The future of 3D printing with Dr Adrian Bowyer | HackSpace magazine #17

You might have heard of RepRap. It’s the project that began at the University of Bath in 2005 with the aim of creating a self-replicating, open-source 3D printer. As is the nature of open source, many other projects have spun off from RepRap, including the Prusa i3. Without RepRap, the field of 3D printing would be much smaller, less advanced, and a lot less open.

Adrian was made an MBE in the New Year Honours list, for services to 3D printing.

We drove many miles through wind and rain to meet Dr Adrian Bowyer, co-founder of the RepRap project who now, along with his daughter Sally, runs RepRap Ltd. The two of them are still pushing boundaries, raising standards, and lowering prices, so we sat down to talk about RepRap and where the 3D printing industry is heading.

It may be an obvious question, but why did you start the RepRap project?

Adrian Bowyer: Curiosity. I have always been interested in the idea of self-replicating machines ever since I was a child. When my university acquired some commercial 3D printers, as soon as they arrived I thought, ah, we’ve got a technology here that is sufficiently versatile that it stands a chance of being able to copy itself. Having had that idea, the very next question that occurs to your brain is: will this work? And that was the genesis of the project. I wanted to find out if we could make a machine that could print a significant fraction of its own parts and self-replicate.

It was literally the case that, at the height of development of RepRap in Bath 2008/2009, I was effectively running, in terms of numbers of staff, the biggest research project in any UK university. I wasn’t paying any of them of course, and they were distributed all over the world, but if you counted them up, there were more of them working with me than were working in any other single research project in any other university in the UK.

What are you doing with RepRap at the moment?

AB: We’re looking at distributed processor RepRaps, so instead of having a single CPU, we put a single CPU on each device in the machine, such as the heaters, the motors, and so on. This isn’t a new idea; other people have tried this in the past. From the perspective of Raspberry Pi, that’s interesting because such a machine wouldn’t need real-time response from the processor that’s at the heart of the machine.

If you’ve got a Linux system running on something, it’s not great for real-time control, because of interrupts. Whereas the sort of system we’re working on would have a Raspberry Pi in the middle, with a load of Arduinos around it. You can hand over the hardware timing to the Arduino, which, being dedicated, can be guaranteed to generate a poll every 20 microseconds or whatever it is. Whereas the thing sitting in the middle, doing the control, just has to be able to respond every few milliseconds. That’s something we’re putting together with Raspberry Pis and Arduinos.

Each Arduino is monitoring and controlling one aspect of the printer

One of the reasons that we want to do it is that we’re looking at making larger machines, and also a machine that not only is a 3D printer, but also incorporates a plasma cutter. Now, the thing about a plasma cutter is that it generates an enormous amount of electronic noise. You get lots of interference from it. So the ideal way to send electrical signals around the machine is not using electricity, but optics. So what we would be doing would be setting up a machine with optical communication between each of its component parts and the controller, so that electrical interference isn’t a problem, and, in order to do that [the system] has to be distributed in the way that I’ve just described.

Where, in general, do you think 3D printing is heading?

AB: The analogy I often draw is with washing clothes, which went through three stages: it started off with us washing our own clothes. In the scullery or the kitchen, you’d wash your clothes once a week. And then in Victorian times, as economies of scale kicked in, there would be a town laundry, where you would send your clothes and they’d come back clean. But now we have a robot in the kitchen that can wash our clothes. It’s come back to us, this time automated.

Making stuff in general, it seems to me, is going through that progression, just 100 years later. It started off that, if you needed a gate hinge, you went to the blacksmith in your village. He would make you a gate hinge. Now if you want a gate hinge, you go to the shop and buy one, and it was made halfway around the world. But if we bring some of that back into our cities, it’s like bringing our washing back from the town laundry into our homes. As long as it’s automated: the rule seems to be that if something is automatable so that people don’t have to pay a lot of attention, and it’s low-cost enough, people can take it back to themselves, and economies of scale get reversed.

This ukulele was printed in two parts. It’s playable, and sounds great.

Finally, congratulations on your MBE!

AB: That’s very kind! The certificate is an impressive thing. Signed by Her Majesty the Queen, and by Prince Philip as the person who is in charge of knighthoods and such.

I’m going up in May to Buckingham Palace to have it pinned on my chest, so that’ll be interesting. The commendation says: “Inventor: for services to 3D printing.” Short and to the point.

Read more

The full interview is in HackSpace magazine issue 17, where we also help you develop your Arduino skill, look at an open-source lathe, design a PCB in KiCad, build a polyphonic synthesizer, and much more.

Buy your copy now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, major newsagents in the UK, or Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center in the US. Or, download your free PDF copy from the HackSpace magazine website.

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The Junk Drum Machine

I do not really have any spare time. (Toddler, job, very demanding cat, lots of LEGO to tidy up.) If I did, I like to imagine that I’d come up with something like this to do with it.

junk drum machine

Want to see this collection of junk animate? Scroll down for video.

From someone calling themselves Banjowise (let me know what your real name is in the comments, please, so I can credit you properly here!), here is a pile of junk turned into a weirdly compelling drum machine.

Mechanically speaking, this isn’t too complicated: just a set of solenoids triggered by a Raspberry Pi. The real clever is in the beauteous, browser-based step sequencer Banjowise has built to program the solenoids to wallop things in beautiful rhythm. And in the beauteous, skip-sourced tchotchkes that Banjowise has found for them to wallop. Generously, they’ve made full instructions on making your own available on Instructables. Use any bits and bobs you can get your hands on if old piano hammers and crocodile castanets are not part of the detritus kicking around your house.

Warning: this video is weirdly compelling.

