Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 on sale now from $25

It’s become a tradition that we follow each Raspberry Pi model with a system-on-module variant based on the same core silicon. Raspberry Pi 1 gave rise to the original Compute Module in 2014; Raspberry Pi 3 and 3+ were followed by Compute Module 3 and 3+ in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Only Raspberry Pi 2, our shortest-lived flagship product at just thirteen months, escaped the Compute Module treatment.

It’s been sixteen months since we unleashed Raspberry Pi 4 on the world, and today we’re announcing the launch of Compute Module 4, starting from $25.

Over half of the seven million Raspberry Pi units we sell each year go into industrial and commercial applications, from digital signage to thin clients to process automation. Many of these applications use the familiar single-board Raspberry Pi, but for users who want a more compact or custom form factor, or on-board eMMC storage, Compute Module products provide a simple way to move from a Raspberry Pi-based prototype to volume production.

A step change in performance

Built on the same 64-bit quad-core BCM2711 application processor as Raspberry Pi 4, our Compute Module 4 delivers a step change in performance over its predecessors: faster CPU cores, better multimedia, more interfacing capabilities, and, for the first time, a choice of RAM densities and a wireless connectivity option.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4
Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

You can find detailed specs here, but let’s run through the highlights:

  • 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU
  • VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of H.265 (HEVC) video
  • 1080p60 hardware decode, and 1080p30 hardware encode of H.264 (AVC) video
  • Dual HDMI interfaces, at resolutions up to 4K
  • Single-lane PCI Express 2.0 interface
  • Dual MIPI DSI display, and dual MIPI CSI-2 camera interfaces
  • 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM
  • Optional 8GB, 16GB or 32GB eMMC Flash storage
  • Optional 2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet PHY with IEEE 1588 support
  • 28 GPIO pins, with up to 6 × UART, 6 × I2C and 5 × SPI
Compute Module 4 Lite (without eMMC Flash memory)
Compute Module 4 Lite, our variant without eMMC Flash memory

New, more compact form factor

Compute Module 4 introduces a brand new form factor, and a compatibility break with earlier Compute Modules. Where previous modules adopted the JEDEC DDR2 SODIMM mechanical standard, with I/O signals on an edge connector, we now bring I/O signals to two high-density perpendicular connectors (one for power and low-speed interfaces, and one for high-speed interfaces).

This significantly reduces the overall footprint of the module on its carrier board, letting you achieve smaller form factors for your products.

High-density connector on board underside
High-density connector on board underside

32 variants

With four RAM options, four Flash options, and optional wireless connectivity, we have a total of 32 variants, with prices ranging from $25 (for the 1GB RAM, Lite, no wireless variant) to $90 (for the 8GB RAM, 32GB Flash, wireless variant).

We’re very pleased that the four variants with 1GB RAM and no wireless keep the same price points ($25, $30, $35, and $40) as their Compute Module 3+ equivalents: once again, we’ve managed to pack a lot more performance into the platform without increasing the price.

You can find the full price list in the Compute Module 4 product brief.

Compute Module 4 IO Board

To help you get started with Compute Module 4, we are also launching an updated IO Board. Like the IO boards for earlier Compute Module products, this breaks out all the interfaces from the Compute Module to standard connectors, providing a ready-made development platform and a starting point for your own designs.

Compute Module 4 IO Board
Compute Module 4 IO Board

The IO board provides:

  • Two full-size HDMI ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet jack
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • MicroSD card socket (only for use with Lite, no-eMMC Compute Module 4 variants)
  • PCI Express Gen 2 x1 socket
  • HAT footprint with 40-pin GPIO connector and PoE header
  • 12V input via barrel jack (supports up to 26V if PCIe unused)
  • Camera and display FPC connectors
  • Real-time clock with battery backup

CAD for the IO board is available in KiCad format. You may recall that a few years ago we made a donation to support improvements to KiCad’s differential pair routing and track length control features; now you can use this feature-rich, open-source PCB layout package to design your own Compute Module carrier board.

Compute Module 4 mounted on the IO Board
Compute Module 4 mounted on the IO Board

In addition to serving as a development platform and reference design, we expect the IO board to be a finished product in its own right: if you require a Raspberry Pi that supports a wider range of input voltages, has all its major connectors in a single plane, or allows you to attach your own PCI Express devices, then Compute Module 4 with the IO Board does what you need.

We’ve set the price of the bare IO board at just $35, so a complete package including a Compute Module starts from $60.

