SD card, or tweeted or emailed to you if it’s in range of WiFi.
Coretec’s Tiny 4WD is a kit for assembling a Pi Zero–powered remote-controlled robot at home. Not only is the robot adorable, building it also a great introduction to motors and wireless control.
Looking for something small to keep your loved ones occupied on Christmas morning? Or do you have to buy a Secret Santa gift for the office tech? Here are some wonderful stocking fillers to fill your boots with this season.
The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree: available as both a pre-soldered and a DIY version, this gadget will work with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and allows you to create your own mini light show.
Google AIY Voice kit: build your own home assistant using a Raspberry Pi, the MagPi Essentials guide, and this brand-new kit. “Google, play Mariah Carey again…”
LEGO Idea’s bought out this amazing ‘Women of NASA’ set, and I thought it would be fun to build, play and learn from these inspiring women! First up, let’s discover a little more about Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, two AWESOME ASTRONAUTS!
Treat the kids, and big kids, in your life to the newest LEGO Ideas set, the Women of NASA — starring Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison!
Explore the world of wearables with Pimoroni’s sewable, hackable, wearable, adorable Bearables kits.
With so many amazing kits, HATs, and books available from members of the Raspberry Pi community, it’s hard to only pick a few. Have you found something splendid for the maker in your life? Maybe you’ve created your own kit that uses the Raspberry Pi? Share your favourites with us in the comments below or via our social media accounts.
It’s never too early for Christmas-themed resources — especially when you want to make the most of them in your school, Code Club or CoderDojo! So here’s the ever-wonderful Laura Sach with an introduction of our newest festive projects.
In the immortal words of Noddy Holder: “it’s Christmaaaaaaasssss!” Well, maybe it isn’t quite Christmas yet, but since the shops have been playing Mariah Carey on a loop since the last pumpkin lantern hit the bargain bin, you’re hopefully well prepared.
To get you in the mood with some festive fun, we’ve put together a selection of seasonal free resources for you. Each project has a difficulty level in line with our Digital Making Curriculum, so you can check which might suit you best. Why not try them out at your local Raspberry Jam, CoderDojo, or Code Club, at school, or even on a cold day at home with a big mug of hot chocolate?
Jazzy jumpers (Creator level): as a child in the eighties, you’d always get an embarrassing and probably badly sized jazzy jumper at Christmas from some distant relative. Thank goodness the trend has gone hipster and dreadful jumpers are now cool!
This resource shows you how to build a memory game in Scratch where you must remember the colour and picture of a jazzy jumper before recreating it. How many jumpers can you successfully recall in a row?
Sense HAT advent calendar
Sense HAT advent calendar (Builder level): put the lovely lights on your Sense HAT to festive use by creating an advent calendar you can open day by day. However, there’s strictly no cheating with this calendar — we teach you how to use Python to detect the current date and prevent would-be premature peekers!
Press the Enter key to open today’s door:
(Note: no chocolate will be dispensed from your Raspberry Pi. Sorry about that.)
Code a carol
Code a carol (Developer level): Have you ever noticed how much repetition there is in carols and other songs? This resource teaches you how to break down the Twelve days of Christmas tune into its component parts and code it up in Sonic Pi the lazy way: get the computer to do all the repetition for you!
No musical knowledge required — just follow our lead, and you’ll have yourself a rocking doorbell tune in no time!
Naughty and nice
Naughty and nice (Maker level): Have you been naughty or nice? Find out by using sentiment analysis on your tweets to see what sort of things you’ve been talking about throughout the year. For added fun, why not use your program on the Twitter account of your sibling/spouse/arch nemesis and report their level of naughtiness to Santa with an @ mention?
raspberry_pi is 65.5 percent NICE, with an accuracy of 0.9046692607003891
With the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to get started on your Christmas projects! Whether you’re planning to run your Christmas lights via a phone app, install a home assistant inside an Elf on a Shelf, or work through our Christmas resources, we would like to see what you make. So do share your festive builds with us on social media, or by posting links in the comments.
We created Pip so that anyone can tinker with technology. From beginners to those who know more — Pip makes it easy, simple, and fun!
Pip’s smart design may well remind you of a certain handheld gaming console released earlier this year. With its central screen and detachable side controllers, Pip has a size and shape ideal for gaming.
Those who have used a Raspberry Pi with the Raspbian OS might be familiar with Minecraft Pi, a variant of the popular Minecraft game created specifically for Pi users to play and hack for free. Users of Pip will be able to access Minecraft Pi from the portable device and take their block-shaped creations with them wherever they go.
And if that’s not enough, Pip’s Pi brain allows coders to create their own games using Scratch, in addition to giving access a growing library of games in Curious Chip’s online arcade.
Pip’s GPIO pins are easily accessible, so that you can expand upon your digital making skills with physical computing projects. Grab your Pip and a handful of jumper leads, and you will be able to connect and control components such as lights, buttons, servomotors, and more!
Maker Pack and add-ons
Backers can also pledge their funds for additional hardware, such as the Maker Pack, an integrated camera, or a Pip Breadboard Kit.
