Tag Archives: physical computing

Computer Camp Wrap Up

What a week for Build Your Own Computer Camp! We learned that working with computers can be challenging, but that the maneuvers we can make with our own machines can be utterly rewarding, as well. Our campers had such an array of experience with programming and computing, and by the end of the week, we all advanced our understanding and abilities.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we accomplished during BYOC.

Monday: Assembling the Pi-Top & Introduction to the Using the Terminal

Tuesday: Modding Minecraft with Python & Rigging LEDs & Buttons to the Raspberry Pi

Wednesday: Snapping Photos & Videos with the PiCamera

Thursday: Individualized Projects for Scratch, Python, & Sonic Pi

Friday: Can You Hack It? Experimenting with Accessories for the Raspberry Pi

The most exciting day was Friday, when each camper chose from an array of Raspberry Pi accessories rated at three levels of difficulty. I was impressed that each camper was able to attach, program, and run at least one accessory on Friday.

On Friday, we also showcased an array of resources we could use to continue our learning of Python and Raspberry Pi. Below you’ll find a list resources we recommend as next steps.

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A screenshot of the Resources page at RaspberryPi.org

*The Raspberry Pi Foundation is the nonprofit organization that sells the Raspberry Pi, using the proceeds to further teaching and learning of computer science in the UK and throughout the world. Their website features a variety of tutorials and projects young learners can undertake with the Pi. We used parts of their tutorials on the PiCamera and Physical Computing during the camp. Some campers even rigged up a Parent Detector!

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*Adventures in Raspbery Pi, by Carrie Anne Philbin. Each camp participant received the companion kit to Philbin’s book, and we completed one full adventure and parts of several others during the course. One camper also made serious headway into the final adventure, the creation of a Raspberry Pi Jukebox. Since campers already have the supplies necessary to complete each of these adventures, and since the book itself is so user-friendly, it’s one that I would highly recommend.

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*Python for Kids, by Jason R. Briggs. For further learning in Python, this text is great for a variety of ages, and we’ve even found it perfect for adult learning, as well.

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*Adventures in Minecraft, by David Whale. Many of our campers loved tinkering around with MineCraft and code. Whale’s new book on programming for Minecraft is a great resource. Pimoroni also sells a kit that supplies all the parts needed to complete these adventures, although our campers already have many of the parts necessary for the book’s projects, and several of the projects need no parts at all.

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*MagPi Magazine is the official publication of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and each month’s issues provides project examples and tutorials for Rasberry Pi users of all levels. MagPi also produces MagPi Essentials, which are short chapterbooks focused on particular Raspberry Pi features, such as Code Music with Sonic Pi or Learn to Code with Scratch. Their website also features a variety of tutorials.

*PythonRoom, CodeAcademy, and Treehouse are all great digital resources for learning to program in Python and other language. Our preferred resource is Treehouse, although PythonRoom and CodeAcademy are free, and they are even more supportive for younger learners.

Any questions about Raspberry Pi, Build Your Own Computer Camp, or resources to extend your learning in Computer Science? Drop the library team a line and we will be more than happy to support where we can.

 

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Picademy & Raspberry Jam! A Journey into Connected Learning

Over the past few months, you might have stopped by the library and seen me fiddling with the following:

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A sound sensitive bulletin board. When finished, each letter should light up at 3 second intervals, so long as there’s little to no noise in the vicinity. If there’s noise? The lights will cut out, and the timer will begin again.

And for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not *yet* finished with my sound sensitive library sign. For someone who has no experience with electrical engineering, programming or, frankly, making bulletin boards, this stuff is tough!

But it’s also a blast, and throughout the process of researching and developing this sign, I’ve discovered entire communities who create, make, hack, develop, and share knowledge around microprocessors, tiny computers that can control electronics.

While I’ve written about Connected Learning here before, the impact of diving into such communities has never felt more visceral, especially given my relative ignorance at the start of this process.

Again and again, I’m reminded: learning has never been easier. There are communities and collaborators both locally and globally willing to help us learn in one way or another.

So, my sign is controlled by an Arduino, but my learning journey with these internet communities led to me to a device that I feel has even more potential: Raspberry Pi.

