Monthly Archives: April 2017

A tale of three Raspberry Jams

In today’s post, I’m going to share the tales of three Jams: how and why they got started.

Norwich Raspberry Jam

Norwich is a place where I’ve always hoped there would be a Jam. It’s a tech city in the East of England and there’s plenty going on there, but so far no one has been running a Jam. I met Archie Roques at the Jam I run at Pi Towers, and was thrilled to discover that he was planning to set one up with Claire Riseborough.

I wanted to start the Norwich Jam for a few reasons. Firstly because I really love visiting other Jams (CamJam and Pi Towers Jam) and wanted something closer to home. Also because there’s a great tech community in Norwich, so we want to use that to help encourage more young people into tech and digital making. As one of the founders of the Young Makers’ Tech Club, I’ve seen how much tech potential Norfolk’s young people have. It would be great to have a place where we can have more of them getting involved, and somewhere where those who are interested can learn more skills and show them off to others.

I had the idea brewing in my mind for a while. I visited a few Jams and Pi Parties, and started by helping out at the Pi Towers Jam to get a feel of what running a Jam involves. Then Sarah, who works in education at the Forum (a big public building in Norwich, which amongst other things houses the main library and does lots of tech stuff) got in touch, as she’d heard about the idea and wanted to have a Jam as part of their Norwich Gaming Festival. We got a few other people on board and it’s been all go from there!

Finding a venue can be tricky, but sometimes you find the  perfect place, with a vested interest in running a community interest event, especially if it’s for young people. And you never know, they might lend a hand with organising it, too.

The Forum has been really helpful in getting us a venue. They couldn’t host the Jam themselves as they’ve got other events on that week, but they booked us another venue, the fantastic OPEN Norwich.

The Forum has also helped with the organisation – they are overseeing the ticketing, and helping to promote the event (which is good, as they have 33,000 more Twitter followers than I do!). They also are helping with some of the less exciting stuff like insurance and safeguarding, and organising some events for schools and educators to go alongside the Jam, which is great. Claire Riseborough, who has founded a social enterprise with the aim of helping kids to reach their tech potential, has also been instrumental in getting people in the tech community on board and getting the word out. Lots of other people have helped in their fields of expertise, which is great!

I asked Archie how he planned the Jam’s activities, and how he decided what to put on.

We knew that we wanted to have some talks, stalls, vendors and workshops: when we’d been to events like the Pi Party, those were the bits we liked best. We did a quick social media call for volunteers and we’ve had a pretty good response (though there’s always room for one more!).  We’ve got a nice selection of talks and workshops, and we aim to have some more informal general activities for people who don’t want to do anything too formal. The most important thing for us is having as many awesome people there as possible, whether they are visitors or volunteers.

I’d really like to see the Jam continue, probably on a quarterly basis, as there are lots of other more frequent tech events in Norwich. The Norwich Science Festival is coming up in the Autumn, so it’s possible that a science-themed Jam will be on the cards for then!

The first Norwich Jam takes place on 27 May. Tickets are free from Eventbrite. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Raspberry Jam Berlin

James Mitchell is a Scotsman living in Berlin. I first met him when I gave a Raspberry Pi talk in a furniture showroom, and somehow that led him to start a local Jam.

After owning a Raspberry Pi for a few months I started to search for tips, tricks and tutorials online. I then started to notice Raspberry Jams being set up all over the UK. We didn’t have these events in Berlin, so I decided to start a Jam of my own. Thankfully I had loads of support from Jam leaders and even got the chance to meet Ben Nuttall when he visited Berlin shortly before he joined the Foundation. He was a great inspiration!

After getting started with the Jam, lots of things started to fall into place. I started to build a lot more projects, mainly using the Camera Module. I have a little obsession with photography, and I am particularly fond of time-lapse. My kids also started to get involved with the Raspberry Pi. They are still a little young yet but I love that they stay enthusiastic.

James felt that he was missing out on the Raspberry Pi community vibe.

It really was the lack of events in and around Berlin that got the Jam going. I wanted to attend one of the UK Jams, as it seemed full of like-minded people willing to help each other and learn new things – something we sorely lacked here.

