Thursday, 27 February 2014

My Next Practical Session - Minecraft on the Pi

So the morning programming session at the upcoming Peterborough Raspberry Jam will be the Minecraft session. Which is the one I am down for running. Once the session has run I'll put up any handouts etc on here.

Although this session will be a hands on beginners session, I'd like this to be the first in a series of sessions that build on this one. Might run these at jams and CAS meetings. That's the grand plan. But will have to see how this first one goes.

You can find the links to the eventbrite pages to get a free ticket to the Peterborough Raspberry Jam in my previous post here.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Some links to interesting resources

Ok a "lazy" post of curated links.

Pair Programming

There still doesn't seem to be as much buzz at the moment for the UK version of An Hour of Code as the original US one. I'm not sure why. However I was looking at the site and came across this link on there to information on Pair Programming. On the UK Hour of Code site they suggest using it in the following situation:

  • "Don't have enough devices? Use pair programming. When students partner up, they help each other and rely less on the teacher. They’ll also see that computer science is social and collaborative."

However as Alan O'Donohoe will tell you (and mentions usually in his podcast) pair programming is of use even when you do have enough devices (that's computers to you and me) for learning programming. So if you haven't given pair programming a go! I hope after reading the information linked to you will feel inspired to give it a go.

Raspberry Pi, USB 360 Controller and a USB Robotic Arm

At the CAS meeting earlier this month I was having a conversation about how a couple of students of mine last year (back then year 1 level 3's) were thrown in the deep end with a project. They were basically given a USB Robotic Arm (got mine from Maplin - usually about £40 but often a lot cheaper because they do get put on promotion reducing the price), a Raspberry Pi and a USB XBox360 game controller and told try and get these working together. The two students hadn't seen a Pi before, and not used Linux, didn't know Python. Yet over a period of three weeks, coming in on a Friday (a day they were not required to be in college) they got it working. The two students found tutorials on the web to help them. Which at the time happened to be the ones I had also found. And there is my secret. I had already before giving the students the challenge researched how to do it, to make sure it was possible, and also to make sure there was the information out there to help them. I didn't want to give them an impossible project, just a challenging one.

Anyway there is a point to this not so short story, I was asked for the links to the information. My response I said I would put them on here to share. So here are the two links:

Matt Dyson robot arm article

PyUSB for the Raspberry Pi

After finishing the project the students then got to show it off at our STEM Fair, and I have used it at open days since. The two students can be proud of what they achieved, I am.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Requests Welcome

One thing I want for this blog is for it to be useful for the readers of it. Which means I'd love requests/ideas/suggestions on what people would like to see posts on.
I have idea for posts, based around stuff that interests me that I think will be useful to others.
But I appreciate they may not be of use to everyone, and people may want me to cover specific subjects, or go into more depth, provide examples in different languages etc.
Well today I've come across a great collaborative tool called Hack Pad that allows people to set up workspaces/documents that can be worked on by groups of people. So I've set up a document on there to collect requests/ideas/suggestions. I've embedded it into this post below.
What I like about this tool is that I can link it to Dropbox and have it sync my hack pads to that automatically. Which means I don't have to worry about how to get all my data out of the service, so I'm not just building up data in a silo that I can't move out (one of the reasons I don't use Storify - no data export and the pdf export is business only, no education support).
I know I could of set up a Google doc/form for this too. Anyway please make a suggestion in the hack pad I've setup I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions and making this blog more relevant for you.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tuneful Pibrella

Continuing on from yesterdays post I promised to put up a possible solution to the challenge from the buzzer activity, which was to play a tune using the piezo speaker on the Pibrella board for the Raspberry Pi.

I do apologise for the fact that all my code does is play a scale, however in my defence I do not have a musical bone in my body.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Python,Pibrella and the Raspberry Pi CAS Talk 12th Feb 2014

This evening I did a talk entitled "Python, Pibrella and the Raspberry Pi" at my local CAS group (West Norfolk and Fens).
The talk started off with a quick overview of the GPIO, how to tell which revision Pi you are using. The anatomy of a Python program that uses the GPIO. It was then onto a quick tour of the Pibrella and what it offered the teacher in the classroom. The talk closed with some quick announcements about some up coming events I thought were of interest and a promotion for this blog!
It was then on to the hands on part of the session and people playing with the Pibrella on the Raspberry Pi.
Before the talk I had prepared some activity sheets each concentrating on one of the features of the Pibrella. The sheets are very basic in information they contain, and give a commented Python program for the person doing the activity to type in. After that activity has been completed people are then directed to complete one of the other activity sheets or to try a challenge.
These activity sheets especially the challenges do require some previous experience of programming in Python. And are deliberate in being a lot more challenging.

I also had a mini display of some other boards for the Pi there as well, such as the Piglow, PiLite, LEDBorg with the XLOBorg on a TriBorg!, and a PiFace Controll and Display.

I do get a bit insecure after giving these sort of talks. I keep wondering if people found them useful, did I meet expectations? was it pitched too high? or was it not detailed enough?
I love doing these sort of sessions, I love sharing ideas etc. And doing these CAS sessions fits in with my kind of hippy ideals. I like to help, I don't want anything in return, I'm not doing it for self promotion. I just want to contribute to the good of mankind! And I am hoping that was achieved this evening.

With that in mind here are the ...

Resources from talk

Please feel free to download and re-use and edit to your hearts content to meet your own needs.

