Instaclock | The Magpi 92

Designed to celebrate a new home, Instaclock uses two Raspberry Pi computers to great visual effect. Rosie Hattersley introduces maker Riccardo Cereser’s eyecatching build in issue #92 of The MagPi, out now.

There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind! Copenhagen-based illustrator and UX designer Riccardo Cereser was about to move into a new apartment with his girlfriend, and was determined his new home would have a unique timepiece. Instaclock is the result.

Having studied at the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design, Italian-born Riccardo was keen that his new apartment would include an object that reflected his skills. He began sketching out ideas in Photoshop, starting with the idea of images representing numbers. “A hand showing fingers; a bicycle wheel resembling the number 0; candles on a cake; or the countdown numbers that appear in the beginning of a recording…” he suggests.

Having decided the idea could be used for an interactive clock, he quickly worked out how such an image-based concept might work displaying the hour, minutes, and seconds on displays in three wooden boxes.

Next, he set off around Copenhagen. “I started taking photos of anything that could resemble a number, aiming to create sets of ten pictures each based on a specific theme,” he recalls. “I then thought how awesome it would be to be able to switch the theme and create new sets on the go, potentially by using Instagram.”

This, Riccardo explains, is how the project became known as Instaclock. He was able to visualise his plan using Photoshop and made a prototype for his idea. It was clear that there was no need to display seconds, for example. Minute-by-minute updates would be fine.

Getting animated

Next up was figuring out how to call up and refresh the images displayed. Riccardo had some experience of using Raspberry Pi, and had even made a RetroPie games console. He also had a friend on the interactive design course who might just be able to help

Creative coder Andreas Refsgaard soon got involved, and was quickly able to come up with a Processing sketch for Instaclock.

Having spent dozens of hours looking into how an API might be used to pull in specific images for his clock, Riccardo was grateful that Andreas immediately grasped how it could be done. Riccardo then set parameters in cron for each Raspberry Pi used, so the Instaclock loaded images at startup and moved on to the next image set every ten seconds.

Because Riccardo wanted Instaclock to be as user-friendly as possible, they also added a rule that shuts a screen down if the button on top of it is pressed for ten seconds or more. The script was one he got from The MagPi.

Assembly time

One of the most fun aspects of this project was the opportunity to photograph, draw, or source online images that represent numerals. It was also the most time-consuming, of course. Images reside in Dropbox folders, so can be accessed from anywhere. Deciding on a suitable set of screens to display them, and boxes or frames for them, could also have dragged on but for an impromptu visit to Ikea. Riccardo fortuitously found that the Waveshare screens he selected would fit neatly into the store’s Dragan file organiser boxes. He was then able to laser-cut protective overlays secured with tiny magnets.

Read The MagPi for free!

Find more fantastic projects, tutorials, and reviews in The MagPi #92, out now! You can get The MagPi #92 online at our store, or in print from all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.

Don’t forget our super subscription offers, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months.

And, as with all our Raspberry Pi Press publications, you can download the free PDF from our website.

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How the Raspberry Pi Foundation is responding to the novel coronavirus (part 2)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted a blog about how the Raspberry Pi Foundation was responding to the novel coronavirus, and I thought it would be useful to share an update. Writing this has helped me reflect on just how much has changed in such a short space of time.

Getting used to life in the lockdown

Like most of the world, we’ve been getting used to life in the lockdown. As an organisation, we’re very lucky that the vast majority of our work can be done remotely. We’ve moved all of our meetings and lots of events online. Yesterday, we held the first-ever Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium as an online event, bringing together 250 researchers and practitioners to learn from each other.

Many of us have been figuring out how to combine working at home with additional daily caring responsibilities and homeschooling. Honestly, it’s a work in progress (in my house at least). We’ve introduced new flexible working policies, we’re working doubly hard to stay connected to each other, and we’re introducing initiatives to support well-being.

I am so grateful and frankly proud of the way that the Raspberry Pi team and all of our partners have responded to the crisis: taking care of each other, supporting the community, and focusing on how we can make the biggest positive contribution and impact.