I did later manage to attend the Raspberry Pi Birthday Party in Cambridge. While the event was considerably larger than most Jams I had heard about, it was totally amazing to meet the community. It reinforced the sense of belonging I had been looking for.

I held the first Raspberry Jam Berlin in a co-working office that offers their space at weekends for free if you don’t charge for tickets. I had some Pis set up with various add-on boards and we also gave a few talks about the Raspberry Pi.

My favourite thing about the Raspberry Jam is meeting different people and seeing those projects that are getting pushed beyond my own understanding, but also being able to help new people get interested in the Raspberry Pi. It’s very satisfying to know someone has left the Jam inspired!

I asked James what advice he would have for someone setting up a Jam in their area.

Start small, and have a clear outline of what you want from your Jam. Invite a few friends and maybe the local school’s computing teacher. Find your like-minded corner of the community, and with their help expand if you want.

Don’t be intimidated by the size of other Jams. They come in all shapes and sizes and some can be really large. Just keep in mind you are in it to have fun!

You never know how many people will show up to a Jam. Will it be too many, or too few? Here’s James’ take on the dilemma:

It can get a little stressful when you have low numbers, but the key is to ignore the numbers and just enjoy the moment. If one person shows up and they walk away inspired, it’s a job well done.

Wimbledon Raspberry Jam

Cat Lamin went to Picademy in July 2014. She got really excited about the teaching possibilities of the Raspberry Pi, but didn’t know where to start, so she reached out to the community to create local networks for teachers to share their skills. She started a Coding Evening in Twickenham, and helped organise the Wimbledon Raspberry Jam.

Albert Hickey, who organises the Egham Jam, approached me to see if I was interested in helping him run the Jam in Wimbledon. He had been offered a venue and wanted me to be involved from the start. Wimbledon is close to the school I taught in and I knew this would be an excellent opportunity to give some of the children from school the chance to help develop their passions. What I really enjoyed about the Jam was seeing all of the families there. Several parents asked if we could let their children’s schools know about the next one because they were keen to bring more families down!

I was really lucky with Wimbledon Jam, as loads of helpful people were really keen to offer up their time as volunteers. If I’m honest, I took over a little bit, but Albert seemed quite happy to let me handle the actual event while he dealt with the venue. By the end of it, I felt that we had been the perfect team. While Albert negotiated the space, I took on the role of organising the timetable of events. I had to figure out timings for workshops and who was available to run them. We were really lucky that so many people offered their help almost straight away, and it was great having Ben along as a representative from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It added a sort of official stamp of approval to the day.

I really like having workshops, talks and show-and-tells going on, and we were really lucky that loads of people were interested in doing everything. One of my highlights from the day was watching the Mums creep over to Whack-a-Pi and sneak a go while their children were taking part in workshops – it was very funny!

Cat and Albert have run three Jams at Wimbledon library now. It’s great to see it continue on from the initial event I attended.

Why do people run Jams?

People run Jams for many reasons. I started the Manchester Jam so that I would have a group of people to learn about Raspberry Pi with, and it ended up benefiting hundreds of other people. While organising an event can be a lot of work, it is good fun. It all seems worth it in the end when you see how you can positively affect people you’d never otherwise have met. Here are some more insights from other Jam makers:

Read more in this excerpt from the Guidebook.

If you want to run a Jam, wherever you are, just remember that all these people were once where you are now. If they can do it, you can do it. Find some helpers, share ideas, make arrangements for your first event, and have fun. Be sure to check out the Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips from other Jam makers, and lots of practical information on organising an event.

There are plenty of Jams coming up in the next month, including Oklahoma, Bogotá, Virginia and Melbourne, as well as lots in the UK, from Egham to Blackpool, Huddersfield to Belfast. Check out the Jam calendar for more.

I’ll be back next month with another Jam round-up, so if you have a Jam story to share, please get in touch! Email ben@raspberrypi.org. I really want to hear about all your experiences.

