The Maker Cupboard

- Digital Making - Raspberry Pi Projects - 3D printing - Educational Resources -



I have been a huge fan of Ryanteck for a long time now and think what Ryan does is brilliant. Earlier this year Ryan started a campaign on KickStarter for RTK.GPIO, a USB Raspberry Pi Compatible GPIO Header. This is an easy way to add a Raspberry Pi style 40 pin GPIO header to a Mac or PC. Ryan achieved over £10,000 worth of pledges which is great!

This board can be used in two main ways. Firstly it can give you I/O connectivity for a Mac or PC, this will also support many Raspberry Pi HATs. I can see this being very useful for schools where they want to introduce elements of Physical Computing but haven't yet embraced a Pi suite of machines. Secondly, it can be used to get extra Raspberry Pi pins on a Pi or run your header off the Pi with the USB cable.

Ryan very kindly sent me a test unit which I have spent the last hour tinkering with. After a little bit of Mac setup and installation I had my first LED flashing away on my desk.


The Python code was very simple and would be recognisable to anyone who has already used a Raspberry Pi for similar projects.

This is definitely one project to watch!

from RTk import GPIO
LED = 22


Raspberry Pi Pokedex

Over the last few weeks I have seen my Philip age 12 really engage for the first time in a digital making project and see it through to completion.

Philip is a year 7 student from Birmingham, my son and an all-round really great kid!


Quite a few people have asked me which bits I did and which bits were his. Essentially I paid for the components and took him to the marker space to laser cut the case and the rest is his!

A very quick video of Philip (age 12) @raspberrypifoundation powered #pokemon #pokedex

A video posted by MrUkTechReviews (@uktechreviews) on

Over the six weeks school holidays Philip designed, built and programmed a Raspberry Pi powered Pokedex. A Pokedex is an electronic device for storing your Pokemon information in.

His project has two main functions.

- A directory of over 200 Pokemon photos which you recall by typing in their unique Pokemon number.
- A Pokemon Go style function which takes a photo with the Pi camera and then overlays a Pikachu with a transparent background.

The key components used in the construction:

- Raspberry Pi model A+
- An old car reversing monitor for the main display (composite output from the Pi)
- A Nokia 5110 phone screen for additional information
- A 4x4 membrane keypad
- A Raspberry Pi camera

The final project can be found here

The main code is you will also need the libraries for the Nokia display and the keypad. You will also need to set the video output to composite.


Philip did a fantastic job of speaking about his Pokedex at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam in September 2016. He is such a shy boy so I was very proud to hear him speak.


Here is a video of Philip speaking about this project.


Touch screen Advent Calendar

I love the anticipation and build up to Christmas (although not when it starts in August!).

I have written a fun little 24 button touchscreen Advent Calendar.

Once a door has been opened an update is made to config.advent. If you want to close a door once opened simply delete the corresponding line from config.advent.

At the moment the calendar doesn’t check to see if it is the right date so you will have to be self controlled.

You can replace my photos (mostly from National Trust houses) with your own photos in the photos folder (save in the format 1.png etc)

Download the code and photos here






Pi-topCEED Review and first experiences

I often get quite excited writing reviews for a products and use words like awesome and amazing but as you will see these words are fully justified for the Pi-topCEED.

I have been running Raspberry Pi workshops and activities since a few months after getting my first Pi so my thoughts here are based on first hand experiences.

I saw the Pi-topCEED back in March at the Raspberry Pi birthday party and fell in love with it after helping at a GPIO / Physical computing workshop using them. I knew at that point that they would be perfect for my Pi based outreach work at school. Up to this point I have been loading the boot of my car with 15 monitors and all the other gear to convert a classroom into a Pi lab. I love running the workshops but getting the equipment in and out of a venue can sometimes be back breaking! I could see straight away that with the Pi-topCEED many of my issues around storage, transportation and temporary setting up of spaces would be resolved.

I persuaded my school to buy 16 of them at around the $150 per unit (with Pi 3) price point which I still feel is an excellent price. Last week they arrived in two large crates and I set about the setup and installation process which was relatively simple. The modular design and very clever use of magnetic fixtures meant I put together the 16 Pi-topCEEDs within a couple of hours. Each kit contains and SD card with their software pi-topOS which is very simple and intuitive to use.

IMG_3561 IMG_3563

When ordering the Pi-TopCEEDs I knew that I would want to run GPIO based projects using them so I also got 16 pi-topPROTO board which very neatly give you full access to the GPIO pins and a board for prototyping onto.