The slides (powerpoint format) for the talk can be found here (this is a shared link to a file on Google Drive).
The LED activity sheet can be found here.
The Buzzer activity sheet can be found here.
The Switch activity sheet can be found here.
And sheet of some ideas for student projects can be found here.
And it's the same again for the four documents above, the are word documents (docx) and a shared link to the file on Google Drive.

Some thank you's

A big thanks to Michael Horne who runs the excellent Raspberry PiPod blog and CamJam (along with Geeky_Tim) for the loan of the Pibrella's for the session tonight. A big thanks also to Pimoroni and Cyntech for agreeing to the load also, and for getting back to me speedily with some last minute questions I had.

The next blog post will be the code for the challenge on the Buzzer activity sheet, which is to play a tune using the buzzer on the Pibrella.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

CamJam 8th Feb 2014

It's Saturday I'm writing this post during the 5th CamJam. So expect updates through out the day on this page as I live update it!!! This will be a brain dump as the day goes on.
Really liked the leaflet that Code Club left in the lecture theatre (I've turned both sides into a single image). Just a shame this wasn't a sticker! I'd love the top image as a sticker.
First session was Minecraft on the Pi with Craig Richardson. The picture below shows a rare moment when Minecraft locked the Pi!!!!
The talk was out of sequence due to the first speaker being locationally challenged (ie lost!!).
Craig's talk is a great quick intro to programming Minecraft on the Pi in python.
In the Mobile power for the Pi, and Packaging WiringPi for Raspbian talk by Hamish Cunningham. An interesting talk about the MoPi so far. There is a kickstarter page for this, will have to have a look at that.
Here is a closer look at the MoPi from earlier. You can see it in the flesh in the show and tell area.
The build a package bit was a bit of a let down, more of look it up on the net. So basically a promo for his kickstarter. Bit disappointing.
Here's a pick of some of the battery packs on his show and tell stand that he's done to demonstrate the MoPi

Let's look at some of the show and tell stuff being shown at this CamJam.
So as the photos show there was a Pi controlled sailboat.
One school kid was walking round with this that he had made:
A portable Pi - pretty cool.
A teenager was show/demonstrating the internet of things with the Pi, twitter and a Wii remote.
Let's look at the new companies selling stuff at CamJam. There were one or two new companies showing stuff this time.
Phenoptix they had lots of LED stuff and small screens.
Piborg where there showing this monster, which they were then driving with a PS3 controller.
Plus they had these little kits there too
Dawn Robotics were selling robotic stuff and interesting boards.
Next to the Pimoroni Cyntech stand was a basic electronics kit being sold. The two projects were a traffic lights project and a motion sensor.
Second session I attended was the Create a chat client between two Raspberry Pis. Interesting session rung by Whaleygeek. This was a very useful lesson for teachers. Dave did a great visual example of how a network works, and to make sure folks were listening had a game of "buzzword" bingo. He had already done a python module to handle the networking low level stuff, so had people just typing in a short python program that either acted as a server or client. I liked the demonstration and the "buzzword" bingo something for class I think.
Today's stash:
A Raspberry Pi coaster, couple of 8MB SD cards with Noobs on, XLoborg, a pan and tilt, and a berryclip.
CamJam The 2014 plan
The next CamJam is the 10th May. Once more there will be morning programming sessions. Then in the afternoon venders, hack tables in foyer and meeting room. While the lecture theatre will have an education focus in it's talks. There will also be programming and bread boarding workshops.
Then on 5th July it will be a "normal" jam (their quotes not mine). Followed by a CamJam on the 6th September that will have a robotics theme with robotic workshops, hack tables etc. and mnormal presentations in the lecture theatre.
The big idea and very exciting for December is Pi Wars, robots competing to complete various tasks, like navigate mazes, follow lines, navigate round objects. Robots will have to be Pi based, have an upper spend limit. The idea is to use jams to help people build skills leading up to this event.
Now for the education readers of this blog this would be a great opportunity for students to build and enter the competition.
I think this would be a very exciting project for students to do, either as part of course work, or in an after school club.
The final talk for me today is the build a robot by Dawn Robotics. Which has some great advice. I do hope this session is being videod. Which reminds me I need to watch the AirPi talk as that was on while I was in another session. But back to this robotic talk, a great one to play students as a quick intro for building their robot with things for them to consider.
Sorry got it wrong, just sat through a NodeRED on the Pi talk, the scratch of the internet of things world. Semi interesting, I can see a use of this in the classroom.
The real final talk for me is one on network monitoring on the Pi.
Trying to get a laptop working with the projector for the network monitoring talk.
So the two network geeks put together a system for monitoring networks using Pi's, open source tools, and some shell scripting. An interesting talk, a good practical case study of a use of the Pi.
Overall another great CamJam, some ideas to take home, a great plan for future jams leading to a great event at Christmas.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Peterborough Raspberry Jam

On 15th March there will be a Raspberry Jam held in Peterborough at the UCP building on the Peterborough Regional College site.

There will be a morning session running from 10:30 to midday. There are two possible sessions, a Minecraft and python one, or a Scratch and pico board one. Only one of these sessions will be running! Which will be the most popular one! The other one will then be run at the next jam.

I'm running the Minecraft python session possibly, if it is the popular one.

The afternoon session will run from midday until 4pm. And will be the usual jam fare of short talks, stands flogging stuff, show and tell, and general Pi goodness.

You can book tickets for the afternoon here on Eventbrite.

Tickets for the morning session can be booked here on Eventbrite.