Compute Module 4 Antenna Kit

We expect that most users of wireless Compute Module variants will be happy with the on-board PCB antenna. However, in some circumstances – for example, where the product is in a metal case, or where it is not possible to provide the necessary ground plane cut-out under the module – an external antenna will be required. The Compute Module 4 Antenna Kit comprises a whip antenna, with a bulkhead screw fixture and U.FL connector to attach to the socket on the module.

Antenna Kit and Compute Module 4
Antenna Kit and Compute Module 4

When using ether the Antenna Kit or the on-board antenna, you can take advantage of our modular certification to reduce the conformance testing costs for your finished product. And remember, the Raspberry Pi Integrator Programme is there to help you get your Compute Module-based product to market.

Our most powerful Compute Module

This is our best Compute Module yet. It’s also our first product designed by Dominic Plunkett, who joined us almost exactly a year ago.

I sat down with Dominic last week to discuss Compute Module 4 in greater detail, and you can find the video of our conversation here. Dominic will also be sharing more technical detail in the blog tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out the Compute Module 4 page for the datasheet and other details, and start thinking about what you’ll build with Compute Module 4.

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Pumpkin Pi Build Monitor

Following on from Rob Zwetsloot’s Haunted House Hacks in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, GitHub’s Martin Woodward has created a spooky pumpkin that warns you about the thing programmers find scariest of all — broken builds. Here’s his guest post describing the project:

“When you are browsing code looking for open source projects, seeing a nice green passing build badge in the ReadMe file lets you know everything is working with the latest version of that project. As a programmer you really don’t want to accidentally commit bad code, which is why we often set up continuous integration builds that constantly check the latest code in our project.”

“I decided to create a 3D-printed pumpkin that would hold a Raspberry Pi Zero with an RGB LED pHat on top to show me the status of my build for Halloween. All the code is available on GitHub alongside the 3D printing models which are also available on Thingiverse.”

Components

  • Raspberry Pi Zero (I went for the WH version to save me soldering on the header pins)
  • Unicorn pHat form Pimoroni
  • Panel mount micro-USB extension
  • M2.5 hardware for mounting (screws, male PCB standoffs, and threaded inserts)

“For the 3D prints, I used a glow-in-the-dark PLA filament for the main body and Pi holder, along with a dark green PLA filament for the top plug.”

“I’ve been using M2.5 threaded inserts quite a bit when printing parts to fit a Raspberry Pi, as it allows you to simply design a small hole in your model and then you push the brass thread into the gap with your soldering iron to melt it securely into place ready for screwing in your device.”

Threaded insert

“Once the inserts are in, you can screw the Raspberry Pi Zero into place using some brass PCB stand-offs, place the Unicorn pHAT onto the GPIO ports, and then screw that down.”

pHAT install

“Then you screw in the panel-mounted USB extension into the back of the pumpkin, connect it to the Raspberry Pi, and snap the Raspberry Pi holder into place in the bottom of your pumpkin.”

Inserting the base

Code along with Martin

“Now you are ready to install the software.  You can get the latest version from my PumpkinPi project on GitHub. “

“Format the micro SD Card and install Raspberry Pi OS Lite. Rather than plugging in a keyboard and monitor, you probably want to do a headless install, configuring SSH and WiFi by dropping an ssh file and a wpa_supplicant.conf file onto the root of the SD card after copying over the Raspbian files.”

“You’ll need to install the Unicorn HAT software, but they have a cool one-line installer that takes care of all the dependencies including Python and Git.”

\curl -sS https://get.pimoroni.com/unicornhat | bash

“In addition, we’ll be using the requests module in Python which you can install with the following command:”

sudo pip install requests

“Next you want to clone the git repo.”

git clone https://github.com/martinwoodward/PumpkinPi.git

“You then need to modify the settings to point at your build badge. First of all copy the sample settings provided in the repo:”

cp ~/PumpkinPi/src/local_settings.sample ~/PumpkinPi/src/local_settings.py

“Then edit the BADGE_LINK variable and point at the URL of your build badge.”

# Build Badge for the build you want to monitor

BADGE_LINK = "https://github.com/martinwoodward/calculator/workflows/CI/badge.svg?branch=main"

# How often to check (in seconds). Remember - be nice to the server. Once every 5 minutes is plenty.

REFRESH_INTERVAL = 300

“Finally you can run the script as root:”

sudo python ~/PumpkinPi/src/pumpkinpi.py &

“Once you are happy everything is running how you want, don’t forget you can run the script at boot time. The easiest way to do this is to use crontab. See this cool video from Estefannie to learn more. But basically you do sudo crontab -e then add the following:”

@reboot /bin/sleep 10 ; /usr/bin/python /home/pi/PumpkinPi/src/pumpkinpi.py &

“Note that we are pausing for 10 seconds before running the Python script. This is to allow the WiFi network to connect before we check on the state of our build.”

