Our ultimate guide to running your own Coolest Projects event

Coolest Projects, our world-leading technology fair for young people, takes place in seven countries this year: Ireland, the UK, USA, Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Milan in Italy.

Coolest Projects 2019 Logo

Volunteer-led Coolest Projects events

Teams of marvellous volunteers organise and run the events in the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Milan! They are doing incredible work to give children in their regions the chance to present their tech creations and be celebrated for their skills and creativity.

And we want to support you in our global community to do the same: organise your own regional Coolest Projects events, wherever you are, so that young people near you can showcase their work and be inspired by others’ inventions.

5 reasons to host your own Coolest Projects event

Running your own Coolest Projects is your chance to:

  1. Celebrate the creativity of young creators
  2. Grow your local coding and volunteer community
  3. Engage parents and educators with technology
  4. Develop connections with local businesses
  5. Build the worldwide network of Coolest Projects participants, partners, and volunteers

The Coolest Projects Regional Handbook

We’ve put together a free Coolest Projects Regional Handbook that walks you through everything you need to organise your own Coolest Projects event!

Our brand-new handbook brings together everything you need to plan, prepare for, and host your own regional Coolest Projects event. It includes practical advice on:

  • Building your Coolest Projects team
  • Managing an event budget
  • Choosing a venue
  • Sponsorship and partner management
  • Communications and marketing
  • Coolest Projects licensing

Your regional event does not have to be large or formal — it can be as big or small as your community’s volunteers want it to be, and tailored to your community’s needs and interests.

Coolest Projects UK 2018 Raspberry Pi Foundation CoderDojo

Like the volunteer teams who already run regional Coolest Projects, you too can run your own event — with our handbook as guidance.

Download your free handbook now!

If you’re interested in bringing Coolest Projects to your community, email us at hello@coolestprojects.org so we can connect you to other volunteers in your region who have expressed their interest to us! Letting us know you want to be involved will also enable us to give you more support while you’re getting started.

You’ve only got a little time left to register your idea

To participate in this year’s Coolest Projects, just register your project idea by the deadline (see below)! And don’t fret: you don’t have to have started your project to register, just the idea is enough.

If you don’t want to present something by yourself, you can register in a team of up to five members.

And you don’t need to have finished your project to present it at the event, because the most important thing is to showcase your love and enthusiasm for tech!

Registration deadlines:

Registration and attendance for all Coolest Projects events is free! And you’re also more than welcome to visit and check out the amazing projects without submitting your own. For more information, and to get your free visitor tickets, visit the Coolest Projects website and select your nearest event.

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Spirit Animal: a guitar with a built-in synthesiser

UK-based Lucem Custom Instruments has teamed up with Seattle’s Tracktion Corporation to create an electric guitar with a built-in Raspberry Pi synthesiser, which they call Spirit Animal.

Raspberry Pi inside a guitar body - Spirit Animal

The Spirit Animal concept guitar

We love seeing the Raspberry Pi incorporated into old technology such as radios, games consoles and unwanted toys. And we also love Pi-based music projects. So can you imagine how happy we were to see an electric guitar with an onboard Raspberry Pi synthesiser?

Raspberry Pi inside a guitar body - Spirit Animal

Tracktion, responsible for synth software BioTek 2, ran their product on a Raspberry Pi, and Lucem fitted this Pi and associated tech inside the hollow body of a through-neck Visceral guitar. The concept guitar made its debut at NAMM 2019 last weekend, where attendees at the National Association of Music Merchants event had the chance to get hands-on with the new instrument.

Raspberry Pi inside a guitar body - Spirit Animal

The instrument boasts an onboard Li-ion battery granting about 8 hours of play time, and a standard 1/4″ audio jack for connecting to an amp. To permit screen-sharing, updates, and control via SSH, the guitar allows access to the Pi’s Ethernet port and wireless functionality.

See more

You can find more information about the design on the Gear News website, and see the instrument in action at NAMM on the Lucem Custom Instruments Facebook page. We look forward to seeing where this collaboration will lead!