The breadboard and the optional PipHAT are also compatible with any Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. Nice!
Curiosity from Curious Chip
Users of Pip can program their device via Curiosity, a tool designed specifically for this handheld device.
Back the project
If you’d like to back Curious Chip and bag your own Pip, you can check out their Kickstarter page here. And if you watch their promo video closely, you may see a familiar face from the Raspberry Pi community.
Are you planning on starting your own Raspberry Pi-inspired crowd-funded campaign? Then be sure to tag us on social media. We love to see what the community is creating for our little green (or sometimes blue) computer.
Tim Rowledge produces and sells wonderful replicas of the cases which our Astro Pis live in aboard the International Space Station. Here is the story of how he came to do this. Over to you, Tim!
When the Astro Pi case was first revealed a couple of years ago, the collective outpouring of ‘Squee!’ it elicited may have been heard on board the ISS itself. People wanted to buy it or build it at home, and someone wanted to know whether it would blend. (There’s always one.)
The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the original Astro Pi flight case — gorgeous, isn’t it?
Replicating the Astro Pi case
Some months later the STL files for printing your own Astro Pi case were released, and people jumped at the chance to use them. Soon reports appeared saying you had to make quite a few attempts before getting a good print — normal for any complex 3D-printing project. A fellow member of my local makerspace successfully made a couple of cases, but it took a lot of time, filament, and post-print finishing work. And of course, a plastic Astro Pi case simply doesn’t look or feel like the original made of machined aluminium — or ‘aluminum’, as they tend to say over here in North America.
A batch of tops designed by Tim
I wanted to build an Astro Pi case which would more closely match the original. Fortunately, someone else at my makerspace happens to have some serious CNC machining equipment at his small manufacturing company. Therefore, I focused on creating a case design that could be produced with his three-axis device. This meant simplifying some parts to avoid expensive, slow, complex multi-fixture work. It took us a while, but we ended up with a design we can efficiently make using his machine.
Tim’s first lasered case
And the resulting case looks really, really like the original — in fact, upon receiving one of the final prototypes, Eben commented:
“I have to say, at first glance they look spectacular: unless you hold them side by side with the originals, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s changed. I’m looking forward to seeing one built up and then seeing them in the wild.”
Inside the Astro Pi case
Making just the bare case is nice, but there are other parts required to recreate a complete Astro Pi unit. Thus I got my local electronics company to design a small HAT to provide much the same support the mezzanine board offers: an RTC and nice, clean connections to the six buttons. We also added well-labelled, grouped pads for all the other GPIO lines, along with space for an ADC. If you’re making your own Astro Pi replica, you might like the Switchboard.
The electronics supply industry just loves to offer *some* of what you need, so that one supplier never has everything: we had to obtain the required stand-offs, screws, spacers, and JST wires from assorted other sources. Jeff at my nearby Industrial Paint & Plastics took on the laser engraving of our cases, leaving out copyrighted logos etcetera.
Lasering the top of a case
Get your own Astro Pi case
Should you like to buy one of our Astro Pi case kits, pop over to www.astropicase.com, and we’ll get it on its way to you pronto. If you’re an institutional or corporate customer, the fully built option might make more sense for you — ordering the Pi and other components, and having a staff member assemble it all, may well be more work than is sensible.
Tim’s first full Astro Pi case replica, complete with shiny APEM buttons
To put the kit together yourself, all you need to do is add a Pi, Sense HAT, Camera Module, and RTC battery, and choose your buttons. An illustrated manual explains the process step by step. Our version of the Astro Pi case uses the same APEM buttons as the units in orbit, and whilst they are expensive, just clicking them is a source of great joy. It comes in a nice travel case too.
This is Tim. Thanks, Tim!
Take part in Astro Pi
If having an Astro Pi replica is not enough for you, this is your chance: the 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge is open! Do you know a teenager who might be keen to design a experiment to run on the Astro Pis in space? Are you one yourself? You have until 29 October to send us your Mission Space Lab entry and become part of the next generation of space scientists? Head over to the Astro Pi website to find out more.
Did you realise the Sense HAT has been available for over two years now? Used by astronauts on the International Space Station, the exact same hardware is available to you on Earth. With a new Astro Pi challenge just launched, it’s time for a retrospective/roundup/inspiration post about this marvellous bit of kit.
The Sense HAT on a Pi in full glory
The Sense HAT explained
We developed our scientific add-on board to be part of the Astro Pi computers we sent to the International Space Station with ESA astronaut Tim Peake. For a play-by-play of Astro Pi’s history, head to the blog archive.
Just to remind you, this is all the cool stuff our engineers have managed to fit onto the HAT:
Use the LED matrix and joystick to recreate games such as Pong or Flappy Bird. Of course, you could also add sensor input to your game: code an egg drop game or a Magic 8 Ball that reacts to how the device moves.
It’s also possible to incorporate Sense HAT data into your digital art! The Python Turtle module and the Processing language are both useful tools for creating beautiful animations based on real-world information.