“The current version of the pumpkinpi script works with all the SVG files produced by the major hosted build providers, including GitHub Actions, which is free for open source projects. But if you want to improve the code in any way, I’m definitely accepting pull requests on it.”

“Using the same hardware you could monitor lots of different things, such as when someone posts on Twitter, what the weather will be tomorrow, or maybe just code your own unique multi-coloured display that you can leave flickering in your window.”

“If you build this project or create your own pumpkin display, I’d love to see pictures. You can find me on Twitter @martinwoodward and on GitHub.”

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Join the UK Bebras Challenge 2020 for schools!

The annual UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge for schools, brought to you by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Oxford University, is taking place this November!

UK Bebras Challenge logo

The Bebras Challenge is a great way for your students to practise their computational thinking skills while solving exciting, accessible, and puzzling questions. Usually this 40-minute challenge would take place in the classroom. However, this year for the first time, your students can participate from home too!

If your students haven’t entered before, now is a great opportunity for them to get involved: they don’t need any prior knowledge. 

Do you have any students who are up for tackling the Bebras Challenge? Then register your school today!

School pupils in a computing classroom

What you need to know about the Bebras Challenge

  • It’s a great whole-school activity open to students aged 6 to 18, in different age group categories.
  • It’s completely free!
  • The closing date for registering your school is 30 October.
  • Let your students complete the challenge between 2 and 13 November 2020.
  • The challenge is made of a set of short tasks, and completing it takes 40 minutes.
  • The challenge tasks focus on logical thinking and do not require any prior knowledge of computer science.
  • There are practice questions to help your students prepare for the challenge.
  • This year, students can take part at home (please note they must still be entered through their school).
  • All the marking is done for you! The results will be sent to you the week after the challenge ends, along with the answers, so that you can go through them with your students.

“Thank you for another super challenge. It’s one of the highlights of my year as a teacher. Really, really appreciate the high-quality materials, website, challenge, and communication. Thank you again!”

– A UK-based teacher

Support your students to develop their computational thinking skills with Bebras materials

Bebras is an international challenge that started in Lithuania in 2004 and has grown into an international event. The UK became involved in Bebras for the first time in 2013, and the number of participating students has increased from 21,000 in the first year to more than 260,000 last year! Internationally, nearly 3 million learners took part in 2019. 

Bebras is a great way to engage your students of all ages in problem-solving and give them a taste of what computing is all about. In the challenge results, computing principles are highlighted, so Bebras can be educational for you as a teacher too.

The annual Bebras Challenge is only one part of the equation: questions from previous years are available as a resource that you can use to create self-marking quizzes for your classes. You can use these materials throughout the year to help you to deliver the computational thinking part of your curriculum!

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Raspberry Pi High Quality security camera

DJ from the element14 community shows you how to build a red-lensed security camera in the style of Portal 2 using the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera.

The finished camera mounted on the wall

Portal 2 is a puzzle platform game developed by Valve — a “puzzle game masquerading as a first-person shooter”, according to Forbes.

DJ playing with the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera

Kit list

No code needed!

DJ was pleased to learn that you don’t need to write any code to make your own security camera, you can just use a package called motionEyeOS. All you have to do is download the motionEyeOS image, pop the flashed SD card into your Raspberry Pi, and you’re pretty much good to go.

Dj got everything set up on a 5″ screen attached to the Raspberry Pi

You’ll find that the default resolution is 640×480, so it will show up as a tiny window on your monitor of choice, but that can be amended.

Simplicity

While this build is very simple electronically, the 20-part 3D-printed shell is beautiful. A Raspberry Pi is positioned on a purpose-built platform in the middle of the shell, connected to the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, which sits at the front of that shell, peeking out.

All the 3D printed parts ready to assemble

The 5V power supply is routed through the main shell into the base, which mounts the build to the wall. In order to keep the Raspberry Pi cool, DJ made some vent holes in the lens of the shell. The red LED is routed out of the side and sits on the outside body of the shell.

Magnetising

Raspberry Pi 4 (centre) and Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera (right) sat inside the 3D printed shell

This build is also screwless: the halves of the shell have what look like screw holes along the edges, but they are actually 3mm neodymium magnets, so assembly and repair is super easy as everything just pops on and off.

The final picture (that’s DJ!)

You can find all the files you need to recreate this build, or you can ask DJ a question, at element14.com/presents.

