Print fail!

One of my favourite presentations at the Raspberry Pi event Raspberry Fields earlier this year was Lorraine Underwood's talk on Cubert. Lorraine has a really healthy attitude towards failure in making and how by sharing our failures as well as our successes we can encourage other makers.

Last night I did a seven hour print job on my budget £160 delta printer. It was looking really good until it failed at 90% in the early hours. Obviously I was not really pleased with it and went to bed at 2am in a sulk.

I was printing a model of Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure time and it failed towards the top of her head (if you can describe it as that!)


Rather than throwing it out I decided that this would become a learning opportunity (well after all I am a teacher!). I fired up Meshmixer, found a tutorial and sliced off the top of her head!


I then printed the top of her head and glued it onto the body.


To be honest it isn't brilliant, my slice was not in the exact right position and the join still needs sanding down to get a good finish.


I love the definition of FAIL as;

  • First
  • Attempt
  • In
  • Learning

I know my end product isn't really that good but that doesn't matter, what is good is the new skill I have in editing STL files using Meshmixer.

Can I encourage you to show your failures, the ones that didn't work and all the steps that went wrong - it does encourage!



Happy 6th Birthday Pimoroni!

I have been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of months and I think now is a great time as I can also wish Pimoroni a happy birthday too!

Pimoroni has to be one of my two go-to shops for all my tech needs and links to their web site regularly appear on my Birthday or Christmas lists!

The journey Pimoroni has been on is a real testament to British industry. From very humble beginnings in 2012 with John Williamson and Paul Beech laser cutting Raspberry Pi cases - the beautiful Pibow - to the amazing Picade. Over the years the company has grown in size, strength and range of products. All their own products are manufactured in the UK either by themselves or other UK based companies.

At the moment Pimoroni has a Google Customer Reviews score of 4.9.

So in this 6th Birthday celebration time let me tell you what I love about Pimoroni:

  • Amazing customer service - all issues resolved very promptly
  • So many blinky products, and who doesn't love blinkies!
  • Really fast deliveries
  • An amazing range of both their own products and Adafruit gear
  • Excellent tutorials and really simple setup guides
  • Forums and twitter support never judges but always supports
  • Great support for schools and educational supplies
  • Branding is soooooo beautiful
  • The team are thoroughly nice people
  • Bilge Tank - a great YouTube series, with the best theme I've heard since my childhood.
  • Bearables - say no more!
  • Flotilla - I use this at school and love it - a great kit
  • Attention to detail
  • Price point always seems to be really fair for the product, there are times i would pay more for some things if they asked!
  • Fantastic support for community organisations

To provide a balanced review, here is my only negative:

  • I don't have enough money to buy more of it!

So on this 6th Birthday, raise a glass of grog and sing a Happy Birthday sea-shanty to the pirates of Sheffield!

My latest pirate treasure!



Teachers to be offered years paid sabbatical to improve retention

This week Damian Hinds unveiled a scheme to help improve retention of teachers.

I am now in my 21st year of teaching and have only ever taught in inner-city secondary schools. Now don't get me wrong, I love my job, the kids and wouldn't swap it for the world.

But after 21 years I am exhausted. ….

When I first started teaching there was very much a big emphasis on CPD and training but there has definitely been a slow decline in the funding for external CPD and opportunities. The last external training course I went on was the brilliant Picademy from the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2014. Luckily this course is free and the only cost to the school is supply cover for two days.

I appreciate that not all CPD has to be away from school in fancy hotels and I know we do get excited about this as it isn't part of our normal teaching life!

I know there are lots of free opportunities of events to attend such as BETT which usually have a weekend day making it more accessible.

Teaching does seem to be a profession that once you are qualified and in the system no one really seems to care about you any more.

I need investment in my career, I need to step away from the relentless stream of marking, planning, dealing with behaviour issues, marking, assessment, changes to the GCSE spec and focus on what will help me become an even better teacher for the next twenty years.

So yes please, sign me up, help me get a new fresh perspective on teaching.


Making resolutions 2018

What are your making resolutions for 2018?

It is that time of year when thoughts start of New Year's resolutions. I have been thinking about what I would like to achieve during this year.


  • Continue to improve my soldering skills
  • Continue with the dark arts of 3D printing
  • Write my own Python library
  • Get to grips with multi-threading


I am aiming to work on a project every month throughout 2018 each with a practical and useful outcome. Most will be Raspberry Pi based but I will also continue to use other micro-controllers too. This should be an exciting year if I can complete 12 different projects.

What are your plans for 2018? Leave a comment below.


Adventures in 3D printing - rigid.Ink


One of the most bewildering things about 3D printing is buying filament. As the 3D printer market has exploded over the last few years there has become an increasing range of places to buy your filament from. With the addition of eBay and Amazon finding the right supplier can be difficult.

Things I have learnt

  • Cheap (unbranded) filament from eBay is generally a waste of time. Whilst this might be quite cheep it is not going to be of the best quality. Additionally, if you run out of a filament on a project it is going to be hard to get something that will match it.
  • 10m samples are a great way to try out a range of different colours from a company. This is not the best value for money approach but is a good way to get started.
  • Once you have found a company and a brand it is best to stick with it!
  • Print a range of 2cm cubes at different temperatures to find out the best temperature for the first layer and subsequent layers. I generally print the first base layer 5 degrees hotter than the rest of the layers to get a good initial adhesion.

After 5 months I have settled on using rigid.Ink as my supplier of choice and would definitely recommend them.

  • Very reasonably priced PLA
  • Very quick delivery times (usually within two days)
  • Excellent customer service - great humour!
  • Good tips and advice for new people, temperature range printed on the packet with advice that their PLA generally prints at a lower temperature than some of the other brands available.
  • They have a good range of articles to help you with printing with topics here including a customisable cheat sheet tailored to your skill level.

Their website can be found here