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Picademy and beyond


Over the last year I have written a number of blog posts about the excellent CPD run by the Raspberry Pi Foundation called Picademy. I was a delegate at the October 2014 Picademy in Cambridge and then was very fortunate to be able to take part in the Birmingham events as a leader / trainer.

As the Picademy machine moves on to a new location for the next round of training I have been thinking about what I have personally got out of the process as a leader.

1. Making new friends

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.


2. Learning new skills.

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.

3 leds

3. Creative problem solving using the Pi.

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.


For more information about Picademy check out the link here



My first touchscreen project: The DeskMate2000

I bought a Raspberry Pi touchscreen earlier this year and decided I wanted to build another touchscreen device based on the Internet Streaming Radio player project.

Around this time I was starting to think about home automation and the possibility of using the Pi for home security.

deskmate 2000 - 1

Raspberry Pi A+ in the porch streaming live video to the touchscreen Pi in my office over WIFI.

deskmate2000 - 2

Live video feed from the Pi A+. The camera makes a single network connection to the desk Pi to add an extra dimension of security.

deskmate2000 - 3

Status information about the pi

deskmate2000 - 4

Weather information

deskmate2000 - 5

Error message if the feed from the security camera is lost

deskmate2000 - 6

Play list information for the Internet radio.

The first four buttons control two energenie sockets.

The code for the project can be found here


One giant leap for Pi-kind

What makes you stay up late on a school night in December?

Tonight I was glued to my monitor watching NASA tv waiting for the launch of the Altlas 5 rocket taking Astro Pi to the ISS.

Sadly due to the bad weather over Kennedy Space Centre the launch was scrubbed until tomorrow.

AstroPi is a great project and as a school really enjoyed taking part in it.

Read my thoughts and reflections on the project here.





It was great watching the launch of Tim Peake a week or so later at school with my class.


Taking your Pi on the road

Outreach work with the Raspberry Pi

Over the last two years I have developed a number of workshops which I have either delivered at Raspberry Jam events or at my school. This year I am very fortunate to have three hours on my timetable once a fortnight for outreach work. Up to now I have been running sessions at my school but I am now starting to take all my gear to other schools.


Having a big boot is a real bonus, I can easily fit 15 monitors in my boot along with all the gear to set up a classroom.


15 Raspberry Pi workstations setup in a classroom ready for the first workshop

What I have learnt?

Before the workshop

  • Visit the school to discuss aims and objectives of the workshop.
  • Visit the classroom, particularly note how many sockets are available.
  • Check that all your equipment is working
  • Have at least one spare Raspberry Pi and three or four SD cards
  • Identify any students who will need additional support with the class teacher

A possible model for a Minecraft Pi workshop (90 minutes)

  • Introduce yourself and the Raspberry Pi
  • Quick build challenge (10 minutes) to build a hospital - explain controls for students who haven’t used PC / Pi edition before
  • Show students how you can build a hospital in about 10 seconds by running hospital script here
  • Students complete task 1 posting messages to chat (from here)
  • There will be many times when students are waiting for help or have completed their task, encourage them to go back to their hospital to add more detail
  • Once everyone has task one completed complete task 5 - building a simple house
  • As an extension complete task 6
  • Review the session by asking students to think of one thing they have enjoyed and one thing they had to show resilience with
  • Hand out certificates

Equipment I take to a workshop

  • 15 x Raspberry Pi (with various hats attached!)
  • 15 x power supplies
  • 15 x keyboards
  • 16 x mice
  • 15 x monitor
  • 15 x HDMI --> DVI for monitors
  • 15 x 4 way power extension lead
  • 2 x 15m garden extension lead
  • data projector, spare Pi and cables
  • 2 x spare Raspberry Pi
  • Worksheets

Do ask any questions and share suggestions in the comments.


Another pot of Raspberry Jam in Birmingham

With Raspberry Jams, free CPD sessions and most recently Picademy, Birmingham is rapidly becoming a great place for the Raspberry Pi.

On Saturday 31st Martin O’Hanlon ran a very successful Raspberry Jam at the Google Digital Garage in the Library of Birmingham. 39 people came from a range of backgrounds and experience levels. Feedback as people were leaving was very positive and everyone said that they had a good afternoon.

The programme for the afternoon was simple but gave people an opportunity to try new things on the Raspberry Pi and to attend two workshops.

12:00 - Open
12:15 - 12:30 Welcome
12:30 - 13:00 Getting to know the Pi / show and tell / free flow
13:00 - 13:50 Workshop 1 - Minecraft coding with @ncscomputing
14:00 - 14:50 Workshop 2 - Physical computing with @mruktechreviews
15:00 - Close

The two workshops were run by @ncscomputing and myself @mruktechreviews which both were very well received.

A few photos from the day posted on twitter.

Martin welcoming everyone at the start of the afternoon

Minecraft workshop in full swing

Lots of exciting components to make disco lights

“And you connect the long leg to the left”

The 2nd Raspberry Jam at the Google Digital Garage in the Library of Birmingham will be on the 5th December from 12 - 3pm. You can sign up and book tickets here.

Do come along and support our local jam!


