Happy 4th Birthday Raspberry Pi

Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi

It is amazing to see how things have changed and developed in the world of computer science since the introduction of the Raspberry Pi. Whilst other singe board computers are available, it is the community behind the Pi that have really made it a game changer.

The Raspberry Pi has also been a game changer for me in both my personal and professional life.

When it was released I was at a low point in my career, not really sure where to go and what the next phase of my teaching career would look like. I needed a fresh challenge and something to reignite the spark of passion which first got me into teaching. Now, I am not actually a computer science or even a IT teacher but the Pi has been at the heart of what I have been doing over the last four years.

These highlights only really tell part of the story, there is probably much I have forgotten to mention but it has all been great!

My journey starts back in July 2012 when my first Pi arrived and the excitement of unboxing it and setting it up.


Within a few days my son (age 7 at the time) got his hands on my Pi and was hooked. He started writing games in Scratch and very quickly developed an aptitude for it.


I was very much excited about the possibility of connecting components to the GPIO pins and soon started working on little projects with
LEDs and other components.

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In early 2014 I realised that I had a passion for sharing the possibilities and use of the Pi with other people so started my first Primary Pi
project with a local junior school.

Around Easter of 2014 I persuaded my Headteacher to give me some money to buy some Pi gear and my first order was placed.

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As I prepared more and more worksheets I realised that sharing your work was a very big part of the Raspberry Pi philosophy so I put together a free iBook called 10 Engaging Python Projects.

10 engaging python projects

By the summer term of 2014 my Raspberry Pi club at school was up and running and getting a good attendance each week from both students and some staff.

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During the summer holiday I started doing some work for other organisations who also love the Pi. These were the start of some great friendships which are still going strong today.

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As well as reviewing the FUZE Raspberry Pi system I also developed some teaching resources and wrote another iBook called 10 Engaging FUZE projects. Around this time I also started doing some work for Ryan of Ryanteck, again a relationship still going strong today.



During the summer holiday I picked up a TFT display for the Raspberry Pi and didn’t really know what to do with it.



I decided to build an Internet streaming radio. After writing a blog post I was invited by Adafruit to write a tutorial for their website which was amazing. My tutorial also got picked up by Lifehacker.com and featured as a project (again very cool!)



The Autumn of 2014 was really exciting and it seemed to be one event after another. I attended Picademy and became a certified Raspberry Pi Educator, attended some great Raspberry Jams and ran my own Raspberry Jam in Birmingham. The year ended with a great time at Pi Robot wars in Cambridge.

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Having fun at Picademy in Cambridge, October 2015


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Running my own Raspberry Jam at KESH Academy in Birmingham



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2014 ended with this lovely photo of Philip, Eben and Liz at Pi Wars

2015 started wit a trip to London to speak at BETT. This was a great opportunity to share some of the fun and interesting things I was doing in Birmingham and at school. Since completing Picadmy I had started running my own afternoon sessions basically introducing people to the potential of the Pi and looking at how it can be used in schools. This then developed into a session called “Coffee, Cake and coding”

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This time last year (March 2015) saw the third Birthday party for the Pi and another trip to Cambridge. By now I was getting used to the journey and only occasionally got lost!

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During March I was working as the head of theatre tech for our school production of the Wizard of Oz and I was really keen to get a Pi on stage. In the end I used a Pi and the Unicorn hat to make a beating heart for the tin man. This worked really well and I was very happy when Liz blogged about it on the Foundation website.

Wizard of Oz heart

In May 2015 we were really excited when a Raspberry Pi celebrity came to school in the shape of Martin O’Hanlon to talk to Pi club about Minecraft. This was a great afternoon and gave me an opportunity to get my hands on an AstroPi. This again was the start of a great friendship.

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In June I went down to Cambridge again from another Jam, this time I was presenting a show and tell table. It was really nice to talk to people about my various projects and the work I am doing at school.

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The Autumn of 2015 was very busy as I spent 8 days out of school at Picademy, this time as one of the trainers. It was a fantastic opportunity and I got so much out of it myself.

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It was great to hang out with members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They are really passionate and enthusiastic about their work and this is really contagious. Our team was great to work with and I had lots of fun working with Martin O’Hanlon, Dave Jones and Josh Johnson. I made sure that I left each session with new sills and knowledge for myself. I now have a much better understanding of how to use GitHub correctly, I learnt how to create documents in Markdown and share them. I spent much time picking the brains of Dave Jones about networking Raspberry Pi cameras and streaming video. I also spent some time creating circuits diagrams with Fritzing.

The second day of Picademy is spent working on projects. As a Science teacher I often spend time thinking of creative ways to solve problems in the classroom. I was able to apply a similar thought process at Picademy. My favourite moment had to be with the group who wanted to make a noise level detector for their classroom. this was not as easy as it first seemed as we needed a method of measuring volume and using it to trigger events. I eventually came up with a method of using an old speaker connected to the analogue port of the Explorer Hat and using this to measure voltage changes using the speaker as a microphone.

In between school work, Picademy and the general businesses of life I decided to embark on a home automation project using the Raspberry Pi touch screen. eskMate2000">My DeskMate2000 was born and I have had lots of fun designing the UI and writing code to operate things on my desk.

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As we come to the Raspberry Pi 4th Birthday I am still as excited and passionate about the Pi and the possibilities of what can be done with it both in the classroom and beyond. I continue to run workshops, attend jams and generally enthuse about the Pi wherever I go. I’m very luck that I now what a half a day a week on my timetable to allow me to visit other schools to run workshops.

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Finally, why do I do it? I think the answer lies in this short video I made for a talk a couple of years ago.



See you next year or hopefully at one of the many events I will be at in 2016!

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Minecraft Programming and Year 3

A Raspberry Pi workshop with year 3

Some people said I was crazy to do it, others said they were too young and others still said that it would be too hard!

On Tuesday I ran two lots of one and a half hour Raspberry Pi Minecraft workshops with year 3 students at a local school.

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The students had just started a healthy eating topic based around the food that Tim Peake would use on the International Space Station. This gave me a good hook to introduce the Pi and more specifically the AstroPi.

The year 3 teachers wanted to me to do something fun with Minecraft and include a element of text based programming.

The lesson resource I used is
here (worksheet 7) and simply gave students an opportunity to post a message to the Chat Window and then change the code to change the message.

The lesson followed my general formula for Minecraft workshops and I was really pleased with the effort and determination by the students.

  • Welcome and Introduction
  • Familiarisation of Minecraft Raspberry Pi edition controls
  • 15 minutes to either build a rocket or a Moon base for Tim Peake’s next space journey
  • Introduction to code activity
  • Students type the code into a blank text file
  • Teacher runs code from the terminal
  • Whilst students are waiting for help they can return to their original designs, reducing any waiting time

Observations

  • Students were very keen to type in text and use their partners to check each line
  • Generally students will forget the capital letter M in mc = minecraft.Minecraft.create() but with the attention to details and checking less students made this mistake than I would have expected.
  • Many of the students in the class couldn’t find the key combination to type a “ or (
  • Students showed resilience and were very excited when their first chat message appeared on the screen.


Would I do year 3 again for my workshop - absolutely!


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