Take a photo of yourself as an unreliable cartoon

Take a selfie, wait for the image to appear, and behold a cartoon version of yourself. Or, at least, behold a cartoon version of whatever the camera thought it saw. Welcome to Draw This by maker Dan Macnish.

Dan has made code, instructions, and wiring diagrams available to help you bring this beguiling weirdery into your own life.

raspberry pi cartoon polaroid camera

Neural networks, object recognition, and cartoons

One of the fun things about this re-imagined polaroid is that you never get to see the original image. You point, and shoot – and out pops a cartoon; the camera’s best interpretation of what it saw. The result is always a surprise. A food selfie of a healthy salad might turn into an enormous hot dog, or a photo with friends might be photobombed by a goat.

OK. Let’s take this one step at a time.

Pi + camera + button + LED

Draw This uses a Raspberry Pi 3 and a Camera Module, with a button and a useful status LED connected to the GPIO pins via a breadboard. You press the button, and the camera captures a still image while the LED comes on and stays lit for a couple of seconds while the Pi processes the image. So far, so standard Pi camera build.

Interpreting and re-interpreting the camera image

Dan uses Python to process the captured photograph, employing a pre-trained machine learning model from Google to recognise multiple objects in the image. Now he brings the strangeness. The Pi matches the things it sees in the photo with doodles from Google’s huge open-source Quick, Draw! dataset, and generates a new image that represents the objects in the original image as doodles. Then a thermal printer connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins prints the results.

A 28 x 14 grid of kangaroo doodles in dark grey on a white background

Kangaroos from the Quick, Draw! dataset (I got distracted)

Potential for peculiar

Reading about this build leaves me yearning to see its oddest interpretation of a scene, so if you make this and you find it really does turn you or your friend into a goat, please do share that with us.

And as you can see from my kangaroo digression above, there is a ton of potential for bizarro makes that use the Quick, Draw! dataset, object recognition models, or both; it’s not just the marsupials that are inexplicably compelling (I dare you to go and look and see how long it takes you to get back to whatever you were in the middle of). If you’re planning to make this, or something inspired by this, check out Dan’s cartoonify GitHub repo. And tell us all about it in the comments.

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New software to get you started with high-altitude ballooning

Right now, we’re working on an online project pathway to support you with all your high-altitude balloon (HAB) flight activities, whether you run them with students or as a hobby. We’ll release the resources later in the year, but in the meantime we have some exciting new HAB software to share with you!

High altitude ballooning with Pi Zero

Skycademy and early HAB software

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to conduct several high-altitude balloon (HAB) flights and to help educators who wanted to do HAB projects with learners. In the Foundation’s Skycademy programme, supported by UKHAS members, in particular Dave Akerman, we’ve trained more than 50 teachers to successfully launch near-space missions with their students.

high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Whenever I advise people who are planning a HAB mission, I tell them that the separate elements actually aren’t that complicated. The difficulty lies in juggling them all at the same time to successfully launch, track, and recover your balloon.

Over the years, some excellent tools and software packages have been developed to help with HAB launches. Dave Akerman’s Pi In The Sky (PITS) software gave beginners the chance to control their first payloads: you enter your own specs into a configuration file, and the software, written in C, handles the rest. Dave’s Long Range (LoRa) gateway software then tracks the payload, receiving balloon data and plotting the flight’s trajectory on a real-time map.

Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Dave at a Skycademy event

These tools, while useful, present two challenges to the novice HAB enthusiast:

  • Exposing and adapting the workings of the software is challenging for novice learners, given that it is written in C
  • The existing tracking software and tools are fragmented: one application received LoRa signals; another received radioteletype (RTTY) data; photos were received and had to be manually opened elsewhere; and so on

Introducing Pytrack and SkyGate

Making ballooning as accessible as possible is something we’ve been keen to do since we first got involved in 2015. So I’m delighted to reveal that over the past year, we’ve worked with Dave to produce two new applications to support HAB activities!