To connect the Raspberry Pi to the rest of the unit you simply attach a connector to the GPIO pins and insert the HDMI lead. USB connections then face outwards towards the right hand side of the case.

IMG_3582 IMG_3605

Knowing that I also wanted to do SonicPi workshops I also got 6 speakers for some of the Pi-topCEEDs. These also fit onto the rail system with magnets and connect through connection pins on the side of the Pt-topPROTO board. These do allow multiple configurations as they can be connected in any order.

Other accessories will be developed as time goes on.

The sliding front panel is able to hide all the electronics if you want the clean look of a normal desktop computer but it is quite fun seeing the ‘guts inside it’. The GPIO pins on the Pt-topPROTO board are easily accessible for simple (or much more complex) projects.


So why am I so pleased and excited about buying these? Well, the obvious answer is that it works. The design is excellent, they are so light but still feel sturdy. They also stack down into a box very easily making transport and storage very simple.

Since getting the kits last week I have run 3 workshops in two very contrasting locations and the Pi-topCEEDs have been really well received by both adults and children alike.

To put it into context the two photos below show the same resource needed for a workshop i.e. 16 lots of Raspberry Pi and all the accessories. The photo on the left was before I bought the Pi-topCEED and the photo on the right was today!

IMG_1714 IMG_3639

Setting up a space to deliver workshops is very much easier and it is the silly things which make an impact such as only needed 1 power socket per workstation rather than two. The following photos show a workshop set up in two very different locations.

IMG_3613 IMG_3628

The first photo is at the Learning Hub at Birmingham Airport and the second was at a Prep-school in Northampton. In both spaces the room was setup and ready to be used in under forty minutes which is fantastic when you are very pressed for time.

In conclusion, these are great devices which I see having a massive potential in both the home market and in an Educational setting.

I whole heartedly recommend them for home use as well as school / club / outreach / workshop environment and would be more than happy to chat about my experiences.



digital making

The last few months have been busy at work with the preparation for GCSE exams, but during this time I have been working on a project which has both challenged me and developed my skills.

I set out at Easter to build a motion time-lapse camera as I really wanted to take some beautiful photos of the Cornish sunrise when we are on holiday this summer. Little I did realise at the time how much this project would grow and how much I would get out of doing it.

Rather than this being a normal blog of how I built a project I want to share a little bit more about the journey I went on and the skills developed at the same time.

Aim: To build some sort of Pi based motion time-lapse camera rig

Final outcome: Motorised pan and tilt camera rig programmed and controlled by an Arduino Uno triggering photos to be taken on the Pi.

Step 1:

camera_rig_build - 1

Step 1 was probably the hardest and now seems really simple. I started with a second hand very cheap Arduino board and a single servo motor which I mounted a camera on to. Here was the first challenge. I had never used an Arduino before and didn’t know the language. But within a few days I had the servo moving up and down and an LED flashing on an off. The Python code for the Pi was really easy but every photo came out a little bit blurry!

camera_rig_build - 2

Step 2: I thought to overcome the shake I would need some sort of housing for the camera so it didn’t get blown by the wind. So I built a simple housing for it using a recycle Easter Egg box.

camera_rig_build - 3

camera_rig_build - 4

camera_rig_build - 5

Step 3: Whilst the project now started to look better most of the images were still shaky. It was at this point I thought it is time to give up and forget the project. So rather than giving up I left it for a couple of weeks. Coming back to the project I decided I needed to rethink how the Pi took the photos. With the first prototype I had no method of synchronising the motor and the camera taking the photo.

I decided to buy an Arduino Uno (clone) and redesign the project so that the Arduino controlled the direction and speed of movement but also had control over the camera.

camera_rig_build - 9

Step 4: After a bit of redesign and salvaging of other boards and bases the basic structure of the new camera rig was born.

camera_rig_build - 11

The plan was the Uno would control the motion and trigger a photo taken with the new Pi Zero. You might notice that the camera cable is held on with tape - sadly during the experimenting phase the pi camera connector got broken. It took quite a few attempts to realise that if the Pi was upside down the cable wouldn’t get caught.

camera_rig_build - 12

Step 5 - I was making progress but I soon hit a snag. I could not figure out an easy way to connect safely the Arduino to the Pi to trigger the photos. After much thought I landed on a 5V DC relay. Using a digital out pin from the Arduino I was able to power the relay. The relay could then act simply as a switch to trigger the photo on the Pi. I was really pleased with this!

camera_rig_build - 13

Step 6 - With most things now working I was able to think about how you program the Arduino and see what is happening. A quick look on Amazon and I ordered a cheap LCD display which is very easy to program with the Arduino. This would be used for both setting up the sequences and displaying the position during the sequence.