Our mission has never been more vital

Our educational mission has never been more vital. Right now, over 1.5 billion young people aren’t able to access learning through schools or clubs due to the restrictions needed to stop the spread of the virus. Teachers and parents are doing their best to provide meaningful learning experiences at home and online. We have a responsibility and the ability to help.

We are taking four immediate actions to help millions of young people to learn at home during the crisis:

  1. Delivering direct-to-student learning experiences
  2. Supporting teachers to deliver remote lessons
  3. Helping volunteers run virtual and online coding clubs
  4. Getting computers into the hands of children who don’t have one at home

Digital Making at Home

Based on feedback from the community, we’ve launched a series of direct-to-student virtual and online learning experiences called Digital Making at Home. The idea is to inspire and support young people aged 7–17 who are learning at home, independently or with their parents, carers, or siblings. Taking our amazing library of free project resources (which are translated into up to 29 languages) as the starting point, we’re producing instructional videos that support different levels of skills. Each week we’re setting a theme that will inspire and engage young people to learn how to solve problems and express themselves creatively with technology.

Please check it out and let us have your feedback. We’ve got loads of ideas, but we really want to respond to what you need, so let us know.

Supporting teachers to deliver remote lessons

We are working with partners in England (initially) to support teachers to deliver remote lessons on Computing and Computer Science. This work is part of the National Centre for Computing Education. We are adapting the teaching resources that we have developed so that they can be used by teachers who are delivering lessons and setting work remotely. We are designing a programme of online events to support learners using the Isaac Computer Science platform for post-16 students of Computer Science, including small-group mentoring support for both students and teachers.

All of our teaching and learning resources are available for free for anyone to use anywhere in the world. We are interested in working with partners outside England to find additional ways to make them as useful as possible to the widest possible audience.

Helping volunteers run virtual and online coding clubs

We support the world’s largest network of free coding clubs, with over 10,000 Code Clubs and CoderDojos reaching more than 250,000 young people on a regular basis. We are supporting the clubs that are unable to meet in person during the pandemic to move to virtual and online approaches, and we’ve been blown away by the sheer number of volunteers who want to keep their clubs meeting despite the lockdown.

We’re providing training and support to CoderDojo champions, Code Club organisers, educators, and volunteers, including providing free resources, support with handling issues such as safeguarding, and effective design and delivery of online learning experiences. We are also working with our network of 40 international partners to help them support the clubs in their regions.

Access to hardware

We know that a significant proportion of young people don’t have access to a computer for learning at home, and we’re working with incredibly generous donors and fantastic partners in the UK to get Raspberry Pi Desktop Kits distributed for free to children who need them. We’re also in discussions about extending the programme outside the UK.

Get involved

Everything we do is made possible thanks to an incredible network of partners and supporters. We have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by offers of help since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Here are some of the ways that you can get involved right now:

  • Share what we’re doing. We need as many people as possible to know that we are offering free, meaningful learning experiences for millions of young people. Please help us spread the word. Why not start by sharing this blog with your networks or inside your company?
  • Share your expertise and time. We regularly mobilise tens of thousands of volunteers all over the world to run computing clubs and other activities for young people. We are supporting clubs to continue to run virtually and online. We also need more help with translation of our learning resources. If you have expertise and time to share, get in touch at supporters@raspberrypi.org.
  • Support us with funding. Now more than ever, we need financial support to enable us to continue to deliver meaningful educational experiences for millions of young people at home. You can donate to support our work here.

Stay safe and take care of each other

Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. Please follow the local public health guidance. Stay safe and take care of each other.

Philip Colligan

CEO Raspberry Pi Foundation

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El Carrillon | The MagPi 92

Most Raspberry Pi projects we feature debut privately and with little fanfare – at least until they’re shared by us.

The El Carrillon project, however, could hardly have made a more public entrance. In September 2019 it was a focal point of Argentina’s 49th annual Fiesta Nacional de la Flor (National Flower Festival), where its newly overhauled bell tower proudly rang out a brand-new, Raspberry Pi-enabled tune.

Many years ago, festival organisers created custom hardware with a PIC (programmable interface) microcontroller to control 18 tuned bells. Each bell is associated with a musical note, from A3 to D5 with all the semitones. Until its long overdue update, the tower’s 18 bells had rung the tune to Ayer, also known as Yesterday by The Beatles. They now have a brand-new repertoire of MIDI-based tunes, including the theme from Star Wars.