Birmingham Picademy

Just before the end of the school summer holidays an intrepid group of teachers joined the ranks of the Raspberry Pi Certified Educators after spending two days at Picademy in Birmingham.


The two days were held in the stunning Birmingham Library Google Garage and was led by Martin O’Hanlon, Josh Johnson, Dave Jones and myself.


The Birmingham Picademy followed the same program used at the Cambridge and Leeds events with day one being spent doing workshops and the second day mainly being spent working on projects.

After a brief introduction to the course delegates were setting up their Raspberry Pis and jumping into the workshops.

Workshop 1: Introduction to GPIO using Scratch and Python
Workshop 2: Sonic Pi
Workshop 3: Minecraft
Workshop 4: Making cool stuff with add-ons (using the Explorer Hat)
Workshop 5: Taking selfies with the Picamera

The first day went really well and everyone was very keen to engage with all the activities. Workshop 4 was really fun and we felt very optimistic for day 2 after seeing all the cool things people made. Day one ended with a very nice meal and we came back refreshed for day two.



The second day started with engaging presentations about YRS, engaging leaners in computer science and feedback from Skycademy. After the community talks we dived straight into the project day. There was a really good range of project ideas and these developed really well throughout the day.




Projects included:

  • Twitter camera bot
  • Plotting telemetry data in Minecraft
  • Minecraft dance mat
  • Robot
  • Classroom monitor for noise level
  • Baby monitoring device
  • Light writing wand using the sense hat

The second day ended with certificates being handed out to our now Certified Raspberry Pi Educators.

There are still three more Birmingham Picademy events to be held at the Birmingham Digital Garage on:

1st - 2nd October
2nd - 3rd November
7-8th December

More details can be found here

Martin O’Hanlon will also be running mini Jam style events with the first being on Saturday 31st October and more details can be found here

A final word about the team from Google. They were amazing, really helpful and went above and beyond to help make our event as successful as possible.


Picademy is coming to Birmingham

Picademy is coming to Birmingham!

A very exciting update came out today from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The awesome and free CPD opportunity Picademy is coming to the Google Digital Garage in Birmingham.

Read the full blog post from the Pi Foundation here.

The sessions will be run by the amazing Martin O’Hanlon ( along with some other familiar faces from the wider Raspberry Pi community.

The dates are:

27th – 28th August
1st – 2nd October
2nd – 3rd November
7th – 8th December

At the end of the two days you join the ever-growing band of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators.

certified-educator-blog SO

To read more about my experience going through Picademy have a read of these two blog posts:

Picademy - October 2014

What was the impact of becoming a Certified Educator?


Display-o-tron scoreboard - Guest Blog

A guest blog post and code by Philip (age 10)

A game I have always played is hamster wars with my brother. We both love the game but can’t easily keep the scores.

As a result of this I decided to use my Pi with a hat I had seen, called the Display-O-Tron 3000 by Pimoroni. The original idea was that it would be controlled by a website but I started with something simple.

First, I thought of the main things it will need: a competition name; a winning score; the player names; a winner screen; the scores and a way to edit those things.

To get the competition name, when you load the program up the first thing it does is asks you what the name of the competition is. Then I asks how many points to win, then the player names. It puts all of that stuff into variables and puts 0 as the score. Then it puts them into a string and displays then on the Display-O-Tron 3000.

Meanwhile on the terminal is a list of options and you select an option by typing it’s number in. You can change the names, add to the scores and do a lot of stuff. You can even reset so that the title is ‘unnamed competition’ and the players are ‘demo’ and ‘demo2’.

Some more ideas for the future to be added include:

A music player.
Change the background colour.
A keyboard on the Display-O-Tron as it has a joystick on it.
Run it at boot.


Philip - “Keep calm and play Minecraft”

Please subscribe to me at for raspberry pi and python tutorials.


My year of Pi - Guest Blog

My Year with the Raspberry Pi

I released my first website eight years ago at the age of six. It was a website dedicated to the latest news from the children's site 'Club Penguin'. Back then, the chance of me owning my own robot was as low as the chance NASA has of landing on Jupiter. By that, I mean it was basically impossible. Now at the age of fourteen, I own two. This is all thanks to the Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer. I heard about the Pi in November 2014, when my computer science teacher posted about MinecraftPi on our school VLE. I'm a massive fan of the game, so having the pi associated to it led me to research the device until I eventually received the original model B with an awesome rainbow PiBow for my birthday in February. As a result of this, I've had an amazing school year in the field of computer science. In May, I attended the Southend Raspberry Jam, which was a really awesome day as I spoke about my school's Astro Pi entry with another girl named Marian, who is also pi crazy! We met loads of people who worked as programmers and developers which inspired me to keep learning and creating. However, my experiences with the pi have not been all about software. The strangest thing is that now, I'm not 100% sure whether I want to be a hardware or software developer! Through the pi, I have learnt the skill of soldering by connecting GPIO headers to new components, and when soldering motor controller boards. I've also been to the first Southend Fablab which is an event all about 3D printing. This led me to buy a Vellemen 3D printer of my own, and it was great fun to put together! However, the most amazing part of owning and programming with the Raspberry Pi is the community of makers that comes with it. As a result of this massive community, I have met loads of inspiring people, and those I haven't have spoken to me via twitter (such as Spencer who runs this fine blog). Whilst I've taken a load of inspiration, it makes me really proud to say that I have started inspiring others by teaching year 7 and 9 classes at my school. The main topic is MinecraftPi, which is really good for an introduction to Python, which we use for GCSE so I suppose it creates an early interest, which will hopefully persuade more year sevens to choose computer science for their GCSEs.In the future, I hope to collaborate the BBC Microbit with the pi and run a club for the new intake so the Microbit isn't something that they forget to bring to lessons, and eventually gets hoovered up in year 8. Thanks for reading this, and I hope to meet more of the pi community in September, where I will be speaking about MinecraftPi at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam.



Yasmin Bey Young Programmer / Enderman Slayer



Tweachcode - a weekly Twitter chat session for teachers of computing


Who likes free high quality CPD that doesn’t generate any cover?

Every Monday at 8pm for the last few months I have been sat on my computer engaging in a Twitter conversation with a great group of people from around the UK and beyond.

The conversations are hosted by @TweachCode with guests sometimes joining them. A series of questions on a topic are posted out during the hour from 8-9pm and replies are shared with #TweachCode. An archive is made of the conversation using storify and are available to read on the CPD for Teachers website.

Topics have included

Cross Curricular Computing
Mobile Apps
Raspberry Pi
Python for Key Stage 4
Solving real world problems
Transition to Text based programming

Currently there are 27 Discussions on the website.

What has been good?

  • Monday at 8pm is a good time to think about teaching and learning. It sets you up in the right frame of mind for the rest of the week.
  • A great opportunity for networking. I have picked up many followers and started following many others
  • No silly questions. People have been very supportive and have not belittled any question for being too simple or silly
  • A great balance of ‘experts’ and people wanting to find out solutions
  • An opportunity for everyone to contribute as little or as much as they want
  • Lots (and I mean lots) of great resources shared
  • Well thought out questions and prompts for the discussion

Tweachcode are now on holiday for the summer and will be back in the new school term. I can thoroughly recommend this CPD opportunity. With a permanent record made through storify participation in the discussion can be documented as CPD evidence towards Performance management targets.

Tweachcode is run by CPD for Teachers who run a number of courses throughout the year. They can be contacted on 0844 870 8935 and via


An hour of code

At key stage 3 we don't yet teach the programming aspects of the new IT curriculum apart from a couple of lessons using Kodu.

During our curriculum days I was given an opportunity to run a Minecraft programming workshop with half of year 7 and half of year 8. This is a workshop I already run at other schools and events so was excited to see what my students would make of it.

The theme for the day in Science was First Aid so we had a look at building a 3D hospital in Minecraft using a few lines of Python code.

minecraft python

For most of the students (apart from the ones who come to Raspberry Pi club) this was their first experience of writing a text based computer program. Students were given a worksheet with the basic program which they had to type in and then run. This was a challenge for many students who found the task of copy typing accurately very difficult. Once the code was written and the hospital was built students then had an opportunity to tinker with the code to change the dimensions and the materials the hospital was made from.


It was a really interesting experience giving the students "an hour of code". Most of the students engaged with it well and were keen to type in the code and tinker with it. Some became frustrated when their code didn't work and they had to go back and debug it.

Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi is definitely a great way of introducing students to text based programming.

The code for the hospital can be found here.



Retrogaming Pi

RetroPi Gaming Machine project tutorial


Build your own retro-gaming console with this simple guide.

equipment needed

Raspberry Pi model 2
Coupe style Raspberry Pi case
TFT car reversing monitor
12V power supply (or similar for TFT)
Game controller (eg. Xbox360 wired controller)
Game ROMs (which you must own)
RetroPi SD card image
Table lamp switch
Camcorder style connecting cable

Step 1:

Chose your display. There are several different TFT models available and for this build you will not need a high definition display. A cheap 480p display will have a good enough resolution to play the games. Before you start the build it is worth checking that the display connects properly to the Raspberry Pi. At this stage I am still using the Noobs SD card image. Depending on the type of composite cable, you may need to switch around the left audio channel and video. Remember not to have the HDMI cable connected when booting up. If you have issues connecting to the composite output you may find this information useful on editing config.txt from the Raspberry Pi website. Once you have the screen working you may think that the resolution looks too low. Don’t panic - once it is running retro games it will not be an issue.

Step 2:

Carefully dismantle the display from the case, taking care to preserve all the cables and connectors. This is the scariest part of the build and great care should be taken not to put extra pressure on the screen.

TFT screen

Step 3:

Decide on a suitable length of cables and carefully chop off the connectors. You will need to solder the (correct) video connector from the camcorder lead to either the AV1 or AV2 cable. I have left the other other AV input connector attached to the monitor as it provides a secondary input if ever needed. Connect the switch to the power supply and solder the power cables to the power cables on the monitor. There are various types of monitor and connectors available so I have not included any photos of mine. You will still have two left and right channel audio cables coming from the camcorder cable. It is my intention to add a powered speaker to the project and will add more details later.