Step 7 - Adding an input method. I decided on using a 4x4 membrane keypad (thanks Ryanteck) as my main input of settings for the camera. This was interesting, fun and challenging to wire up. It was very easy to input single key presses but to take three digits and convert them from a string to an integer gave me a stressful evening.

camera_rig_build - 17

Step 8. With everything now working I had to design the user menu. In the end I went for completely programmed, default movement and manual control.

camera_rig_build - 19

Step 9 It was time to replace my broken PiZero with a new one and test things out!

camera_rig_build - 20

Step 10: Building a case for it. I bought two craft boxes from Hobbycraft which became the shell for the camera. To add extra waterproof and strength the whole case is covered in gaffer tape (much to the amusement of some!) I know it isn’t pretty or built on a 3D printer or laser cut perspex, but it is mine, designed, built and programmed by me!

camera_rig_build - 28

I genuinely feel proud of this project. I have learnt so much during this and can’t wait for the next one.


Birthday Honours

I woke up to some really exciting news on Twitter.

Eben Upton the father of the Raspberry Pi (and all round lovely guy) has been awarded a CBE in the Birthday Honours list.

A huge congratulations to Eben and all the people at the Foundation.

Well done!



Amazon Alexa on the Pi

A couple of months ago details were released explaining how to use a Raspberry Pi to build an Amazon Alexa device. At the time the instructions looked complicated and I put this onto my “things i will do one day (probably!)” list.

I had mostly forgotten about this project until a couple of days ago Matt aka The Raspberry Pi Guy published a very polished and comprehensive set of instructions for setting up your own Alexa. After following his guide and downloading his very nicely packaged code I had alexa up and running within 20 minutes. This projects uses the SenseHat both as a trigger and to display a nice graphical sound level and useful icons.

I’ve embedded his video here as it is a really good resource to follow.

Matt’s detailed instructions can also be found here on his blog.

This a project definitely worth looking at even just for the bragging rights to say you have Alexa and Siri at home!

A couple of observation (not a reflection on Matt’s work but on Alexa)

  • If you are outside of America you can’t set your location
  • Temperature measurements (e.g. for the weather) are in Fahrenheit
  • You can get your local weather by asking for the weather in a certain location
  • I couldn’t get Alexa to play my music or read my audio books to me

Do give it a go, it is definitely a lot of fun.

Matt recommends the following USB microphone. I am using a ProSound USB mic from Maplin.

So if you have a few minutes to spare give it a go.


Flotilla weather station (II)

I have finally completed my Flotilla Weather Station.

This project as well as being a great show and tell project for Raspberry Jams was ‘getting to know you’ task for Flotilla and Python.

I have already blogged a couple of times about Flotilla from Pimoroni and still really love this kit and the potential uses for it.



The weather station uses:

Number connected to two
Matrix connected to seven
Light connected to eight
Weather connected to one

Once the code is run, it will measure the temperature, pressure and light level and display a numerical value on the number display and a very simple bar chart on the matrix.

The full code is below:


Disney Photoframe

One of the things I love about the Pi is how it makes projects that would have been hard a few years ago much simpler.

You can probably tell from my homepage that I am a huge fan of Disney and love everything about the parks, the films, the music etc .After getting back from our holiday last year I decided that I wanted a nice way of displaying our holiday photos.

This is an incredibly simple build and looks great on my wall.

I’ve mounted a Adafruit 2.8” touchscreen display into a smaller frame within the larger frame. A few people have asked why I didn’t use a bigger screen to fill the frame but I wanted my images to match the pictures around the outside of the frame.

At the moment the display simply shows photos on a loop but I do intend to add current weather icons to the top right of the image.

I am using fbi to display the slide show.

sudo fbi -a -t 5 /dev/fb1 -noverbose /home/pi/disney/*.jpg



Flotilla Weather Station

You may have read my earlier blog post on the great Flotilla kit from Pimoroni and my first look at using Python with the sensors.


I am currently looking at how I could use the kit in the classroom and particularly using Python with the sensors.

As part of this project I am building a simple prototype weather station that both uses inputs and outputs to collect data and display it on a simple bar chart.

At this stage the following modules are used:

Weather (for temperature and pressure)
Touch (to select different measurements)
Light sensor

My @raspberrypifoundation powered @pimoroni #weatherstation built using #flotilla is coming along well

A video posted by MrUkTechReviews (@uktechreviews) on

If you would like to try it for yourself the code is below:

Matrix - connected to 1
Number - connected to 8
Weather - connected to 2
Touch - connected to 3
Light - connected to 7


Raspberry Pi at the Learning Hub

I had my second visit to Birmingham Airport today for the official launch of the Learning Hub and opening ceremony performed by Baroness Estelle Morris.