Pytrack

Pytrack is a Python implementation of Dave’s original PITS software, and it offers several advantages:

  • Learners can create their own tracker in a simpler programming language, rather than simply configuring the existing software
  • The core mechanics of the tracker are exposed for the learner to understand, but complex details are abstracted away
  • Learners can integrate the technology with standard Python libraries and existing projects
  • Pytrack is modular, allowing learners to experiment with underlying radio components

SkyGate

After our last Skycademy event, I started to look for a way to make tracking a payload in flight easier. For Skycademy, we made a hacky tracking box using a Pi, a 7” screen, and a very rough GUI app that I wrote in a hurry lovingly toiled over.

Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Since then, we have gone on to develop SkyGate, a complete tracking application which runs on a Pi and fits nicely on a 7” screen. It brings together all the tracking functionalities into one intuitive application:

  • Live tunable LoRa reception and decoding
  • Live tunable RTTY reception and decoding (with compatible USB SDR)
  • Image reception and previewing
  • GPS tracking to report your location (when using compatible GPS USB dongle)
  • Data, images, and GPS upload functionality to HabHub tracking site
  • An Overview tab presenting a high-level summary and bearing to payload
  • Full customisation via the Settings tab

You can get involved!

We would love HAB enthusiasts to test and experiment with both Pytrack and SkyGate, and to give us feedback. Your input will really help us to write the full guide that we’ll release later this year.

To get started, install both programmes using your command prompt/terminal.

For your payload, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install python3-pytrack

And your receiver, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install skygate

Follow this guide to start using Pytrack, and read this overview on SkyGate and what you’ll need for a tracking box. To give us your feedback, please raise issues on the respective GitHub repos: for Pytrack here, and for SkyGate here.

We’ve developed these software packages to make launching and tracking a HAB payload easier and more flexible, and we hope you’ll think we’ve succeeded.

Happy ballooning!

Disclaimer: each country has its own laws regarding HAB launches and radio transmissions in their airspace. Before you attempt to carry out your own HAB flight, you need to ensure you have permission and are complying with all local laws.

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Ten awesome 3D-printable Raspberry Pi goodies

3D printing has become far more accessible for hobbyists, with printer prices now in the hundreds instead of thousands of pounds. Last year, we covered some of the best 3D-printable cases for the Pi, and since then, Raspberry Pi enthusiasts have shared even more cool designs on sites such as MyMiniFactory and Thingiverse!

Here are ten of our recent favourites:

World Cup Sputnik

“With the World Cup now underway, I wanted a Russia-themed football sculpture to hang over the desk,” explains creator Ajax Jones. “What better than a football-styled Sputnik!”

Raspberry Pi 3d-printable World Cup Sputnik

The World Cup Sputnik comes complete with a Raspberry Pi that transmits the original Sputnik ‘beeps’ on an FM frequency, allowing co-workers to tune in for some 1960s nostalgia.

Radios

We see an abundance of musical Raspberry Pi projects online, and love looking out for the ones housed in interesting, unique cases like these:

Raspberry Pi 3d-printable radio
Raspberry Pi 3d-printable radio

The MiniZ is a streaming radio based on the Zenith Cube, created by Thingiverse user thisoldgeek.

This is a case for a small, retro radio powered by Logitech Media Server. It uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W and displays a radio dial (tunes via a knob), a clock, and ‘Now Playing’ album art.

For something a little more simple to use, Lukas2040‘s NFC radio for children comes with illustrated, NFC-tagged cards to allow his two-year-old daughter to pick her own music to play.

Gaming

Whether it’s console replicas or tabletop arcade cabinets, the internet is awash with gaming-themed Raspberry Pi projects. Here are a few of our favourites!

The Okama Gamesphere is a fictional game console from South Park. Leodym has taken the rather stylish design and converted it into a Raspberry Pi 3 case.

Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case
Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case
Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case

Canino‘s Yet Another Mini Arcade is exactly that. We really like how it reminds us of old, imported gaming consoles from our childhoods.

3d-printable Raspberry Pi arcade case

“I really love the design and look of the HP OMEN Accelerator,” writes designer STIG_. “So I decided to draw up a case for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.”

OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case
OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case
OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case

We really love it too, STIG_. Well done.

Ironman, Ironman, does whatever an Ironman can…

atlredninja‘s Ironman Mark 7 torso housing for the Google AIY Projects Voice Kit is pretty sweet!

Iron man AIY case Neopixel Rings Adafruit

Iron man AIY case Neopixel Rings Adafruit 16 and 12 LEDS. 3d files and instructions for assembly here: https://ift.tt/2NkkjpC This is just a test to make sure the LEDs are working and the A.I. is working correctly. This took me about 3 weeks to design, print, and assemble.

This model is atlredninja‘s second version of an Ironman-themed AIY project: the first fits within a replica helmet. We’re looking forward to a possible third edition with legs. And a fourth that flies.

We can dream, can’t we?

Speaking of Marvel

How often have you looked at Thor’s hammer and thought to yourself “If only it had a Raspberry Pi inside…”

Raspberry Pi Thor case

This case from furnibird is one of several pop culture–themed Raspberry Pi cases that the designer has created. Be sure to check out the others, including a Deathstar and Pac-Man.

3D-printable bird box

chickey‘s 3D-printable Raspberry Pi Bird Box squeezes a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a camera into the lid, turning this simple nesting box into a live-streaming nature cam.

3D-printed raspberry pi bird box
3D-printed raspberry pi bird box
3D-printed raspberry pi bird box

The Raspberry Pi uploads images directly to a webpage, allowing you to check in on the feathered occupants from any computer or mobile device. Nifty.

Print a Raspberry Pi!

Using a 3D-printed Raspberry Pi in place of the real deal while you’re prototyping in the workshop may save you from accidentally damaging your tiny computer.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3
3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3
3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3

AlwaysComputing designed this Raspberry Pi Voxel Model using MagicaVoxel, stating “I like to tinker and play with the program MagicaVoxel. I find it therapeutic!”

What else?

What Raspberry Pi–themed 3D prints have you seen lately? Share your favourites with us in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.

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Tired of queuing for the office toilet? Meet Occu-Pi

This is the story of Occu-Pi, or how a magnet, a Raspberry Pi, and a barrel bolt saved an office team from queuing for the toilet.

Occu Pi Raspberry Pi toilet signal

The toil of toilet queuing

When Brian W. Wolter’s employer moved premises, the staff’s main concern as the dearth of toilets at the new office, and the increased queuing time this would lead to:

Our previous office had long been plagued by unreasonably long bathroom lines. At several high-demand periods throughout the day we’d be forced to wait three, four, five people deep while complaining bitterly to each other until our turn to use the facilities arrived. With even fewer bathrooms in our new office, concern about timely access was naturally high.

Faced with this problem, the in-house engineers decided to find a technological solution.

Occu-Pi

The main thing the engineers had to figure out was just how to determine the difference between a closed door and an occupied stall. Brian explains in his write-up:

There is one notable wrinkle: it’s not enough to know the door is closed, you need to know if the bathroom is actually in use — that is, locked from the inside. After considering and discarding a variety of ‘creative’ solutions (no thank you, motion sensors and facial recognition), we landed on a straightforward and reliable approach.

The team ended up using a magnet attached to the door’s barrel bolt to trigger a notification. Simply shutting the door doesn’t act as a trigger — the bolt needs to lock the door to set off a magnetic switch. That switch then triggers both LED notifications and updates to a dedicated Slack channel.

Occu-Pi Raspberry Pi toilet signal

For the technically-minded, Occu-Pi is a pretty straightforward build. And those wanting to learn more about it can find a full write-up in Brian’s Medium post.