Step 4:

Design your case. You could use a perspex frame or find a dead retro console on eBay and gut it.

Step 5:

Assemble your case.




Step 6

Download the retro-Pi SD card image and prepare a new SD card. The download and full instructions can be found here.

Step 7

Plug in your controller and configure. Full details can be found here.

Step 8

If you own any game ROMs copy them onto RetroPi. Full details can be found here.

A note about copyright:

You must physically own the game ROMS you wish to install onto a retropi machine.

Post photos of your creations in the comments section.


My reflections on Astro-Pi competition

Today we submitted our entry for the Astro-Pi competition in the year 7 and 8 age group.

It has been an interesting few weeks working on our project with my students.


After a slow start we got our hands on the Astro-Pi board and instantly loved it. We liked the sensors and the ease at which you could get information. We really liked to simplicity of the LED matrix and how easily you could display messages and create pictures and logos.

We decided on a project brief: Do Chemical reactions happen the same in space? We had the idea of using a glow stick to represent the chemical reaction and use the Pi to record both data and photos of the glow stick changing colour.

If I am honest I am sure that there will be many more worthy entries in the age group, but we are ok with that. We don’t teach CS at school so all the programming knowledge and understanding has come from our Raspberry Pi club.

I feel that we have got lots out from the process (sounds like the Apprentice) and in this blog I want to sum up what it has meant to me as the teacher and to the students.

So I guess the first place to start is with the code:

During the project I produced some simple work cards that the students used to develop little nuggets of code which would be used in the final project. These included:

  • Displaying text and designing patterns on the LED maxtrix
  • Collecting data from the sensors
  • Using the Raspberry Pi camera and designing a time-lapse system
  • Writing data to a file and saving data

Alongside this the students also had a great opportunity to work together on the project.

  • Social skills - working together students from different year groups and different abilities
  • Team work - having a team leader and delegating different aspects of the project
  • Creatively thinking through a problem and working out solutions.

An obvious and very important consequence of the project was that the students talked about code, space and the ISS.

I am really pleased that we entered. The students now have lots of awesome ideas of things they want to try with the board as we move into the post-competition period.

I will post our projects code here in a few days time.


Build a hospital in Minecraft

During activities week at school the Science department are doing some work based around first aid. Wanting (obviously) to use a Raspberry Pi I am running Minecraft workshops for groups of 30 students.

The students will have to design, build and evaluate Red Cross Emergency hospitals in Minecraft.

To give the students a head start I have written a Python program to build the shell of their hospitals for them.

Build a #minecraft hospital on the #raspberrypi in seconds

A video posted by MrUkTechReviews (@uktechreviews) on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:00am PDT

The code is available here:


Astro Pi project update #1

Astro Pi Project update #1

Without giving too much away at this stage our entry for the Astro-Pi competition is progressing well. We have an idea, an experiment we can do in space. We just need some code.

Today we tried recording data from the sensors and putting them into a file.

For the last lesson of the day we recorded the temperature, humidity and pressure

sensor experiment sensor experiment results

We should have another update coming soon ....


CamJam June 2015

Show and Tell at CamJam

Getting Philip up at 6am on a Saturday morning is never fun but it was definitely worth it for another great day in Cambridge at CamJam.

Packing the toolbox

Arriving at CamJam

Our “Show and tell” table


Time for Lunch

Astro-Pi competition ideas

Babbage is taken for a ride

A quick look at the observatory

It was a great day out showing off my projects. We took lots of photos with the Raspberry Pi Selfie Cam and there was lots of interest with my touch screen radio.


Martin O'Hanlon vists Pi Club

We had a special visitor to KESH Academy Raspberry Pi club today.


We were treated to an end of half term visit from Martin O’Hanlon (co-author of Adventures in Minecraft) to our Raspberry Pi club. It was really exciting for the students to meet Martin and the feedback from the students was really positive.


We were excited to see a Astro Pi out in the wild and were lucky to see some of the really great things it can do. Martin’s integration of the Astro Pi with Minecraft was really exciting and the students loved seeing the effects of exploring the different sensors via Minecraft.


Last week at Pi club we had a look at the clock code from Adventures in Minecraft, but sadly due to my lack of reading instructions I had failed to download an additional library needed. It was great for the students to see it working properly on Martin’s Pi.


Thank you again Martin for this enjoyable hour!

For more information visit


TrafficHAT advert

Have you seen the advert for the TrafficHat by Ryanteck?

I am very excited about this advert, mainly because I made it and also because I love the product.

For more information about the TrafficHat visit Ryan’s website by clicking on the photo below;


If you would like a promo video do please get in contact - my rates are very reasonable!


Pipsta Selfie camera

A simple Pipsta Project - The Raspberry Pi selfie cam

With a very short script, a button and a Raspberry Pi camera attached I have created a very simple selfie-cam with printer.



The code is relatively simple:


I have used raspistill to capture the image and save it as a .png which the Pipsta can easily print out. To help the image quality I have also increased the brightness of the image.

Please leave a comment below.


Key words, Raspberry Pi and the Pipsta

Key words, Raspberry Pi and the Pipsta

I recently reviewed the Pipsta for the Raspberry Pi and have been thinking over the last week of creative ways that it can be used within the classroom.


Included with the Pipsta example code is a script for generating banners. I was immediately drawn to the idea of using these to generate key words to stick onto the white board or classroom wall.


Whilst this may seem a very simple tool to use it does have some real potential for the class teacher:

  • The only consumable is the paper, which is incredibly cheap to buy
  • There is no cutting out needed once the key words are printed
  • The print head and font size is very readable
  • The printed image should last between one and seven years depending on the quality of the paper and how it is handled.
  • The speed of printing is incredibly and can easily be done during a lesson

Combining this with the ability to SHH into the Raspberry Pi students could also print out their own key words during a lesson from their own computers.

Visit the Pipsta website here



Introducing the TrafficHat by Ryanteck LTD


Firstly a massive thank you to Ryanteck LTD for sending me the TrafficHat to review and secondly I should warn you that I am a big fan of Ryan at Ryanteck so this might be a little bit biased.

I love Raspberry Pi hats, I think the concept is excellent and I am starting to build up a big collection of them.

Ryan has recently released a new product the TrafficHat. Links to his website can be found here.

The hat is currently available as pre-order with estimated delivery next week and retails at £7.75

The Traffichat comes in a semi-kit form with most of the major soldering already done with the user needing to solder three LEDs, a switch and a buzzer. GPIO numbers are pre-assigned for each component making this easier for beginners to start programming with.

The hat contains: 3 jumbo LEDs (Red, Green and Amber), a switch and a buzzer

No extra software or libraries are needed for the hat and programming can be completed in any language which supports GPIO output.

With many students starting out with traffic light projects on the Raspberry Pi, I see this low-cost hat being very useful in a school or club environment where you need a reliable way of connecting LEDs without the need for breadboards or GPIO connectors. Although don’t get me wrong that is also a very important experience for the students to master.



Introducing the Pipsta

Introducing the Pipsta - “The Little printer with big ideas”

Firstly, a huge thanks to Able Systems Limited for sending me the Pipsta to review. This will be the first of several posts about the Pipsta as I look later at some of the in-class applications and uses for it.

Pipsta is a smart little printer that’s full of big ideas. You can link your Pipsta to your Raspberry Pi and do all sorts of things – from printing labels to tickets.

Building and setting up the Pipsta is very straightforward and I spent just under 45 minutes building it and downloading and setting up the software on the Pi. The documentation is very comprehensive and you don’t need a huge skill or experience level to build the kit.

You will notice in my photos and videos the Pipsta looks blue, this is because I have not taken off the plastic coating from the perspex.

A really important and fairly awesome thing to note is that because the Pipsta uses thermal paper technology the only consumable is the paper, there is no ink, toner etc. I have found suitable rolls on Amazon for £4.99 for 20 rolls.


The example code contains a number of useful applications such as printing text straight to the Pipsta, banner printing, printing from web pages, printing pictures and QR codes.

The python libraries are fairly intuitive and this releases a huge amount of potential for the Pipsta. At the moment I am using it in my classroom to print out key words and labels for the whiteboard using the banner print function. By networking the Pi and SSH into it from my tablet I can easily print key words as I walk around the classroom and then get the students to bring them to the front.


The Pipsta can be purchased from ModMyPi here

The official Pipsta website can be found here


The Pimoroni Explorer Hat

Simon says use the Explorer Hat!

I recently bought myself an Explorer Hat pro from the guys over at Pimoroni. This is a great little hat which offers lots of connectivity for prototyping on the Raspberry Pi.

Features include: (from Pimoroni website)

  • Four buffered 5V tolerant inputs
  • Four powered 5V outputs (up to 500mA!)
  • Four capacitive touch pads
  • Four capacitive crocodile clip pads
  • Four coloured LEDs
  • PRO ONLY Four analog inputs
  • PRO ONLY Two H-bridge motor drivers
  • PRO ONLY A heap of useful (unprotected) 3v3 goodies from the GPIO
  • A mini breadboard on top!

I was excited to see what I could do with this and thought about project that uses the LEDs and the capacitive touch pads.


So I decided to recreate the classic game of “Simon Says”.

If you would like a copy of the code feel free to download it here

Ocean Blue Downloads


Raspberry Pi in the theatre

If I only had a heart

I recently coordinated the ‘tech’ for the school production of “The Wizard of Oz” and was really keen to see if there was a use for the Raspberry Pi in either the special effects or as a prop.


I decided to use the Pimoroni Unicorn Hat with a raspberry pi model A+ to provide a glowing animated heart for the Tin Man.

IMG_0167 IMG_0162

The code was relatively simple and I used a simple list to assign the x,y and colour data for each pixel to be used.


To give the effect of the heart beating and pulsating I gradually changed the brightness of the pixels from about 30 - 80%. It was important not to go too bright as I could have blinded the audience or other cast members!

while True:
for bright in range (30,80):

This gave a very passable beating effect which looked stunning on the stage. The Pi was powered with a portable battery pack and to make backstage life easier the code was activated from boot using crontab with.