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AI-Man: a handy guide to video game artificial intelligence

Discover how non-player characters make decisions by tinkering with this Unity-based Pac-Man homage. Paul Roberts wrote this for the latest issue of Wireframe magazine.

From the first video game to the present, artificial intelligence has been a vital part of the medium. While most early games had enemies that simply walked left and right, like the Goombas in Super Mario Bros., there were also games like Pac-Man, where each ghost appeared to move intelligently. But from a programming perspective, how do we handle all the different possible states we want our characters to display?

Here’s AI-Man, our homage to a certain Namco maze game. You can switch between AI types to see how they affect the ghosts’ behaviours.

For example, how do we control whether a ghost is chasing Pac-Man, or running away, or even returning to their home? To explore these behaviours, we’ll be tinkering with AI-Man – a Pac-Man-style game developed in Unity. It will show you how the approaches discussed in this article are implemented, and there’s code available for you to modify and add to. You can freely download the AI-Man project here. One solution to managing the different states a character can be in, which has been used for decades, is a finite state machine, or FSM for short. It’s an approach that describes the high-level actions of an agent, and takes its name simply from the fact that there are a finite number of states from which to transition between, with each state only ever doing one thing.

Altered states

To explain what’s meant by high level, let’s take a closer look at the ghosts in Pac-Man. The highlevel state of a ghost is to ‘Chase’ Pac-Man, but the low level is how the ghost actually does this. In Pac-Man, each ghost has its own behaviour in which it hunts the player down, but they’re all in the same high-level state of ‘Chase’. Looking at Figure 1, you can see how the overall behaviour of a ghost can be depicted extremely easily, but there’s a lot of hidden complexity. At what point do we transition between states? What are the conditions on moving between states across the connecting lines? Once we have this information, the diagram can be turned into code with relative ease. You could use simple switch statements to achieve this, or we could achieve the same using an object-oriented approach.

Figure 1: A finite state machine

Using switch statements can quickly become cumbersome the more states we add, so I’ve used the object-oriented approach in the accompanying project, and an example code snippet can be seen in Code Listing 1. Each state handles whether it needs to transition into another state, and lets the state machine know. If a transition’s required, the Exit() function is called on the current state, before calling the Enter() function on the new state. This is done to ensure any setup or cleanup is done, after which the Update() function is called on whatever the current state is. The Update()function is where the low-level code for completing the state is processed. For a project as simple as Pac-Man, this only involves setting a different position for the ghost to move to.

Hidden complexity

Extending this approach, it’s reasonable for a state to call multiple states from within. This is called a hierarchical finite state machine, or HFSM for short. An example is an agent in Call of Duty: Strike Team being instructed to seek a stealthy position, so the high-level state is ‘Find Cover’, but within that, the agent needs to exit the dumpster he’s currently hiding in, find a safe location, calculate a safe path to that location, then repeatedly move between points on that path until he reaches the target position.

FSMs can appear somewhat predictable as the agent will always transition into the same state. This can be accommodated for by having multiple options that achieve the same goal. For example, when the ghosts in our Unity project are in the ‘Chase’ state, they can either move to the player, get in front of the player, or move to a position behind the player. There’s also an option to move to a random position. The FSM implemented has each ghost do one of these, whereas the behaviour tree allows all ghosts to switch between the options every ten seconds. A limitation of the FSM approach is that you can only ever be in a single state at a particular time. Imagine a tank battle game where multiple enemies can be engaged. Simply being in the ‘Retreat’ state doesn’t look smart if you’re about to run into the sights of another enemy. The worst-case scenario would be our tank transitions between ‘Attack’ and ‘Retreat’ states on each frame – an issue known as state thrashing – and gets stuck, and seemingly confused about what to do in this situation. What we need is away to be in multiple states at the same time: ideally retreating from tank A, whilst attacking tank B. This is where fuzzy finite state machines, or FFSM for short, come in useful.

This approach allows you to be in a particular state to a certain degree. For example, my tank could be 80% committed to the Retreat state (avoid tank A), and 20% committed to the Attack state (attack tank B). This allows us to both Retreat and Attack at the same time. To achieve this, on each update, your agent needs to check each possible state to determine its degree of commitment, and then call each of the active states’ updates. This differs from a standard FSM, where you can only ever be in a single state. FFSMs can be in none, one, two, or however many states you like at one time. This can prove tricky to balance, but it does offer an alternative to the standard approach.

