Tuesday 28 April 2015

Raspberry Pi CodeClub week 12 - Things really take off!

To say last week's club was amazing... would be an understatement.

Everything was running smoothly, the 2 absentees from last week were happily building their PiBows and everyone else (minus this week's missing pupil - something to do with giant sponges apparently) was getting stuck into building circuits with the luxurious new breadboards. Some of the children had been asking about the Astro-Pi competition and I said that I'd seen that they'd been judging the entries last week. I suggested that as we hadn't heard anything, we probably shouldn't get too excited.

Then, just as we were packing up, the school admin assistant came in and said there was a phone call for me. This was unusual to say the least. One thing I like about being at school is that nobody knows how to get in touch and I normally turn my mobile to silent while I'm in the club.

Then the admin assistant said it was "the space agency".

I'm not sure who had the widest eyes at that point, me or the children.

The whistle was about to blow for the end of lunch so I told the children to quickly pack up and head off to class while I went to take the call. Half way through the hall I realised that a couple of the (very excited) children were following me. I sent them back to the Computing suite and promised to come and tell them if there was any good news.

Receiving  a call from the UK Space agency is very exciting. To then be told that your club is one of the two winning entries for the Astro-Pi Primary school competition is - literally - out of this world.

Because the results were not going to be announced officially until this week,  I was asked if I could get away with not telling the children straight away. I explained that I had been actually running the club and that I would not escape the school alive if I didn't tell the children what the call was about.

By the time I got back to the computing suite, most of the children had reluctantly returned to class.
Fortunately one of the Y5 cohort had to come back through on the way to deliver the registers and I was able to tell her the fantastic news. Apparently there was quite a loud celebration when she delivered the news to her friends when she got back to her lesson.

During the rest of the afternoon I delivered the great news to the Head, Deputy Head and Computing lead who were all equally thrilled. It is quite a small school and success in such a prestigious national competition is really big news.

When I was the same age as the children from the club, I dreamed of being an astronaut and having adventures in space. Only a decade after Apollo 11, it didn't seem too outrageous an idea. Growing up and realising that the conquest of space isn't going to happen in the way I imagined has been a bit of a disappointment.  Having said that, being able to help the children write code that'll be used on the ISS is a pretty good consolation prize.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Raspberry Pi CodeClub week 11

I was really excited about this week, not just because it was the first club of the term, but because a load of goodies from Pimoroni to get stuck into.

The school have been hugely supportive of CodeClub and when I asked if I could purchase some additional equipment to help with the Raspberry Pi Club, quickly agreed.

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I've been less than impressed with the standard Raspberry Pi cases that were supplied with the model Bs we're using. They are great at protecting the Pis, but only if you're not accessing the GPIO pins. This has resulted in one set of bent pins and lots of fiddling about trying to open the cases.

The children had also found that the while the mini breadboards were perfectly usable, they were quite small and tended to flop around a bit when connected by several jumper leads.

Therefore the Pibow Coupe with breadboard base seemed like an absolutely perfect solution. Along with some half-sized breadboards and a bunch of PiGlows, I reckon I've got some great sessions ahead this term.

This week everyone (minus the two girls who had an emergency netball practice - these things happen) put together their Pibows and breadboard bases. They really liked the candy-bag style wrappers and enjoyed seeing how all the laser-cut pieces fitted together.

We only had one casualty. The Pibows are super sturdy when assembled, but each individual layer is quite fragile by itself. One number 2 layer managed to come a cropper and snapped although the case could still be assembled and you can't really spot the missing segment. The only disappointment was that it was my son - who already has plenty of experience at assembling Pibows who was the clumsy culprit!

As the children transferred their current projects from the mini to half size breadboards it was clear that this new arrangement is much more stable and will allow them to work more easily on the shallow desk in the computing suite.

This week also saw the debut of my new PiBox - a big plastic toolbox that I'll leave at school to store the Pis, boards, cables and components.  Previously I'd been using an old photography case but it was not ideal and it was difficult to store the children's projects safely in between sessions.  The 3 layer PiBox is much better:

Sunday 12 April 2015

The fun of the fair

Following our trip over Easter to (more than one) theme park, the boys'  latest Lego building extravaganza was to build their own resort, complete with rides and even a queueing system. Following the success of Chicken Pi, they decided to motorise a couple of the rides.

Once again using the excellent Smart Pi case, they developed and programmed a nifty pair of spinning attractions.

Here's the Python they wrote to drive the rides. I have no idea about the choice of names of the variables...

from wedo import WeDo
import time as t


#while True:

for gator in range (80):

for ali in range(100):
    if croc==20:

Although judging by the state of some of the riders after a trip, I'm not sure they will get much repeat business.

Now that school starts again, I'm not sure that the resort will ever be completed. Nevertheless, here are few of the other (largely fatal) rides they've dreamed up.