Blackgang Pi (4) – Walk the dinosaur!

The Friday following my talk at BathCamp, found me bright and early at Southampton Docks waiting to board a ferry to the Isle of Wight, to spend a few more days at Blackgang Chine working on their dinosaurs.

This was the fourth such trip and the format was pretty much unchanged from before. Event organizer Dr Lucy Rogers, James Macfarlane, Andy Stanford-Clark and myself were to be on hand to assist the Blackgang staff with the projects they wanted to progress over the course of the three days. We would also be joined by some invited guests who would be working on anything that took their fancy, as long as it was Raspberry Pi related.

The weekend also included a trip to the Electric Woods at Robin Hill on the Saturday night, so that the team could start to think how the Pi and NodeRed could be used there to add extra dimensions to the audio and visual installations.

All in all it was a great weekend with much being achieved and I’m looking forward to returning again to continue the work.

A small selection of photos I took can be found on Flickr.
For more on the weekends activities, search for #blackgangpi on Twitter


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BathCamp: Hacking Dinosaurs for Fun and Profit*

*profit not guaranteed

So last Thursday night I gave a talk at the relaunch of BathCamp organised by Paul Leader. The topic of my talk? How the Raspberry Pi and Node-RED were used to upgrade the animatronic dinosaurs of Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight. I covered the reasons for wanting to replace the electronics that the dinosaurs came with, why the Raspberry Pi and Node-RED, and the progress of the project.

My slides from the talk can be found on Slideshare.

Links for things mentioned or used in the talk:
Lucy Rogers’ Cheerlights flow – Featured in MagPi Issue 41
Dinosaurs, a Raspberry Pi and Node Red video by Debbie Davies
RoboDino Node-RED flow
Twitter powered random bot Node-RED flow

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From Jekyll to Pelican

Having not updated this blog for quite some time, the first post back is just a note to say that I have changed the engine behind the site from Jekyll to Pelican.

Why? Because I spend a lot of my time using Python, in my work with both CPD for Teachers and FireTech Camp, and working with the Raspberry Pi, so it made sense to you use python to generate this site rather than ruby.

The transition was relatively painless. I just installed Pelican on my laptop, copied the files that made up the content to a new folder, edited the frontmatter to match what Pelican expects, and generated the output. Then it was a case of pushing the generated files to my webserver. Job done!

Now to see if I can actually get around to blogging more regularly.

Kids, Teachers, Raspberry Pis and #techmums

Wow! What a crazy week! Feels like I haven’t stopped moving since Monday, though that strictly wasn’t the case. But it’s definitely be awesome.

Tuesday saw me in Surbiton for an interview to become a #techmums trainer with Dr Sue Black. It was quite a surreal experience as Sue and I have known each other for quite some time, first meeting at a Station X meetup at Bletchley Park. The interview apparently went well. I am now confirmed as a #techmums trainer!

After Surbiton it was time to head in to London, firstly to meet up with my good friend Debbie Davies and then to go catch Jess De Wahls amazing exhibition Big Swinging Ovaries finally ending up at #DrinkingAboutMuseums with the wonderful Mar Dixon. All in all a great day in the company of some truly amazing ladies!

Wednesday ended up being a much quieter day, but not by design. The morning saw me with an early appointment at a local doctors surgery to see an ENT specialist to have a persistent wound in my right nostril cauterised. That was to say the least an interesting experience. Even more so the reaction afterwards. One the local anaesthetic had worn off, I got knocked for six by the pain and found myself spending a good portion of the day collapsed on the sofa waiting for painkillers to kick in. Not what I had planned.

Feeling better, Thursday meant a day in North London assisting at a CPD for Teachers Raspberry Pi Inventions course. It is always great to help teachers feel a little less scared about the new computing curriculum and to show them how to utilise the Raspberry Pi in delivering parts of it. After Wednesday’s inactivity it was good to get stuck in to teaching and answering loads of questions. And even the travel wasnt too bad.

The end of the week brought two days of activities with kids. Friday I was at The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux representing STEM Sussex at a mini Big Bang Fair. I was there with the now infamous Makey Makey Banana Piano and a display of Raspberry Pi activities including my ultrasonic sensor / Minecraft-Pi mashup. There were a constant stream of kids (and some adults) wanting to know what the bananas were all about and why I had Minecraft running. Lots of great conversations and hopefully a few more people inspired to consider studying, and possibly a career in, computing. Didn’t get to see much of the event outside our tent, but apparently there was lots to see and everyone who I spoke to had had a great day.

Up early for a Saturday to head to Brighton for CoderDojo Brighton to once again enthuse about the Raspberry Pi. I gave a version of my Teachmeet Brighton presentation, answered question and had a couple of Pis set up so that the kids and parents could have a chance to see the Pi in action and find out what makes it different from the computers that already have at home. Hopefully I persuaded a few more households to get a Pi for their kids to experiment with.

And that was my week. The coming week looks no less busy. Maybe I’ll do a write-up next weekend, if I don’t completely crash!

Teachmeet Brighton March 12, 2014

Another Teachmeet Brighton, another Raspberry Pi presentation, this time provocativly called “Doing Shit with a Raspberry Pi”. For those that couldn’t be there, my presentation can be downloaded as a pdf from here.