No memory

Another potential issue with an FSM is that the agent has no memory of what they were previously doing. Granted, this may not be important: in the example given, the ghosts in Pac-Man don’t care about what they were doing, they only care about what they are doing, but in other games, memory can be extremely important. Imagine instructing a character to gather wood in a game like Age of Empires, and then the character gets into a fight. It would be extremely frustrating if the characters just stood around with nothing to do after the fight had concluded, and for the player to have to go back through all these characters and reinstruct them after the fight is over. It would be much better for the characters to return to their previous duties.

“FFSMs can be in one, none,

two, or however many states

you like.”

We can incorporate the idea of memory quite easily by using the stack data structure. The stack will hold AI states, with only the top-most element receiving the update. This in effect means that when a state is completed, it’s removed from the stack and the previous state is then processed. Figure 2 depicts how this was achieved in our Unity project. To differentiate the states from the FSM approach, I’ve called them tasks for the stackbased implementation. Looking at Figure 2, it shows how (from the bottom), the ghost was chasing the player, then the player collected a power pill, which resulted in the AI adding an Evade_Task – this now gets the update call, not the Chase_Task. While evading the player, the ghost was then eaten.

At this point, the ghost needed to return home, so the appropriate task was added. Once home, the ghost needed to exit this area, so again, the relevant task was added. At the point the ghost exited home, the ExitHome_Task was removed, which drops processing back to MoveToHome_Task. This was no longer required, so it was also removed. Back in the Evade_Task, if the power pill was still active, the ghost would return to avoiding the player, but if it had worn off, this task, in turn, got removed, putting the ghost back in its default task of Chase_Task, which will get the update calls until something else in the world changes.

Figure 2: Stack-based finite state machine.

Behaviour trees

In 2002, Halo 2 programmer Damian Isla expanded on the idea of HFSM in a way that made it more scalable and modular for the game’s AI. This became known as the behaviour tree approach. It’s now a staple in AI game development. The behaviour tree is made up of nodes, which can be one of three types – composite, decorator, or leaf nodes. Each has a different function within the tree and affects the flow through the tree. Figure 3 shows how this approach is set up for our Unity project. The states we’ve explored so far are called leaf nodes. Leaf nodes end a particular branch of the tree and don’t have child nodes – these are where the AI behaviours are located. For example, Leaf_ExitHome, Leaf_Evade, and Leaf_ MoveAheadOfPlayer all tell the ghost where to move to. Composite nodes can have multiple child nodes and are used to determine the order in which the children are called. This could be in the order in which they’re described by the tree, or by selection, where the children nodes will compete, with the parent node selecting which child node gets the go-ahead. Selector_Chase allows the ghost to select a single path down the tree by choosing a random option, whereas Sequence_ GoHome has to complete all the child paths to complete its behaviour.

Code Listing 2 shows how simple it is to choose a random behaviour to use – just be sure to store the index for the next update. Code Listing 3 demonstrates how to go through all child nodes, and to return SUCCESS only when all have completed, otherwise the status RUNNING is returned. FAILURE only gets returned when a child node itself returns a FAILURE status.

Complex behaviours

Although not used in our example project, behaviour trees can also have nodes called decorators. A decorator node can only have a single child, and can modify the result returned. For example, a decorator may iterate the child node for a set period, perhaps indefinitely, or even flip the result returned from being a success to a failure. From what first appears to be a collection of simple concepts, complex behaviours can then develop.

Figure 3: Behaviour tree

Video game AI is all about the illusion of intelligence. As long as the characters are believable in their context, the player should maintain their immersion in the game world and enjoy the experience we’ve made. Hopefully, the approaches introduced here highlight how even simple approaches can be used to develop complex characters. This is just the tip of the iceberg: AI development is a complex subject, but it’s also fun and rewarding to explore.

Wireframe #43, with the gorgeous Sea of Stars on the cover.

The latest issue of Wireframe Magazine is out now. available in print from the Raspberry Pi Press onlinestore, your local newsagents, and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

You can also download the PDF directly from the Wireframe Magazine website.

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Congratulations Carrie Anne Philbin, MBE

We are delighted to share the news that Carrie Anne Philbin, Raspberry Pi’s Director of Educator Support, has been awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE
Carrie Anne Philbin, newly minted MBE

Carrie Anne was one of the first employees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and has helped shape our educational programmes over the past six years. Before joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne was a computing teacher, YouTuber, and author.

She’s also a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion in computing; she co-founded a grassroots movement of computing teachers dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and she has mentored young girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a fantastic role model and source of inspiration to her colleagues, educators, and young people. 

From history student to computing teacher and YouTuber

As a young girl, Carrie Anne enjoyed arts and crafts and when her dad bought the family a Commodore 64, she loved the graphics she could make on it. She says, “I vividly remember typing in the BASIC commands to create a train that moved on the screen with my dad.” Being able to express her creativity through digital patterns sparked her interest in technology.