For Gerardo Richarte, the originator of the project, there was a little extra pressure: his dad is on the board of the NGO that organises Fiesta Nacional de la Flor, and challenged his son to come up with a way to update the bells so different songs could be played.

Ringing the changes

With the challenge accepted, Mariano Martinez Peck explains, “We chose Raspberry Pi because it was inexpensive, yet powerful enough to run Linux, Python, and VA Smalltalk. We could find ready-made HATs that actually matched the pinout of the existing flat cables without much hacking, and only a minimal amount of other hardware was needed. In addition, there was plenty of documentation, materials, tutorials, and GPIO libraries available.”

The bells had a pre-existing driver module

The project aim was to be able to run a mobile-friendly website within Raspberry Pi Zero that allowed control, configuration, and playback of MIDI songs on the bell tower. “In addition, we wanted to allow live playing from a MIDI keyboard,” says Mariano. The project developed as a live test and iteration update, but the final build only came together when Mariano and Gerardo’s moment in the spotlight arrived and El Carrillon rang out the first new tunes.

Coding a classic

The decades-old chimes were controlled by assembly code. This was superseded by Python when the team made the switch to Raspberry Pi Zero. Mariano explains, “Raspberry Pi allowed us to use Python to directly interface with both the old and new hardware and get the initial project working.”

However, the Python code was itself replaced by object-oriented VA Smalltalk code – an environment both Mariano and Gerardo are adept at using. Mariano says, “Smalltalk’s live programming environment works really well for fast, iterative development and makes software updates quick and easy without the need for recompilation that lower-level languages [such as assembly or C/C++] would need.”

El Carrillon’s bells can now play any MIDI file on Raspberry Pi, and the notes of the song will be mapped to the tuned bells. However, as the testing process revealed, some songs are more recognisable than others when reproduced on chimes.

A final feature enabled Gerardo to bag some brownie points with his father-in-law. He recently added a web interface for controlling, configuring, and playing songs, meaning the bells can now be controlled remotely and the song selected via a smartphone app.

The El Carrillon bell tower forms a striking backdrop to the flower festival and other cultural events

Read The MagPi for free!

Find more amazing projects and tutorials in The MagPi #92, out now! You can get The MagPi #92 online at our store, or in print from all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.

Don’t forget our fantastic subscription offers, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months.

And, as with all our Raspberry Pi Press publications, you can download the free PDF from our website.

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Code Hyper Sports’ shooting minigame | Wireframe #35

Gun down the clay pigeons in our re-creation of a classic minigame from Konami’s Hyper Sports. Take it away, Mark Vanstone

Hyper Sports

Hyper Sports’ Japanese release was tied in with the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Hyper Sports

Konami’s sequel to its 1983 arcade hit, Track & Field, Hyper Sports offered seven games – or events – in which up to four players could participate. Skeet shooting was perhaps the most memorable game in the collection, and required just two buttons: fire left and fire right.

The display showed two target sights, and each moved up and down to come into line with the next clay disc’s trajectory. When the disc was inside the red target square, the player pressed the fire button, and if their timing was correct, the clay disc exploded. Points were awarded for being on target, and every now and then, a parrot flew across the screen, which could be gunned down for a bonus.

Making our game

To make a skeet shooting game with Pygame Zero, we need a few graphical elements. First, a static background of hills and grass, with two clay disc throwers each side of the screen, and a semicircle where our shooter stands – this can be displayed first, every time our draw() function is called.

We can then draw our shooter (created as an Actor) in the centre near the bottom of the screen. The shooter has three images: one central while no keys are pressed, and two for the directions left and right when the player presses the left or right keys. We also need to have two square target sights to the left and right above the shooter, which we can create as Actors.

When the clay targets appear, the player uses the left and right buttons to shoot either the left or right target respectively.