We’ve seen a few different toilet notification projects over the years, for example this project from DIY Tryin’ using a similar trigger plus a website. What’s nice about Occu-Pi, however, is the simplicity of its design and the subtle use of Slack — Pi Tower’s favoured platform for office shenanigans.

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Raspbian update: first-boot setup wizard and more

After a few months of hiding in a dark corner of the office muttering to myself (just ask anyone who sits near me how much of that I do…), it’s time to release another update to the Raspberry Pi desktop with a few new bits and a bunch of bug fixes (hopefully more fixes than new bugs, anyway). So, what’s changed this time around?

Setup wizard

One of the things about Raspbian that has always been a bit unhelpful is that when a new user first boots up a new Pi, they see a nice desktop picture, but they might not have much of an idea what they ought to do next. With the new update, whenever a new Raspbian image is booted for the first time, a simple setup wizard runs automatically to walk you through the basic setup operations.

Localisation

The localisation settings you can access via the main Raspberry Pi Configuration application are fairly complex and involve making separate settings for location, keyboard, time zone, and WiFi country. The first page of the wizard should make this a little more straightforward — once you choose your country, the wizard will show you the languages and time zones used in that country. Once you’ve chosen yours, the wizard should take care of all the necessary international settings. This includes the WiFi country, which you need to set before you can use the wireless connectivity on a Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Raspbian update June 2018

There will be some special cases — e.g. expatriates using a Pi and wanting to set it to a language not spoken in their country of residence — where this wizard will not give sufficient flexibility. But we hope that for perhaps 90% of users, this one page will do everything necessary in terms of international settings. (The more detailed settings in Raspberry Pi Configuration will, of course, remain available.)

Other settings

The next pages in the wizard will walk you through changing your password, connecting to the internet, and performing an initial software update to make sure you get any patches and fixes that may have been released since your Raspbian image was created.

Raspbian update June 2018

On the last page, you will be prompted to reboot if necessary. Once you get to the end of the wizard, it will not reappear when the Pi is booted. (If you do want to use it again for some reason, just run it manually by typing

sudo piwiz

into a terminal window and pressing Enter.)

Recommended software

Over the last few years, several third-party companies have generously offered to provide software for Pi users, in some cases giving free licenses for software that normally requires a license fee. We’ve always included these applications in our standard image, as people might never find out about them otherwise, but the applications perhaps aren’t all of interest to every user.

So to try and keep the size of the image down, and to avoid cluttering the menus with applications that not everyone wants, we’ve introduced a Recommended Software program which you can find in the Preferences menu.

Raspbian update June 2018

Think of this as our version of the Apple App Store, but with everything in it available for free! Installing a program is easy: just put a tick in the box to the right, and click “OK”. You can also uninstall some of the preinstalled programs: just untick the respective box and click “OK”. You can even reinstall them once you’ve realised you didn’t mean to uninstall them: just tick the box again and click — oh, you get the idea…

As we find new software that we recommend, or as more manufacturers offer us programs, we’ll add them to Recommended Software, so it’ll be kept up to date.

New PDF viewer

Ever since the first version, Raspbian has included the venerable PDF viewer Xpdf. While this program does work, it’s fairly old and clunky, and we’ve been trying to find something better.

In this release, we are replacing Xpdf with a program called qpdfView, which is a much-improved PDF viewer. It has a more modern user interface, it renders pages faster, and it preloads and caches future pages while you’re reading, which should mean fewer pauses spent waiting for the next page to load.

Raspbian update June 2018

If you want something to read in it, we are now including the latest issue of The MagPi as a PDF file — look in the ‘MagPi’ directory in your home directory ‘pi’.

Other updates

The Chromium browser is now at version 65. We’ve also updated the links to our website in the Help menu, and added a new Getting Started option. This links to some really helpful new pages that walk you through getting your Pi up and running and using some of its key features.