Automabeat – A Raspberry Pi Mechanical Robotic Junk Drum Machine

My Raspberry Pi based drum / percussion machine. Consisting of 8 12v solenoids, a relay, wooden spoons, a Fullers beer bottle, a crocodile maraca and a few other things. An Instructable on how to build your own is here: https://www.instructables.com/id/A-Raspberry-Pi-Powered-Junk-Drum-Machine/, or take a look at: http://www.banjowise.com/post/automabeat/

The sequencer is lovely: a gorgeously simple user interface that you can run on a tablet, your phone, or anything else with a browser (and it’s very easily adaptable to other projects). The web interface lets Python trigger the GPIO pins over web sockets. There’s a precompiled version available for people who’ve followed Banjowise’s comprehensive wiring instructions, but you can also get the source code from GitHub.

Sequencer UI

I think I’m getting good, but I can handle criticism.

We love it. Now please excuse me. I need a little while to search online for crocodile castanets.

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LED Matrix Cylinder — a blinkenlights tube

We see lots of addressable LED projects, but there was something weirdly charming and very pretty about this cylinder of squares. It’d make for a lovely interactive nightlight in a kids’ room, or for a grown-up lighting feature that you could also use as a news ticker or something that monitors your in-home IoT devices. Once you’ve built something like this, you’re only limited by your imagination — and it’s nice enough to display in your home.

This project is from MakeTeeVee on Instructables. The cleverness is in the layout and the really meticulous execution: vertical strips of LEDs form a cylinder in a laser-cut frame, with a very thin layer of wood veneer glued around the whole thing to act as a diffuser. It’s simple, but really rather beautiful and very effective.

diffuser, diffusing

In the case to the side is the Raspberry Pi Zero that’s driving the whole thing. Here it is doing its thing:

LED matrix cylinder WS2812 Raspberry Pi Zero

LED matrix cylinder based on WS2812 LEDs and some laser cutter parts. https://hackaday.io/project/162035-led-matrix-cylinder https://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Matrix-Cylinder/ #WS2812 #LEDcylinder

MakeTeeVee has built a Pygame-based simulator of the whole matrix so you can program it to do exactly what you want: scroll marquee text, make pretty patterns, twinkle at random, display images: the world’s your (pixellated) oyster. The code’s available at GitHub.

GUI for programming cylinder

Thanks, MakeTeeVee — if you’d like to leave your real name below, we’ll credit you properly here!

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Laser-engraved Raspberry Pi hologram

Inspired by an old episode of Pimoroni’s Bilge Tank, and with easy access to the laser cutter at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office, I thought it would be fun to create a light-up multi-layered hologram using a Raspberry Pi and the Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT.

Raspberry Pi layered light

Read more –

Break it to make it

First, I broke down the Raspberry Pi logo into three separate images — the black outline, the green leaves, and the red berry.

RASPBERRY PI HOLOGRAM
RASPBERRY PI HOLOGRAM
RASPBERRY PI HOLOGRAM

Fun fact: did you know that Pimoroni’s Paul Beech designed this logo as part of the ‘design us a logo’ contest we ran all the way back in August 2011?

Once I had the three separate files, I laser-engraved them onto 4cm-wide pieces of 3mm-thick clear acrylic. As there are four lines of LEDs on the Unicorn pHAT, I cut the fourth piece to illuminate the background.

RASPBERRY PI HOLOGRAM

To keep the engraved acrylic pieces together, I cut out a pair of acrylic brackets (see above) with four 3mm indentations. Then, after a bit of fiddling with the Unicorn pHAT library, I was able to light the pHAT’s rows of LEDs in white, red, green, and white.

RASPBERRY PI HOLOGRAM

The final result looks pretty spectacular, especially in the dark, and you can build on this basic idea to create fun animations — especially if you use a HAT with more rows of LEDs.

Iterations

This is just a prototype. I plan on building a sturdier frame for the pieces that securely fits a Raspberry Pi Zero W and lets users replace layers easily. As with many projects, I’m sure this will grow and grow as each interaction inspires a new add-on.

How would you build upon this basic principle?

Oh…

…we also laser-engraved this Cadbury’s Creme Egg.

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Coding Space Invaders’ disintegrating shields | Wireframe #9

They add strategy to a genre-defining shooter. Andrew Gillett lifts the lid on Space Invaders’ disintegrating shields.

Wireframe 9 Space Invaders

Released in 1978, Space Invaders introduced ideas so fundamental to video games that it’s hard to imagine a time before them. And it did this using custom-made hardware which by today’s standards is unimaginably slow.

Space Invaders ran on an Intel 8080 CPU operating at 2MHz. With such meagre processing power, merely moving sprites around the screen was a struggle. In modern 2D games, at the start of each frame the entire screen is reset, then all objects are displayed.

For Space Invaders’ hardware, this process would have been too slow. Instead, each time a sprite needs to move, the game first erases the sprite from the screen, then redraws it in the new position. The game also updates only one alien per frame — which leads to the effect of the aliens moving faster when there are fewer of them. These techniques cut down the number of pixels which need to be updated each frame, from nearly 60,000 to around a hundred.

Wireframe 9 Space Invaders

One of Space Invaders’ most notable features is its four shields. These provide shelter from enemy fire, but deteriorate after repeated hits. The player can take advantage of the shields’ destructible nature — by repeatedly firing at the same place on a shield’s underside, a narrow gap can be created which can then be used to take out enemies. (Of course, the player can also be shot through the same gap.)

The system of updating only the minimum necessary number of pixels works well as long as there’s no need for objects to overlap. In the case of the shields, though, what happens when objects do overlap is fundamental to how they work. Whenever a shot hits something, it’s replaced by an explosion sprite. A few frames later, the explosion sprite is deleted from the screen. If the explosion sprite overlapped with a shield, that part of the shield is also deleted.

Wireframe 9 Space Invaders

Here’s a code snippet that shows Andrew’s Space Invaders-style disintegrating shields working in Python. To get it running on your system, you’ll need to install Pygame Zero — you can find full instructions here. And download the above code here.

The code to the right displays four shields, and then bombards them with a series of shots which explode on impact. I’m using sprites which have been scaled up by ten, to make it easier to see what’s going on.

