Fancy making a motion-tracking eye in a jar?

Using motion detection and a Raspberry Pi Zero W, Lukas Stratmann has produced this rather creepy moving eye in a jar. And with a little bit of, ahem, dissection, you can too!

Floating Eye in a Jar With Motion Tracking

Made for an Arts seminar I attended for my General Studies, i.e. classes not organized by the faculty for CompSci: “Interaktive Exponate entwickeln mit dem RaspberryPi” (translation: Development of interactive exhibitions with the RaspberryPi). Music: Rise by Meydän: CC-BY http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Meydan/For_Creators/Rise_1709 I embedded some neodymium magnets in a ping-pong ball that I’d cut open.

Eww!

We hear you. Among the Raspberry Pi projects we’ve shared on this blog, Lukas’s eye in a jar is definitely one of the eww-est. But the idea and the tech behind it is quite fascinating.

Here’s what we know…

Lukas hasn’t shared the code for his project online. But with a bit of sleuthing, we’re sure the Raspberry Pi community can piece it together.

What we do know is that the project uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a camera, some magnets, a servo, and a ping pong ball, with a couple of 3D-printed parts to keep everything in place. Lukas has explained:

I embedded some neodymium magnets in a ping-pong ball that I’d cut open. The magnets and weights (two 20 Euro cent coins) are held in place by a custom 3D-printed mount. Everything is glued in with hot glue, and I sealed the ping-pong ball with silicone sealant and painted it with acrylic paint.

Beneath the jar, a servo motor is connected to a second set of magnets. When the servo moves, these magnets cause the eyeball to move in tandem, by magnet magic.

eye in a jar raspberry pi

Using this tutorial by , Lukas incorporated motion detection into his project, allowing the camera to track passers-by, and the Pi to direct the servo and eyeball.

Build your own eye in a jar

The best skill of makers is their ability to figure out how things work to recreate them. So if you’re up for the challenge, we’d love to see you try to build your own tribute to Lukas’s eye in a jar.

And why stop there? Using magnets and servos with your Raspberry Pi opens up a world of projects, such as Bethanie’s amazing Harry Potter–inspired wizard chess set!

Wizard's Chess gif

How would you use them in your builds?

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HackSpace magazine 8: Raspberry Pi <3 Arduino

Arduino is officially brilliant. It’s the perfect companion for your Raspberry Pi, opening up new possibilities for robotics, drones and all sorts of physical computing projects. In HackSpace magazine issue 8  we’re taking a look at what’s going on on planet Arduino, and how it can make our world better.

HackSpace magazine

This little board and its ecosystem are hugely important to the world of digital making. It’s affordable, it’s powerful, and it’s open hardware so you know that if you embed one of these in a project and the company goes bust tomorrow, the hardware will always be viable.

Arduino has helped power a new generation of digital makers, and now with a new team in charge, new boards and new software, it’s ready for the next generation.

Noisy toys

We get to speak to loads of fascinating people, but this month marks the first time we’ve ever met a science busker. Meet Stephen Summers, a former teacher who makes a mess with cornflour, water, and sound waves, all in the name of sharing the joy of physics.

HackSpace magazine

Glass-blowing

While we love messing about with digital technologies, we’re also a big fan of good old-fashioned craft skills. And you can’t get much more old-fashioned than traditional glass-blowing. Join us as we attempt to turn red hot molten glass into a multicoloured object without burning ourselves or setting anything on fire.

Guitar synth

People are endlessly clever, inventive, and all-round brilliant. A fantastic example is Björk, the Icelandic musician whose work defies categorisation. Another is Matt Bradshaw, who has made a synthesiser that you play by strumming six metal strings with a plectrum to complete a circuit. Oh, and named it after Björk. Read all about it and get inspired to do something equally bonkers.

HackSpace magazine

Machine learning

Do you have children? Do they leave the lights on all the time, causing you to shout, “THIS ISN’T BLACKPOOL FLAMING ILLUMINATIONS, YOU KNOW!” Well, now you can replace those children with an Arduino. With a bit of machine learning, the Arduino can train itself to turn the lights on and off at the right time, all the time. Plus they don’t cost as much as human children, so it’s a double win!

Dry ice cream

When the sun comes out in Blighty, it doesn’t hang around for long. So why wait for your domestic fridge to freeze your tasty dairy-based desserts, when you can add some solid carbon dioxide and freeze it in a flash? Follow our tutorial and you too can have tasty treats with the ironically warm glow that comes from using chemicals at -78°C.

HackSpace magazine

And there’s more

We’ve filled the rest of the magazine with a robot orchestra, watch restoration, audio boards for Raspberry Pi, magical colour-changing wearables, and more. Get stuck in!



Get your copy of HackSpace magazine

If you like the sound of this month’s content, you can find HackSpace magazine in WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and independent newsagents in the UK. If you live in the US, check out your local Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center next week. We’re also shipping to stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil, so be sure to ask your local newsagent whether they’ll be getting HackSpace magazine.

And if you can’t get to the shops, fear not: you can subscribe from £4 an issue from our online shop. And if you’d rather try before you buy, you can always download the free PDF. Happy reading, and happy making!

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How to build a competiton-ready Raspberry Pi robot

With the recent announcement of the 2019 Pi Wars dates, we’ve collected some essential online resources to help you get started in the world of competitive robots.

bbc robot wars raspberry pi robot

Robotics 101

Before you can strap chainsaws and flamethrowers to your robot, you need to learn some basics. Sorry.

As part of our mission to put digital making into the hands of people across the globe, the Raspberry Pi Foundation creates free project tutorials for hardware builds, Scratch projects, Python games, and more. And to get you started with robot building, we’ve put together a series of buggy-centric projects!



Begin with our Build a robot buggy project, where you’ll put together a simple buggy using motors, a Raspberry Pi 3, and a few other vital ingredients. From there, move on to the Remotely control your buggy tutorial to learn how to command your robot using an Android phone, a Google AIY Projects Voice Kit, or a home-brew controller. Lastly, train your robot to think for itself using our new Build a line-following robot project.

Prepare your buggy for battle

Put down the chainsaw — we’re not there yet!

raspberry pi robot

For issue 51, The MagPi commissioned ace robot builder Brian Cortiel to create a Build a remote control robot feature. The magazine then continued the feature in issue 52, adding a wealth of sensors to the robot. You can download both issues as free PDFs from The MagPi website. Head here for issue 51 and here for issue 52.

Pi Wars

To test robot makers’ abilities, previous Pi Wars events have included a series of non-destructive challenges: the balloon-popping Pi Noon, the minimal maze, and an obstacle course. Each challenge calls for makers to equip their robot with various abilities, such as speed, manoeuvrability, or line-following functionality.

Tanya Fish on Twitter

Duck shoot, 81 points! Nice one bub. #piwars https://t.co/UCSWaEOJh8

The Pi Wars team has shared a list of hints and tips from Brian Corteil that offer a great place to start your robotics journey. Moreover, many Pi Wars competitors maintain blogs about their build process to document the skills they learn, and the disasters along the way.

raspberry pi robot

This year’s blog category winner, David Pride’s Pi and Chips website, has a wealth of robot-making information.