Music and Pi

If you’re a guitarist and keen to incorporate a Raspberry Pi into your music, then also check out these other projects:

  • pisound — the Raspberry Pi–powered guitar pedal

PiSound with hardware and peripherals

  • Pedalumi — the illuminated pedal board

  • Guitarboy — is it a Gameboy? Is it a guitar? Unclear, but it’s awesome!

Guitar Boy video

The Guitar Boy is a guitar. The Guitar Boy is a Game Boy. The Guitar Boy is the best of both worlds! Created for the BitFix Gaming 2015 Game Boy Classic build-off, this Game Boy guitar plays both Pokemon and rock and roll!

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Compute Module 3+ on sale now from $25

Today we bring you the latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module series: Compute Module 3+ (CM3+). This newest version of our flexible board for industrial applications offers over ten times the ARM performance, twice the RAM capacity, and up to eight times the Flash capacity of the original Compute Module.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+

A long time ago…

On 7 April 2014 we launched the original Compute Module (CM1), with a Broadcom BCM2835 application processor, a single-core ARM11 at 700MHz, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of eMMC Flash. Although it seems like yesterday, that was nearly half a decade ago! At that point I had no kids, looked significantly younger (probably because I had no kids), and had more hair (fortunately I’m still better off in that department than Eben). [This is fair – Ed.]

Just under three years later we launched Compute Module 3 (CM3) based on the quad-core BCM2837A1, and now, almost exactly two years on, we bring you the CM3+.

The Compute Module has evolved

While we’ve greatly improved the performance, RAM capacity, and Flash capacity of the Compute Module, some things remain the same: CM3+ is an evolution of CM3 and CM1, bringing new features while keeping the form factor, electrical compatibility, price point, and ease of use of the earlier products.

Our aim for the Compute Module was to deliver the core Raspberry Pi technology in a form factor that allowed others to incorporate it into their own products cheaply and easily. If someone wanted to create a Raspberry Pi-based product but found the Model A or B Raspberry Pi boards did not fit their needs, they could use a Compute Module, create a simple low-tech carrier PCB, and make their own thing.

It’s for enterprises of all sizes

We limit the price so that the “maker in a shed” is not disadvantaged when producing only a few hundred products relative to professionals with much larger production runs. The Compute Module takes care of the high-tech bits (fine-pitched BGAs, high-speed memory interfaces, and core power supply), allowing the designer to focus on the differentiating features they really care about. The eMMC Flash device on a Compute Module is more reliable and robust than normal SD cards, so it is more suited to industrial applications. The Compute Module also provides more interfaces than the regular Raspberry Pi, supporting two cameras and two displays, as well as extra GPIO.

A Compute Module 3+ inserted into a Compute Module IO board

CM3+ in CMIO board

CM1 and CM3 have proven very popular, with sales increasing steadily. We don’t generally get to see what the majority of our module customers are using them for, because they’re often companies that understandably want to keep the insides of their products secret, but one nice example application is Revolution Pi from Kunbus. Many NEC digital-signage displays incorporate a socket for CM3, and there are some excellent community efforts too, of which our current favourite is this nifty dual camera board. We’ve also seen enterprising companies start offering turnkey design services using the Compute Module, such as that offered by Kunst Engineering.

So what is Compute Module 3+?

CM3+ is derived from the CM3 board, but incorporates the improved thermal design and Broadcom BCM2837B0 application processor from Raspberry Pi 3B+. This means that, with the exception of a small increase in z-height, CM3+ is a drop-in replacement for CM3 from an electrical and form-factor perspective. Note that due to power-supply limitations the maximum processor speed remains at 1.2GHz, compared to 1.4GHz for Raspberry Pi 3B+.

One of the most frequent requests from users and customers is for Compute Module variants with more on-board Flash memory. CM1 and CM3 both came with 4GB of Flash, and although we are fans of the Henry Ford philosophy of customer choice (“you can have any colour, as long as it’s black”), it was obvious that there was a need for more official options.

With CM3+ we are making available three different eMMC Flash sizes, in addition to a Flash-less “Lite” variant, all at competitive prices:

Product Unit price
CM3+/Lite $25
CM3+/8GB $30
CM3+/16GB $35
CM3+/32GB $40

As CM3+ is a new product, it will need a recent version of the Raspberry Pi firmware (and operating system such as Raspbian) to operate correctly.