We first create two empty lists — one to hold details of any shots on screen, as well as explosions. These will be displayed on the screen every frame. Each entry in the shots list will be a dictionary data structure containing three values: a position, the sprite to be displayed, and whether the shot is in ‘exploding’ mode — in which case it’s displayed in the same position for a few frames before being deleted.

The second list, to_delete, is for sprites which need to be deleted from the screen. For simplicity, I’m using separate copies of the shot and explosion sprites where the white pixels have been changed to black (the other pixels in these sprites are set as transparent).

The function create_random_shot is called every half-second. The combination of dividing the maximum value by ten, choosing a random whole number between zero and the maximum value, and then multiplying the resulting random number by ten, ensures that the chosen X coordinate is a multiple of ten.


Wireframe 9 Space Invaders
Wireframe 9 Space Invaders

Andrew’s Space Invaders shields up and running in Pygame Zero.

In the draw function, we first check to see if it’s the first frame, as we only want to display the shields on that frame. The screen.blit method is used to display sprites, and Pygame Zero’s images object is used to specify which sprite should be displayed. We then display all sprites in the to_delete list, after which we reset it to being an empty list. Finally we display all sprites in the shots list.

Wireframe 9 Space Invaders

In the update function, we go through all sprites in the shots list, in reverse order. Going through the list backwards avoids problems that can occur when deleting items from a list inside a for loop. For each shot, we first check to see if it’s in ‘exploding’ mode. If so, its timer is reduced each frame — when it hits zero we add the shot to the to_delete list, then delete it from shots.

If the item is a normal shot rather than an explosion, we add its current position to to_delete, then update the shot’s position to move the sprite down the screen. We next check to see if the sprite has either gone off the bottom of the screen or collided with something. Pygame’s get_at method gives us the colour of a pixel at a given position. If a collision occurs, we switch the shot into ‘exploding’ mode — the explosion sprite will be displayed for five frames.

You can read the rest of the feature in Wireframe issue 9, available now in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us – worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives, and for subscriptions, visit the Wireframe website to save 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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Win a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and signed case this Pi Day 2019

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

What is Pi Day, we hear you ask? Today, people who use the date format ‘month/day/year’ celebrate that the date forms the first three digits of Pi: 3.14!

In celebration of Pi Day, we’re running a Raspberry Pi 3B+ live stream on YouTube — hours upon hours of our favourite Pi in all its glorious wonderment.

PI DAY 2019

Celebrate Pi Day with us by watching this Pi

At some point today, we’re going to add a unique hashtag to this live stream, and anyone who uses said hashtag on Instagram and/or Twitter* before midnight tonight (GMT) will be entered into a draw to win a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ and an official case signed by Eben Upton himself.

Raspberry Pi - PI Day 2019

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the most pointless, most wonderful live stream to ever grace the realm of YouTube!

*Those of you who don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account can also comment here with the hashtag.

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Play Heverlee’s Sjoelen and win beer

Chances are you’ve never heard of the Dutch table shuffleboard variant Sjoelen. But if you have, then you’ll know it has a basic premise – to slide wooden pucks into a set of four scoring boxes – but some rather complex rules.

Sjoelen machine

Uploaded by Grant Gibson on 2018-07-10.

Sjoelen

It may seem odd that a game which relies so much on hand-eye coordination and keeping score could be deemed a perfect match for a project commissioned by a beer brand. Yet Grant Gibson is toasting success with his refreshing interpretation of Sjoelen, having simplified the rules and incorporated a Raspberry Pi to serve special prizes to the winners.

“Sjoelen’s traditional scoring requires lots of addition and multiplication, but our version simply gives players ten pucks and gets them to slide three through any one of the four gates within 30 seconds,” Grant explains.

As they do this, the Pi (a Model 3B) keeps track of how many pucks are sliding through each gate, figures how much time the player has left, and displays a winning message on a screen. A Logitech HD webcam films the player in action, so bystanders can watch their reactions as they veer between frustration and success.

Taking the plunge

Grant started the project with a few aims in mind: “I wanted something that could be transported in a small van and assembled by a two-person team, and I wanted it to have a vintage look.” Inspired by pinball tables, he came up with a three-piece unit that could be flat-packed for transport, then quickly assembled on site. The Pi 3B proved a perfect component.

Grant has tended to use full-size PCs in his previous builds, but he says the Pi allowed him to use less complex software, and less hardware to control input and output. He used Python for the input and output tasks and to get the Pi to communicate with a full-screen Chromium browser, via JSON, in order to handle the scoring and display tasks in JavaScript.

“We used infrared (IR) sensors to detect when a puck passed through the gate bar to score a point,” Grant adds. “Because of the speed of the pucks, we had to poll each of the four IR sensors over 100 times per second to ensure that the pucks were always detected. Optimising the Python code to run fast enough, whilst also leaving enough processing power to run a full-screen web browser and HD webcam, was definitely the biggest software challenge on this project.”

Bottoms up

The Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins are used to trigger the dispensing of a can of Heverlee beer to the winner. These are stocked inside the machine, but building the vending mechanism was a major headache, since it needed to be lightweight and compact, and to keep the cans cool.

No off-the-shelf vending unit offered a solution, and Grant’s initial attempts with stepper motors and clear laser-cut acrylic gears proved disastrous. “After a dozen successful vends, the prototype went out of alignment and started slicing through cans, creating a huge frothy fountain of beer. Impressive to watch, but not a great mix with electronics,” Grant laughs.

Instead, he drew up a final design that was laser‑cut from poplar plywood. “It uses automotive central locking motors to operate a see-saw mechanism that serve the cans. A custom Peltier-effect heat exchanger, and a couple of salvaged PC fans, keep the cans cool inside the machine,” reveals Grant.

“I’d now love to make a lightweight version sometime, perhaps with a folding Sjoelen table and pop-up scoreboard screen, that could be carried by one person,” he adds. We’d certainly drink to that.