If you’d like to give your robot a robust, good-looking body, check out PiBorg, robot-makers extraordinaire. Their robot chassis selection can help you get started if you don’t have access to a laser cutter or 3D printer, or if you don’t want to part with one of your Tupperware boxes to house your robot.

And now for the chainsaws!

Robot-building is a great way to learn lots of new skills, and we encourage everyone to give it a go, regardless of your digital making abilities. But please don’t strap chainsaws to your Raspberry Pi–powered robot unless you are trained in the ways of chainsaw-equipped robot building. The same goes for flamethrowers, cattle prods, and anything else that could harm another person, animal, or robot.

Pi Wars raspberry pi robot

Pi Wars 2019 will be taking place on 30 and 31 March in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory William Gates Building. If you’d like to take part, you can find more information here.

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Using E Ink displays with a Raspberry Pi

Are you interested in using an E Ink display in your next Raspberry Pi project? Let us help you get started!

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

Weather and new display using a Raspberry Pi Zero and Kindle e-reader by Luke Haas

E Ink displays

E Ink displays are accessible, they don’t need a lot of power, and they can display content without any power connection whatsoever — think Amazon Kindle if you’ve only a vague knowledge of the technology.

E Ink displays work using negative and positive charges. They contain tiny microcapsules suspended in a liquid within a film layer. The microcapsules consist of negatively charged black particles and positively charged white particles. By applying the correct charge, you control whether the black or white particles come to the surface.

</e_ink_101_with_alex>

E Ink displays for your Raspberry Pi projects

So how and why would you use an E Ink display in your project? Simple! Aside from their low power consumption and indefinite display time, E Ink displays are relatively cheap, light, and interesting to look at. Plus, they’re easy to read in sunny conditions, which isn’t always true of LCD screens. And with e-readers now in their teens, there are plenty of forgotten devices collecting dust in drawers, ready to be repurposed.

Repurposing old e-readers

If you’ve ever tried to use the ‘experimental browser’ on a Kindle device, you’ll have found yourself transported back to the glory days of dial-up refresh rates and half-downloaded images. The only thing missing is the screeching connection tone. However, by connecting your Kindle to the same network as your Raspberry Pi, you can create a web page accessible to the e-reader to display data to your E Ink screen.

This bike computer by David Schneider makes use of that trick:

DIY: Build A Better Bike Computer

A Raspberry Pi and Kindle make vital information about your bicycle journey readable. Read more: http://spectrum.ieee.org/video/geek-life/hands-on/video-build-a-better-bike-computer

Secondhand e-readers are fairly easy to pick up from websites such as eBay, from your local carboot/yard sale, or from book-loving friends or family members. If you have one to hand and want to get making, you’ll find an abundance of tutorials for notification displays and low-power minimalist computers using e-readers.

Brand-new E Ink displays

If you want to buy a smaller display, or don’t have access to an old e-reader, you’ll find many online hobby retailers selling E Ink screens in several sizes and colours. The Pi Supply PaPiRus comes in many shapes and sizes as an easy-to-use Raspberry Pi HAT (Hardware Attached on Top). Simply push it in place on the GPIO pins, download the library to your Pi, and you’re good to go.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

In case you’re looking to add a little more colour to your display, the Pimoroni red, white, and black Inky pHAT is an add-on designed for the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Displays

A quick and effective project for a smaller display like this is a Raspberry Pi Zero name badge, and we’ve seen our share of them at tech events and Picademy training sessions.

Brian Corteil 🤖 on Twitter

@MKRaspberryJam Yes, just like this one, pHat badge is a case for showing of your pHats, look mum no power!

Once you’ve programmed your Pi and updated your E Ink screen, you can detach it from the Pi and wow those you meet with your magic power-free digital name badge!

And if you buy yourself an E Ink HAT, you can even have a go at this Monzo-powered money tracker.

Raspberry Pi E Ink Monzo Display

Past predictions of Liz Upton

Back in 2013, our Director of Communication, Liz Upton, wrote a post about Max Ogden’s Kindleberry Pi build, commenting the following:

Here at the Foundation, we’re watching the development of e-ink products with great interest. At the moment it’s nigh-on impossible to buy an e-ink display as a consumer unless it comes bundled as part of an e-reader like a Kindle or a Nook; and that makes them very expensive. The technology has all kinds of potential for applications we want to see the Pi being used for: the low energy requirement makes an e-ink screen a perfect choice for places where you’re off the grid or reliant on solar power. We’re looking forward to seeing prices come down and displays becoming more easily available to consumers.

How lovely to be sat here in 2018, writing a post about the growing use of E Ink displays and the wide availability of the technology to hobbyists and digital makers! It shows how far the electronics industry for home builders has come, and we’re excited to see where it’s heading next.

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A working original Doctor Who K-9 prop

When Abertay University purchased some unwanted Doctor Who props from the BBC in 2011, they could never have known that their future computer science student Gary Taylor would transform a water-damaged robot corpse into a working K-9, the cutest (and snarkiest) of all the Doctor’s companions.

K-9 Doctor Who Raspberry Pi Prop

image c/o The Courier

K-9

If you’re unfamiliar with Doctor Who, you may not be aware of the Doctor’s robotic-canine best friend, K-9. I won’t wax lyrical about the long and winding history of this iconic science fiction character (though I could), but those of you who want to learn more can watch the video below.

History of K9 – History of Doctor Who

Hello and welcome to the Whoniverse and to another instalment of the History of Doctor Who series, this time I’m not looking at a universe conquering species but a tin dog. Yes the Doctor’s past travelling companion K9. There have been many versions of K9 and he has appeared alongside numerous Doctor’s and other companions.

Tl;dw: K-9 is basically a really clever, robotic dog invented in the year 5000.

Resurrecting a robotic dog

For his final-year dissertation, computer science student Gary Taylor decided to bring K-9 back to life, having discovered the prop damaged by a water leak in the university hackspace.

“I love robotics, I love programming, I love dogs, and I love Doctor Who.” Don’t we all, Gary. Don’t we all.
Image c/o The Courier

For his dissertation, titled Creating an Autonomous Robot Utilizing Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Ultrasound Sensors for Mapping a Room, Gary used modern-day technology to rebuild K-9’s original and often unreliable radio-controlled electronics from the 1970s.

However, Gary’s K-9 is more than a simple remote-controlled robot. As the dissertation title states, the robot uses ultrasound sensors for room mapping, and this function is controlled by both an Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

A block diagram taken from Gary’s dissertation

An Arduino Mega 2560 controls the wheels and three ultrasound sensors located at the bottom of K-9’s body. It passes the sensor data to the onboard Raspberry Pi 3, and the Pi plots obstacles and walls to create a map of K-9’s surroundings.

The three ultrasonic sensors can be seen along the bottom of K-9’s body

The Raspberry Pi also connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth, where Gary runs a custome app to remotely control K-9 and view the map it creates.

More information? Affirmative!

The team at the Electronic Engineering Journal has written up a very thorough explanation of Gary’s dissertation. Those interested in the full details of the robot won’t be disappointed!