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Plug in a power source, keyboard, mouse, television, and SD card, and you have yourself a fully capable home computer.

A UK Charitable Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to accelerate learning in computer science in the UK and throughout the world. They fund their educational efforts by selling a $35 computer called, well, a Raspberry Pi. The Foundation then turns around and creates learning resources and educational experiences for students.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation also puts on Picademy, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. While there have been numerous Picademys based in the UK, last March featured the first ever Picademy USA, hosted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

I applied, and I was grateful to be awarded a coveted spot. I was also lucky enough to receive travel support from AWS to be able to attend the event.

And what an event it was.

My journey with Arduino taught me the power and possibility of ‘physical computing,’ where we use the tools of the digital world to impact the physical world. An example of this might be my READ sign, but there are many, more sophisticated uses of physical computing. These range from equipping clothes with lights, speakers and sensors that respond to a wearer’s movements, to, well, self-driving cars.

But Picademy? It showed me even greater potential for such work. Not only will Raspberry Pi operate as a computer, but its price and features has accelerated my ability to think about turning anything into a computer. My garden? Let’s get a moisture sensor and automate its watering cycle. My bicycle? Let’s have it send me text messages if anyone nudges it (or, at worst, steals it!). My library? Let’s take something I gleaned from our visit to MKThink and use motion sensors and digital trip wires to see how displays, furniture rearrangements, and other changes might cause patrons to increase or behave differently (This is also why WeWork’s presence is skyrocketing!).

Most importantly, Picademy taught me just how amazing forays into physical computing can be for kids. After all, the software in a $35 computer can be easily changed, hacked, and even broken, but since the operating system lives in a micro-SD card (just like you put into your digital camera), the Raspberry Pi can easily be fixed. Plus, there are so many cool projects for young learners to undertake, like this Parent Detector!

While attending Picademy, I learned how to program my Pi so that an accelerator to change an image on an LED screen:

And how to connect the Pi to switches and lights:

And, I learned a variety of different teaching and instructional strategies to get others interested and engaged in physical computing. I left the weekend officially titled a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator:

And I also met so many incredible, experienced, and thoughtful educators dedicated to helping kids learn computer science, so much so that I left the weekend emboldened to learn more. Thank you, Matt, Phillip, Carrie Anne, Ben, Marc, David, and Courtney, and James for the experience.

Next up?

Raspberry Pi is best controlled through the programming language, Python, so I’m taking on the modules served up by Treehouse, which I highly recommend.

I’m diving into the Pibrary Project, an incredible resource around how libraries are using Raspberry Pi with their patrons and in their own operations.

And, I’m planning to teach kids physical computing and how to use Raspberry Pi during my Build Your Own Computer Club this summer at Camp Wright.

Even more immediately, I’m unearthing a great local community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. On April 10, Tacoma’s FabLab has graciously agreed to host an informal gathering of Pi users called a Raspberry Jam:

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In the process of reaching out to potential sponsors for the event, the folks at the Pi Foundation pointed me towards C4Labs, a Tacoma based (!) group at the forefront of manufacturing cases for the Raspberry Pi:

 

Dustin, their owner, has agreed to sponsor, and he seems as equally passionate about sharing his work with younger learners, as well.

All this so exciting, not just for unlocking the potential for physical computing and Raspberry Pi in my life or for kids at AWS, but even more so for the energy and zeal involved in discovering new communities and learning the ropes.

Coding and computer science is hot, for sure, but I’m even more so struck by the impact of connected learning. Several months ago, I had met with Cynthia Tee, Executive Director of Seattle’s Ada Developer’s Academy,  and she echoed this sentiment, telling me that the most promising employees aren’t the ones who know x, y, or z, but the most exciting employees are the ones who are willing to learn how to navigate any system, or, the ones who are willing to open to learn how to learn new tools or use new knowledge

And the Raspberry Pi, among many other options, provides such and wonderful computing playground and a vast, supportive community to do just that.

On that note, check out one more of the Pi’s incredibly capabilities, in this TEDxNewcastle presentation by Sam Aaron:

So cool.

 

 

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