Astro Pi workshop

I am always keen to develop my range of workshops and activities for schools and events and was asked to do 4 x 2.5 hour workshops at school during 'activities week'.


I decided to do a new workshop this year based around Astro Pi and using the Sense HAT

The presentation can be found here


Session outline

  • Welcome to workshop (slide 1 and 2)
  • Quick recap about Tim Peake (slide 3)
  • Watch launch video (slide 4)
  • If this is the first time some people have seen a Raspberry PI show the video on slide 5 and slide 6
  • Quick build activity (15 mins) - Minecraft in Space (slides 7 and 8)
  • Extension - Minecraft coding with Python 3 (slide 9 if needed)
  • Introduce Astro Pi with video on slide 10
  • Hello World (slide 11) - don't give away the excitement about what is about to happen!
  • Continue story of Astro Pi with videos on slides 12 and 13
  • Sense HAT sensing and human senses (slides 14 and 15)
  • Measuring temperature (and pressure etc) (slide 16)
  • The end of the story (or is it?) (slide 17)
  • Pixel Art - (slide 18,19,20)
    • Students can try the sample code of the Mario Cube
    • Students then design their own pictures on the Sense HAT templates
    • Extension: Animation


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.


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.


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 ....


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!

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