More from The MagPi magazine

Get your copy now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, major newsagents in the UK, or Barnes & Noble, Fry’s, or Micro Center in the US. Or, download your free PDF copy from The MagPi magazine website.

MagPi 79 cover

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FREE NOODS with FOODBEAST and Nissin

Push a button and share a hashtag to get free ramen, games, or swag with the Dream Machine, a Raspberry Pi–driven vending machine built by FOODBEAST and Nissin.

foodbeast.com on Twitter

This Instagram-powered vending machine gives away FREE @OrigCupNoodles and VIDEO GAMES 🍜🎮!! Where should it travel next? #ad https://t.co/W0YyWOCFVv

Raspberry Pi and marketing

Digital viral marketing campaigns are super popular right now, thanks to the low cost of the technology necessary to build bespoke projects for them. From story-telling phoneboxes to beer-pouring bicycles, we see more and more examples of such projects appear in our inbox every week.

The latest campaign we like is the Dream Machine, a retrofit vending machine that dispenses ramen noodles, video games, and swag in exchange for the use of an Instagram hashtag.

Free ramen from FOODBEAST and Nissin

With Dream Machines in Torrance, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, I’ve yet to convince Liz that it’s worth the time and money for me to fly out and do some field research. But, as those who have interacted with a Dream Machine know, the premise is pretty simple.

The Dream Machine vending machine from FOODBEAST and NissanPress the big yellow button on the front of the vending machine, and it will tell you a unique hashtag to use for posting a selfie with the Dream Machine on Instagram. The machine’s internet-enabled Raspberry Pi brain then uses its magic noodle powers (or, more likely, custom software) to detect the hashtag and pop out a tasty treat, video game, or gift card as a reward.

The Dream Machine vending machine from FOODBEAST and Nissan

The Dream Machines appeared at the start of March, and online sources suggest they’ll stay in their current locations throughout the month. I’d like to take this moment to suggest their next locations: Cambridge, UK and Oakland, California. Please and thank you!

Hold your horses…

We know this is a marketing ploy. We know its intention is to get Joe Public to spread the brand across social media. We know it’s all about money. We know. But still, it’s cool, harmless, and delicious. So let’s not have another robocall debate, OK 😂

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Instaframe: image recognition meets Instagram

Bringing the digital photo frame into an even more modern age than the modern age it already resides in, Sean Tracey uses image recognition and social media to update his mother on the day-to-day happenings of her grandkids.

Sharing social media content

“Like every grandmother, my mum dotes on her grandchildren (the daughter and son of my sister, Grace and Freddie),” Sean explains in his tutorial for the project, “but they don’t live nearby, so she doesn’t get to see them as much as she might like.”

Sean tells of his mother’s lack of interest in social media platforms (they’re too complex), and of the anxiety he feels whenever she picks up his phone to catch up on the latest images of Grace and Freddie.

So I thought: “I know! Why don’t I make my mum a picture frame that filters my Instagram feed to show only pictures of my niece and nephew!”

Genius!

Image recognition and Instagram

Sean’s Instaframe project uses a Watson Visual Recognition model to recognise photos of his niece and nephew posted to his Instagram account, all via a Chrome extension. Then, via a series of smaller functions, these images are saved to a folder and displayed on a screen connected to a Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Sean has written up a full rundown of the build process on his website.

Photos and Pi

Do you like photos and Raspberry Pi? Then check out these other photo-focused Pi projects that we’re sure you’ll love (because they’re awesome) and will want to make yourself (because they’re awesome).

FlipFrame

FlipFrame, the rotating picture frame, rotates according to the orientation of the image on display.

FlipFrame

Upstagram

This tiny homage to the house from Up! takes bird’s-eye view photographs of Paris and uploads them to Instagram as it goes.

Pi-powered DSLR shutter

Adrian Bevan hacked his Raspberry Pi to act as a motion-activated shutter remote for his digital SLR — aka NatureBytes on steroids.

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Real role models for International Women’s Day 2019

The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to bring computing and digital making to everyone. Tackling the persistent gender imbalance in technology is a crucial part of this undertaking. As part of our work to increase the number of girls choosing to learn how to create with technology, we are marking International Women’s Day with a celebration of real role models.

Real role models for International Women’s Day 2019

Maria Quevedo, Managing Director, Code Club & Raspberry Pi Foundation, talks about the importance of real role models who show girls and women that computing

Real role models are important

There is strong evidence to indicate that the presence of role models is a very effective way to inspire women and minorities to become interested in subjects and industries where they are underrepresented. Research suggests that the imbalance among the role models that girls and women are exposed to in their everyday lives contributes significantly to the persistently low number of girls pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school, and ultimately impacts their career choices.

Female role models in UK media

In order to understand the extent of this imbalance, we carried out an analysis to explore the visibility of female technology role models in the UK media.

One of our most striking findings was that in the twelve months since International Women’s Day 2018, each of the women competing in UK television’s Love Island 2018 was written about in the UK media on average seven times more often than 50 of the UK’s top female technology role models. And popular UK men’s lifestyle magazines were twice as likely to write about top female technology leaders than magazines aimed at women.




HackSpace magazine issue 5

We also looked at the subject matter covered by popular women’s and men’s magazines in the UK. We found that fashion (37% of all articles) and beauty (26%) were the most popular topics in women’s lifestyle media, while politics (5%) and careers (4%) were some of the least popular. The contrast with men’s lifestyle media was very pronounced. There, topic coverage was much more evenly distributed: fashion (21%) and politics (16%) came top, with grooming (12%) and careers (12%) close behind.

In other words, in the women’s lifestyle magazines, about 14 articles are written about fashion and beauty for every one about careers. Men’s lifestyle magazines, meanwhile, publish one careers piece for every three fashion and grooming articles.