Thermals

Due to the improved PCB thermal design and BCM2837B0 processor, the CM3+ has better thermal behaviour under load. It has more thermal mass and can draw heat away from the processor faster than CM3. This can translate into lower average temperatures and/or longer sustained operation under heavy load before the processor hits 80°C and begins to reduce its clock speed.

Note that CM3+ will still output the same amount of heat as CM3 for any given application, so performance (and particularly sustained performance) will depend heavily on the design of the carrier PCB and enclosure. As always, we recommend that product designers pay careful attention to thermal performance under expected use cases.

Having characterised the behaviour of the new product, we have broadened the rated ambient temperature range to -20°C to 70°C.

Development Kit

We are also releasing a refreshed Compute Module 3+ Development Kit today. This kit contains 1 x Lite and 1 x 32GB CM3+ module, a Compute Module IO board, camera and display adapters, jumper wires, and a programming cable.

Updated datasheet

The CM datasheet has been updated to include CM3+.

Long-term availability

CM3+ will be available until at least January 2026.

We are also moving the “legacy” CM1, CM3 and CM3 Lite products to “not recommended for new designs” status. They will continue to be available until at least January 2023 as previously stated, but we recommend customers use CM3+ for new designs, and where possible move existing designs to CM3+ for improved performance and longer availability.

Compute Module 3+ is, like Raspberry Pi 3B+, the last in a line of 40nm-based Raspberry Pi products. We feel that it’s a fitting end to the line, rolling in the best bits of Raspberry Pi 3B+ and providing users with more design flexibility in an all‑round better product. We hope you enjoy it.

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Disable ‘always-listening’ on your smart home assistant

Project Alias, the newest creation of Amsterdam-based maker Bjørn Karmann, allows you to rename your home assistant and, more importantly, paralyse the device’s always-on listening function — for better security.

Project Alias

Alias is a teachable “parasite” that is designed to give users more control over their smart assistants, both when it comes to customisation and privacy. Through a simple app the user can train Alias to react on a custom wake-word/sound, and once trained, Alias can take control over your home assistant by activating it for you.

Always-on home assistants

Love them or hate them, devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo have become a staple in many homes, thanks to people’s desire to automate mundane chores. I mean, why think about vacuuming my home when my Echo Dot can tell my robot hoover to do it for me?

However, despite their convenience, one concern remains for users of most off-the-shelf products: the always-on, always listening function.

As stories of TV ads prompting unwanted purchases via Amazon surface and South Park commandeers people’s devices via a rather ingenious episode script, more and more people are looking for ways to plug their home assistants’ ears, so to speak.

But how do you get something to do your bidding without it always listening for your commands?

Introducing Project Alias

Bjørn Karmann’s Project Alias serves two purposes: it lets you rename your assistant however you see fit (hello Trogdor!), and it paralyses the device’s always-listening function, taking over command. Then, instead of Amazon/Google/etc. listening to the comings and goings in your home, it’s a headless Raspberry Pi 3A+. And as the Raspberry Pi doesn’t need an internet connection in order to do its thing, the only one listening to you in your home is your significant other, your kids or, in my case, two obnoxious house bunnies.

Bjørn has provided a STL file to let prospective Project Alias makers 3D print their own modern-looking case for the 3A+. And the setup tutorial and complete code are on his GitHub.

Once the add-on is built, you simply access the Project Alias trainer via your phone’s browser and tell your home assistant its new name.

And there you have it: an augemented home assistant that does your bidding without you needing to be concerned about who is listening at the other end.

Other potential names for your home assistant

Now you have Project Alias set up on your Amazon Echo or Google Home, here are some names we think you should use:

  • Hey there Delilah
  • Hey-ay, baby
  • Hey ya!
  • Hey Hei

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The explosive inventions of Colin Furze

In January 2007, one plumber and a few friends in a pub set out to build a wall of death out of 850 pallets in a field in Lincolnshire. It’s something we’ve all done as children on a small scale, jumping over a cardboard box perhaps. But to scale it up to something 30ft in diameter and 17ft high, and ride around it on a moped at 25mph… that took a special kind of person. That took maker, inventor, YouTuber, and record-breaker extraordinaire Colin Furze.