If you have volume up/down buttons on your keyboard, these will now control whatever audio output device is selected, rather than only controlling the internal audio hardware. The resolution has also been increased: each button push increases or decreases the volume by 5% rather than 10%.

If you are using the network icon to reconnect to a wireless network, the passcode for the network will be shown in the connection dialog, so you won’t have to type it in again.

In Raspberry Pi Configuration, you can now enable and disable the serial port console independently of the serial port hardware.

The keyboard layout setting dialogue now makes settings that should be correct both in the desktop and also when the Pi is booted to console.

There are various other small bug fixes and tweaks to appearance and behaviour, but they’re mostly only the sort of things you’d spot if you’re a slightly obsessive user interface developer…

How do I get it?

The new image is available for download from the usual place: our Downloads page. We’ve also updated the x86 image with most of the changes, and that’s up on the page as well.

To update an existing image, use the usual terminal command:

sudo apt-get update
sudi apt-get dist-upgrade

Here’s a quick video run-through of the process:

Updating Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi || Raspberry Pi Foundation

How to update to the latest version of Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi.

To install the new PDF viewer (and remove the old one):

sudo apt-get install qpdfview
sudo apt-get purge xpdf

To install the new Recommended Software program:

sudo apt-get install rp-prefapps

Finally, to install the setup wizard (which really isn’t necessary on an existing image, but just in case you are curious…):

sudo apt-get install piwiz

We hope you like the changes — as ever, all feedback is welcome, so please leave a comment below!

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MagPi 71: Run Android on Raspberry Pi

Hey folks, Rob here with good news about the latest edition of The MagPi! Issue 71, out right now, is all about running Android on Raspberry Pi with the help of emteria.OS and Android Things.

Raspberry Pi The MagPi Magazine issue 71 - Android

Android and Raspberry Pi, two great tastes that go great together!

Android and Raspberry Pi

A big part of our main feature looks at emteria.OS, a version of Android that runs directly on the Raspberry Pi. By running it on a touchscreen setup, you can use your Pi just like an Android tablet — one that’s easily customisable and hackable for all your embedded computing needs. Inside the issue, we’ve got a special emteria.OS discount code for readers.

We also look at Android Things, the official Android release for Raspberry Pi that focuses on IoT applications, and we show you some of the amazing projects that have been built with it.

More in The MagPi

If Android’s not your thing, we also have a big feature on building a Raspberry Pi weather station in issue 71!

Raspberry Pi The MagPi Magazine issue 71 - Android

Build your own Raspberry Pi weather station

On top of that, we’ve included guides on how to get started with TensorFlow AI and on building an oscilloscope.

Raspberry Pi The MagPi Magazine issue 71 - Android

We really loved this card scanning project! Read all about it in issue 71.

All this, along with our usual varied selection of project showcases, excellent tutorials, and definitive reviews!

Get The MagPi 71

You can get The MagPi 71 today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

New subscription offer!

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.

The MagPi subscription offer — Run Android on Raspberry Pi

You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W plus case and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

That’s it, folks! See you at Raspberry Fields.

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Track your speed and distance while skateboarding

Fight the urge to chant the Avril Lavigne song as you cruise the streets on Pieter Thomas’s speed- and distance-tracking skateboard.

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

Instant approval

“That is sweet!” exclaimed Ben Nuttall when I shared this project on the Raspberry Pi Slack channel. And indeed it is — a simple idea, perfectly executed, resulting in a final product that actually managed to coax a genuine and positive response from Ben!

Prove your worth ☑

Project creator Pieter Thomas, a student at Howest Kortrijk University, needed to show off his skills by building a ‘something’ for his course. His inspiration?

I came up with this idea because I like to skate and cruise around. While I’m cruising, it would be handy to see how much distance I’ve travelled and see my speed.

So he decided to incorporate an odometer, a speedometer, and an RFID reader into a skateboard to produce this neat build.

