Friday, 29 November 2013

Another Open Day Another Display

This week instead of a parents evening we had an open day at work. Which was very busy. So busy in fact I didn't even get a chance to make use of the free beverage that we are entitled to for doing the open day. Anyway I had my Raspberry Pi's out again. This time I had two running, one with the Pi-Lite (with the same code as the parents evening but different message scrolling), and the other running the Pi Glow. I was going to write some Python to show off the Pi Glow, however after running the demo code that came with it, for my needs I couldn't improve on it, so I ran with that. You can see the setup running in the embedded Instagram clip above.

So now I am 50% there of having my own version of the PiHub demo I saw at the last Cambridge Raspberry Pi Jam (CamJam). Which was basically 3 Pi's running off the one PiHub (see below). Next one I will add to this demo will most likely be a Pi running the PiFace Control and Display. I'd like to get the case for this however at the moment it's a fiver under their limit for using a debit/credit card with them, and there is nothing else I want from them!!! What a ridiculous limit, oh well I'll make do without for now. The other Pi for my demo will most likely be the PiBrella (not yet got my hands on one hopefully at the next CamJam, but shown briefly in the clip below) or the LedBorg (which I have on my Model B revision 1 Raspberry Pi).

What I like about having Pi's set up at events like the open day or parents evening is they firstly look interesting. Secondly they are a talking point for prospective students and their families. While we are talking Pi's and what they can be used for, I'm able to talk about the projects one or two of my students are currently working on (I'm lending Pi's out at the moment in the hope we will have some interesting projects to show at the next STEM Fair at work sometime after Christmas, like a USB Robot arm controlled within Minecraft on the Pi). Sometimes the prospective student will have one at home that they have not used, and it gives them a little inspiration to go back home and try doing something with it.
Anyway I hope this post has given folks some more ideas for using Pi's at open days. I'd love to hear how you have used them.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Hour of Code Event in Sussex

Following on from my post yesterday about the Hour of Code next month came across this tweet today about one such event happening in Sussex.


Here is the full link

If you go would love to know how you got on.


Friday, 22 November 2013

An Hour of Code

Over in the US of A they have a Computer Science Education Week running from the 9th to the 15th December. Which frankly I think is a fantastic idea. Part of this week involves an activity called "An Hour of Code". As the CSED Week site describes it, an Hour of Code is:

"... a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code" and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator."

If you look on the site there are links to some tutorials that teachers/lecturers can use for their Hour of Code. If I remember correctly I think some UK teachers/lecturers are also going to participate and run sessions.

I am going to run an Hour of Code session for my Level 2 tutorial group that week. It also happens to be their final week before breaking up for the Christmas holidays (don't worry non teaching readers I will still be working right up to Christmas Eve).
I'm undecided at the moment if I will run my Hour of Code with Python or C#. My C# activity is more visual and has the students producing a little app that moves a picture box round the screen depending on which buttons they press.
Actually while typing this I may go with a Pi/Minecraft/Python activity - students love Minecraft and those sessions at Raspberry Pi Jams are always popular. The only drawback is the setting up and packing away, and at the moment I only have 5!
Right I have some thinking to do, and you now know about the Hour of Code.

Parents Evening Name Tag

This Wednesday was our parents evening. So I quickly cobbled together a 'hi tech' name tag for the table I was on (hopefully that's what you will see above (direct link).
The name tag is basically a Raspberry Pi (Model B to be specific) with a Pi-Lite being powered by a battery extender, and a glowing USB cable.
I ran the Pi 'headless' (i.e. without a monitor or keyboard). To start off the python script I had to ssh into the Pi from my Macbook Pro using an ethernet cable (DadHacker link).
The actual script I used was a modified version (read cut down to just one string) of this one from Raspberry Pi Spy.

What to say?

First posts of a blog are always hard, well for me they are.

Last week I did a talk at a local CAS (Computing at Schools) meeting on Python and KS3. I knew I was going to be doing this talk for a while (before the Summer holidays), and I had been thinking "how do I support this talk?".
The idea of a blog quickly came to mind, and the name manic coding followed very quickly after. It kind of reminded me of my old retro games I enjoyed playing, such as Manic Miner and Jetpac. But also I thought it caught the mood of programming in education at the moment.
With the change of direction within the curriculum, moving from ICT to computing, there seems to be an air of panic. Due mainly to the Government not putting in any training budget to bridge the skills/knowledge gap, and expecting teachers to somehow get the knowledge and expertise required.
Luckily there is a great community out there on the CAS website, where sharing resources, constructive and informative discussion are the norm.

So here we are with the first post of Manic Coding.

NEWS: Wolfram Alpha comes to the Pi
Yesterday Wolfram Alpha announced to the world that in future releases of Raspbian the official Linux distro for the Raspberry Pi will now include a version of their Wolfram Language and Mathematica software.
As they point out in the post announcing this, the only other time that there software was bundled with a machine was the Next Cube from Next, which later got bought out by Apple and provided the basis for OS X. I wonder what did happen to the CEO of Next? (Yes I know it was Steve Jobs)

Wolfram Post Announcing Now on Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi Site Announce Wolfram Language and Mathematica on Pi, also includes how to get hold of it now.

What is exciting for me about this announcement is the fact that the Wolfram Language also supports physical computing via the GPIO (there is an example in the Wolfram link).
I've not used either the language or Mathematica, but I will be playing with it over the next few months (I'm sure I will write something about it on here).
I do like the potential that this gives for making some interesting lessons, and opening up the Pi for use in other subjects other than computing.

With Java (or the official Oracle port now part of Raspbian) the Raspberry Pi is becoming a nice little machine for those with a small budget to learn to program. For me the big advantage of the Raspberry Pi over using a PC/Mac/Linux computer is the cost and how easy it makes physical computing and connecting devices. It's being able to light up LED's, use a sensor, or control a robot that brings life to  the subject and gets children hooked.

See ya in the next post...

PS I think I'm down for doing a second talk in January on the Raspberry Pi and the devices that you can attach to it. I'm not sure how this will work yet. But an idea is formulating in my head as I type this up. I want it to be very hands on this time.