Colin Furze

You’ve probably seen one or two of Colin Furze’s videos on YouTube. There’s the one where he shoots flames out of a scooter (gaining the attention of Her Majesty’s Lincolnshire Constabulary). There’s the one where he builds the world’s fastest mobility scooter, and the one where he sets off 5000 fireworks at once to celebrate getting three million YouTube subscribers. Maybe you know the one where he sets himself on fire, or the one with a spinning belt of knives to make chopping vegetables easier.

We had a chat with Colin, and sent a very brave photographer to his house to get some photos of him from a safe distance. If you don’t know him, strap in: over the coming pages you’re going to get an exclusive insight into the world of Britain’s most explosive maker.

How to be a better maker, the Furze way

“The thing that I find most exciting about what I do is that sometimes you have the initial test. You have an idea, you nip out to the shed – this could be after tea at night – and you bodge something together quite crudely. And you get that moment of realisation that it might actually work. I think that’s what I find the most enjoyable.”

“I’ve got to the point now where I’ve set my bar pretty high in terms of what people expect. Some projects, like the belt of knives, I knocked that up pretty quick because it was quite simple, but there were other things like the turbo jet scooter, I made sure things look good and they’re pretty well made, so they can take quite a while.”

“Some are a lot easier than others to make, and if you look through my videos in order, they tend to go from ones that are a bit more complicated to ones that are simple. You can never really predict what you’re going to get next; with some YouTube channels it’s much of the same thing if you know what I mean. When I upload a video, you’ve no idea what it’s going to be. I try to hop around a bit so it doesn’t become the same thing over and over again.”

Quality, not quantity

“I used to get a video up every week, or at least try for that, whereas now I’m going to kill myself if I try to match that. I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re ready when they’re ready. If there’s no video on a Thursday, the world’s not going to end. And it makes them a little bit more special when they do come out.”

“I’ve never worked in an office. I think I’d enjoy it for a week, then I’d drive everyone up the wall. I’d be too noisy I think. The only thing I miss from plumbing is the social aspect, because obviously I don’t see many people being in the shed, because I’m only just outside the back door of my house. I haven’t even got a commute. You can just be in there beavering away. I only ever have Rick in there with me when it’s a two-person job. And also it’s not like I’ve got two sheds so something can be being built in the background… a lot of people, when they get to six or seven million subscribers, employ loads of staff, the workshop gets bigger, everything expands, and you start to look at it and think ‘What is this now?’ This is not a guy in the shed at the side of his house trying to make impossible stuff; it’s a factory. Well, you’d expect big stuff to come out of a factory, wouldn’t you? Whereas when I make stuff in that little shed, there’s a little bit of extra interest in it because it’s something that most people could own, if they’ve got the space. So I’ve purposely kept it small and not got too big.”

“I like to go into something thinking ‘Let’s make the best job I can of this.’ Like the shredder that I’ve just made, all the housing and the aluminium surround, I wanted to get it as precise at possible. I used my optical punch and tried to get everything bang on. It all bolts together, and it looks like something that if I’d been shown it before, I’d have gone ‘No, I’m not sure I could make that.’”

Read more!

Read the rest of the exclusive 12-page Colin Furze special in HackSpace magazine issue 15, out today. Buy your copy now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, major newsagents in the UK, or Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center in the US. Or, download your free PDF copy from the HackSpace magazine website.

Front cover of HackSpace magazine issue 15

We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.

Subscribe now

Subscribe to HackSpace on a monthly, quarterly, or twelve-month basis to save money against newsstand prices.

Twelve-month print subscribers get a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, loaded with inputs and sensors and ready for your next project. Tempted?

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Noticia Original

New Picademy North America dates for 2019

Hooray, Picademy is back! We’re excited to bring our free computer science and digital making professional development program for educators to three new cities this summer:



Picademy 2019 dates

We’re thrilled to kick off our 2019 season, partnering with three new venues: we’ll be at Computer History Museum in the Bay Area the first week in June, at the University of California, Irvine in July, and at the Toronto Public Library in the second week in August. A big thank you to these venues for hosting us and supporting local educators to attend our free professional development program!