Make and skate

While Pieter has an Arduino manage the onboard RFID reader, he’s put a Raspberry Pi 3 in charge of everything else, including the speed and distance readings taken with the help of a hall effect sensor (a transducer that uses magnetic fields to manage voltage output).

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

Pieter added the RFID reader to identify different users, with databases allowing for session data collection — perfect for time and speed challenges among friends!

Home-brew casing

All the electronics live in a Tupperware-like container that Pieter screwed to the bottom of the board. Holes in the deck display an LCD screen, a potentiometer, and a buzzer.

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

To allow speed and distance calculations, Pieter drilled a hole into one of the wheels and inserted a magnet. Once per wheel rotation, the hall effect sensor recognises the passing magnet. The build records the time taken between passes, computes the speed and distance covered, and shows them on the LCD screen.

Pieter’s Instructables project page goes into a lot more detail of how to build your own skate-o-meter. If you’ve used a Pi for your skateboarding project, make sure to let us know!

Skateboard + Pi

Other impressive Raspberry Pi–based board builds include Tim Maier’s motorised skateboard, aka the first blog post I ever wrote for Raspberry Pi, and Matt ‘The Raspberry Pi Guy’ Timmons-Brown’s 30kmph longboard, aka the project that resulted in this video of Raspberry Pi’s Director of Software Engineering:

Sk8r Pi ft. The Raspberry Pi Guy… and Gordon

The Raspberry Pi Guy popped into Pi Towers to show off his new creation. While skating up and down the office on his Pi-powered skateboard, our Director of Software Engineering, Gordon Hollingworth, decided to have a go.

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Track your speed and distance while skateboarding

Fight the urge to chant the Avril Lavigne song as you cruise the streets on Pieter Thomas’s speed- and distance-tracking skateboard.

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

Instant approval

“That is sweet!” exclaimed Ben Nuttall when I shared this project on the Raspberry Pi Slack channel. And indeed it is — a simple idea, perfectly executed, resulting in a final product that actually managed to coax a genuine and positive response from Ben!

Prove your worth ☑

Project creator Pieter Thomas, a student at Howest Kortrijk University, needed to show off his skills by building a ‘something’ for his course. His inspiration?

I came up with this idea because I like to skate and cruise around. While I’m cruising, it would be handy to see how much distance I’ve travelled and see my speed.

So he decided to incorporate an odometer, a speedometer, and an RFID reader into a skateboard to produce this neat build.

Make and skate

While Pieter has an Arduino manage the onboard RFID reader, he’s put a Raspberry Pi 3 in charge of everything else, including the speed and distance readings taken with the help of a hall effect sensor (a transducer that uses magnetic fields to manage voltage output).

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

Pieter added the RFID reader to identify different users, with databases allowing for session data collection — perfect for time and speed challenges among friends!

Home-brew casing

All the electronics live in a Tupperware-like container that Pieter screwed to the bottom of the board. Holes in the deck display an LCD screen, a potentiometer, and a buzzer.

Speed and distance tracking Raspberry Pi skateboard

To allow speed and distance calculations, Pieter drilled a hole into one of the wheels and inserted a magnet. Once per wheel rotation, the hall effect sensor recognises the passing magnet. The build records the time taken between passes, computes the speed and distance covered, and shows them on the LCD screen.

Pieter’s Instructables project page goes into a lot more detail of how to build your own skate-o-meter. If you’ve used a Pi for your skateboarding project, make sure to let us know!

Skateboard + Pi

Other impressive Raspberry Pi–based board builds include Tim Maier’s motorised skateboard, aka the first blog post I ever wrote for Raspberry Pi, and Matt ‘The Raspberry Pi Guy’ Timmons-Brown’s 30kmph longboard, aka the project that resulted in this video of Raspberry Pi’s Director of Software Engineering:

Sk8r Pi ft. The Raspberry Pi Guy… and Gordon

The Raspberry Pi Guy popped into Pi Towers to show off his new creation. While skating up and down the office on his Pi-powered skateboard, our Director of Software Engineering, Gordon Hollingworth, decided to have a go.