For a video of Gary and K-9 that refuses to embed itself in this blog post, head over to The Courier’s website.

And for more Doctor Who–related Raspberry Pi builds, check out Jeremy Lee’s remake of Captain Jack’s Vortex Manipulator, a synthesised rendition of the classic theme using a Raspberry Pi Zero, and a collection of builds and props in this Doctor Who roundup, including a sonic screwdriver, a Dalek, and a TARDIS in near-space.

Oh, and another thing…

BBC released some cool behind-the-scenes images and photos from season ten of Doctor Who, including this production art for Nardole’s tracking device:

The Pi Towers staff may have let out a little squee of delight when we noticed the Raspberry Pi included within.

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Echoing the Newcastle of yesteryear with Pi-powered whistles

Artist Steve Messam is celebrating the North of England’s historic role in railway innovation with 16 Raspberry Pi–controlled steam engine whistles around the city of Newcastle.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Exhibition of the North is a summer-long celebration of the pioneering spirit of the North of England. Running over 80 days, the event will feature live performances, exhibitions, artworks, and displays of innovation from 22 June – 9 September 2018.

As part of the celebration, artist Steve Messam is introducing his Whistle project in Newcastle in honour of the North’s part in the innovation of the railway. “Listen out for the evocative sound of steam engine whistles once again echoing across the city of Newcastle,” states the project page of The Great Exhibition of the North. “The sound installation is designed to recall the role of the North in engineering and the invention of the railway, sparking memories and forging links between past and present.”

Whistle

Steve first developed the idea for Whistle as a pitch to the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park back in 2014. He originally wanted to install a line of whistles along the 22-mile course of the old railway line between Callander and Glen Dochart, with whistles sounding off in one-second intervals, recreating the sound of the old line.

Below is a very nice roundup of the initial 2-mile test run, including the original whistle designs.

Steve Messam | Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

The Artistic Reflections publication will be available from June 2017 For more information, or to order a copy, please contact: susechristie@googlemail.com Designed by Marco Scerri, edited by Susan Christie and supported by Creative Scotland Steve Messam Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park 186,340 hectares Project website: www.mistandmountains.wordpress.com Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park was designated in 2002 and covers 720 square miles of outstanding landscape adjacent to the central belt of Scotland.

Fast forward to 2018 and The Great Exhibition of the North, where Steve is surrounding the city of Newcastle with 16 newly casted brass whistles. The new installation follows the old city wall of Newcastle, with each whistle sounding at exactly 1pm on every day of the exhibition.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

Original plans for the whistle

The William Lane Foundry cast the 16 whistles to match a design by William Armstrong based on measurements of an original whistle held by the North East Locomotive Preservation Group.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

Whistle casting at the William Lane Foundry

Each whistle is equipped with a Raspberry Pi that controls the release of compressed air through the brass to replicate the sound of a steam whistle.

Steve Messam on Twitter

Another roof, another day of testing #whistle for #getnorth2018 https://t.co/j5Yszx1Crl

Each unit is powered by solar panels and registers the time from the National Physical Laboratory’s atomic clock in London to ensure accurate timings. As a fallback in case of WiFi issues, the whistles are also linked to the clock set on the Raspberry Pi itself.

Steve Messam on Twitter

The more I think about it the more I really like that ‘Whistle’ only really exists for about 20 seconds each day.

For more information on Whistle, check out this wonderful article by the Teesdale Mercury. You can also find out more about Steve Messam projects, such as his paper bridge that can support the weight of a Land Rover, on his website or by following his Twitter account.

Steve Messam Raspberry Pi Whistle The Great Exhibition of the North

A Whistle-stop tour of Newcastle

And if you’re in Newcastle while The Great Exhibition of the North is running and you spot one of the 16 whistles, be sure to tag us in your pics and videos on social media so we can see it in action.

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Build your own Solo: A Star Wars Story L3-37 droid

It is a truth universally acknowledged…that everyone wants their own Star Wars droid. If you’re now thinking “No, not me!”, then you obviously haven’t met the right droid yet. But Patrick ‘PatchBOTS‘ Stefanski has, and that droid is L3-37 from the newly released Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Release the droids

Visit your local maker event, such as Maker Faire, and you’re sure to meet at least one droid builder. Building a Star Wars droid is pretty much every maker’s dream, and YouTube droid-building sensation Patrick Stefanski is living that dream. On his Youtube channel PatchBOTS, Patrick is showcasing his maker chops with truly impressive recreations of characters such as BB-8 and our personal favourite, Chopper from Star Wars Rebels.

L3-37

Patrick’s new L3-37 build uses the free Alexa Voice Service and a Raspberry Pi 3 to augment a 3D-printed base model with robotics and AI.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid PatchBOTs

He designed L3-37’s head based on press images and trailers, and then adjusted some of the visual aesthetic after watching the movie. When he realised that the Amazon Echo Dot he’d started the build with wouldn’t allow him to implement some of the features he had planned, including a unique wake word, Patrick decided to use a Raspberry Pi instead.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid PatchBOTs

A wake word is the word a home assistant uses to recognise that you’re addressing it. For Amazon Alexa, the standard wake words are ‘Alexa’, ‘Echo’, ‘Amazon’, and ‘computer’. While these are fine for standard daily use, Patrick wanted his droid to acknowledge its own name, L3-37. He also wanted to make L3-37 react with a voice response and movement whenever it heard its name. Using the Raspberry Pi enabled him to edit the home assistant code to include these functionalities, and in this way he made L3-37 truly come to life.

Build your own L3-37 home assistant

If you’d like to build your own L3-37 (and why wouldn’t you), Patrick is in the process of adding the complete set of instructions and code to his Github account. The 3D printer files are available now to get you started, along with the list of ingredients for the build, including servos, NeoPixels, and every propmaker’s staple: Rub n Buff.

If you want buy the parts for this project, why not use the affiliate links Patrick provides in the L3-37 video description to help him fund future projects? And while you’re there, leave a comment to show him some love for this incredible droid build, and also subscribe to his channel to see what he comes up with next.

Solo Star Wars Story L3-37 droid

We’re definitely going to be taking some of the lessons learned in this project to work on our own builds, and we hope you’ll do the same and share your work with us via social media.

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Look who’s coming to Raspberry Fields 2018!

For those that don’t yet know, Raspberry Fields is the all-new community festival of digital making we’re hosting in Cambridge, UK on 30 June and 1 July 2018!

Raspberry Pi two-day digital making event Raspberry Fields

It will be a chance for people of all ages and skill levels to have a go at getting creative with tech! Raspberry Fields is a celebration of all that our digital makers have already learnt and achieved, whether through taking part in Code Clubs, CoderDojos, or Raspberry Jams, or through trying our resources at home.

We have a packed festival programme of exciting activities, talks, and shows for you to experience! So clear the weekend of 30 June and 1 July, because you won’t want to miss a thing.

Saturday

On Saturday, we’ll be welcoming two very special acts to the Raspberry Fields stage.