Picademy 2018 highlights

Last year, we partnered with four awesome venues to host eight Picademy events in the United States. Across the country at each Picademy, we met incredibly talented educators who are passionate about bringing digital making to their learners. Whether at the Liberty Science Center makerspace, on Georgia Tech University’s campus, or within the archives of the Living Computer Museum, we were truly inspired by all of our Picademy attendees, and thrilled to welcome them to the Raspberry Pi Certified Educator community.

Picademy at Liberty Science Center (June 18, 2018 – June 22, 2018)

A total of 80 educators from all over the globe visited Liberty Science Center the week of June 18 – 22 to learn coding and technology skills as part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Picademy program. The week of learning culminated in a programming design challenge where the participants created projects using their new skills via the Raspberry Pi computer.

The 2018 Picademy cohorts were diverse and experienced in their field: more than 300 educators from 48 different U.S. states and 9 countries participated — a mix of high school, middle, and elementary classroom teachers, librarians, museum staff, university lecturers, and teacher trainers. We loved having the chance to welcome educators from such different backgrounds and help them learn, connect, collaborate, and create awesome projects together.

Picademy has a big impact on educators: last year, 78% of our graduates said they felt confident using Raspberry Pi after attending, and 70% said they were very likely to share their experience with their students and colleagues. And the majority of our Picademy attendees also developed an interest in starting a Code Club or a CoderDojo in their community!








Ready to join us for Picademy 2019? Learn more and apply now.

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Clap on, clap off with the Raspberry Pi Clapper 👏👏

While many people use off-the-shelf automation setups for their electrical appliances, Ash Puckett’s Raspberry Pi Clapper pays homage to the king of infomercial classics.

Remember this?

The Clapper (1989)

Uploaded by Travis Doucette on 2013-06-03.

Build your own Raspberry Pi Clapper

Sometimes, the best Raspberry Pi projects don’t need thousands of lines of code and a makerspace full of tech to make an impact: Ash Puckett‘s Clapper uses only a Raspberry Pi and a USB microphone as a basis. After that, it’s up to you to integrate the device into whatever project you wish, from home lighting and security systems to entertainment consoles — really anything you can switch from one state to another, including a Raspberry Pi!

GitHub user nikhiljohn10’s clap detection script allows the USB mic to pick up the control clap. With the help of the RPi.GPIO and PyAudio libraries, Ash demonstrates that the Clapper works by turning on and off a red LED attached to the Pi.

You will find instructions for putting together the code and running it on your Pi on the project’s Howchoo page. Howchoo also hosts some of Ash’s other Raspberry Pi projects, including a music streaming device, a smart clock, and a Pi-powered calendar.

Try the Clapper

Why not give the Clapper a go, and let us know what you decide to use it for!

I, for one, will secretly set one up to mess with all the lights in the office — what could possibly go wrong?

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Raspberry Pi-monitored chemical reactor 💥

In Hello World issue 7, Steven Weir introduces a Raspberry Pi into the classroom to monitor a classic science experiment.

A Raspberry Pi can be used to monitor the reaction between hydrochloric acid and sodium thiosulphate to complement a popular GCSE Chemistry practical.

The rate of reaction between hydrochloric acid and sodium thiosulphate is typically studied as part of GCSE Chemistry. The experiment involves measuring the time required for the reaction mixture to turn cloudy, due to the formation of sulphur as a precipitate. Students can then change the temperature or concentration of the reactants to study their effect on the rate of reaction. The time for the reaction mixture to turn cloudy is normally facilitated by recording the time a hand-drawn cross takes to become obscured when placed underneath a glass vessel holding the reaction mixture. This timing is prone to variability due to operator judgement of when the cross first becomes obscured. This variability can legitimately be discussed as part of the lesson. However, the element of operator judgement can be avoided using a Raspberry Pi-monitored chemical reactor.