To make the clay targets, we create an array to hold disc Actor objects. In our update() function we can trigger the creation of a new disc based on a random number, and once created, start an animation to move it across the screen in front of the shooter. We can add a shadow to the discs by tracking a path diagonally across the screen so that the shadow appears at the correct Y coordinate regardless of the disc’s height – this is a simple way of giving our game the illusion of depth. While we’re in the update() function, looping around our disc object list, we can calculate the distance of the disc to the nearest target sight frame, and from that, work out which is the closest.

When we’ve calculated which disc is closest to the right-hand sight, we want to move the sight towards the disc so that their paths intersect. All we need to do is take the difference of the Y coordinates, divide by two, and apply that offset to the target sight. We also do the same for the left-hand sight. If the correct key (left or right arrows) is pressed at the moment a disc crosses the path of the sight frame, we register a hit and cycle the disc through a sequence of exploding frames. We can keep a score and display this with an overlay graphic so that the player knows how well they’ve done.

And that’s it! You may want to add multiple players and perhaps a parrot bonus, but we’ll leave that up to you.

Here’s Mark’s code snippet, which creates a simple shooting game in Python. To get it working on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero. And to download the full code and assets, go here.

Get your copy of Wireframe issue 35

You can read more features like this one in Wireframe issue 35, available now at Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from Raspberry Pi Press — delivery is available worldwide. And if you’d like a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download issue 35 for free in PDF format.

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusive offers and giveaways. Subscribe on the Wireframe website to save up to 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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Digital Making at Home: Making games

When you’re part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation community, you’re a part of a global family of young creators who bring things to life with the power of digital making. We imagine that, given the current changes we’re all navigating, there are probably more of you who are interested in creating new and exciting things at home. And we want to help you! One of the best things we can do right now is to tap into what connects us as a community, and that’s digital making. So, welcome to Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation!

Welcome to Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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 Raspbe…

What is Digital Making at Home?

Whether you wrote your first line of code years ago or minutes ago, or you’ve yet to get started, with Digital Making at Home we’re inviting you on a digital making adventure each week.

Digital Making at Home from the Raspberry Pi Foundation V1

At the start of each week, we will share a theme that’s designed to jumpstart your journey of creative expression and problem solving where you create a digital making project you’re proud of. Every week, we’ll have code-along videos led by people from our team. They will walk you through projects from our free projects collection, to give you a place to start and a friendly face to accompany you!

a girl using Scratch on a laptop at home

For those of you whose mother language isn’t English, our free project guides are available in up to 30 languages so far.

Share your digital making project with us!

Each week, when you’ve made something you love using digital making, you can share it us! Just make sure you have your parent’s or guardian’s permissions first. Then share your project by filling out this form. You might find one of your projects featured in a future blog post for the whole community to see, but no matter what, we want to see what you created!

Just because we’re all at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t create together, so let’s kick off Digital Making at Home with this week’s theme:

This week, we’re making games

Playing a game is a fun way to pass the time, but why not take it to the next level and make your own game? This week, we invite you to create a game that you can play with your friends and family!

Let your imagination run free, and if you’re not sure where to start, here are three code-along videos to help you.

Beginner level

If you’re new to coding, we want to introduce you to Scratch, a block-based coding language that is perfect to start with.

Try out Archery, led by Mr C and his sidekick Xavier:

Digital Making at Home – [Archery] (beginner)

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 Raspbe…

Go to the free Archery project guide (available in 30 languages).

Intermediate level

If you’re looking to go beyond the Scratch surface, dive a little deeper into the coding language with.

Try out CATS!, led by Christina:

Digital Making at Home – [Cats] (intermediate)

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 Raspbe…

Go to the free CATS! project guide (available in 30 languages).

Advanced level

If you’re all Scratched out, move on to Python, a text-based coding language, to take things up a notch.

Try out Turtle Race, led by Marc:

Digital Making at Home – [Turtle Race] (advanced)

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 Raspbe…

Go to the free Turtle Race project guide (available in 30 languages).

More inspiration for making games

If you’re creating a game in Scratch, check out the extra videos from Mr C in the ‘Digital Making at Home: Making games’ playlist. These will show you how to add a timer, or a score, or a game over message, or a cool starter screen to any Scratch game!