Neil Monterio

Neil Monterio - Raspberry Fields

Originally trained as a physicist, Neil is famous for his live shows exploring the power of scientific thinking and how it helps us tell the difference between the real and the impossible.

Ada.Ada.Ada

AdaAdaAda - Raspberry Fields

The spellbinding interactive show about computing pioneer Ada Lovelace — catch a sneak peek here!

Sunday

On Sunday, “Science Museum meets Top Gear” as Brainiac Live! takes to the stage to close Raspberry Fields in style.

Brainiac Live!

Brainiac Live! - Raspberry Fields

Strap on your safety goggles — due to popular demand science’s greatest and most volatile live show arrives with a vengeance. The West End and international touring favourite is coming to Raspberry Fields!

More mischievous than ever before, Brainiac Live! will take you on a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. Watch from the safety of your seat as the Brainiacs fearlessly delve into the mysteries of science and do all those things on stage that you’re too scared to do at home!

Weekend highlights

And that’s not all — we’ll also be welcoming some very special guests who will display their projects throughout the weekend. These include:

The Cauldron

The Cauldron - Raspberry Fields

Brew potions with molecular mixology and responsive magic wands using science and technology, and bring the magic from fantasy books to life in this immersive, interactive experience! Learn more about The Cauldron here.

The mechanical Umbrella Tree

The Umbrella Tree - Raspberry Fields

The Umbrella Tree is a botanical, mechanical contraption designed to bemuse, baffle, delight, and amuse all ages. Audiences discover it in the landscape singing to itself and dancing its strange mechanical ballet. The four-metre high structure weaves a creaky choreography of mechanically operated umbrellas, lights, and smoke.

Museum in a Box

Artefacts in the classroom with Museum in a Box || Raspberry Pi Stories

Museum in a Box bridges the gap between museums and schools by creating a more hands-on approach to conservation education through 3D printing and digital making.

Museum in a Box puts museum collections and expert knowledge into your hands, wherever you are in the world. It’s an intriguing and interactive mix of replica objects and contextual content from museum curators and educators, directly at the tips of your fingers!

And there’s still more to discover

Alongside these exciting and explosive performances and displays, we’ll be hosting loads of amazing projects and hands-on activities built by our awesome community of young people and enthusiasts, as well as licensed resellers for you to get all the latest kit and gadgets!

If you’re wondering about bringing along young children or less technologically minded family members or friends, there’ll be plenty for them to enjoy — with lots of festival-themed activities such as face painting, fun performances, free giveaways, and delicious food, Raspberry Fields will have something for everyone!

Tickets!

Tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss out — buy your tickets here today!

Fancy helping out? Find out about our volunteering opportunities.

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Build your own Arthur satellite dish for tracking the ISS

Construct a 3D paper model of the iconic Arthur satellite dish that notifies you whenever the International Space Station passes overhead!

Project_Arthur

Project_Arthur is a fun project allowing you to construct a 3d paper model of the Antenna 1 dish called Arthur from Goonhilly. The model will track the location of the ISS (International Space Station) using an embedded Raspberry PI and notify you when it is over your chosen location!

The Arthur satellite dish at Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station

Based in Cornwall, UK, the Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station was once the largest satellite earth station in the world. It has been home to more than 60 dishes since its first dish, Arthur, was built in 1962.

Arthur satellite dish

Arthur is responsible for bringing many iconic moments in television history to the UK. For example, it transmitted man’s first steps on the moon on 11 June 1962. Since then, it’s become a protected Grade II listed structure.

Project Arthur

Apollo 50’s Project Arthur is an open-source 3D papercraft project that allows you to build your own desktop Arthur satellite dish model, complete with LED notifications via a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The entire body of the satellite dish is built using ten sheets of 160gsm cardstock, printed with the Arthur design that you can download for free from the Project Arthur website. A Raspberry Pi Zero W fits within the base of the model, and you can push a small LED through the feedhorn — the bit that sticks out the front of the dish.

Arthur satellite dish - raspberry pi iss indicator

The Apollo 50 team created a simple IFTTT web applet that accesses an API to find out the location of the International Space Station (ISS).

The project uses a conditional web applet that we created on the IFTTT (If This Then That) platform. The applet monitors an API via NASA and Open Notify that we give a specific location on Earth (such as your home/school). It computes whether the ISS is overhead, and in that case sends a tweet to you with a particular hashtag (such as #ISS_overGoonhilly). When this hashtag is picked up by the code running on the Pi, the LED will flash to indicate that the ISS is overhead!

Raspberry Pi and the International Space Station

Our two Astro Pi units, Ed and Izzy, are currently aboard the International Space Station as part of the ongoing Astro Pi Challenge we’re running in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). The Astro Pi units consist of a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ and a Sense HAT inside a 6063-grade aluminium flight case, and they allow school children from all ESA member countries to write code to run experiments in space. You can learn more about the Astro Pi Challenge here.

Astro Pi in space - Arthur satellite dish

If you’d like to try out more space-themed Pi projects, our free project resources include ‘People in space’ indicator — a handy LED-packed gadget for checking how many people (that we know of 👽) are currently in space.

Raspberry Pi ISS People in Space indicator - Arthur satellite dish

There are many more free resources on our projects site, including our own take on an ISS tracker, and the files to print your own Astro Pi case. And you can learn more about papercraft in issue 6 of HackSpace magazine, our monthly maker publication available in print and as a free PDF download that makes a sneaky appearance in the Project Arthur video!

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Archimedes, the Google AIY Projects Vision familiar

hackster.io‘s ‘resident hardware nerd’ Alex Glow has gifted the world of makers with Archimedes, a shoulder-mounted owl that judges your emotions using the Google AIY Project Vision Kit.

Say Hi to Archimedes – the AI Robot Owl

Say hi to Archimedes – the robot owl with a Google AIY brain. Built with Raspberry Pi + Arduino! Here are some insights into pitfalls of the build process. I made this li’l guy to demo the AIY Vision Kit for Maker Faire 2018… but he’s not going away anytime soon!

Google AIY Project Kits

Google released the Pi-powered AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, providing the entire set of build ingredients with issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine. You loved it, we loved it, and later that year they followed up the Voice Kit’s success with the Vision Kit, also based on the Raspberry Pi.

google aiy vision kit

As the name indicates, the Voice Kit completes tasks in response to voice commands, just like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The Vision Kit allows makers to experiment with neural networking to implement image recognition in their projects.

Planning for Maker Faire

When the hackster.io team was asked to contribute a project to Google’s stand at Maker Faire Bay Area this year, their in-house self-confessed hardware and robotics nerd Alex Glow took on the challenge.

I took a really, really long time to figure out what to build — what it would look like, how it would animate, how it would dispense the stickers…in the end, I went with this cute and fairly challenging design.

And so, Alex brought Archimedes the robotic owl into the world — and the world is a cuter place for it.

