PA Consulting’s annual Raspberry Pi competition takes place

Technology and innovation group PA Consulting run an annual Raspberry Pi competition for schools teams in which they are given a subject and told to go away and invent something. This year’s challenge was “to produce innovations that will improve the lives of people who have conditions that limit their ability to do the things some of us take for granted”. A heady challenge, indeed, and one which really seemed to capture the imaginations of those who took part. Finalist projects, presented to the judges yesterday, included:

  • a drum kit to allow Parkinsons’ sufferers to combat stress.
  • a device to help teach those with ADD and dyslexia.
  • a memory clock to help those with dementia.
  • a system for front doors to help deaf-blind people to identify who is calling.
  • a system to alert carers if their patients have a fall at home.

Winners included:

  • Haileybury College, Hertfordshire
  • St Mary’s School
  • King Edward VI Grammar School

The panel of judges included the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Philip Colligan, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones and previous winner (and AirPi inventor) Tom Hartley.

Raspberry Pi launches new Jam guidebook, packs and resources for the Community

Ben Nuttall, Raspberry Pi community manager, has just posted on the Raspberry Pi blog about a new set of resources for Jam organisers. The best part of it is a new Jam Guidebook which tells you everything you need to know about setting up a Raspberry Jam in your local area including hints and tips, case studies and answers to the “big questions” that you might ask if taking on such a task. There is also an application form for a Jam starter kit which contains some goodies to get you started and organised, as well as a branding pack for those who need to get some graphics done for their event but don’t quite know where to start. Read more about the new resources here.

There’s also been a re-jig of the Community homepage on the Raspberry Pi website, too, so it’s worthwhile taking a look at that too.

Treat dispenser for this lucky dog is driven by a Raspberry Pi

Pickles is one lucky dog. Not only does he have two owners who dote on him (and miss him when they’re not there!), one of those owners, Eric Page, decided to build a Raspberry Pi-controlled treat dispenser. The idea is that when they’re not there, Eric and his fiancee Shirin can connect to the Pi over the internet and tell the dispenser to do its stuff. The machine is called, rather adorably, the Pickles Loves His Mom Treat Machine.

The Pi controls a stepper motor which rotates a cylinder with a cut-out. The cut-out allows the treats to fall out onto the floor, which Pickles gratefully chomps up! It also plays a sound clip of Shirin’s voice (which has developed a lovely Pavlovian effect!) and then takes a picture if the Pi detects motion (which it inevitably does – Pickles gets hungry, after all) and emails it to the person who submitted the dispense request. Apparently, Eric went to a lot of effort to ensure that just the right amount of treats were dispensed to avoid Pickles developing a weight problem!

The software uses Adafruit’s IO MQTT interface to transmit messages to the dispenser. This can be triggered either over the web or via voice through an Alexa device. The back end on the Pi is written in Python and it also monitors a Gmail account occasionally for email requests.

Here’s the dispenser in action and you can find out how Eric did it by viewing the Instructable here.

And here’s a picture of Pickles (looking a bit damp on the beach, it seems!), just because I love dogs 🙂

New ChromiumOS build for the Raspberry Pi 3 – FlintOS

There’s a new operating system on the block and it’s based on the open-source ChromiumOS, familiar to all users of Chromebooks. Based on Google’s popular browser, ChromiumOS has been ported to the Raspberry Pi as FlintOS. There is a downloadable image available (built in February) and everything indicates that more work will be carried out to develop it further. More information is available from the FlintOS website.

Amazing music box is a live-performance looper using a Raspberry Pi 3

Music artist otem rellik (Toby Hendricks) has built an amazing musical instrument. It is a music samples looper that he created to replace his iPad for live performances. It features a Raspberry Pi 3 running Pure Data and a Teensy 3.6 for handling the controls, the screen and communications with the Pi, which it achieves over a serial link.

At the bottom right are the instrument buttons. Normally, these play sounds but by pressing a small button to the left, he can choose which instrument he is playing. The screen at the top right shows the instrument selection and other menus.

Top-right of the box are the loop buttons, for recording and playing back of the loop sequences and volume controls for them. Bottom left is where effects are handled such as delay, reverb, cut-off, feedback and beat repetition.

Above the instrument buttons, there is a large screen (which is actually a Nintendo DS touch screen) where post-loop effects are created – he can create these effects by drawing on the screen with his finger.

There is a large rotary encoder on the top right which allows him to save, load and delete loop sequences, the menu for which is also displayed on the small screen.

Along the back (the top in the photograph) are various external inputs and outputs, including a USB link to his girlfriend’s instrument so that data like beats-per-minute can be synchronised between the two.

The whole box has a strip of Neopixels round the bottom edge (you can’t see them in the photo) which change in reaction to the music being played.

You can see a walk-through video of the instrument, as well as a demo live-Jam session, by viewing the video below. You can also see more photos from the build on InstagramI take my hat off to him – this is marvellous and is something I’d love to make myself, after my experiences with my own Music Box project.

Using public LIDAR data to generate 3D maps in Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi

In 2015, the Environment Agency released it’s LIDAR data to the general public. LIDAR (Light Detection & Ranging) uses a laser “to scan and map the landscape from above and is widely considered to be the best method for collecting very dense and accurate elevation data across the landscape.” [source]

Stefan Janusz from Defra Digital has posted a way of using this data on a Raspberry Pi (not to mention Macs and Windows machines) to generate 3D terrain maps based on this data. In particular, Minecraft Pi Edition is used to generate these maps in a live environment. It’s all very ‘big data’-y and exciting, and fun! You can explore this method of using the LIDAR data here. Make sure you read the whole thing and get to the Pi instructions, which are a little way down the page.