A girl with her Scratch project

And if you’re into Python coding and hungry for more creative inspiration, we’ve got you covered. Our own Wireframe magazine, which you can download for free, has a ton of resources about making games. The magazine’s Source Code series shows you how to recreate an aspect of a classic game with a snippet of Python code, and you can read articles from that series on the Raspberry Pi blog. And if that’s still not enough, take a look at our Code the Classics book, which you can also download for free!

Alright friends, you’ve got all you need, so let’s get digital making!

Share your feedback

We’d love to know what you think of Digital Making at Home, so that we can make it better for you! Let us know your thoughts by filling in this form.

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FluSense takes on COVID-19 with Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi devices are often used by scientists, especially in biology to capture and analyse data, and a particularly striking – and sobering – project has made the news this week. Researchers at UMass Amherst have created FluSense, a dictionary-sized piece of equipment comprising a cheap microphone array, a thermal sensor, an Intel Movidius 2 neural computing engine, and a Raspberry Pi. FluSense monitors crowd sounds to forecast outbreaks of viral respiratory disease like seasonal flu; naturally, the headlines about their work have focused on its potential relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A photo of Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device alongside a logo from the Amherst University of Massachusetts

Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device. Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The device can distinguish coughing from other sounds. When cough data is combined with information about the size of the crowd in a location, it can provide an index predicting how many people are likely to be experiencing flu symptoms.

It was successfully tested in in four health clinic waiting rooms, and now, PhD student Forsad Al Hossain and his adviser, assistant professor Tauhidur Rahman, plan to roll FluSense out in other large spaces to capture data on a larger scale and strengthen the device’s capabilities. Privacy concerns are mitigated by heavy encryption, and Al Hossain and Rahman explain that the emphasis is on aggregating data, not identifying sickness in any single patient.

The researchers believe the secret to FluSense’s success lies in how much of the processing work is done locally, via the neural computing engine and Raspberry Pi: “Symptom information is sent wirelessly to the lab for collation, of course, but the heavy lifting is accomplished at the edge.”

A bird's-eye view of the components inside the Flu Sense device

Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

FluSense offers a different set of advantages to other tools, such as the extremely popular self-reporting app developed by researchers at Kings College Hospital in London, UK, together with startup Zoe. Approaches like this rely on the public to sign up, and that’s likely to skew the data they gather, because people in some demographic groups are more likely than others to be motivated and able to participate. FluSense can be installed to capture data passively from groups across the entire population. This could be particularly helpful to underprivileged groups who are less likely to have access to healthcare.

Makers, engineers, and scientists across the world are rising to the challenge of tackling COVID-19. One notable initiative is the Montreal General Hospital Foundation’s challenge to quickly design a low-cost, easy to use ventilator which can be built locally to serve patients, with a prize of CAD $200,000 on offer. The winning designs will be made available to download for free.

There is, of course, loads of chatter on the Raspberry Pi forum about the role computing has in beating the virus. We particularly liked this PSA letting you know how to free up some of your unused processing power for those researching treatments.

screenshot of the hand washer being built from a video on instagram

Screenshot via @deeplocal on Instagram

And to end on a cheering note, we *heart* this project from @deeplocal on Instagram. They’ve created a Raspberry Pi-powered soap dispenser which will play 20 seconds of your favourite song to keep you at the sink and make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough to properly protect yourself.

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Using Raspberry Pi for deeper learning in education

Using deeper learning as a framework for transformative educational experiences, Brent Richardson outlines the case for a pedagogical approach that challenges students using a Raspberry Pi. From the latest issue of Hello World magazine — out today!

A benefit of completing school and entering the workforce is being able to kiss standardised tests goodbye. That is, if you don’t count those occasional ‘prove you watched the webinar’ quizzes some supervisors require.

In the real world, assessments often happen on the fly and are based on each employee’s ability to successfully complete tasks and solve problems. It is often obvious to an employer when their staff members are unprepared.

Formal education continues to focus on accountability tools that measure base-level proficiencies instead of more complex skills like problem-solving and communication.

One of the main reasons the U.S. education system is criticised for its reliance on standardised tests is that this method of assessing a student’s comprehension of a subject can hinder their ability to transfer knowledge from an existing situation to a new situation. The effect leaves students ill-prepared for higher education and the workforce.