Real role models in Code Club, CoderDojo, and beyond

It’s alarming to see such a dramatic imbalance in visibility for female technology leaders, and such stark differences between the focus of women’s and men’s media. We work hard to make sure our activities such as Code Club and CoderDojo are equally welcoming to girls and boys, and we’re proud that 45% of the volunteers and educators who run these clubs are women. However, role models in wider society are just as important in shaping the values, beliefs, and ambitions of girls and women.

We have a consistently high proportion of girls – around 40% – attending our Code Clubs and CoderDojos. But girls’ perceptions of computing, and their confidence, can be influenced hugely before they ever arrive at our clubs to give it a try – so much so that they may never arrive at all.

In this context, the differences we observed between the topics that women’s and men’s media cover are troubling. It really comes down to balance: there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading about fashion or beauty, but greater diversity in the women, interests, and careers that saturate our popular culture would undoubtedly impact the gender imbalance that persists in sectors such as technology and science.

We are for everyone

When it comes to encouraging girls to take part in our digital skills activities, our approach is highly adaptable, but ultimately we are for everyone. We believe this inclusive approach is the most effective way of reinforcing that all genders are equally capable of enjoying and excelling at computing. It would be invaluable to see this reflected in popular culture.

This International Women’s Day, we’re encouraging women to consider the ways in which we are real role models. Join us to celebrate the #RealRoleModels who inspire you, and share the fantastic contributions of girls and women in technology.

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Make our light-up Raspberry Pi box for #MonthOfMaking

On Tuesday, Rob at The MagPi magazine tweeted this:

The MagPi magazine on Twitter

Hey @Raspberry_Pi, wanna join us in making some stuff for #MonthOfMaking? Rob has some cosplay to do this week and other plans for the rest of the month…

And we said YES!

At this point in time, Alex was hiding in the Raspberry Pi Foundation makerspace, creating thingamabobs and whatsit with the laser cutter, and an idea came into her mind.

(Is it weird that I’m referring to myself in the third person? It is. I’ll stop.)

The idea started with this:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Oddly satisfying, right?

And ended like this:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Raspberry Crepe Cake?

With a little bit of this in between:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

For hiding treasures

And thanks to some cheap battery-powered lights and magnets from Poundland…

#MonthOfMaking

Whosits and whatsits galore

…it lights up too!

Raspberry Pi laser cut box #MonthOfMaking

Photograph taken inside my rucksack for ambience

Make your own

So, do you want to make your own? Of course you do.

Ideally, you need access to a laser cutter, but if you don’t have one, you can just cut out the layers from some thick cardboard using a craft knife.

You’ll need these four files:

Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box
Raspberry Pi laser cut box

These are slightly different to the ones I used, so the acrylic should press-fit without the need for the backing frame you see in the image above.

Feel free to resize the files and change the box design to better fit whatever you want to put inside, but remember: making these boxes to sell, or diverging from our brand guidelines when using the Raspberry Pi logo, is against our trademark rules.

#MonthOfMaking

Join Raspberry Pi and The MagPi magazine in the #MonthOfMaking by using the hashtag in your social posts sharing your makes online. And, just as you can see from my light-up box, your make doesn’t have to use any digital technology. Bake a cake, stitch loop art, restore a car — whatever you plan on making this month, make sure we see your creation! Have fun!

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Handheld text-based adventure gaming with Quest Smith

Play text-based adventure games that print out in real time, with Quest Smith: the Raspberry Pi Zero W–driven handheld gaming device from Bekir Dağ.

Quest Smith

Quest Smith is a raspberry pi zero driven thermal printing text based game. In each level, it gives you options to choose so every game is different than the other one.

Text-based adventure games

Today I learned:

Around 1975, Will Crowther, a programmer and an amateur caver, wrote the first text adventure game, Adventure (originally called ADVENT because a filename could only be six characters long in the operating system he was using, and later named Colossal Cave Adventure).

But I’m sure you already knew that.

According to the internet, text-based games in their most simple form are video games that use text instead of graphics to let players progress. You read the description of your surroundings and choose from a set of options, or you type in your next step and hope the game understands what you’re talking about.

Colossal Cave Adventure

We have a conversation going in our team right now about whether the term ‘text-based games’ is solely used for video games of this nature, or whether choose your own adventure books also fall into the category of text-based games. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Anyway…

Quest Smith!

After encountering a similar handheld gaming device in a Berlin games museum, Bekir Dağ decided to build his own using a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Quest Smith text-based game

For Quest Smith’s body, Bekir Dağ designed a 3D print, and he provides the STL files for free on Thingiverse. And for the inner workings?

A Raspberry Pi Zero W fits snugly into the body alongside a thermal printer, a battery, and various tactile buttons. The battery is powered by a solar panel mounted on the outer shell, and all components are connected to a TP4056 board that allows the battery to power the Pi.

Quest Smith text-based game

The Quest Smith software is still somewhat of a work-in-progress. While users can build Quest Smith today and start playing, Bekir has put out the call for the community to submit their own parts of the story.

Each level requires two versions of the story, which makes the possiblities grow exponentially. So it will be very difficult for me to finish a single story by myself. For the player to reach level 9, we will need to have 1023 story parts to be written. If you can help me with that, it would be amazing!

To see more of Quest Smith’s build process, find the files to make your own device, and instructions on how to contribute toward the story, visit the Quest Smith Hackster.io page.

More text-based adventuring with Python

If you’re interested in writing your own text-based adventure game in Python, we’ve got a free online course available in which you can learn about object-oriented programming while creating a text-based game. And for a briefer intro, check out Wireframe magazine issue 6, where game developer Andrew Gillett explains how to make a simple Python text adventure.

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IBM Q System One quantum computing on a Raspberry Pi?

IBM Q System One: the world’s first commercial, integrated, universal, approximate quantum computing system…

…on a Raspberry Pi?

What is a quantum computing system?

An excellent question and, while some of you may know the answer, here is Kurzgesagt‘s ‘in a nutshell’ explanation of quantum computing for the rest of us:

Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology

Where are the limits of human technology? And can we somehow avoid them? This is where quantum computers become very interesting.