The chemical reactor

Attached to a glass jar of approximate 80ml volume (the size is not critical) are two drinking straws, of which one houses a white LED (light-emitting diode) and the other a LDR (light-dependent resistor). The jar is covered in black tape to minimise intrusion of ambient light. The reactor is shown in Figure 1, along with details of other electrical components and connection instructions to a Raspberry Pi.

Figure 1
A: Reactor covered in black tape
B: Drinking straw attached to the reactor, with a further straw inserted housing a white LED
C: Drinking straw attached to the reactor, with a further straw inserted housing a LDR
D: 220Ω resistor to connect to the LED and GPIO 23
E: Wire to connect to ground
F: Wire to connect to 3.3v supply
G: 1µF capacitor to connect to ground
H: Crocodile clip to connect to GPIO 27 (NB: the other end of the wire is situated in between the capacitor and the LDR)

Results

The Python code shown in Figure 2 should be run prior to addition of chemicals to the reactor. Instructions appear on the screen to prompt chemical additions and to start data collection.

Figure 2: Python code for the chemical reactor

Figure 3 shows the results from the experiment when 25ml 0.1M hydrochloric acid is reacted with 25ml 0.15M sodium thiosulphate at 20°C. The reaction is complete at the time the light transmission first reads 0, (i.e. complete obscuration of the light by the precipitate formation) — in this example, that time is 45.4s. For more advanced students, tangents can be drawn at various points on the curve, and gradients calculated to determine the maximum rate of reaction from various reaction conditions.

Figure 3: Graph showing the change in light transmission with time

Download Hello World for free

Download your free copy of Hello World issue 7 today from the Hello World website, where you’ll also find all previous issues. And if you’re an educator in the UK, you’ll have the chance sign up to receive free hard copies to your door!

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Is this the most ‘all-in-one’ a computer can possibly be?

Electronic Grenade’s Computer Mouse is the turducken of the tech world, stuffed so full of computing gubbins that you genuinely don’t need anything else. Don’t believe us? See for yourself:

The “Computer” Mouse: A DIY Project

The computer mouse is an entire laptop computer in mouse form that uses the raspberry pi zero W as its brain. I originally wanted to just put a raspberry pi into a mouse but I soon discovered that that large of a mouse didn’t exist.

See what we mean?

The Computer Mouse

Sure, your laptop may be considered an all-in-one computer, but if you’re not a fan of trackpads, you’ll still need a mouse to complete the experience. Electronic Grenade‘s Computer Mouse truly has everything — a mouse, a screen, a keyboard — and while the screen is tiny, it’s still enough to get started.

A GIF of the Computer Mouse in action

Electronic Grenade designed the device using Autodesk Fusion 360, housing a Raspberry Pi Zero W, the guts of two USB mice, a slideout Bluetooth keyboard, and a flip-up 1.5″ full-colour OLED display. For power, the mouse also plays host to a 500mAh battery, charged by an Adafruit Micro-LiPo charger.

It’s very cool. Very, very cool.

A GIF from the movie Storks

Homemade Raspberry Pi laptops

From cardboard pizza boxes to ornate, wooden creations, our community members love making Raspberry Pi laptops out of whatever they can get their hands on.


Steampunk Raspberry Pi laptop

Variations on a theme include projects such as Jeremy Lee’s wrist computer with onboard gyromouse, perfect for any Captain Jack cosplay; and Scripto, the Raspberry Pi word processor that processes words and nothing more.


Photo: a red-cased Scripto sits open on a white work surface. It is on, and Its screen is filled with text.

Electronic Grenade

If you’re a fan of retrofit Raspberry Pi projects, check out Electronic Grenade’s Xbox controller hack. And while you’re skimming through their YouTube channel (as you should), be sure to subscribe, and watch the videos of their other Raspberry Pi–based projects, such as this wooden Raspberry Pi 3 laptop. You can also help Electronic Grenade design and build more projects such as the Computer Mouse by supporting them on Patreon.

Notes

  • A turducken is a chicken stuffed into a duck, that is then in turn stuffed into a turkey, and it sounds all kinds of wrong. Do you know what doesn’t sound all kinds of wrong? Electronic Grenade’s Computer Mouse.
  • The ‘cool, cool, cool’ GIF is from the movie Storks. If you haven’t watched Storks yet, you really should: it’s very underrated and quite wonderful.
  • I meant this Captain Jack and not this Captain Jack.