Archimedes the owl

Having set up the Google AIY Vision Kit — you can find Alex’s live build video here — she raided a HackerBox for a pan/tilt gimble. The gimble was far more robust than simple servos, and since Alex wanted to bring Archimedes to more events after Maker Faire, she needed something that would take the wear and tear.

it’ll be fun trying to explain this one // i tried: bit.ly/robotowl

337 Likes, 18 Comments – Alex Glow (@glowascii) on Instagram: “it’ll be fun trying to explain this one // i tried: bit.ly/robotowl”

For Maker Faire, she modified Archimedes to be a shoulder-mounted familiar, but Alex initially mounted him on a box that would open to reveal a prize if Archimedes detected a certain facial expression. For this, she introduced an Arduino into the mix, using the board to control three servos: two for the gimble and the third for the box lid.

Archimedes’s main objective is to hunt out faces and read their expressions. Because of this, his head is always moving so he can take in his surroundings like a real owl.

I combined the AIY Kit’s LED and Joy Detection demos (found in /gpiozero and /joy, respectively). I wanted to make the LED pin turn on when it finds a happy face, but weirdly, this code does the opposite. Someday, I will be enough of a software wizard to figure out why…

Alex designed the owl’s body using OnShape, with the intention of keeping the Raspberry Pi and AIY tech inside. Then she 3D printed the body using the Lulzbot Taz 6 and very hackster-blue filament.

Shawn Hymel on Twitter

Testing out @glowascii ‘s familiar, Archimedes. It knows when I’m sad or happy, but I have to *really* force that happy 😅 #aiy #computervision #ai #3dprinting https://t.co/77pQk9pOHm

Build your own robot familiar

For full instructions on building and coding your own Archimedes, head to Alex’s hackster.io project page. You can keep up to date on the pair’s adventures via Alex’s Twitter account.

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Bell Gardens’ Code Club is headed to Coolest Projects North America

Located outside Los Angeles, the Boys & Girls Club of Bell Gardens run after-school and summer programming for youth in the community. The club at Bell Gardens is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a national organization of local chapters that offer after-school programs for young people. In September, their Code Club members will be heading to Coolest Projects North America to share their coding projects and connect with other young coders.

Two girls with backpacks reading about a Raspberry Pi project — Boys & Girls Club

Boys & Girls Club of Bell Gardens

At Bell Gardens’ Boys & Girls Club, activities center around healthy living and homework support, in addition to opportunities for kids to practice good character and citizenship, and to explore the arts and technology. But, as we know, rapid changes in technology mean needing to always be on the lookout for updated and kid-friendly materials. Therefore, Loren and her Boys & Girls Club team wanted to find resources that expose their kids to technology and empower them to contribute to society, to solve problems, or to simply get creative.

Code Club Bell Gardens

Loren found that Code Club, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s longest-running outreach program, has just the resources and online project platform they needed to really level up their digital tech program. Code Club resources, like all resources provided Raspberry Pi, are user-friendly, accessible, and always free.

A boy at a laptop coding in Scratch — Boys & Girls Club

Now, just two short months since their first session, the on-site Code Club at Bell Gardens has grown exponentially and become a favourite of the community. At 20 members and growing, their Code Club is composed entirely of members from the Bell Gardens community, serving kids from 6 to 15. The club runs at least once a week, and Loren hopes to run it more often due to its positive effects. She says:

I’ve seen a lot of internal and external growth in each member. I can honestly say that all the members have been impacted by the exposure to new resources and opportunities. Not only has their self-confidence improved, so have their skills in critical thinking, coding, and math.

Loren admits that the first day of Code Club started off as challenging. “Many of the youngest members faced significant learning difficulties pertaining to literacy and math. However, many of them happily surprised our staff with their ability to memorize the projects steps along with the symbols on the screen. After a two-hour session, most members were able to complete their projects without any assistance!”

Two children holding up Code Club stickers — Boys & Girls Club

The club members come from diverse backgrounds, so Loren is thoughtful about creating a team culture while supporting individual development. As a team, they focus on two objectives: passion and innovation. “Members are constantly seeking solutions to their own questions and challenges. They thrive on inspiration and motivation, which in my opinion is the finest way to be a catalyst in the technological age.”

Bell Gardens heads to Coolest Projects

With Coolest Projects North America coming in September, Bell Gardens’ Code Club members are working on projects over the summer to prepare for the big event. Loren is already looking forward to the showcase: “I am thrilled to bring our club to Coolest Projects because it’s a unique opportunity for the community! Our community has an overwhelming lack of resources, especially concerning education, so I am looking forward to introducing our members to an innovative, competitive environment, but most of all to inspire them to select a project they can feel passionate about.”

Coolest Projects North America

Coolest Projects North America will take place at the Discovery Cube, Orange County, on September 23, 2018.

Coolest Projects UK 2018 Raspberry Pi Foundation CoderDojo
Coolest Projects UK 2018 Raspberry Pi Foundation CoderDojo
Coolest Projects UK 2018 Raspberry Pi Foundation CoderDojo
Coolest Projects UK 2018 Raspberry Pi Foundation CoderDojo

All levels of coders are welcome, and all types of projects are encouraged! Find tickets to the the event, register your project, and learn about travel stipends on the Coolest Projects North America website.

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Gliding to earth with the Raspberry Pi Zero

RaptorTech’s goal was to drop a glider from the edge of space, and with a Raspberry Pi and a high-altitude weather balloon, their vision became a reality.

Dropping a glider from 10km with a high-altitude weather balloon

The goal of this project was to drop a glider from the edge of space using a high altitude weather balloon. The glider is entirely homemade and uses the opensource Pixhawk flight controller + a Raspberry Pi Zero to disconnect at the desired altitude and fly to a predetermined landing location.

High-altitude ballooning

Here at Pi Towers, we thoroughly enjoy the link between high-altitude balloon (HAB) enthusiasts and the Raspberry Pi community, from Dave Akerman‘s first attempt at sending a Raspberry Pi to near-space, to our own Skycademy programme training educators in high-altitude ballooning. HABs and the Pi go together like the macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, chips and gravy…you get the idea.

The RaptorTech glider

The RaptorTech team equipped their glider with a Pixhawk flight controller and the small $5 Raspberry Pi Zero to control the time point when the glider disconnects from the HAB, and to allow the glider to autonomously navigate back to a specific landing site.

RaptorTech high-altitude balloon Raspberry Pi Zero glider

They made the glider out of foam core and coroplast, with a covering of tape to waterproof the body. Inside it were two cameras, two servos, the Raspberry Pi Zero, and the Pixhawk flight controller with added GPS tracker (in case the glider got lost on the way home). The electronics were protected by handwarmers from freezing at high altitude.

The Raspberry Pi Zero ran a Python script to control the Pixhawk. At take-off, the Zero set the controller into manual mode to keep the glider from trying to fly off toward its final destination. When the glider reached a pre-determined altitude, the Zero disconnected the glider from the HAB by setting off a solid state relay to burn through the connecting wire. Then the Pi started up the flight controller to direct the glider home. You can find the code for this process here.

All systems go

Due to time limitations and weather restrictions, the RaptorTech team had to drop their glider from 10km instead of 30km as they’d planned. They were pleased to report the safe, successful return of their glider to about 10m from the pre-set landing point.