Qrasp — quantum computing on a Raspberry Pi

After seeing a press announcement for IBM’s Q System One, the first-ever commercial quantum computer, IBM Q Ambassador Hassi Norlen decided he wanted his own, and reached for his trusty Raspberry Pi to build one.

“This will not be easy,” he admits on his Medium blog post for the Qrasp project. “IBM Q System One is, after all, a cloud-based quantum computing offering, with the main hardware, cryostats, quantum chips, and all locked away in the IBM labs.”

Hassi goes on to explain the list of required ingredients for building your own Qrasp, including the Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, and the programs one can run on the finished device.

Qrasp

Qiskit interface for Raspberry PI with SenseHat

It’s a great blog post, and to save me summarising it here, check it out for yourself. You’ll also find a link to the GitHub repo for Qrasp, and other tidbits of information on making the most out of the final build.

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Automatic Calling System using Raspberry Pi

If like me, you’re awful at remembering birthdays, you need Piyush Charpe’s Automatic Birthday Calling System. It’s the Raspberry Pi device that calls on your behalf – aka Heaven for Introverts.

Building business relationships through niceness

Piyush’s father works as an insurance adviser, and, because he’s a lovely chap, he makes it his mission to wish all of his clients a happy birthday. Nice, right? I hardly remember the birthdays of my closest friends: and here’s Piyush’s father sending his kindest regards to everyone on his client list.

Way to make me feel like a bad friend, Papa Charpe!

So good are Charpe Sr’s customer service skills that he’s unexpectedly built himself an unmanageable amount of birthday wishes to send. So that’s where his son comes in with his idea for an automatic birthday calling system. Huzzah! Take my money, etc. etc.

Automated calling with a Raspberry Pi

Piyush used a Raspberry Pi Zero W, 4G GSM module and Google Firebase for the system, alongside an audio recording of his father wishing a happy birthday, and some help from a friend with experience building Android apps.

Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller

Acquiring a client list from his father that included names, dates of birth and telephone number (our GDPR manager is weeping into her compliance documents as she reads this), Piyush added the information to Google Firebase, an online real-time database system.

Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller

The accompanying Android app allows his father to add and remove clients from the list, and updates him on successfully-made calls; it’ll also let him know who he’ll need to follow up with if they were unavailable to receive their birthday greeting.

Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller
Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller
Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller

The system updates at midnight, consolidating a list to be called at 10am the following day. And, at the end of the month, the system’s call history is deleted automatically after sending it in CSV format to his father.

The system has now been working 24/7 for eight months, and has been adopted by other business owners in the area.

You can read more about the project here.

Put down your phone!

What a lovely use of technology with great scope for expansion. Why stop at birthdays? Do I remember my parents’ anniversary? Of course not. And don’t get me started on updating my nearest and dearest on life events, changing address, etc. This system is genius! Introverts need never talk to another human being again! Rejoice!

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How musical game worlds are made | Wireframe #8

88 Heroes composer Mike Clark explains how music and sound intertwine to create atmospheric game worlds in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 8, available now.

Music for video games is often underappreciated. When I first started writing music in my bedroom, it took me a while to realise how much I was influenced by the worlds that came from my tiny CRT TV. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be approached by Bitmap Bureau, an indie startup who hired me to compose the music for their first game, 88 Heroes.

88 Heroes is a platformer styled like a Saturday morning cartoon. Interestingly, cartoon soundtracks have a lot in common with those for stage productions: short musical cues accompany the actions on screen, so if someone violently falls downstairs, you hear a piano rolling down the keys. This is called ‘mickey mousing’ in cartoons, but we hear similar things in film soundtracks.

Take Raiders of the Lost Ark, scored by John Williams: for every heroic rope swing, leap of faith, or close encounter with danger, the main theme can be heard powering through the dissonances and changing rhythms. It fills the audience with hope and becomes synonymous with the lead character – we want to see him succeed. Let’s not forget the title theme. Every time you see the Star Wars logo, does that grand title theme play in your head? It’s the same with video games. The challenge here, of course, is that players often leave the title screen after three seconds.

Three seconds is all you need though. Take Super Mario World’s soundtrack, composed by Koji Kondo. Many of its levels have the same leading melody, which changes subtly in tonality and rhythm to create the appropriate mood. The most repeating part of the melody is four bars long, but we hear it in so many forms that we only need the first two bars to know where it’s from. In classical music, this is called ‘variations on a theme’. In video games, we call it a ‘sonic identity’.

Action platformer 88 Heroes, featuring music by Mike Clark.

How a picture should ‘sound’

Sonic identity informed my approach to the 88 Heroes soundtrack. The title screen tells us that an unknown group is going to save the day. I first thought about unlikely heroes who end up on an adventure, and Back to the Future, scored by Alan Silvestri, sprang to mind. The second inspiration came from traditional superheroes, like Superman. I composed a melody which travels between the first and fifth notes in the scale (in this case C and G), with little flourishes of the notes in-between. It’s a triumphant, heroic melody.

This concept helps to connect these worlds beyond their visuals. It took a long time for games to evolve into the cohesive open-world sandboxes or MMOs we see today; the technology that masked loading screens to create a seamless experience was unheard of in the 1990s, so a melody that you hear in different ‘costumes’ gives these games a sense of cohesion.

Intelligent instruments

What if you have levels (or worlds) so big that some areas need to be loaded? That’s where non-linear composition comes in. Banjo-Kazooie, released for the N64 in 1998, was among the first 3D games to feature dynamic music. It used a technique called MIDI channel fading. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface; think of it as a universal language for music that is played back in real time by the hardware. As you walk into caves, fly in the sky, or move near certain characters, instruments fade in and out using the different MIDI channels to mimic the atmosphere, give the player an audio cue, and build and release tension.