After studying history at university, Carrie Anne followed her passion for technology and became an ICT technician at a secondary school, where she also ran several extra-curricular computing clubs for the students. Her school encouraged and supported her to apply for the Graduate Teacher Programme, and she qualified within two years.

Carrie Anne admits that her first experience in a new school as a newly qualified teacher was “pretty terrifying”, and she says her passion for the subject and her sense of humour are what got her through. The students she taught in her classroom still inspire her today.

Showing that computing is for everyone

As well as co-founding CAS #include, a diversity working group for computing teachers, Carrie Anne started the successful YouTube channel Geek Gurl Diaries. Through video interviews with women working in tech and hands-on computer science tutorials, Carrie Anne demonstrates that computing is fun and that it’s great to be a girl who likes computers.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE sitting at a disk with physical computing equipment

On the back of her own YouTube channel’s success, Carrie Anne was invited to host the Computer Science video series on Crash Course, the extremely popular educational YouTube channel created by Hank and John Green. There, her 40+ videos have received over 2 million views so far.

Discovering the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Carrie Anne says that the Raspberry Pi computer brought her to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and that she stayed “because of the community and the Foundation’s mission“. She came across the Raspberry Pi while searching for new ways to engage her students in computing, and joined a long waiting list to get her hands on the single-board computer. After her Raspberry Pi finally arrived, she carried it in her handbag to community meetups to learn how other people were using it in education.

Carrie Anne Philbin
Carrie Anne with her book Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Since joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne has helped to build an incredible team, many of them also former computing teachers. Together they have trained thousands of educators and produced excellent resources that are used by teachers and learners around the world. Most recently, the team created the Teach Computing Curriculum of over 500 hours of free teaching resources for primary and secondary teachers; free online video lessons for students learning at home during the pandemic (in partnership with Oak National Academy); and Isaac Computer Science, a free online learning platform for A level teachers and students.

On what she wants to empower young people to do

Carrie Anne says, “We’re living in an ever-changing world that is facing many challenges right now: climate change, democracy and human rights, oh and a global pandemic. These are issues that young people care about. I’ve witnessed this year after year at our international Coolest Projects technology showcase event for young people, where passionate young creators present the tech solutions they are already building to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. I believe that equipped with a deeper understanding of technology, young people can change the world for the better, in ways we’ve not even imagined.” 

Carrie Anne has already achieved a huge amount in her career, and we honestly believe that she is only just getting started. On behalf of all your colleagues at the Foundation and all the educators and young people whose lives you’ve changed, congratulations Carrie Anne! 

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Scroll text across your face mask with NeoPixel and Raspberry Pi

Have you perfected your particular combination of ‘eye widening then squinting’ to let people know you’re smiling at them behind your mask? Or do you need help expressing yourself from this text-scrolling creation by Caroline Dunn?

The mask running colourful sample code

What’s it made of?

The main bits of hardware need are a Raspberry Pi 3 or Raspberry Pi 4 or Raspberry Pi Zero W (or a Zero WH with pre-soldered GPIO header if you don’t want to do soldering yourself), and an 8×8 Flexible NeoPixel Matrix with individually addressable LEDs. The latter is a two-dimensional grid of NeoPixels, all controlled via a single microcontroller pin.

Raspberry Pi and the NeoPixel Matrix (bottom left) getting wired up

The NeoPixel Matrix is attached to a cloth face that which has a second translucent fabric layer. The translucent layer is to sew your Raspberry Pi project to, the cloth layer underneath is a barrier for germs.

You’ll need a separate 5V power source for the NeoPixel Matrix. Caroline used a 5V power bank, which involved some extra fiddling with cutting up and stripping an old USB cable. You may want to go for a purpose-made traditional power supply for ease.

Running the text

To prototype, Caroline connected the Raspberry Pi computer to the NeoPixel Matrix via a breadboard and some jumper wires. At this stage of your own build, you check everything is working by running this sample code from Adafruit, which should get your NeoPixel Matrix lighting up like a rainbow.

The internal website on the left

Once you’ve got your project up and running, you can ditch the breadboard and wires and set up the key script, app.py, to run on boot.

Going mobile

To change the text scrolling across your mask, you use the internal website that’s part of Caroline’s code.

And for a truly mobile solution, you can access the internal website via mobile phone by hooking up your Raspberry Pi using your phone’s hotspot functionality. Then you can alter the scrolling text while you’re out and about.