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Noticia Original

From Wireframe issue 5: Breakthrough Brits in conversation

BAFTA-recognised developers Adrienne Law and Harry Nesbitt share their thoughts on making games, work-life balance, and more in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 5, available from today.

It’s certainly ‘woollies and scarf’ weather now, but the low-hanging sun provides a beautiful backdrop as Adrienne and Harry make their daily short walk from home to the ustwo games office. In late 2018, Adrienne Law and Harry Nesbitt were both recognised by BAFTA as Breakthrough Brits: an award given by BAFTA to new and emerging talent across a variety of art and entertainment industries. But that’s not the only thing they have in common — Adrienne and Harry work in the same office and are even housemates.

Monument Valley 2 screenshot

Monument Valley 2

Adrienne is a producer at ustwo games, most recently on the acclaimed puzzler Monument Valley 2. Harry doesn’t work for ustwo, but he’s a regular fixture there, taking a spare desk to work as the lead developer and artist for Alto’s Adventure and its sequel, Alto’s Odyssey.

Alto’s Odyssey screenshot

Alto’s Odyssey

As two professionals early in their careers in an ever-evolving industry, Adrienne and Harry find themselves with much in common, but the routes that led them to working and living together were very different. The pair agreed to take an hour out of their work schedules to speak to Wireframe, and to each other, about their personal experiences of game development, how it feels to release a game, work-life balance, and the potential of games to affect and enrich lives.

Adrienne Law: My route into the games industry was semi-accidental. I played games a lot when I was a kid but didn’t know there was an industry as such to go and work in. I did an English degree thinking that might possibly set me up for going into some kind of creative, story-driven field, which was what interested me. After that, I spent a few years working different jobs — I was a teaching assistant, I worked in finance, retail, marketing, and was circling around trying to get into film and TV industries.

Eventually, I got to the point where I went onto job sites and searched for “production assistant” and that’s where I found a production assistant role going at ustwo games. I thought, “Oh! Production is a thing in games! I didn’t know that.” I decided to just go for it. I ended up having a few interviews with ustwo — I think they were worried because I was quite quiet, and they weren’t sure how much I would step into the role — but they let me through the door and gave me a chance. I’ve been here ever since. I never set out to be in the games industry, but I think I’d been gaining a lot of skills and had an awareness of the medium, so those things combined into making me a good candidate for the role.

I went to an all girls’ school that specialised in maths and science, so there was no reason that I would have thought I couldn’t work in tech, but the school didn’t push the idea of working in tech and coding. I think if I had been aware of it from a younger age, I would have been a programmer.

Harry Nesbitt

Harry Nesbitt: I’ve always thought about working in games. From a young age, I had an interest in how games were made from an artistic standpoint. I would always look up who was responsible for the concept art. Concept art as a job was something I was aware of from a very young age.

Around 2006, when I started at university, indie games weren’t in the mainstream, and making games in your own bedroom wasn’t as popular an idea. When I discovered Unity, I thought “Oh, I can download this for free, and I can learn all the basics online.” I saw examples of illustrators who were downloading it and making cool, interesting little projects — almost like little art pieces — bringing their illustrations to life. It made me realise I could have a play with that. My knowledge of the basics of JavaScript and web development helped me pick up the coding side of things a little bit more easily.

When it came to making Alto’s Adventure, I knew a little bit of Unity and had been playing with it for about 12 months, so I realised I could at least be playing around with it, seeing what’s possible and using it as a way to demonstrate certain ideas.

Within a very short space of time, less than a week maybe, I’d been able to put together a basic prototype of the core systems, such as the terrain generation, basic player physics, even some effects such as particles and Alto’s scarf. It took another year and a half from there to get it finished, but online resources gave me what I needed to eventually get the game made. It’s not necessarily an experience I’d want to repeat though!

You can read the rest of this fantastic feature in Wireframe issue 5, out today, 17 January, in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

The cutest Wireframe cover to date!

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