IMG_2937 IMG_2939


We had a number of primary schools with us who did a range of activities in the new Learning Hub. This saw my first joint event with a group from CodeClub as I worked with a group from Meriden Primary School.


The highlight of my day was listening to a group of year 5 students explaining to Estelle Morris what a Raspberry Pi was and how you play Minecraft.


Pi at Birmingham Airport

Raspberry Pi @ (Birmingham Airport)

Today may have been a first for Raspberry Pi Jams as we held our first one at an airport. This afternoon we saw nearly 30 people using the new learning hub at Birmingham Airport for two hours of Minecraft fun and games.

Feedback was really positive and we look forward to our next event at the Learning Hub. We will be welcoming CodeClub to the official opening later this month.

BHX_Jam - 5

Today’s afternoon was part of the Opening Doors initiative of the schools of The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham.

BHX_Jam - 1

Working with two very familiar faces.

BHX_Jam - 10

Not many Pi workshops overlook a runway!

BHX_Jam - 11

What an amazing view

BHX_Jam - 15

A great afternoon of code

BHX_Jam - 14

The winners of the quick build challenge (Birmingham Airport control tower)

BHX_Jam - 16

Guess what our first project was?


Flotilla and python

Building a light meter with Flotilla

Back in March I got my mega Flotilla treasure chest from Pimoroni. I was very excited to see what could be done with it. The Rockpool graphical interface is coming along nicely and I had some fun with that, but I really wanted to dig into the Python API.

flotilla - 1

Before you go any further check out this link from Pimoroni and this one from their website.

flotilla - 2

I wanted my first project to use both inputs and outputs so I decided to create a light meter which displayed the light level both on the number display and visually through a bar chart on the LED matrix.

flotilla - 5

This project uses the matrix connected to 1, a light sensor to 2 and the number display to 8. I screwed the components onto one of the base plates to keep them still!

flotilla - 6

Using the @pimoroni #flotilla as a light meter @raspberrypifoundation

A video posted by MrUkTechReviews (@uktechreviews) on


4th Birthday Party


At 5am on the 5th March I got up and drove to Cambridge for two great days of Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend was a fantastic weekend organised by Michael Horne and Tim Richardson and supported by a whole army of volunteers from the Raspberry Pi community.


I spent the Saturday at my show and tell table which was very popular.


The two main projects on show were my RFID Minecraft project and my first attempts at home automation with DeskMate2000. Both projects were very well received and I had a steady stream of people all day building things in Minecraft with my RFID cards. My big bag of sweets were also a big attraction for many of the younger people!

Saturday afternoon was interrupted with a short presentation on the use of Raspberry Pi for outreach work which although not massively attended people were genuinely very interested in what I had to say.





The evening party was great fun and there was plenty of Pizza and cake for everyone. I had a rather nice pint of beer which ended the day off well.

Sunday morning started with a Raspberry Pi Party breakfast at the Travelodge - not sure what everyone else thought of us!



Sunday morning was spent doing one of my favourite jobs - helping and leading workshops on GPIO / sensors and robots!

IMG_2650 IMG_2653


The afternoon was spent marshalling in the lecture theatre which basically meant making sure people didn’t speak for too long and their microphones were working properly. My highlight had to be fitting Dave Honess with a radio mic as he prepared to speak on Astro Pi - the story so far. There seemed to be an opening that would fit the receiver perfectly but was not really suitable to be used on his space suit!!!!!!!!

IMG_2659 IMG_2660

It was a great weekend. I went home tired but very happy. What was my best moment? That is easy - buying Flotilla!


Here’s to 2016 and all the great Pi stuff that will happen this year.

Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi!




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.


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.

I 10Pi-s3

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.


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.

FUZE unit

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 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.

Having fun at Picademy in Cambridge, October 2015

Running my own Raspberry Jam at KESH Academy in Birmingham

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”


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!


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.


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.


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.

certified-educator-blog SO


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.

deskmate2000 - 4

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.



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!


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.



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


  • 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!


Guest Blog Post: @warksraspijam

My experience with using Raspberry Pi, Minecraft and Raspberry Jams.

Why I’ve used it/ initial experiences.