Caroline wearing the 32×8 version

Caroline also created a version of her project using a 32×8 Neopixel Matrix, which fits on the across the headband of larger plastic face visors.

If you want to make this build for yourself, you’d do well to start with the very nice in-depth walkthrough Caroline created. It’s only three parts; you’ll be fine.

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How teachers train in Computing with our free online courses

Since 2017 we’ve been training Computing educators in England and around the world through our suite of free online courses on FutureLearn. Thanks to support from Google and the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), all of these courses are free for anyone to take, whether you are a teacher or not!

An illustration of a bootcamp for computing teachers

We’re excited that Computer Science educators at all stages in their computing journey have embraced our courses — from teachers just moving into the field to experienced educators looking for a refresher so that they can better support their colleagues.

Hear from two teachers about their experience of training with our courses and how they are benefitting!

Moving from Languages to IT to Computing

Rebecca Connell started out as a Modern Foreign Languages teacher, but now she is Head of Computing at The Cowplain School, a 11–16 secondary school in Hampshire.

Computing teacher Rebecca Connell
Computing teacher Rebecca finds our courses “really useful in building confidence and taking [her] skills further”.

Although she had plenty of experience with Microsoft Office and was happy teaching IT, at first she was daunted by the technical nature of Computing:

“The biggest challenge for me has been the move away from an IT to a Computing curriculum. To say this has been a steep learning curve is an understatement!”

However, Rebecca has worked with our courses to improve her coding knowledge, especially in Python:

“Initially, I undertook some one-day programming courses in Python. Recently, I have found the Raspberry Pi courses to be really useful in building confidence and taking my skills further. So far, I have completed Programming 101 — great for revision and teaching ideas — and am now into Programming 102.”

GCSE Computing is more than just programming, and our courses are helping Rebecca develop the rest of her Computing knowledge too:

“I am now taking some online Raspberry Pi courses on computer systems and networks to firm up my knowledge — my greatest fear is saying something that’s not strictly accurate! These courses have some good ideas to help explain complex concepts to students.”

She also highly rates the new free Teach Computing Curriculum resources we have developed for the NCCE:

“I really like the new resources and supporting materials from Raspberry Pi — these have really helped me to look again at our curriculum. They are easy to follow and include everything you need to take students forward, including lesson plans.”

And Rebecca’s not the only one in her department who is benefitting from our courses and resources:

“Our department is supported by an excellent PE teacher who delivers lessons in Years 7, 8, and 9. She has enjoyed completing some of the Raspberry Pi courses to help her to deliver the new curriculum and is also enjoying her learning journey.”

Refreshing and sharing your knowledge

Julie Price, a CAS Master Teacher and NCCE Computer Science Champion, has been “engaging with the NCCE’s Computer Science Accelerator programme, [to] be in a better position to appreciate and help to resolve any issues raised by fellow participants.”

Computing teacher Julie Price
Computer science teacher Julie Price says she is “becoming addicted” to our online courses!

“I have encountered new learning for myself and also expressions of very familiar content which I have found to be seriously impressive and, in some cases, just amazing. I must say that I am becoming addicted to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online courses!”

She’s been appreciating the open nature of the courses, as we make all of the materials free to use under the Open Government Licence:

“Already I have made very good use of a wide range of the videos, animations, images, and ideas from the Foundation’s courses.”

Julie particularly recommends the Programming Pedagogy in Secondary Schools: Inspiring Computing Teaching course, describing it as “a ‘must’ for anyone wishing to strengthen their key stage 3 programming curriculum.”

Join in and train with us

Rebecca and Julie are just 2 of more than 140,000 active participants we have had on our online courses so far!

With 29 courses to choose from (and more on the way!), from Introduction to Web Development to Robotics with Raspberry Pi, we have something for everyone — whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced computer science teacher. All of our courses are free to take, so find one that inspires you, and let us support you on your computing journey, along with Google and the NCCE.

If you’re a teacher in England, you are eligible for free course certification from FutureLearn via the NCCE.

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Haunted House hacks

Spookify your home in time for Halloween with Rob Zwetsloot and these terror-ific projects!

We picked four of our favourites from a much longer feature in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, so make sure you check it out if you need more Haunted House hacks in your life.

Raspberry Pi Haunted House

This project is a bit of a mixture of indoors and outdoors, with a doorbell on the house activating a series of spooky effects like a creaking door, ‘malfunctioning’ porch lights, and finally a big old monster mash in the garage.

A Halloween themed doorbell

MagPi magazine talked to its creator Stewart Watkiss about it a few years ago and he revealed how he used a PiFace HAT to interface with home automation techniques to create the scary show, although it can be made much easier these days thanks to Energenie. Our favourite part, though, is still the Home Alone-esque monster party that caps it off.