RaptorTech high-altitude balloon Raspberry Pi Zero glider

If you’d like to follow the adventures of RaptorTech, check out their Facebook page. You can also follow them on YouTube and on their website for more RC plane-based mayhem.

A note from Dave Akerman: “It’s worth pointing out that not only do all HAB flights need permission but that such permission would normally ONLY be for payloads being dropped by parachute. Free-flying gliders, planes, drones etc. are not allowed with specific permission. My understanding, from a HABber in the USA (where this flight was), is that the FAA will not provide such permission. In any case, before dropping anything from a HAB without a parachute, get specific permission first.”

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Tackling Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome with Fesentience

In today’s guest post, we’ll hear from Prastik Mohanraj. He’s a part of the Fesentience project team at the Engineering and Science University Magnet school (ESUMS) in Connecticut, USA, and a student of Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Leon Tynes. Prastik shares his story of creating an incubator device using the Raspberry Pi to help young infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Fesentience – Our Product

Booth video displayed at Mini EXPO. Turn subtitles on when displaying.

Fesentience

Our project, called Fesentience, is to create a device that uses the principles of biomimicry to simulate the maternal womb. By integrating Raspberry Pi and Python programming, we can design a product that houses various systems mimicking the maternal womb, with parameters such as a mother’s specific resting heart rate and blood pressure that we can set via code.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

The product is targeted towards infants suffering from a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. Newborn infants exhibit NAS if they were exposed to addictive drugs while in the womb. Infants with NAS suffer from withdrawal effects, which can be extremely devastating since they may hinder essential post-birth developmental processes. This may lead to the onset of conditions such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, where the infant dies without any prior physiological indicators.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome treatment

Current treatments for NAS include providing kangaroo care, which is a form of touch contact for the infant; weaning infants off drugs slowly by using morphine, fentanyl, or other replacement compounds; and simply housing them in incubator cribs. However, none of these treatments approach NAS in what is scientifically shown to be the best way: providing persistent maternal involvement, or having the mother directly in contact with the infant for prolonged periods of time. The problem with such maternal involvement, though, is that in many cases, it is simply not possible for the mother to be with the infant.

NAS and Raspberry Pi

We made Fesentience to address this difficulty and act as a substitute for the mother. Our incubator device mimics the various biological systems of the mother according to parameters unique to each mother. Hence, our product can fully mimic any particular infant’s mother during its treatment.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

The prototype includes a light system that can display various shades of light; we chose shades of blue light to prevent the occurrence of jaundice in infants being treated. The product also includes a vibration motor to vibrate in a pattern mimicking the mother’s heartbeat; a balloon that inflates and deflates through the use of vacuum pumps to simulate the mother’s respiration; and a speaker to play the mother’s voice in the form of lullabies or songs for the infant. We are planning on adding a thermal system that sets the temperature of the device to the mother’s resting body temperature and modulates it in accordance to physiological temperature fluctuations. These systems are set up so that the infant can clearly sense their outputs and feel like its own mother is directly next to it.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi infant incubator

The final Fesentience product we will develop is a set of appendages to be fitted onto an incubator; we may possibly designing our own incubator housing these appendages in the future. We used the Raspberry Pi microcomputer and Python programming to control Fesentience.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

Many stages of this project were difficult. First, we had to learn the details of NAS by reading numerous scientific papers and conducting interviews with experts. The most difficult part was designing the algorithms for the device, and figuring out how the device would mimic various biological features within a secure and compact system. We had to understand how the features would interact, and how they should physically be placed inside our final device to let the infants become imbued by these sensory stimuli as much as possible. Once our first prototype of Fesentience is done, we will market it to our community and to provide it to hospitals and treatment facilities for infants suffering from NAS and related conditions to make a positive impact in the medical world.

To learn more about the Fesentience project, check out their webpage.

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Coolest Projects International 2018

Like many engineers, I have folder upon folder of half-completed projects on my computer. But the funny thing is that this wasn’t a problem for me as a child. Every other Friday evening, I’d spend two hours at Ilkley Computer Club, where I could show off whatever I’d been working on: nothing motivates you to actually finish a project like the opportunity to share it with an audience.




Raspberry Jams, Code Clubs, and CoderDojos all provide children (of all ages: we’re looking at you, Peter Onion) with a place where they can learn, share ideas, and make cool stuff with code and computers. But you can get so involved with the things you’re working on that you forget to take a step back every once in a while to look at what you’ve accomplished. And what do you do when you’ve shown your project to everyone you know, and you fancy a shot at a slightly larger audience?

Enter Coolest Projects International, now in its seventh year. Here’s a video that captures about 1% of the awesomeness of being there in person.

Celebrating Coolest Projects International 2018

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we brought Coolest Projects to the UK for a spectacular regional event in London!

Coolest Projects brings Ninjas from CoderDojos across the globe together in Dublin for a chance to share their work with the world, and to compete to be coolest in one of several categories:

  • Scratch projects
  • Websites
  • Games
  • Mobile apps
  • Hardware
  • Evolution (basically, next-level stuff)

At this year’s event, more than 1000 children presented projects, from 15 countries including Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, Japan, Romania, and Spain.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

This is it! #CoolestProjects https://t.co/eoepjNWLsC

And for the first time, Coolest Projects was open to Raspberry Jam and Code Club members, and to the broader Raspberry Pi community.

Liz, our daughter Aphra, and I spent the day at the event, along with the CoderDojo team, what felt like half the Raspberry Pi Foundation, keynote speaker Pete Lomas, and the most amazing army of volunteers. Between chugging slushies, I had the opportunity to judge hardware projects with Noel King, CoderDojo volunteer and co-founder of Coolest Projects. Noel provided the judges with a pep talk at the start of the day. He reminded us that the aim wasn’t necessarily to find the most complete, or polished, or technically audacious project, but to seek out creativity: the project that does something unique, or does something you’ve seen before but in a unique way.




To my mind, the focus on creativity is what sets Coolest Projects apart. This is, after all, a contest that aims to “empower and inspire the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs”, and that recognises that each of those activities is, at heart, a creative pursuit.

Unsurprisingly, given the strength of the field, judging went on for some time. Each category’s winner and runner-up were exceptional, and there were countless other projects that didn’t quite make the cut but that I’d be proud to have made myself. Where were these folks when I was a teenager?

You can see the winners and runners up in each category on the Coolest Projects Twitter feed, and you should also check out the winners of the six special prizes. One that especially struck me was Selin Alara Ornek’s project, iC4U, a robot guide dog that she developed at her local CoderDojo in Turkey.

While Coolest Projects started in Dublin, it’s now an international phenomenon. In the last couple of months we’ve seen Coolest Projects regional events in Belgium, Romania, and the UK.

Showcasing your projects at Coolest Projects UK 2018

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we brought Coolest Projects to the UK for a spectacular regional event in London!

In September we’ll be holding the inaugural Coolest Projects North America at the Discovery Cube in Orange County.

Coolest Projects began as a volunteer-run event, and we’re immensely privileged to have this wonderful showcase for our community. We are enormously grateful to all the staff and volunteers who continue to give huge amounts of their time, effort, and talent every year to make it the wonderful event that it is. Thank you, all of you.