@reboot sudo python /home/pi/Pimoroni/ &

The full code can be downloaded from the icon below.

Ocean Blue Downloads

Wizard of Oz heart


VNC Now available for Raspberry Pi

VNC Now available for Raspberry Pi

I was really pleased to see the team from RealVNC at the Raspberry Pi Birthday party on Saturday.

VNC is a very convenient way of using a remote desktop from a PC / tablet / phone / Mac and your Raspberry Pi.

My Philip (age 10) has made this simple tutorial on how to use it.

The exciting news is that RealVNC is now available for the Raspberry Pi allowing you secure and seamless access of the Pi from any Windows, Mac, Linux computer or iOS, Android or Chrome device.

More details here on the RealVNC website.

Licence codes and details are available here

There is a good amount of documentation and information on the RealVNC webpage.

I would also just like to say thank you to the team from RealVNC, they were incredibly kind to Philip when he posted his first video. If you have seen it he goes off to the toilet half way through and tells everyone where he is going! They were also really nice and encouraging when they spoke to him on Saturday. This sort of kindness doesn’t go unnoticed in the 10 year old’s mind!


The Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend

The Raspberry Pi BIG Birthday Weekend

Following many weeks of many emails the big day had arrived as we left the house at 6.30am for the Raspberry Pi Big Birthday weekend.

With workshops, talks, show and tell and the marketplace and 110 Pizzas, cake and beer in the evening there was plenty for everyone to do!



With a blinky badge and marshal badge I was all set for a busy day of helping at workshops, talking about Raspberry Jams, helping prepare party bags, setting up the party room and picking up rubbish!


Introducing Liz and Eben Upton


Eben Upton - Keynote


Beginners, please workshop “This is a Raspberry Pi”


Beginners, please workshop





Setting up for the party


Lots of balloons


Beer from the



An edible Raspberry Pi


Pass the Parcel prizes (thanks to everyone who donated so much awesome stuff!)


Sonic Pi with Sam Aaron


Beer and Pizza time



The Raspberry Pi Game of Thrones Mini-series


Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi

Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi

With the third birthday of the Raspberry Pi coming up soon I have been thinking about what the last three years has meant to me and how this computer has really changed my life before personally and professionally.

I am definitely a Pi-Evangelist, every where I go I talk to people about what the Pi can do and how it is useful in both the home and in education. I am passionate about how it can be used in the classroom and love talking and sharing with other teachers the possibilities.

What makes the Pi so great for me?

It has to be the community which has grown up around it. It is amazing to encounter such a wide ranging group of people who are really passionate about seeing the Pi used creatively.

Do leave a comment below about what the Pi means to you and check out this video of highlights from the last three years.


Picobot and Agobo

Introducing the Picobot and Agobo from 4Tronix

Many thanks to 4Tronix for sending me a Picobot and Agobo to review. Rather than making a video and reviewing straight away I have been using both robots at school with my Pi club for a couple of weeks.

If you are looking for a robot kit to get you into robotics both of these are great starting points.

The Picobot

The Picobot is a low-cost swarming robot costing £21.95 which comes ready assembled (just add wheels). It is rich in features and can be bought as a class set of 6 for swarming projects.

Features include (from 4Tronix website) and more details here.

  • Ready assembled - just push on the wheels and screw in the front caster assembly
  • Arduino compatible ATMega328P-AU (with 2 additional analog inputs)
  • 2 x N20 geared motors with "biscuit" 42mm diameter wheels
  • 2 forward facing light sensors
  • 2 line sensors
  • 2 paired RGB LEDs underneath for mood lighting and status information depending how you want to program them - they both show the same colour, not independent
  • Rear facing bright white LED - useful for "follow my leader"
  • Mode selection button - general purpose input button that you can program yourself
  • On - Off switch
  • Reset button
  • Socket for ultrasonic distance sensor HC-SR04
  • Socket of 2.4GHz RF module - nRF24L01 or compatible
  • Socket for programming (requires a USB to serial converter such as a CP2102 module with DTR, must be pin for pin compatible with the one 4tronix sell)
  • NB. Basic model does not include battery or battery holder as you can use any LiPo or LiOn battery or battery holder with 2-pin JST plug (check the polarity)



A short video of the Picobot in action.

I haven’t yet experimented with programming the Picobot but we had great fun at school designing different mazes for him to follow. This also gave a great introduction into line following algorithms.

The Agobo

If you are looking for a Raspberry Pi based robot I can definitely recommend the Agobo. You will need a Raspberry Pi model A+ and WIFI dongle in addition to the robot. I have been using the Agobo in a class situation and had 6 different groups of students logged into it writing simple control programs. For more details and examples of worksheets check out the link here.

The Agobo is very easy to assemble and can built in a range of different configurations.

Do also check out this blog post of my experience in class with Agobo.



Features include (from 4Tronix website) and more details here.