A study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found a significant gap between how students felt about their abilities and their employer’s observations. In seven out of eight categories, students rated their skills much higher than their prospective employers had.

Some people believe that this gap continues to widen because teaching within the confines of a standardised test encourages teachers to narrow their instruction. The focus becomes preparing students with a limited scope of learning that is beneficial for testing.

With this approach to learning, it is possible that students can excel at test-taking and still struggle with applying knowledge in new ways. Educators need to have the support to not only prepare students for tests but also to develop ways that will help their students connect to the material in a meaningful manner.

In an effort to boost the U.S. education system’s ability to increase the knowledge and skills of students, many private corporations and nonprofits directly support public education. In 2010, the Hewlett Foundation went so far as to develop a framework called ‘deeper learning’ to help guide its education partners in preparing learners for success.

The principles of deeper learning

Deeper learning focuses on six key competencies:

    1. Master core academic content
    2. Think critically and solve
      complex problems
    3. Work collaboratively
    4. Communicate effectively
    5. Learn how to learn
    6. Develop academic mindsets

This framework ensures that learners are active participants in their education. Students are immersed in a challenging curriculum that requires them to seek out and acquire new information, apply what they have learned, and build upon that to create new knowledge.

While deeper learning experiences are important for all students, research shows that schools that engage students from low-income families and students of colour in deeper learning have stronger academic outcomes, better attendance and behaviour, and lower dropout rates. This results in higher graduation rates, and higher rates
of college attendance and perseverance than comparison schools serving similar students. This pedagogical approach is one we strive to embed in all our work at Fab Lab Houston.

A deeper learning timelapse project

The importance of deeper learning was undeniable when a group of students I worked with in Houston built a solar-powered time-lapse camera. Through this collaborative project, we quickly found ourselves moving beyond classroom pedagogy to a ‘hero’s journey’ — where students’ learning paths echo a centuries-old narrative arc in which a protagonist goes on an adventure, makes new friends, encounters roadblocks, overcomes adversity, and returns home a changed person.

In this spirit, we challenged the students with a simple objective: ‘Make a device to document the construction of Fab Lab Houston’. In just one sentence, participants understood enough to know where the finish line was without being told exactly how to get there. This shift in approach pushed students to ask questions as they attempted to understand constraints and potential approaches.

Students shared ideas ranging from drone video to photography robots. Together everyone began to break down these big ideas into smaller parts and better define the project we would tackle together. To my surprise, even the students that typically refused to do most things were excited to poke holes in unrealistic ideas. It was decided, among other things, that drones would be too expensive, robots might not be waterproof, and time was always a concern.

The decision was made to move forward with the stationary time-lapse camera, because although the students didn’t know how to accomplish all the aspects of the project, they could at least understand the project enough to break it down into doable parts and develop a ballpark budget. Students formed three teams and picked one aspect of the project to tackle. The three subgroups focused on taking photos and converting them to video, developing a remote power solution, and building weatherproof housing.

A group of students found sample code for Raspberry Pi that could be repurposed to take photos and store them sequentially on a USB drive. After quick success, a few ambitious learners started working to automate the image post-processing into video. Eventually, after attempting multiple ways to program the computer to dynamically turn images into video, one team member discovered a new approach: since the photos were stored with a sequential numbering system, thousands of photos could be loaded into Adobe Premiere Pro straight off the USB with the ‘Automate to Sequence’ tool in Premiere.

A great deal of time was spent measuring power consumption and calculating solar panel and battery size. Since the project would be placed on a pole in the middle of a construction site for six months, the students were challenged with making their solar-powered time-lapse camera as efficient as possible.

Waking the device after it was put into sleep mode proved to be more difficult than anticipated, so a hardware solution was tested. The Raspberry Pi computer was programmed to boot up when receiving power, take a picture, and then shut itself down. With the Raspberry Pi safely shut down, a timer relay cut power for ten minutes before returning power and starting the cycle again.

Finally, a waterproof container had to be built to house the electronics and battery. To avoid overcomplicating the process, the group sourced a plastic weatherproof ammunition storage box to modify. Students operated a 3D printer to create custom parts for the box.