Events like these give me hope that the future of our industry will be every bit as exciting, and vastly more diverse, than our past and present. If you have a chance to participate in one of them, I think you’ll come away feeling the same.

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Build your own weather station with our new guide!

One of the most common enquiries I receive at Pi Towers is “How can I get my hands on a Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station?” Now the answer is: “Why not build your own version using our guide?”

Build Your Own weather station kit assembled

Tadaaaa! The BYO weather station fully assembled.

Our Oracle Weather Station

In 2016 we sent out nearly 1000 Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station kits to schools from around the world who had applied to be part of our weather station programme. In the original kit was a special HAT that allows the Pi to collect weather data with a set of sensors.

The original Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station HAT – Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station

The original Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station HAT

We designed the HAT to enable students to create their own weather stations and mount them at their schools. As part of the programme, we also provide an ever-growing range of supporting resources. We’ve seen Oracle Weather Stations in great locations with a huge differences in climate, and they’ve even recorded the effects of a solar eclipse.

Our new BYO weather station guide

We only had a single batch of HATs made, and unfortunately we’ve given nearly* all the Weather Station kits away. Not only are the kits really popular, we also receive lots of questions about how to add extra sensors or how to take more precise measurements of a particular weather phenomenon. So today, to satisfy your demand for a hackable weather station, we’re launching our Build your own weather station guide!

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station

Fun with meteorological experiments!

Our guide suggests the use of many of the sensors from the Oracle Weather Station kit, so can build a station that’s as close as possible to the original. As you know, the Raspberry Pi is incredibly versatile, and we’ve made it easy to hack the design in case you want to use different sensors.

Many other tutorials for Pi-powered weather stations don’t explain how the various sensors work or how to store your data. Ours goes into more detail. It shows you how to put together a breadboard prototype, it describes how to write Python code to take readings in different ways, and it guides you through recording these readings in a database.

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station on a breadboard

There’s also a section on how to make your station weatherproof. And in case you want to move past the breadboard stage, we also help you with that. The guide shows you how to solder together all the components, similar to the original Oracle Weather Station HAT.

Who should try this build

We think this is a great project to tackle at home, at a STEM club, Scout group, or CoderDojo, and we’re sure that many of you will be chomping at the bit to get started. Before you do, please note that we’ve designed the build to be as straight-forward as possible, but it’s still fairly advanced both in terms of electronics and programming. You should read through the whole guide before purchasing any components.

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station – components

The sensors and components we’re suggesting balance cost, accuracy, and easy of use. Depending on what you want to use your station for, you may wish to use different components. Similarly, the final soldered design in the guide may not be the most elegant, but we think it is achievable for someone with modest soldering experience and basic equipment.

You can build a functioning weather station without soldering with our guide, but the build will be more durable if you do solder it. If you’ve never tried soldering before, that’s OK: we have a Getting started with soldering resource plus video tutorial that will walk you through how it works step by step.

Prototyping HAT for Raspberry Pi weather station sensors

For those of you who are more experienced makers, there are plenty of different ways to put the final build together. We always like to hear about alternative builds, so please post your designs in the Weather Station forum.

Our plans for the guide

Our next step is publishing supplementary guides for adding extra functionality to your weather station. We’d love to hear which enhancements you would most like to see! Our current ideas under development include adding a webcam, making a tweeting weather station, adding a light/UV meter, and incorporating a lightning sensor. Let us know which of these is your favourite, or suggest your own amazing ideas in the comments!

*We do have a very small number of kits reserved for interesting projects or locations: a particularly cool experiment, a novel idea for how the Oracle Weather Station could be used, or places with specific weather phenomena. If have such a project in mind, please send a brief outline to weather@raspberrypi.org, and we’ll consider how we might be able to help you.

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Protecting coral reefs with Nemo-Pi, the underwater monitor

The German charity Save Nemo works to protect coral reefs, and they are developing Nemo-Pi, an underwater “weather station” that monitors ocean conditions. Right now, you can vote for Save Nemo in the Google.org Impact Challenge.

Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

Save Nemo

The organisation says there are two major threats to coral reefs: divers, and climate change. To make diving saver for reefs, Save Nemo installs buoy anchor points where diving tour boats can anchor without damaging corals in the process.

reef damaged by anchor
boat anchored at buoy

In addition, they provide dos and don’ts for how to behave on a reef dive.

The Nemo-Pi

To monitor the effects of climate change, and to help divers decide whether conditions are right at a reef while they’re still on shore, Save Nemo is also in the process of perfecting Nemo-Pi.

Nemo-Pi schematic — Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

This Raspberry Pi-powered device is made up of a buoy, a solar panel, a GPS device, a Pi, and an array of sensors. Nemo-Pi measures water conditions such as current, visibility, temperature, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide concentrations, and pH. It also uploads its readings live to a public webserver.

Inside the Nemo-Pi device — Save Nemo
Inside the Nemo-Pi device — Save Nemo
Inside the Nemo-Pi device — Save Nemo

The Save Nemo team is currently doing long-term tests of Nemo-Pi off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia. They are also working on improving the device’s power consumption and durability, and testing prototypes with the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

web dashboard — Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

The web dashboard showing live Nemo-Pi data

Long-term goals

Save Nemo aims to install a network of Nemo-Pis at shallow reefs (up to 60 metres deep) in South East Asia. Then diving tour companies can check the live data online and decide day-to-day whether tours are feasible. This will lower the impact of humans on reefs and help the local flora and fauna survive.

Coral reefs with fishes

A healthy coral reef

Nemo-Pi data may also be useful for groups lobbying for reef conservation, and for scientists and activists who want to shine a spotlight on the awful effects of climate change on sea life, such as coral bleaching caused by rising water temperatures.

Bleached coral

A bleached coral reef

Vote now for Save Nemo

If you want to help Save Nemo in their mission today, vote for them to win the Google.org Impact Challenge:

  1. Head to the voting web page
  2. Click “Abstimmen” in the footer of the page to vote
  3. Click “JA” in the footer to confirm

Voting is open until 6 June. You can also follow Save Nemo on Facebook or Twitter. We think this organisation is doing valuable work, and that their projects could be expanded to reefs across the globe. It’s fantastic to see the Raspberry Pi being used to help protect ocean life.

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MagPi 70: Home automation with Raspberry Pi

Hey folks, Rob here! It’s the last Thursday of the month, and that means it’s time for a brand-new The MagPi. Issue 70 is all about home automation using your favourite microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi.

Cover of The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

Home automation in this month’s The MagPi!

Raspberry Pi home automation

We think home automation is an excellent use of the Raspberry Pi, hiding it around your house and letting it power your lights and doorbells and…fish tanks? We show you how to do all of that, and give you some excellent tips on how to add even more automation to your home in our ten-page cover feature.

Upcycle your life

Our other big feature this issue covers upcycling, the hot trend of taking old electronics and making them better than new with some custom code and a tactically placed Raspberry Pi. For this feature, we had a chat with Martin Mander, upcycler extraordinaire, to find out his top tips for hacking your old hardware.