  • Designed for Raspberry Pi Model A+
  • Pre-assembled. Only requires front caster, mounting pillars and battery holder to be screwed on and then push the wheels on
  • RPi A+ plugs directly onto the main PCB
  • Two N20 size geared motors fully and individually controllable in software
  • Built in line-follower sensors with indicator LEDs
  • Separately controllable front LEDs left and right
  • Power on/off switch and LED
  • Connector for optional plug-in ultrasonic distance sensor
  • Breakout header for a standard serial console cable (ideal way to program a Model A+)
  • Breakout I²C header for our IP Display dongle
  • Prototyping area to add your own sensors
  • Fully replicated 40-pin GPIO header so you can attach your own addons
  • Additional mounting holes to attach sensors or extra hardware

The following optional extras are also available.

  • Ultrasonic sensors (HC-SR04) which simply plugs into the connector at the front
  • Super short micro USB cable to tidy up the battery connection
  • Acrylic cover with mounting hardware to cover and protect the Raspberry Pi Model A+
  • PlusPlate™ Additional prototyping board and mounting hardware. This allows a full size area to add your own electronics from a simple LED, to more complex items including integrated circuits, RF modules and neopixels. See separate specification later
  • Serial console cable which allows easy access to the Raspberry Pi command line without any setup required
  • Pre-loaded SD card with the latest Raspbian software and Agobo software (Python and Scratch)

The Python library for the Agobo makes programming it very simple and I had a great response from the students at my Pi club when I introduced him. The students also had a look at how we could use the ultrasonic detector to make a simple crash prevention system. This gave me a great opportunity to introduce a simple always turn left if blocked algorithm. For £25 + the Raspberry Pi A+ makes this an affordable introduction to robotics and programming robots. The design is very sturdy and well constructed.


One robot and 8 students

Introducing the Agobo to my Raspberry Pi club

One of the main thoughts with my Raspberry Pi club at school is always around how I can deliver great projects with spending the minimum amount of money. My budget for the year is relatively low so I have to make every penny count. I was therefore really excited when 4Tronix send me an Agobo robot to review and test.

The build was relatively simple and I have a sample worksheet I used with the club to download from here.


This poses an age old question, how do you share one robot with a whole club of students? It took a moment of thinking outside of the box to come up with a relatively simple plan. The Agobo runs from a Raspberry Pi model A+ with WIFI connectivity.

My starting point was to the run the A+ from a fixed power supply rather than the battery, connect it to my Raspberry Pi WIFI network and establish its IP address.

I then created 8 students folders containing the essential libraries and sample code in folders called student1 up to student8.

I got each student to SSH into the Agobo Pi from their Raspberry Pis - which they loved and found very exciting. With each student having their own work area on the Agobo they were able to tinker with their code and save it without affecting anyone else.

There was an obvious disadvantage to this method:

Firstly being tethered with a charger the students were unable to fully test their code until I shut it down and powered it back on with the battery pack. Not being fully sure of how long the battery would last I didn’t want to run it from there the whole time.

Secondly, the code needs to end cleanly with agobo.cleanup() so the students were told that they could only run the program one at a time and it should come to an end cleanly and not be stopped.

Once everyone had finished their task I rebooted the Agobo after switching over to the batter pack, checked the IP address hadn’t changed again and got the students to log back into their folder and run their code. This worked really well and I was very pleased that I was able to share 1 robot amongst 8 students.


Raspberry Pi Model 2

Raspberry Pi model 2 announced today by the Raspberry Pi Foundation


Photo from Raspberry Pi website

It was a really exciting day today in the world of Raspberry Pi and I nearly missed it in the business of teaching today at school.

The specs look amazing and I really can’t wait to order one!

* 900 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU
* 1GB memory

The news which seems to have been picked up on is that the new processor will run the full range of ARM GNU/Linux distributions as well as Microsoft Windows 10.

It is important to note that this is not going to be the desktop version of Windows 10 but a non-desktop version which you would use for embedded projects. The Raspberry Pi foundation will not be supporting Windows 10 Embedded so there will be no educational resources. This will also not replace the current OS.

windows website

With a processor benchmarked at running 6x faster and twice as much memory this is a real beast of a Pi (sorry for the expression) and I really can’t wait to get my hands on one.

Do you have one yet? Leave a comment below.


Family Hack Jam 30th Jan

Family Hack Jam with Alan O’Donohoe

After a very long day at school yesterday I left at 4.30 and drove for an hour and half to Stourbridge to join Alan O’Donohoe at a Family Hack Jam being run as part of his Jam Packed Roadshow.


Alan is a larger-than-life passionate IT teacher who has a really engaging way with everyone he works with. The evening was based around writing either a game in Scratch or an interactive story using Twine with people in small teams. The evening started with a short game which set the context for the rest of the evening. I was really impressed with the way that Alan simply gave people the time to experiment and develop an idea through to an end product. I was one of the judges and helped give the scores at the end of the evening. It was a really pleasant evening with a good number of people attending.

The welcome and friendliness of the staff and students from Pedmore Technology College was great and they really made everyone feel welcome and encouraged to take part.





A very nice way to end the week seeing families of all ages working hard on developing an idea.



BETT 2015 - a great day out

After a very early start and catching the 6.20 train to London I found myself at ExCel London full of anticipation for the day ahead at BETT.

IMG_3262 IMG_3266
IMG_3267 IMG_3268

It was really great catching up with the team from FUZE and seeing some of the resources I had written being used in the real world!