The first time that I happened across Raspberry Pi’s was via the CAS forums that I get emailed in early 2012. I then looked at the then Raspberry Pi website/ what was then blog. It intrigued me and sounded really interesting. At this point I hadn’t touched programming since 2005 when I finished my degree, with the exception of Scratch, which we used at KS3 in a previous school. I signed up to get one when they were released but like everyone else had to wait and ended up cancelling the order out of frustration at the wait. I got a glimpse of one who when one of the A-level IT students bought one in.

That next academic year I took a role as a HOD at another school with the intention of buying a few and trying to use them to gain student interest in CS. Bought I got bogged down in the HOD role and found that I didn’t get chance to even buy a few. About two and half years ago I took up a teaching post at my current school and was given two Raspberry Pis, it was given to our school by Coventry BCS as part of a Pi competition. With this a couple of sixth formers built an arcade emulator and ran a few retro games (see below). I struggled through this whole process with basic things like how to get it working on vga monitors. They managed to build something quite cool. At that moment I was still struggling to find a way to make it useful in the classroom.


Then I discovered a half finished book by Craig Richardson about programming with Python and Minecraft. That is when I was converted! This book has now been completed and is available for sale( ). At the same time our school was about to start teaching CS as a GCSE so I spent the next few months refreshing my knowledge of programming by working through and creating Minecraft Programming task sheets which I share online ( Other people also contribute and it is a fun form of CPD.

Using Pi’s in the classroom

During this time I started to use Twitter to try and speed up the problem solving journey and it worked a treat. Through problem sharing on social networks I came across a reliable configuration file that meant that the Pi’s booted every time that we used them on our VGA monitors. By asking on social networks I got hold of a reliable config file from David Whale(him and Martin O’Hanlon have been nothing but superb in their support and encouragement in the last 14 months, Thanks guys ☺). Now the Pi’s we had were working I asked my boss for another 7 and we started putting Pi’s permanently in my room.


This was a massive turning point because it meant that I could now start to experiment a little in a few KS3 lessons. I created 3-4 Minecraft and Python lessons and to see how students reacted to using the Pi’s. With the reliable VGA boot up now working I started using them with a regular lunch time Minecraft club, the students were really engaged in the fact they could play networked and build cool projects like this.


I spent some time using this lunch time club as a vehicle for a bit of cross school competition with some building competitions with a few schools across the country. This kept student interest with building over a long period of time.

What did all this experimentation actually achieve?

The biggest difference that I found was the increase in engagement from students in computing and lessons in general. The uptake in CS increased from initial 18 in pilot year to 37 in the current cohort of year 10 and 40 in the new year 9 option groups. On a personal level I have rapidly improved my own knowledge of programming, dusting off 10 years of cob webs and learning a new language. I have developed a new found self confidence and set of really supportive bunch of people on twitter and in the RPI community.


During February and January2015 I went to the Jam packed event and Picademy. Picademy was an amazing two days that really helped expand my horizons and provide the best CPD that I have had in 10 years of teaching. I would highly recommend it!

Raspberry Jams

In the later part of last academic year I chose to try and open up the Raspberry Pi fun for more kids in our school and the wider community and held our first Raspberry Jam. It was a part of our Arts festival week. During the day we ran some Minecraft creative and coding sessions( and one evening ran our first Jam, which albeit small was a really enjoyable and rewarding experience.

You can view more pics

All the resources created for this Jam can be downloaded

Our 2nd Raspberry Jam was in October and was focussed on coding with Minecraft and more of a hacking session than the previous.

The resource pack is available
here and photos of the event here.

In 2016 we have now a 3rd Jam which is much like the first a mix and match of everything beautiful about Raspberry Pi show and tell projects and Minecraft coding galore. At the time of writing it has 43 tickets gone which is amazing if you are interested then you can get your free tickets
here. If you cannot make it then you can download the updated resource pack here.

If you are interested in Pi or CodeClub then you are warmly welcome to our joint informal and friendly show and tell on 21/01/16 6-8pm. Get your free tickets

Overall in the 18 months or so of messing around with Raspberry Pi it has truly changed the lives of students that I work with and mine too. I hope that is motivation enough to get you or your kids involved my kids are 5< but brimming with enthusiasm.




PiWars at Cambridge TV

I can’t believe it is just about a month since we are at PiWars and it was a really great day!

Adam from Cambridge TV has made a great video from PiWars which went live today here


You can also check out more of Cambridge TV at their vimeo page here

While you are here also check out their homepage here

If you would like even more PiWars do have a look at my YouTube videos.

Re-live the excitement of Pi-Noon

PiWars 2015 - the extended version

PiWars 2015 - the highlights