Check it our for yourself here.

Eye of Sauron

It’s a very nice-looking build as well

The dreaded dark lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings watched over Middle-earth in the form of a giant flaming eye atop his black tower, Barad-dûr. Mike Christian’s version sits on top of a shed in Saratoga, CA.

The eye of sauron on top of a barn lit in red lights
Atop the shed with some extra light effects, it looks very scary

It makes use of the Snake Eyes Bonnet from Adafruit, with some code modifications and projecting onto a bigger eye. Throw in some cool lights and copper wires and you get a nice little effect, much like that from the films.

There are loads more cool photos on Mike’s original project page.

Raspberry Pi-powered Jack-o-Lantern

We love the eyes and scary sounds in this version that seem to follow you around

A classic indoor Halloween decoration (and outdoor, according to American movies) is the humble Jack-o’-lantern. While you could carve your own for this kind of project (and we’ve seen many people do so), this version uses a pre-cut, 3D-printed pumpkin.

3D printed pumpkin glowing orange
The original 3D print lit with a single source is still fairly scary

If you want to put one outside as well, we highly recommend you add some waterproofing or put it under a porch of some kind, especially if you live in the UK.

Here’s a video about the project by the maker.

Scary door

You’re unlikely to trick someone already in your house with a random door that has appeared out of nowhere, but while they’re investigating they’ll get the scare of their life. This door was created as a ‘sequel’ to a Scary Porch, and has a big monitor where a window might be in the door. There’s also an array of air-pistons just behind the door to make it sound like someone is trying to get out.

There are various videos that can play on the door screen, and they’re randomised so any viewers won’t know what to expect. This one also uses relays, so be careful.

This project is the brainchild of the element14 community and you can read more about how it was made here.

The MagPi magazine is out now, available in print from the Raspberry Pi Press onlinestore, your local newsagents, and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

You can also download the PDF directly from the MagPi magazine website.

The post Haunted House hacks appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Build an e-paper to-do list with Raspberry Pi

James Bruxton (or @xrobotosuk on Instagram) built an IoT-controlled e-paper message board using Raspberry Pi. Updating it is easy: just edit a Google sheet, and the message board will update with the new data.

Harnessing Google power

This smart message board uses e-paper, which has very low power consumption. Combining this with the Google Docs API (which allows you to write code to read and write to Google Docs) and Raspberry Pi makes it possible to build a message board that polls a Google Sheet and updates whenever there’s new data. This guide helped James write the Google Docs API code.

We’ll do #4 for you, James!

Why e-paper?

James’s original plan was to hook up his Raspberry Pi to a standard monitor and use Google Docs so people could update the display via mobile app. However, a standard monitor consumes a lot of power, due to its backlight, and if you set it to go into sleep mode, people would just walk past it and not see updates to the list unless they remember to wake the device up.

Raspberry Pi wearing its blue e-paper HAT on the left, which connects to the display on the right via a ribbon cable

Enter e-paper (the same stuff used for Kindle devices), which only consumes power when it’s updating. Once you’ve got the info you want on the e-paper, you can even disconnect it entirely from your power source and the screen will still display whatever the least update told it to. James’s top tip for your project: go for the smallest e-paper display possible, as those things are expensive. He went with this one, which comes with a HAT for Raspberry Pi and a ribbon cable to connect the two.

The display disconnected from any power and still clearly readable

The HAT has an adaptor for plugging into the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins, and a breakout header for the SPI pins. James found it’s not as simple as enabling the SPI on his Raspberry Pi and the e-paper display springing to life: you need a bit of code to enable the SPI display to act as the main display for the Raspberry Pi. Luckily, the code for this is on the wiki of Waveshare, the producer of HAT and display James used for this project.

Making it pretty

A 3D-printed case, which looks like a classic photo frame but with a hefty in-built stand to hold it up and provide enough space for the Raspberry Pi to sit on, is home to James’s finished smart to-do list. The e-paper is so light and thin it can just be sticky-taped into the frame.

The roomy frame stand

James’s creation is powered by Raspberry Pi 4, but you don’t need that much power, and he’s convinced you’ll be fine with any Raspberry Pi model that has 40 GPIO pins.

Extra points for this maker, as he’s put all the CAD files and code you’ll need to make your own e-paper message board on GitHub.

If you’re into e-paper stuff but are wedded to your handwritten to-do lists, then why not try building this super slow movie player instead? The blog squad went *nuts* for it when we posted it last month.

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