Monday, 2 February 2015

Raspberry Pi CodeClub Week 3

'What are we doing today?' I was accosted by one of the clubbers as I tried to sneak through the lunch hall (not easy in a hi-vis cycling jacket).
'No really, what are we going to be doing?'
'Marshmallows. Really.'

I wanted a fun introduction to the GPIO and this project seemed perfect.  I wanted to stick with my philosophy of avoiding step-by-step worksheets so I condensed the instructions down into a single sheet.

Everyone seemed really keen and there were no moans about the lack of Minecraft (I think the potential for eating the equipment helped).  I was really pleased that 2 of the group managed to get their Pis connected and running without any help from me at the start this week. And several of the others managed with only minimal assistance (powering up the Pi before connecting it to the HDMI port seems a common problem).

By the end of the session everyone had a working squidgy button and associated Scratch code. I think I had an opportunity to talk to all the children about the GPIO pins and there were some good questions about the electronics side of the project ('why doesn't the electricity cook the marshmallow?')

Only one experimenter plugged their jumper leads onto the wrong pins (basically they'd used the pins on the opposite side of the header). This resulted in their Pi rebooting whenever the paperclips touched. Fortunately the Pi survived but it provided a good opportunity to talk about taking care when connecting things up. I'd printed an A3 version of my GPIO poster (remixed from the always excellent Pi education materials) and this now adorns the wall of the computing suite: hopefully they will now take the warning at the bottom seriously!

There were lots of sticky fingers at the end. One boy twigged early on that if he mushed his mallow he'd be allowed to eat it and and be given a replacement. I did have to send couple of the girls for a courtesy hand wash to avoid really icky paw prints over everything.

Once again I left it too late to get the children to help with the disassembly. I did consider washing the paperclips for future re-use but decided not to bother in the end.

It was great fun again this week: these sessions have been the favourite of all the CodeClub and CoderDojo activities I have run. Allowing the children to explore, free from the tyranny of long worksheets is really working well with this cohort.

Things to do differently next time?

The cases supplied with the Raspberry Pis are a real pain to take apart. The lid is secured with 4 clips, 2 on each side, and you have to release all of them before it can be removed. I should have taken the lids off before the children connected up their Pis at the start. None of them could get the lids off (several saying they didn't want to break it) and I found it more difficult than usual because of all the attached cables. We'll need access to the GPIO for the next few weeks so I'll leave the case lids off. 

It does seem odd to provide Pis for schools with these cases. They are quite durable but make it difficult to get to the inner workings of the Pi (which is surely counter to the whole point of Pis in schools). 

Casualties of war 

Apart from the paperclips, everything else survived another session. Apart from this power supply. It would appear that this happened last week and I have no idea how the earth pin broke off, or where the broken bit ended up (I checked all the sockets).

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