Learning how to write music that changes as you play might seem impossible at first, but it becomes second nature once you understand the relationship between every instrument in your composition. Many digital audio workstations, like Logic and FL Studio, let you import MIDI data for a song (so you have all the notes in front of you) and set the instruments yourself. Try slowly fading out or muting certain tracks altogether, and listen to how the mood changes. What could this change represent in a video game? It’s like when you’re riding Yoshi in many of the Mario games; the fast bongos come in to represent the quick-footed dinosaur as he dashes at high speeds.

Undertale’s soundtrack blends analogue synth instruments with a plethora of real instruments to help create emotion.

Music is used to evoke emotions that wouldn’t be possible with visuals alone. Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound shows a six-second video of a boat accompanied by two soundtracks; one is a light and happy guitar piece, the other a grating, scary, orchestral dissonance. Through these two extremes, the music creates the mood by itself. I remember playing Metroid Prime and finding the Chozo Ghost enemies rather scary, not because of their appearance, but because of the unnerving music that accompanies them. Music and sound design are one and the same. Think about what feelings you can create by taking music away entirely — it’s a great way to create tension before a boss battle or pivotal plot point, and it really works. In Undertale, scored by Toby Fox, there are times when the music stops so abruptly during NPC dialogue that you feel shivers down your spine.

So, what if you’re trying to come up with some game music, and you have writer’s block? Well, the next time you play a new game, turn the sound off. As you’re playing, focus on how the story, art, or characters make you feel, and focus on the emotions the game is trying to convey. Then, think of a time when a song made you feel happy, sad, joyful, anxious, or even frightened. Maybe you can use the music to create the mood you want for that game, as opposed to what the game makes you feel. By finding these emotions and understanding how they can change, you’ll be able to write a score that helps strengthen the immersion, escapism, and player investment in your game.

You can read the rest of the feature in Wireframe issue 8, available now in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us – worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

Markets, moggies, and making in Wireframe issue 8

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives, and for subcriptions, visit the Wireframe website to save 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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MagPi 79: get making in March with #MonthOfMaking

Hi folks! Rob from The MagPi here. This month in issue 79 of The MagPi, we’re doing something a little different: we invite all of you (yes, you!) to join us in the #MonthOfMaking.

Learn more about the #MonthOfMaking inside issue 79!

#MonthOfMaking

What does this mean? Well, throughout March, we want you to post pictures of your works-in-progress and completed projects on Twitter with the hashtag #MonthOfMaking.

#MonthOfMaking

As well as showing off the cool stuff you’re creating, we also want you to feel comfortable to ask for help with projects, and to share top tips for those that might be struggling.

If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a massive feature in issue 79 of The MagPi, out now, to help you decide. On top of various project ideas for different skill levels, our feature includes some essential resources to look at, as well as inspirational YouTubers to follow, and some competitions you might want to take part in!

So, go forth and make! I’m really looking forward to seeing what you all get up to during this inaugural #MonthOfMaking!

Get The MagPi 79

You can get The MagPi 79 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 issue online: check it out on our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF.

Free Raspberry Pi 3A+ offer!

We’re still running our super special Raspberry Pi 3A+ subscription offer! If you subscribe to twelve months of The MagPi, you’ll get a Raspberry Pi 3A+ completely free while stocks last. Make sure to check out our other subs offers while you’re there, like three issues for £5, and our rolling monthly subscription.

Get a 3A+ completely free while stocks last!

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Celebrate with us this weekend!

The Raspberry Jam Big Birthday is almost here! In celebration of our seventh birthday, we’re coordinating with over 130 community‑led Raspberry Jams in 40 countries across six continents this weekend, 3-4 March 2019.

Raspberry Jams come in all shapes and sizes. They range from small pub gatherings fueled by local beer and amiable nerdy chatter to vast multi-room events with a varied programme of project displays, workshops, and talks.

To find your nearest Raspberry Jam, check out our interactive Jam map.

And if you can’t get to a Jam location this time, follow #PiParty on Twitter, where people around the world are already getting excited about their Big Birthday Weekend plans. Over the weekend you’ll see Raspberry Jams happening from the UK to the US, from Africa to – we hope – Antarctica, and everywhere in between.

Coolest Projects UK

The first of this year’s Coolest Projects events is also taking place this weekend in Manchester, UK. Coolest Projects is the world’s leading technology fair for young people, showcasing some of the very best creations by young makers across the country (and beyond), and it’s open for members of the public to attend.

Tickets are still available from the Coolest Projects website, and you can follow the action on #CoolestProjects on Twitter.

CBeebies’ Maddie Moate and the BBC’s Greg Foot will be taking over Raspberry Pi’s Instagram story on the day, so be sure to follow @RaspberryPiFoundation on Instagram.

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A smart guitar for blind, deaf, and mute people

ChordAssist aims to bring the joy of learning the guitar to those who otherwise may have problems with accessing guitar tutorials. Offering advice in Braille, in speech, and on-screen, ChordAssist has been built specifically for deaf, blind, and mute people. Creator Joe Birch, who also built the BrailleBox device, used Raspberry Pi, Google Assistant, and a variety of accessibility tools and technology for this accessible instrument.

Chord Assist: An accessible smart guitar for the blind, deaf and mute

Powered by the Google Assistant, read more at chordassist.com

Accessibility and music

Inspired by a hereditary visual impairment in his family, Buffer’s Android Lead Joe Birch spent six months working on ChordAssist, an accessible smart guitar.

The Braille converter of the ChordAssist guitar
The ChordAssist guitar
The screen of the ChordAssist guitar

“This is a project that I used to bring my love of music and accessibility (inspired by my family condition of retinitis pigmentosa) together to create something that could allow everyone to enjoy learning and playing music — currently an area which might not be accessible to all,” explained Joe when he shared his project on Twitter earlier this month.

BrailleBox

This isn’t Joe’s first step into the world of smart accessibility devices. In 2017, he created BrailleBox, an Android Things news delivery device that converts daily news stories into Braille, using wooden balls atop solenoids that move up and down to form Braille symbols.