A Sense HAT project that also uses this principle is Giorgio Sancristoforo’s Tableau, a ‘generative music album’. This device creates music according to the sensor data:
“There is no doubt that, as music is removed by the phonographrecord from the realm of live production and from the imperative of artistic activity and becomes petrified, it absorbs into itself, in this process of petrification, the very life that would otherwise vanish.”
Our online resource shows you how to record the information your HAT picks up. Next you can analyse and graph your data using Mathematica, which is included for free on Raspbian. This resource walks you through how this software works.
But you can also stick to terrestrial scientific investigations. For example, why not build a weather station and share its data on your own web server or via Weather Underground?
Your code in space!
If you’re a student or an educator in one of the 22 ESA member states, you can get a team together to enter our 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge. There are two missions to choose from, including Mission Zero: follow a few guidelines, and your code is guaranteed to run in space!
Astro Pi is back! Today we’re excited to announce the 2017-18 European Astro Pi challenge in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). We are searching for the next generation of space scientists.
Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.
Astro Pi is an annual science and coding competition where student-written code is run on the International Space Station under the oversight of an ESA astronaut. The challenge is open to students from all 22 ESA member countries, including — for the first time — associate members Canada and Slovenia.
The format of the competition is changing slightly this year, and we also have a brand-new non-competitive mission in which participants are guaranteed to have their code run on the ISS for 30 seconds!
Until now, students have worked on Astro Pi projects in an extra-curricular context and over multiple sessions. For teachers and students who don’t have much spare capacity, we wanted to provide an accessible activity that teams can complete in just one session.
So we came up with Mission Zero for young people no older than 14. To complete it, form a team of two to four people and use our step-by-step guide to help you write a simple Python program that shows your personal message and the ambient temperature on the Astro Pi. If you adhere to a few rules, your code is guaranteed to run in space for 30 seconds, and you’ll receive a certificate showing the exact time period during which your code has run in space. No special hardware is needed for this mission, since everything is done in a web browser.
Students aged up to 19 can take part in Mission Space Lab. Form a team of two to six people, and work like real space scientists to design your own experiment. Receive free kit to work with, and write the Python code to carry out your experiment.
There are two themes for Mission Space Lab teams to choose from for their projects:
Life in space You will make use of Astro Pi Vis (“Ed”) in the European Columbus module. You can use all of its sensors, but you cannot record images or videos.
Life on Earth You will make use of Astro Pi IR (“Izzy”), which will be aimed towards the Earth through a window. You can use all of its sensors and its camera.
The Astro Pi kit, delivered to Space Lab teams by ESA
If you achieve flight status, your code will be uploaded to the ISS and run for three hours (two orbits). All the data that your code records in space will be downloaded and returned to you for analysis. Then submit a short report on your findings to be in with a chance to win exclusive, money-can’t-buy prizes! You can also submit your project for a Bronze CREST Award.
Mission Space Lab registration is open until 29 October 2017, and accepted teams will continue to spring 2018. Find out more.
How do I get started?
There are loads of materials available that will help you begin your Astro Pi journey — check out the Getting started with the Sense HAT resource and this video explaining how to build the flight case.
If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below. We’re standing by to answer them!
Thanks to the very talented sooperdavid, creator of some of the wonderful animations known as RealLifeDoodles, Thomas Pesquet and Astro Pi Ed have been turned into one of the cutest videos on the internet.
Taking often comical video clips, those with a know-how and skill level that outweighs my own in spades add faces and emotions to inanimate objects, creating what the social media world refers to as a Real Life Doodle. From disappointed exercise balls to cannibalistic piles of leaves, these video clips are both cute and sometimes, though thankfully not always, a little heartbreaking.
Watch letmegofree GIF by sooperdave on Gfycat. Discover more reallifedoodles GIFs on Gfycat
Our own RealLifeDoodle
A few months back, when Programme Manager Dave Honess, better known to many as SpaceDave, sent me these Astro Pivideos for me to upload to YouTube, a small plan hatched in my brain. For in the midst of the video, and pointed out to me by SpaceDave – “I kind of love the way he just lets the unit drop out of shot” – was the most adorable sight as poor Ed drifted off into the great unknown of the ISS. Finding that I have this odd ability to consider many inanimate objects as ‘cute’, I wanted to see whether we could turn poor Ed into a RealLifeDoodle.
Heading to the Reddit RealLifeDoodle subreddit, I sent moderator sooperdavid a private message, asking if he’d be so kind as to bring our beloved Ed to life.
Unless you’re new to the world of the Raspberry Pi blog (in which case, welcome!), you’ll probably know about the Astro Pi Challenge. But for those who are unaware, let me break it down for you.
In 2015, two weeks before British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake journeyed to the International Space Station, two Raspberry Pis were sent up to await his arrival. Clad in 6063-grade aluminium flight cases and fitted with their own Sense HATs and cameramodules, the Astro Pis Ed and Izzy were ready to receive the winning codes from school children in the UK. The following year, this time maintained by French ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, children from every ESA member country got involved to send even more code to the ISS.
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