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Raspberry Jam round-up: April

In case you missed it: in yesterday’s post, we released our Raspberry Jam Guidebook, a new Jam branding pack and some more resources to help people set up their own Raspberry Pi community events. Today I’m sharing some insights from Jams I’ve attended recently.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Preston Raspberry Jam

The Preston Jam is one of the most long-established Jams, and it recently ran its 58th event. It has achieved this by running like clockwork: on the first Monday evening of every month, without fail, the Jam takes place. A few months ago I decided to drop in to surprise the organiser, Alan O’Donohoe. The Jam is held at the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire. The format is quite informal, and it’s very welcoming to newcomers. The first half of the event allows people to mingle, and beginners can get support from more seasoned makers. I noticed a number of parents who’d brought their children along to find out more about the Pi and what can be done with it. It’s a great way to find out for real what people use their Pis for, and to get pointers on how to set up and where to start.

About half way through the evening, the organisers gather everyone round to watch a few short presentations. At the Jam I attended, most of these talks were from children, which was fantastic to see: Josh gave a demo in which he connected his Raspberry Pi to an Amazon Echo using the Alexa API, Cerys talked about her Jam in Staffordshire, and Elise told everyone about the workshops she ran at MozFest. All their talks were really well presented. The Preston Jam has done very well to keep going for so long and so consistently, and to provide such great opportunities and support for young people like Josh, Cerys and Elise to develop their digital making abilities (and presentation skills). Their next event is on Monday 1 May.



Manchester Raspberry Jam and CoderDojo

I set up the Manchester Jam back in 2012, around the same time that the Preston one started. Back then, you could only buy one Pi at a time, and only a handful of people in the area owned one. We ran a fairly small event at the local tech community space, MadLab, adopting the format of similar events I’d been to, which was very hands-on and project-based – people brought along their Pis and worked on their own builds. I ran the Jam for a year before moving to Cambridge to work for the Foundation, and I asked one of the regular attendees, Jack, if he’d run it in future. I hadn’t been back until last month, when Clare and I decided to visit.

The Jam is now held at The Shed, a digital innovation space at Manchester Metropolitan University, thanks to Darren Dancey, a computer science lecturer who claims he taught me everything I know (this claim is yet to be peer-reviewed). Jack, Darren, and Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder and Trustee Pete Lomas put on an excellent event. They have a room for workshops, and a space for people to work on their own projects. It was wonderful to see some of the attendees from the early days still going along every month, as well as lots of new faces. Some of Darren’s students ran a Minecraft Pi workshop for beginners, and I ran one using traffic lights with GPIO Zero and guizero.



The next day, we went along to Manchester CoderDojo, a monthly event for young people learning to code and make things. The Dojo is held at The Sharp Project, and thanks to the broad range of skills of the volunteers, they provide a range of different activities: Raspberry Pi, Minecraft, LittleBits, Code Club Scratch projects, video editing, game making and lots more.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Manchester CoderDojo’s next event is on Sunday 14 May. Be sure to keep an eye on mcrraspjam.org.uk for the next Jam date!

CamJam and Pi Wars

The Cambridge Raspberry Jam is a big event that runs two or three times a year, with quite a different format to the smaller monthly Jams. They have a lecture theatre for talks, a space for workshops, lots of show-and-tell, and even a collection of retailers selling Pis and accessories. It’s a very social event, and always great fun to attend.

The organisers, Mike and Tim, who wrote the foreword for the Guidebook, also run Pi Wars: the annual Raspberry Pi robotics competition. Clare and I went along to this year’s event, where we got to see teams from all over the country (and even one from New Mexico, brought by one of our Certified Educators from Picademy USA, Kerry Bruce) take part in a whole host of robotic challenges. A few of the teams I spoke to have been working on their robots at their local Jams throughout the year. If you’re interested in taking part next year, you can get a team together now and start to make a plan for your 2018 robot! Keep an eye on camjam.me and piwars.org for announcements.

PiBorg on Twitter

Ely Cathedral has surprisingly good straight line speed for a cathedral. Great job Ely Makers! #PiWars

Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers

As well as working on supporting other Jams, I’ve also been running my own for the last few months. Held at our own offices in Cambridge, Raspberry Jam @ Pi Towers is a monthly event for people of all ages. We run workshops, show-and-tell and other practical activities. If you’re in the area, our next event is on Saturday 13 May.