At 11.00 I presented a short talk on the Raspberry Pi based work I am doing at my school. I was really good to be able to share some of the things we are doing with both students in the school and through wider outreach work.




Overall the day was really productive and I had some very good conversations with a number of companies and organisations. It always surprises me how many tech companies I know. I had a great chat with Teknoteacher (Alan O’Donohoe) about Raspberry Pi’s, laptops, JamPacked Roadshow, Python and life.


A couple more photos of the Raspberry Pi stand

At the end of the day I decided that as we were relatively close to Stratford I would pop over to the Olympic Park as I hadn’t seen it before.




Minecraft Pi club

Something very interesting happened at Raspberry Pi Minecraft club last week. ...

KESH minecraft

Minecraft Raspberry Pi club has been running at school for just over two terms now. After introducing the students to the Raspberry Pi and learning how to set them up we embarked on a series of projects based on resources which can be found here.

Initially the idea would be that we would spend 20 minutes ‘playing’ on Minecraft, followed by 20 minutes doing a simple piece of practice code and then 20 minutes having fun.

After Christmas I was interested to see what would happen if they were just given time to ‘play’. It was at this time that I networked all the PI’s so that they could do some multiplayer Minecraft.

The results were really surprising and shocked me. The students were really quick to ask me where the project cards were as they wanted to do different specific tasks with the code rather than just play. The best bit was when students started showing me how they had adapted the code to do a specific task.

One of my main aims with the Raspberry Pi club is to help students develop the skills to become independent learners. It looks very much like this is happening!


Protocam+ review







The ProtoCam+ is great little prototyping board for the Raspberry Pi model A+ and also fits nicely on the B+. Assembly is relatively simple (simply solder the extended GPIO header onto the board) and then you are read to prototype. In the photos above I soldered three jumbo LEDs to the board and then used short lengths of cable on the reverse.

Once the prototype has been built it is then a simple job of attaching the camera module to the board. In my example I have attached three LEDs to show the status of a time-lapse sequence.

Key features:

  • Camera is mounted as part of the large prototyping surface
  • Full access to the 40 GPIO pins
  • 0, 3V and 5V power rails
  • The camera mounts onto the rear of the board with the lens pushed through a hole
  • Covers the entire surface of the A+ Pi
  • Fils neatly onto the B+ Pi
  • Comes with a short 85mm camera cable which folds under the board neatly
  • Nearly 300 connections available in lines of 3 or 4

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Averageman logo


Kickstarter page


Flotilla for Raspberry Pi

Something very exciting is on the way from Pimoroni Ltd.

Image from Kickstarter page

Flotilla may be the next breakthrough device that helps jumpstart the making revolution in the classroom.

Flotilla is a range of smart, friendly, and affordable modules which you connect together to create amazing projects which sense and react to the world around them.Powered by your Raspberry PiThe first true plug and play hardware project kitGo from absolute beginner to ninja-MakerMade, with love, in the UKWe've blended smart widgets and even smarter software to make Flotilla friendly for everyone; from complete beginners to savvy Makers. Flotilla helps you make reactive and interactive projects - a robot, digital pet, weather station, anything you can think of!

Check out their page today and support this really great project.


Eric the Easy to Solder Robot

Eric the Easy-to-solder Robot

Firstly, a huge thanks to for sending me Eric the Easy-to-solder Robot. I want to introduce a soldering project to my Raspberry Pi club at school and Eric will be the starting point.

Eric comes from Andrew Gale who also made the awesome Raspberry Pi LED Christmas tree at the end of last year.

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric the easy to solder robot

Eric is relatively simple to solder with 13 joints to solder. This is a great first project for students to start with. The majority of the soldering joints are well spaced apart and are easy to reach. The price for the kit (around £2) is very reasonable.

I am very much looking forward to trying this with my group.


BETT 2015

BETT 2015 Raspberry Pi Schedule

From Wednesday 21st - Saturday 24th January 2015 the Raspberry Pi Foundation will be delivering nearly 50 talks and workshops on their stand at BETT.

The full list of talks can be found here.

There is a really great range of talks on offer and I would really recommend getting along if you can.

I am very excited that I will be presenting a short talk on the work I have been doing at KESH Academy on using the Raspberry Pi in both clubs and through outreach work.

Unicorn Hat camera

Things to do with a Unicorn Hat

You may have seen in an earlier post that I got the Unicorn Hat from Pimoroni for Christmas. With a spare hour this evening I had a quick think about a fun project using this display.

Introducing the Unicorn Camera.

Combining the Raspberry Pi camera running a simple time-lapse program and the Unicorn Hat I made a very simple camera with flash function.

The display shows you:

  • How many frames you have selected
  • The status of the flash (on or off)
  • A warning before the sequence starts
  • The frame number after each photo
  • Confirmation that the sequence has ended

The code for the project can be found here on github

The scrolling text will require the UnicornHat Scrolling text code from

The code is customisable to vary the number of frames and the interval between each frame.

You must create a folder in your /home/pi directory called photo-output
I have set the hat brightness at 0.4 for both safety and power reasons.

Please leave a comment below.