Article on upcycling in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

Upcycling is a lot of fun

But wait, there’s more!

If for some reason you want even more content, you’re in luck! We have some fun tutorials for you to try, like creating a theremin and turning a Babbage into an IoT nanny cam. We also continue our quest to make a video game in C++. Our project showcase is headlined by the Teslonda on page 28, a Honda/Tesla car hybrid that is just wonderful.

Diddyborg V2 review in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

We review PiBorg’s latest robot

All this comes with our definitive reviews and the community section where we celebrate you, our amazing community! You’re all good beans

Teslonda article in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

An amazing, and practical, Raspberry Pi project

Get The MagPi 70

Issue 70 is available 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 and 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 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

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 for today! See you next month.

Animated GIF: a door slides open and Captain Picard emerges hesitantly

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Randomly generated, thermal-printed comics

Python code creates curious, wordless comic strips at random, spewing them from the thermal printer mouth of a laser-cut body reminiscent of Disney Pixar’s WALL-E: meet the Vomit Comic Robot!

The age of the thermal printer!

Thermal printers allow you to instantly print photos, data, and text using a few lines of code, with no need for ink. More and more makers are using this handy, low-maintenance bit of kit for truly creative projects, from Pierre Muth’s tiny PolaPi-Zero camera to the sound-printing Waves project by Eunice Lee, Matthew Zhang, and Bomani McClendon (and our own Secret Santa Babbage).

Vomiting robots

Interaction designer and developer Cadin Batrack, whose background is in game design and interactivity, has built the Vomit Comic Robot, which creates “one-of-a-kind comics on demand by processing hand-drawn images through a custom software algorithm.”

The robot is made up of a Raspberry Pi 3, a USB thermal printer, and a handful of LEDs.

Comic Vomit Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

At the press of a button, Processing code selects one of a set of Cadin’s hand-drawn empty comic grids and then randomly picks images from a library to fill in the gaps.

Vomit Comic Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

Each image is associated with data that allows the code to fit it correctly into the available panels. Cadin says about the concept behing his build:

Although images are selected and placed randomly, the comic panel format suggests relationships between elements. Our minds create a story where there is none in an attempt to explain visuals created by a non-intelligent machine.

The Raspberry Pi saves the final image as a high-resolution PNG file (so that Cadin can sell prints on thick paper via Etsy), and a Python script sends it to be vomited up by the thermal printer.

Comic Vomit Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

For more about the Vomit Comic Robot, check out Cadin’s blog. If you want to recreate it, you can find the info you need in the Imgur album he has put together.

We ❤ cute robots

We have a soft spot for cute robots here at Pi Towers, and of course we make no exception for the Vomit Comic Robot. If, like us, you’re a fan of adorable bots, check out Mira, the tiny interactive robot by Alonso Martinez, and Peeqo, the GIF bot by Abhishek Singh.

Mira Alfonso Martinez Raspberry Pi

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Recording lost seconds with the Augenblick blink camera

Warning: a GIF used in today’s blog contains flashing images.

Students at the University of Bremen, Germany, have built a wearable camera that records the seconds of vision lost when you blink. Augenblick uses a Raspberry Pi Zero and Camera Module alongside muscle sensors to record footage whenever you close your eyes, producing a rather disjointed film of the sights you miss out on.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Blink and you’ll miss it

The average person blinks up to five times a minute, with each blink lasting 0.5 to 0.8 seconds. These half-seconds add up to about 30 minutes a day. What sights are we losing during these minutes? That is the question asked by students Manasse Pinsuwan and René Henrich when they set out to design Augenblick.

Blinking is a highly invasive mechanism for our eyesight. Every day we close our eyes thousands of times without noticing it. Our mind manages to never let us wonder what exactly happens in the moments that we miss.

Capturing lost moments

For Augenblick, the wearer sticks MyoWare Muscle Sensor pads to their face, and these detect the electrical impulses that trigger blinking.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Two pads are applied over the orbicularis oculi muscle that forms a ring around the eye socket, while the third pad is attached to the cheek as a neutral point.

Biology fact: there are two muscles responsible for blinking. The orbicularis oculi muscle closes the eye, while the levator palpebrae superioris muscle opens it — and yes, they both sound like the names of Harry Potter spells.

The sensor is read 25 times a second. Whenever it detects that the orbicularis oculi is active, the Camera Module records video footage.

Augenblick blink recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Pressing a button on the side of the Augenblick glasses set the code running. An LED lights up whenever the camera is recording and also serves to confirm the correct placement of the sensor pads.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

The Pi Zero saves the footage so that it can be stitched together later to form a continuous, if disjointed, film.

Learn more about the Augenblick blink camera

You can find more information on the conception, design, and build process of Augenblick here in German, with a shorter explanation including lots of photos here in English.

And if you’re keen to recreate this project, our free project resource for a wearable Pi Zero time-lapse camera will come in handy as a starting point.

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Project Floofball and more: Pi pet stuff

It’s a public holiday here today (yes, again). So, while we indulge in the traditional pastime of barbecuing stuff (ourselves, mainly), here’s a little trove of Pi projects that cater for our various furry friends.

Project Floofball

Nicole Horward created Project Floofball for her hamster, Harold. It’s an IoT hamster wheel that uses a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor to log how far Harold runs.

Project Floofball: an IoT hamster wheel

An IoT Hamsterwheel using a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor, to see how far my hamster runs.

You can follow Harold’s runs in real time on his ThingSpeak channel, and you’ll find photos of the build on imgur. Nicole’s Python code, as well as her template for the laser-cut enclosure that houses the wiring and LCD display, are available on the hamster wheel’s GitHub repo.

A live-streaming pet feeder

JaganK3 used to work long hours that meant he couldn’t be there to feed his dog on time. He found that he couldn’t buy an automated feeder in India without paying a lot to import one, so he made one himself. It uses a Raspberry Pi to control a motor that turns a dispensing valve in a hopper full of dry food, giving his dog a portion of food at set times.

A transparent cylindrical hopper of dry dog food, with a motor that can turn a dispensing valve at the lower end. The motor is connected to a Raspberry Pi in a plastic case. Hopper, motor, Pi, and wiring are all mounted on a board on the wall.

He also added a web cam for live video streaming, because he could. Find out more in JaganK3’s Instructable for his pet feeder.

Shark laser cat toy

Sam Storino, meanwhile, is using a Raspberry Pi to control a laser-pointer cat toy with a goshdarned SHARK (which is kind of what I’d expect from the guy who made the steampunk-looking cat feeder a few weeks ago). The idea is to keep his cats interested and active within the confines of a compact city apartment.

Raspberry Pi Automatic Cat Laser Pointer Toy

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If I were a cat, I would definitely be entirely happy with this. Find out more on Sam’s website.

And there’s more

Michel Parreno has written a series of articles to help you monitor and feed your pet with Raspberry Pi.

All of these makers are generous in acknowledging the tutorials and build logs that helped them with their projects. It’s lovely to see the Raspberry Pi and maker community working like this, and I bet their projects will inspire others too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m late for a barbecue.

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