Ben Nuttall on Twitter

rjam @ Pi Towers

Raspberry Jamboree

In 2013 and 2014, Alan O’Donohoe organised the Raspberry Jamboree, which took place in Manchester to mark the first and second Raspberry Pi birthdays – and it’s coming back next month, this time organised by Claire Dodd Wicher and Les Pounder. It’s primarily an unconference, so the talks are given by the attendees and arranged on the day, which is a great way to allow anyone to participate. There will also be workshops and practical sessions, so don’t miss out! Unless, like me, you’re going to the new Norwich Jam instead…

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Start a Jam near you

If there’s no Jam where you live, you can start your own! Download a copy of the brand new Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips on how to get started. It’s not as hard as you’d think! And we’re on hand if you need any help.

Raspberry Jam round-up April 2017

Visiting Jams and hearing from Jam organisers are great ways for us to find out how we can best support our wonderful community. If you run a Jam and you’d like to tell us about what you do, or share your success stories, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email me at ben@raspberrypi.org, and we’ll try to feature your stories on the blog in future.

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Processing: making art with code

This column is from The MagPi issue 56. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

One way we achieve our mission at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to find an intersection between someone’s passion and computing. For example, if you’re a young person interested in space, our Astro Pi programme is all about getting your code running on the International Space Station. If you like music, you can use Sonic Pi to compose songs with code. This month, I’d like to introduce you to some interesting work happening at the intersection between computing and the visual arts.

Image of Dead Presidents by Mike Brondbjerg art made with Processing

Mike Brondbjerg’s Dead Presidents uses Processing to generate portraits.

Processing is a programming language and development environment that sits perfectly at that intersection. It enables you to use code to generate still graphics, animations, or interactive applications such as games. It’s based on the Java programming language, and it runs on multiple platforms and operating systems. Thanks to the work of the Processing Foundation, and in particular the efforts of contributor Gottfried Haider, Processing runs like a champ on the Raspberry Pi.

Screenshot of Processing environment

When I want to communicate how cool Processing is while speaking to members of the Raspberry Pi community, I usually make this analogy: with Sonic Pi, you can use one line of code to make one note; with Processing, you can use one line of code to draw one stroke. Once you’ve figured that out, you can use computational tools such as loops, conditions, and variables to make some beautiful art.

And even though Processing is intended for use in the realm of visual arts, its capabilities can go beyond that. You can make applications that interact with the user through keyboard or mouse input. Processing also has libraries for working with network connections, files, and cameras. This means that you don’t just have to create artwork with Processing. You can also use it for almost anything you need to code.

Physical process

Processing is especially cool on the Raspberry Pi because there’s a library for working with the Pi’s GPIO pins. You can therefore have on-screen graphics interacting with buttons, switches, LEDs, relays, and sensors wired up to your Pi. With Processing, you could build a game that uses a custom controller that you’ve built yourself. Or you could create a piece of artwork that interacts with the user by sensing their proximity to it.

Processing screenshot

Best of all, Processing was created with learning to code in mind. It comes with lots of built-in examples, and you can use these to learn about many different programming and drawing concepts. The documentation on Processing’s website is very thorough and – as with Raspberry Pi – there’s a very supportive community around it if you run into any trouble. Additionally, the Processing development environment is powerful but also very simplified. For these reasons, it’s perfect for someone who is just getting started.

To get going with Processing on Raspberry Pi, there’s a one-line install command. You can also go to Processing.org and download pre-built Raspbian images with Processing already installed. To help you on your journey, there’s a resource for getting started with Processing. It includes a walkthrough on how to access the GPIO pins to combine physical computing and visual arts.

When you launch Processing, you will see a blank file where you can start keying in your code. Don’t let that intimidate you! All of the world’s greatest pieces of art started off as a raw slab of marble, a blob of clay, or a blank canvas. It just takes one line of code at a time to generate your own masterpiece.

Become a supporter

After this article appeared in The MagPi, the Processing Foundation put out a call for support:

We want you to be a part of this. Our work is almost entirely supported by individual one-time donations from the community. Right now we are outspending what we earn, and we have bigger plans! We want to continue all the work we’re doing and make it more accessible, more inclusive, and more responsive to the community needs.

To create lasting support for these new directions we’re starting a Membership Program. A membership is an annual donation that supports all this work and signifies your belief in it. You can do this as an individual, a studio, an educational institution, or a corporate partner. We will list your name on our members page along with all the others that help make this mission possible.

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