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Tim Peake congratulates winning Mission Space Lab teams!

This week, the ten winning Astro Pi Mission Space Lab teams got to take part in a video conference with ESA Astronaut Tim Peake!

ESA Astro Pi students meet Tim Peake

Uploaded by Raspberry Pi on 2018-06-26.

A brief history of Astro Pi

In 2014, Raspberry Pi Foundation partnered with the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency to fly two Raspberry Pi computers to the International Space Station. These Pis, known as Astro Pis Ed and Izzy, are each equipped with a Sense HAT and Camera Module (IR or Vis) and housed within special space-hardened cases.

In our annual Astro Pi Challenge, young people from all 22 ESA member states have the opportunity to design and code experiments for the Astro Pis to become the next generation of space scientists.

Mission Zero vs Mission Space Lab

Back in September, we announced the 2017/2018 European Astro Pi Challenge, in partnership with the European Space Agency. This year, for the first time, the Astro Pi Challenge comprised two missions: Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab.

Mission Zero is a new entry-level challenge that allows young coders to have their message displayed to the astronauts on-board the ISS. It finished up in February, with more than 5400 young people in over 2500 teams taking part!

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab logo

For Mission Space Lab, young people work like real scientists by designing their own experiment to investigate one of two topics:

Life in space

For this topic, young coders write code to run on Astro Pi Vis (Ed) in the Columbus module to investigate life aboard the ISS.

Life on Earth

For this topic, young people design a code experiment to run on Astro Pi IR (Izzy), aimed towards the Earth through a window, to investigate life down on our planet.

Our participants

We had more than 1400 students across 330 teams take part in this year’s Mission Space Lab. Teams who submitted an eligible idea for an experiment received an Astro Pi kit from ESA to develop their Python code. These kits contain the same hardware that’s aboard the ISS, enabling students to test their experiments in conditions similar to those on the space station. The best experiments were granted flight status earlier this year, and the code of these teams ran on the ISS in April.

And the winners are…

The teams received the results of their experiments and were asked to submit scientific reports based on their findings. Just a few weeks ago, 98 teams sent us brilliant reports, and we had the difficult task of whittling the pool of teams down to find the final ten winners!

As you can see in the video above, the winning teams were lucky enough to take part in a very special video conference with ESA Astronaut Tim Peake.


2017/18 Mission Space Lab winning teams

The Dark Side of Light from Branksome Hall, Canada, investigated whether the light pollution in an area could be used to determine the source of energy for the electricity consumption.

Spaceballs from Attert Lycée Redange, Luxembourg, successfully calculated the speed of the ISS by analysing ground photographs.

Enrico Fermi from Liceo XXV Aprile, Italy, investigated the link between the Astro Pi’s magnetometer and X-ray measurements from the GOES-15 satellite.

Team Aurora from Hyvinkään yhteiskoulun lukio, Finland, showed how the Astro Pi’s magnetometer could be used to map the Earth’s magnetic field and determine the latitude of the ISS.

@stroMega from Institut de Genech, France, used Astro Pi Izzy’s near-infrared Camera Module to measure the health and density of vegetation on Earth.

Ursa Major from a CoderDojo in Belgium created a program to autonomously measure the percentage of vegetation, water, and clouds in photographs from Astro Pi Izzy.

Canarias 1 from IES El Calero, Spain, built on existing data and successfully determined whether the ISS was eclipsed from on-board sensor data.

The Earth Watchers from S.T.E.M Robotics Academy, Greece, used Astro Pi Izzy to compare the health of vegetation in Quebec, Canada, and Guam.

Trentini DOP from CoderDojo Trento, Italy, investigated the stability of the on-board conditions of the ISS and whether or not they were effected by eclipsing.