After cutting a hole for the camera, a small piece of glass was attached to a 3D-printed hood, ensuring no water entered the box. On the rear of the box, they printed a part to hold and seal the cable from the solar panel where it entered the box. It only took a few sessions before the group produced a functioning prototype. The project was then placed outside for a day to test the capability of the device.

The test appeared successful when the students checked the USB drive. The drive was full of high-quality images captured every ten minutes. When the drive was connected back to Raspberry Pi, a student noticed that all the parts inside the case moved. The high temperature on the day of the test had melted the glue used to attach everything. This unexpected problem challenged students to research a better alternative and reattach the pieces.

Once the students felt confident in their device’s functionality, it was handed over to the construction crew, who installed the camera on a twenty-foot pole. The installation went smoothly and the students anxiously waited to see the results.

Less than a week after the camera went up, Houston was hit hard with the rains brought on by hurricane Harvey. The group was nervous to see whether the project they had constructed would survive. However, when they saw that their camera had survived and was working, they felt a great sense of pride.

They recognised that it was the collaborative effort of the group to problem-solve possible challenges that allowed their camera to not only survive but to capture a spectacular series of photos showing the impact of the hurricane in the location it was placed.

BakerRipleyTimeLapse2

This is “BakerRipleyTimeLapse2” by Brent Richardson on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

A worthwhile risk

Overcoming many hiccups throughout the project was a great illustration of how the students learned how to learn and
to develop an academic mindset; a setback that at the beginning of the project might have seemed insurmountable was laughable in the end.

Throughout my experience as a classroom teacher, a museum educator, and now a director of a digital makerspace, I’ve seen countless students struggle to understand the relevance of learning, and this has led me to develop a strong desire to expand the use of deeper learning.

Sometimes it feels like a risk to facilitate learning rather than impart knowledge, but seeing a student’s development into a changed person, ready to help someone else learn, makes it worth the effort. Let’s challenge ourselves as educators to help students acquire knowledge and use it.

Get your FREE copy of Hello World today

Issue 12 of Hello World is available now as a FREE PDF download. UK-based educators can also subscribe to receive Hello World directly to their door in all its shiny printed goodness. Visit the Hello World website for more information.

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Ashley’s top five projects for Raspberry Pi first-timers

It is time. Time to go to that little stack of gifts from well-wishers who have badged you as “techie” or noted that you “play computer games”. Armed with this information, they decided you’d like to receive one of our small and perfectly formed Raspberry Pis. You were thrilled. You could actually make a thing.

Except you haven’t. You had to go to that job thingy, and talk to that partner thingy, and wash and feed those children thingies. Don’t worry, we’re not offended. We know that embarking on your first coding project is daunting and that the community has taken off like a rocket so there are eight bajillion ideas floating around. Good job we’re here to help, then, isn’t?

First-timer project 01

Some of us have found ourselves spending more time with our online communities recently. Those whose digital family of choice is to be found on Reddit should see an uptick in their personal ‘Karma’ if they’re spending more time digging into “the front page of the internet”. If you’d like to see a real-world indicator of the fruits of your commenting/sharing/Let-Me-Google-That-For-You labour, a super-easy Raspberry Pi first-timer project is building a Karma counter, like this one we found on Reddit.

Now, Squiddles1227 is one of those flash 3D printer-owning types, but you could copy the premise and build your own crafty Karma-themed housing around your counter.

On a similar note (and featuring a comprehensive ‘How To’), GiovanniBauer on instructables.com used his Raspberry Pi to create an Instagram follower counter. Developed on Raspbian with Node.js, this project walk-through should get you started on whichever social media counter project you’d like to have a bash at.

First-timer project 02

We know this is a real-life Raspberry Pi first-timer project because the Reddit post title says so. Ninjalionman1 made an e-ink calendar using a Raspberry Pi Zero so they can see their daily appointments, weather report, and useful updates.

We mined the original Reddit thread to find you the comment linking to all the info you need about hardware and setup. Like I said, good job we’re here.