Demonstration of Joe Birch's BrailleBox

ChordAssist

This same technology exists within ChordAssist, along with an LCD screen for visual learning, and a speaker system for text-to-speech conversion.

Chord Assist was already an Action on the Google Project that I built for the Google Home, now I wanted to take that and stick it in a guitar powered by voice, visuals, and Braille. All three of these together will hopefully help to reduce the friction that may be experienced throughout the process of learning an instrument.

ChordAssist is currently still at the prototype stage, and Joe invites everyone to offer feedback so he can make improvements.

To learn more about ChordAssist, visit the ChordAssist website and check out Joe’s write-up on Medium.

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Digital lava lamp!

Forget the iconic conic shape of the lava lamp from the sixties and seventies — Julian Butler’s digital lava lamp gives you all the magic of its predecessor, without any of the hassle!

My programmable digital lava lamp

Showcasing the construction and display modes of my programmable digital lava lamp. Built with the help of Processing software, FadeCandy + Raspberry Pi hardware this lamp can respond to sound and other aspects of it’s environment via wifi etc.

I lava you (I lava you not)

When I was a teenager, we had a lava lamp at home. It was orange, it took an age to get going, and once the lava was in full flow, it radiated with the heat of a thousand suns.

Julian Butler’s modern version is so much better. “Showcasing the construction and display modes of [his] programmable digital lava lamp,” Julian has shared a rather hypnotic video on his YouTube channel. He’s also created a three-part build tutorial about the project.

Inspired by his co-worker’s salt mood lamp, Julian decided to build something similiar, aiming to smoothe out the creases and add more functionality.

Using a Raspberry Pi and Micah Elizabeth Scott‘s FadeCandy board, plus 120 NeoPixel LEDs, Julian got to work programming lights and prototyping casings until he was happy with the result.

The face of Julian happy with the result

And the result is a beautiful, programmable digital lava lamp: all the mesmerising fun of a regular lava lamp, without the excruciating wait time and significant risk of second-degree burns. Plus, it will never leak, and it can be any colour you like!

Get groovy, baby

Watch Julian’s video, ooh and aah at the swirly-whirly wonderment of his digital creation, and then visit his blog for all the details of how to make your own. Julian has plans to add more interactive elements to the lamp, including voice recognition, and we can’t wait to see the final result!

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What we are learning about learning

Across Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and all our other education programmes, we’re working with hundreds of thousands of young people. They are all making different projects and learning different things while they are making. The research team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation does lots of work to help us understand what exactly these young people learn, and how the adults and peers who mentor them share their skills with them.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Senior Research Manager Oliver Quinlan chats to participants at Coolest Projects 2018

We do our research work by:

  • Visiting clubs, Dojos, and events, seeing how they run, and talking to the adults and young people involved
  • Running surveys to get feedback on how people are helping young people learn
  • Testing new approaches and resources with groups of clubs and Dojos to try different ways which might help to engage more young people or help them learn more effectively

Over the last few months, we’ve been running lots of research projects and gained some fascinating insights into how young people are engaging with digital making. As well as using these findings to shape our education work, we also publish what we find, for free, over on our research page.

How do children tackle digital making projects?

We found that making ambitious digital projects is a careful balance between ideas, technology, and skills. Using this new understanding, we will help children and the adults that support them plan a process for exploring open-ended projects.

Coolest Projects USA 2018

Coolest Projects USA 2018

For this piece of research, we interviewed children and young people at last year’s Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK , asking questions about the kinds of projects they made and how they created them. We found that the challenge they face is finding a balance between three things: the ideas and problems they want to address, the technologies they have access to, and their skills. Different children approached their projects in different ways, some starting with the technology they had access to, others starting with an idea or with a problem they wanted to solve.

Achieving big ambitions with the technology you have to hand while also learning the skills you need can be tricky. We’re planning to develop more resources to help young people with this.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Research Assistant Lucia Florianova learns about Rebel Girls at Coolest Projects International 2018

We also found out a lot about the power of seeing other children’s projects, what children learn, and the confidence they develop in presenting their projects at these events. Alongside our analysis, we’ve put together some case studies of the teams we interviewed, so people can read in-depth about their projects and the stories of how they created them.

Who comes to Code Club?

In another research project, we found that Code Clubs in schools are often diverse and cater well for the communities the schools serve; Code Club is not an exclusive club, but something for everyone.

Code Club Athens

Code Clubs are run by volunteers in all sorts of schools, libraries, and other venues across the world; we know a lot about the spaces the clubs take place in and the volunteers who run them, but less about the children who choose to take part. We’ve started to explore this through structured visits to clubs in a sample of schools across the West Midlands in England, interviewing teachers about the groups of children in their club. We knew Code Clubs were reaching schools that cater for a whole range of communities, and the evidence of this project suggests that the children who attend the Code Club in those schools come from a range of backgrounds themselves.

Scouts Raspberry Pi

Photo c/o Dave Bird — thanks, Dave!

We found that in these primary schools, children were motivated to join Code Club more because the club is fun rather than because the children see themselves as people who are programmers. This is partly because adults set up Code Clubs with an emphasis on fun: although children are learning, they are not perceiving Code Club as an academic activity linked with school work. Our project also showed us how Code Clubs fit in with the other after-school clubs in schools, and that children often choose Code Club as part of a menu of after-school clubs.

Raspberry Jam

Visitors to Pi Towers Raspberry Jam get hands-on with coding

In the last few months we’ve also published insights into how Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are using their training in schools, and into how schools are using Raspberry Pi computers. You can find our reports on all of these topics over at our research page.

Thanks to all the volunteers, educators, and young people who are finding time to help us with their research. If you’re involved in any of our education programmes and want to take part in a research project, or if you are doing your own research into computing education and want to start a conversation, then reach out to us via research@raspberrypi.org.

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