Team Lampone from CoderDojo Trento, Italy, accurately measured the speed of the ISS by analysing ground photographs taken by Astro Pi Izzy.

Well done to everyone who took part, and massive congratulations to all the winners!

The post Tim Peake congratulates winning Mission Space Lab teams! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Make your own custom LEDs using hot glue!

Tired of using the same old plastic LEDs in your projects? It’s time to grab a hot glue gun and some confectionary moulds to create your own custom LEDs!

Custom hot glue LED
Custom hot glue LED
Custom hot glue LED

Blinky LEDs!

Lighting up an LED is the standard first step into the world of digital making with a Raspberry Pi. For example, at our two-day Picademy training events, budding Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are shown the ropes of classroom digital making by learning how to connect an LED to a Pi and use code to make it blink.

Anastasia Hanneken on Twitter

Blinking LED Light @Raspberry_Pi #picademy! https://t.co/zhTODYsBxp

And while LEDs come in various sizes, they’re all pretty much the same shape: small, coloured domes of plastic with pointy legs that always manage to draw blood when I grab them from the depths of my maker drawer.

So why not do away with the boring and make some new LEDs based on your favourite characters and shapes?

Making custom LEDs with a whole lotta hot glue

The process of creating your own custom LEDs is pretty simple, but it’s not without its risk — namely, burnt fingertips and sizzled LEDs! So be careful when making these, and supervise young children throughout the process.

The moulds

I used flexible ice cube trays, but you could also use silicon chocolate moulds. As long as the mould is flexible, this should work — I haven’t tried hard plastic moulds, so I can’t make any promises for those. Also be sure to test whether your mould will withstand the heat of the hot glue!

Check your LEDs

Before you submerge your LEDs in hot glue, check to make sure they work. The easiest way to do this is to set up a testing station using a Pi, a breadboard, some jumper wires, and a resistor. To save having to write code, I used the 3V3 pin and a ground pin.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

Remember, the shorter of the two legs connects to the ground pin, while the longer goes to 3V3. If you mix this up, you’ll end up with a fried LED like this poor LEGO man.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

Everything isn’t awesome.

Once you’ve confirmed that your LED works, bend its legs to make it easier to insert it into the glue.

Glue

Next, grab a hot glue gun and fill a mould. The glue will take a while to cool, so you have some time to make sure that all nooks and crannies are filled before you insert an LED.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

Tip: test a corner of your mould with the tip of your glue gun to check how heat-resistant it is. One of my moulds didn’t enjoy heat and began to bubble.

Once your mould is properly filled, push an LED into the glue, holding on to the legs to keep your fingertips safe. Have a wiggle around to find the bottom and sides of your mould and ensure that your LED is in the centre.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

Pick a colour best suited to your mould. You could try using multiple LEDs on larger moulds to introduce more colours!

You may notice that the LED tries to sink a little and the legs begin to drop. Keep an eye out and adjust them if you need to. They’ll stop moving once the glue begins to set.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

These took about ten minutes to cool down.

Be patient

Don’t rush. The hot glue will take time to cool down, especially if you’re using a larger mould like the one for this Stormtrooper helmet.

Custom hot glue LED

Here I used a gumdrop LED, which is larger than your standard maker kit LED.

You’ll know that the glue has set when the shape pulls away easily from the mould. It should just pop out when its ready.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

Pop!

Light it up

Test your new custom LED one more time on your testing rig to ensure you haven’t damaged the connections.

make your own custom LEDs for Raspberry Pi

As with all LEDs, they look better in the dark (and terrible when you try to take a photo of them), so try testing them in a dim room or at night. You could also use a box to create a small testing lab if you’re planning to make a lot of these.

Star Wars custom LEDs Raspberry Pi

Now it’s your turn

What custom LED would you want to make? How would you use it in your next project? And what other fun hacks have you used to augment tech for your builds?

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