First-timer project 03

Raspberry Pi 3 and 4, as well as Raspberry Pi Zero W, come with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. This means you can build something to let your lockdown-weary self take your emotional-health-preserving music/podcasts/traditional chant soundtrack with you as you migrate around your living space. “Mornings in the lounge… mid-afternoons at the kitchen table…” – we feel you.

Circuitdigest.com posted this comprehensive walk-through to show you how a Raspberry Pi can convert an ordinary speaker with a 3.5mm jack into a wireless Bluetooth speaker.

First-timer project 04

PCWorld.com shared 10 Raspberry Pi projects they bet anyone can do, and we really like the look of this one. It shows you how to give a “dumb” TV extra smarts, like web browsing, which could be especially useful if screen availability is limited in a multi-user household.

The PCWorld article recommends using a Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4, and points out that this is a much cheaper option than things like Chromebits and Compute Sticks.

First-timer project 05

Lastly, electromaker.io have hidden the coding education vegetables in the Minecraft tomato sauce using Raspberry Pi. The third post down on this thread features a video explaining how you can hack your kids’ favourite game to get them learning to code.

The video blurb also helpfully points out that Minecraft comes pre-installed on Raspbian, making it “one of the greatest Pi projects for kids.”

If you’re not quite ready to jump in and try any of the above, try working your way through these really simple steps to set up your Raspberry Pi and see what it can do. Then come back here and try one of these first-timer projects, share the results of your efforts, tag us, and receive a virtual round of applause!

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Stay busy in your Vault with a Raspberry Pi Zero Pipboy

While being holed up in the Vaults living off our stash of Nuke cola, we’ve come across this mammoth junk-build project, which uses Raspberry Pi Zero W to power a working Pipboy.

Pipboy scrap build

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UK-based JustBuilding went full Robert House and, over several months, built the device’s body by welding together scrap plastic. Raspberry Pi Zero W serves as the brain, with a display header mounted to the GPIO pins. The maker wrote a Pipboy-style user interface, including demo screens, in Python — et voilà…



Lucky for him, semiconductors were already invented but, as JustBuilding admits, this is not what we’d call a beginner’s project. Think the Blue Peter show’s Tracey Island extravaganza, except you don’t have crafty co-presenters/builders, and you also need to make the thing do something useful (for our US readers who just got lost there, think Mr Rogers with glitter glue and outdoor adventure challenges).

The original post on Instructables is especially dreamy, as JustBuilding has painstakingly produced a really detailed, step-by-step guide for you to follow, including in-the-making photos and links to relevant Raspberry Pi forum entries to help you out where you might get stuck along the way.

And while Raspberry Pi can help you create your own post-apocalyptic wristwear, we’re still working on making that Stealthboy personal cloaking device a reality…

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the following is the kind of Pipboy you can knock up for yourself (though we really like JustBuilding’s arts’n’crafts upcycling style):

3D Printed Pipboy 3000 MKIV with Raspberry Pi

Find out how to 3D print and build your own functional Pipboy 3000 using a Raspberry Pi and Adafruit 3.5″ PiTFT. The pypboy python program for the Raspberry …

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Don’t forget about Steam Link on Raspberry Pi

Connect your gaming PC to your TV with ease, thanks to Steam Link and Raspberry Pi.

A Steam Link to the past

Back in 2018, we asked Simon, our Asset Management Assistant Keeper of the Swag, Organiser of the Stuff, Lord Commander of the Things to give Steam Link on Raspberry Pi a try for us, as he likes that sort of thing and was probably going to do it anyway.

Valve’s Steam Link, in case you don’t know, allows users of the gaming distribution platform Steam to stream video games from their PC to a display of their choice via their home network, with no need for cumbersome wires and whatnot.

Originally produced as a stand-alone box in 2018, Valve released this tool as a free download to all Raspberry Pi users, making it accessible via a single line of code. Nice!

The result of Simon’s experiment was positive: he reported that setting up Steam Link was easy, and the final product was a simple and affordable means of playing PC games on his TV, away from his PC in another room.

And now…

Well, it’s 2020 and since many of us are staying home lately, so we figured it would be nice to remind you all that this streaming service is still available.

To set up Steam Link on your Raspberry Pi, simply enter the following into a terminal window:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install steamlink

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