Thanks to Marc Scott for the inspiration for the talk’s title.

Links from the presentation

Raspberry Pi for Teachers

So here, finally are my slides from the presentation I gave at The University of Brighton on behalf of STEM Sussex on January, 15.

A PDF of the slides for my talk can be downloaded here.

I suspect that I should include a brief explanation of the second slide: Should you get Raspberry Pis for your classrooms?

I can imagine that my answer of “No” will raise a few eyebrows. It was given in the context that right now, teachers have enough on their plates preparing for the new computing curriculum coming in in September 2014, without complicating things by adding in a whole lot of new hardware, which lets be honest, isn’t needed to teach the curriculum. By all means get a Raspberry Pi for a specific project or for after school clubs, but for now, concentrate on how to deliver the new curriculum using your existing kit and look at how to add the Pi in 2015. It also gives teachers another year to work on making their network managers and IT support people see sense.

For those that don’t want to download the slides, here are links to all the resources I mentioned:

Teachmeet Brighton September

Today I went to Teachmeet Brighton held at City College Brighton to give a presentaion about the Raspberry Pi showcasing some of the cool things people have done with the Pi and hopefully providing some inspiration for teachers of the kinds of things they could try in their classrooms. Hopefully I succeeded a little in my aim.

The slide deck from my pesentation can be found on Slideshare. There was an embedded video which can be found on YouTube.

I will be giving the same presentation again in a couple of weeks at Teachmeet Sussex though I may well mix things up a little as a lot of the same teachers may be in attendance and I dont want to bore them.

Links from the presentation

  • Raspberry Pi Foundation – the best place to start and where you can get you very own Babbage Bear.
  • Dave Akerman – Pis in Space and so much more.
  • Sonic Pi – Making Computer Science Audible.
  • AirPi – The Raspberry Pi Powered Weather Station.
  • Met Office Data Point – The Met Office’s Weather Observation open data platform.
  • Stuff About Code – Minecraft, Python and a whole heap of (good) craziness.
  • Code Club – A nationwide volunteer led network of after school programming clubs for 9-11 year olds.
  • Code Club Github Repository – Plain text and translated versions of Code Club’s lesson plans.
  • CoderDojo Brighton – Saturday morning coding club just starting up in Brighton. Part of the international CoderDojo network.
  • Raspberry Jam – the global community of events for enthusiasts of the Raspberry Pi computer.
  • Pi Weekly – A free weekly newsletter for Raspberry Pi news and projects – out every Friday.

Cyberpunk RPGs

I was going to ask those of you who are roleplayers for some cyberpunk game recommendations, but when I looked through my library I realised I had most of the recent offerings, which is depressing as none of them really appeal, at least not as a complete package.

For whatever reason Savage Worlds and me are destined never to get on, thus ruling out both the excellent Interface Zero from Gun Metal Games and Daring Tales of the Sprawl from Triple Ace Games. I have a selection of products from both ranges, and backed the Interface Zero 2.0 Kickstarter, so I have stuff to draw on for inspiration at least.

Both Remember Tomorrow and Technoir look interesting, but neither have grabbed me. I suspect that’s because I’m not really a big indie/story game fan and that would seem to be where their appeal lies. Again, more source material at least.

There seem to be a number of other games out there, but from browsing RPGNow nothing has jumped out as being outstanding. I could be missing a real gem but it’s very hard to tell and splashing out on every possibility is just not an option.

Oh, before you ask, no Shadowrun is not an option either.

So that all leads me to my two currently most likely system candidates: Fate (specifically Fate Accelerated Edition) and Cortex+. Now neither have a fully fledged cyberpunk offering, so there is going to be a certain amount of DIY required. How much depends on your starting point.

For Fate there are a couple of good places to begin: Nova Praxis and Edgerunner. Nova Praxis is a transhuman RPG that is closely based on Fate Core and Strands of Fate. As such it’s probably the easiest to hack into a FAE cyberpunk game. As a completed published product it’s also had the most work done on it, making it a hopefully solid foundation.

Edgerunner on the other hand is a fan produced work in progressed based off the Dispora iteration of Fate. Last updated in February 2013 it may actually prove to be the best place to begin. And as it’s all hosted on a web page, grabbing it and hacking it about should be a breeze. Just need to read the current version all the way through to make a proper judgement.

That just leaves Cortex+. Here things are far less formalized. The most logical place to start is a combination of the Leverage RPG and the forthcoming Cortex+ Hackers Guide (another backed Kickstarter). In actual fact the CPHG contains a sample cyberpunk hack, but that is based on a hack of the Smallville RPG, the engine of which is being included in the CPHG as the Cortex+ Drama System. Whilst I am sure it has a lot going for it, I’m not sure that’s the feel and direction I want from my gaming. So if I was to go down this route, I would need to undertake a fair amount of work. Tempting but not necessarily my strong point.

So for now it looks like my best best is to fully read through Edgerunner, work on porting it to FAE and then possibly adding elements from Nova Praxis as appropriate. This would never be a commercial endeavour, but I would intend to share as much as I could, licenses permitting.

Suggestions, comments and brickbats can be directed at me via Twitter.