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 (http://www.stuffaboutcode.com) 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”

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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 hello@cpdforteachers.com


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: