Raspberry Pi in Education Newsletter - Issue 15 - February 2016
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Raspberry Pi in Education


Latest news from the Raspberry Pi Foundation Education Team

This month, we are very excited to announce two new out-of-this-world coding competitions as part of British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake's Principia mission. We have tips on how to inspire the next generation by running a Code Club in your part of the world, and the education team's newest member, Oliver Quinlan, reports on meeting educators and more at the Bett Show.

Send your computer code into space with astronaut Tim Peake

Mission Update

Last year, leading UK space organisations joined forces with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake and the Raspberry Pi Foundation to offer students a chance to code their own computer science experiments to be run in space. Two augmented Raspberry Pi computers, called Astro Pis, have been flown to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Tim's mission. They are each equipped with different cameras and a range of sensors that the students can use in a wide variety of experiments. Because the Astro Pi hardware is available to students, they have a unique opportunity to work with the same equipment that Tim Peake is using on the ISS.

Picture of Astro Pi 'Ed' taken by British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake
on board the International Space Station

Seven winning programs, now part of the Astro Pi payload, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on December 6th last year. The students' projects are incredibly creative, ranging from fun reaction-time games to real science experiments, such as looking at radiation in space. Find out about the winners and their experiments here. Tim Peake deployed the first Astro Pi in the ISS Columbus laboratory on the 2nd of February and it's been running student code for about two weeks. The second Astro Pi was deployed on February 16th in the Harmony Node 2 module and is running Earth observation experiments, looking through the nadir hatch window.

The Story of Astro Pi (Part 1)
Meet Ed (@astro_pi_vis) and Izzy (@astro_pi_ir), the Raspberry Pi Astro Pis, and hear their story of how they ended up on the International Space Station!

New competitions

After the success of the first competition, Tim is now looking for more students to write code for him to run in space. The Astro Pi Coding Challenges, launched on February 3rd, pose a specific problem to the students and ask them to solve it with code. This approach differs from the 2015 competition, where students were given an open-ended brief to come up with their own ideas for experiments: this time, Tim has a particular task in mind for them. The winners will have their code uploaded to the ISS and used by Tim on the Astro Pi computers (on a best-effort basis subject to operational constraints).

There are currently two challenges on offer, both music-based. The first asks students to write Python code to turn the Astro Pi into an MP3 music player, something it was never designed for. The students will need to program the buttons, joystick and LED display to provide a media player interface, so that Tim can plug in headphones and listen to music. The second challenge requires students to compose their own music using a tool called Sonic Pi. This allows music to be created using lines of code, and is a really fun and engaging way to learn to program. Tim will then use the MP3 player code from the first challenge to listen to the music from the second challenge on board the ISS.

The competition is open to all primary and secondary school-age students who are resident in the United Kingdom, and it's supported by a comprehensive range of teaching resources, which are available for free on the Astro Pi website. The deadline for submissions is March 31st.

The competition is being run across four age categories: 11 years and under, 11 to 14 years, 14 to 16 years and 16 to 18 years, with a winner selected from each category for each of the two challenges. In total, four MP3 players and a minimum of four songs will be uploaded and played by Tim in space – the most exclusive concert venue imaginable.

Tim Peake said:

"This competition offers a unique chance for young people to learn core computing skills that will be extremely useful in their future. It’s going to be a lot of fun!"

Libby Jackson from UK Space Agency said:

"We are excited that the Astro Pi project is being extended to allow more students the opportunity to see their code in space. There were some fantastic ideas in the first competition and I am sure that the new challenges will see more interesting ideas be submitted."

David Honess from Raspberry Pi said:

"Tim told us that the software for updating his MP3 player is not approved for the ISS laptops, so he’s potentially facing another four months without any new music. So there's a practical, utilitarian purpose for having the students code this MP3 player for him. It’ll solve a real problem on the space station."

The judging will be conducted by a panel of experts selected from industry partners that have been involved in the Astro Pi project from the start. These are UK Space Trade AssociationUK Space AgencyEuropean Space AgencySurrey Satellite TechnologyAirbus Defence and SpaceCGIQinetiQESERO UKNational STEM Centre, and Space KTN.

Start a Code Club in your part of the world

Code Club is on a mission to create a club in every community in the world! Would you like to join our global movement and get kids coding in your local area?

You can get involved in three different ways:

  • Start a Code Club: Help us inspire the next generation by running a Code Club. Get in touch with your local school to volunteer for an hour each week.
  • Translate our projects: Translate the Code Club projects into your native language and help us reach more children in your local community.
  • Start a local Code Club Community: Establish a community in your country and take charge of growing Code Club activities in your region.

Code Club is a worldwide network of volunteer-led extracurricular coding clubs for children aged 9-11. You can find out more by visiting Code Club World's website and following @CodeClubWorld on Twitter!

Meeting educators and more at the Bett Show 2016

For anyone in the education technology community, January is synonymous with Bett. This trade show has been taking place in London for over thirty years, and now sees over thirty thousand educators, students, parents and technology enthusiasts descending on the ExCeL Centre in Docklands to find out about the latest learning technlogies. Our Research Manager, Oliver Quinlan, reports on our Bett Show presence:

Raspberry Pi and Code Club have been represented at the show before, but for the first time we had our own area together in the new ‘STEAM village’ section of the show. Although the name may suggest a return to Victorian age technology, this area was about promoting the crossover subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. We took over a whole side of this village, with a dedicated workshop area and table stations showcasing many of our programmes.

Our area was packed, with back-to-back workshops every thirty minutes that often had standing room only. We ran sessions on everything from how to start a Code Club in your school, to how to get started programming a Sense HAT and using the GPIO. Hundreds of people took part in a half-hour workshop, and a few keen ones stayed most of the day! Almost half of those at the Code Club workshops planned to start their own club after taking part.

It was amazing to have members of the Raspberry Pi community join us to lead workshops, including Raspberry Pi Certified EducatorsRaspberry Pi Creative Technologist Andrew Mulholland, and European Digital Girl of the Year Yasmin Bey.

Thanks to Alan O’Donohoe, Stephen Manson, Cat Lamin, Mike Trebilcock, Graham Bowman, Andrew Mulholland, Neil and Toby Bizzell, and Sam Aaron for running workshops for us.

Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club staff were also presenting all over the show on computing and digital making. Carrie Anne Philbin presented on how teachers are changing the gender narrative in computer science and on digital making across the UK.

A highlight of the show for me was seeing Sam Aaron showing the power of Sonic Pi in the main arena. Working entirely from a Raspberry Pi with an IQ Audio Pi-DAC+ HAT, Sam rocked the several hundred people in the arena with both his music and his message: that programming is a new form of creative expression.

Throughout the show we talked to thousands of enthusiastic educators and learners. Staff on the Code Club stand alone had in-depth conversations with over 1500 people on starting clubs in their communities. I really enjoyed hearing from so many people who came to the stand to chat about the projects they had made themselves or with their students. I snapped a few of them with my own Pi Zero-powered RetroPiCam project, and got talking to many more about their plans to start Code Clubs in their schools.

We also talked to a lot of people looking to get started with Raspberry Pis. Luckily for them we had thousands of copies of both Carrie Anne Philbin’s book Adventures in Raspberry Pi and a special educators’ edition of The MagPi, both full of ideas for learning and teaching with a Pi. As with all editions of The MagPi, you can get your hands on a free PDF here if you missed out at the show.

Saturday saw the first ever Raspberry Jam at Bett, organised by Ben Nuttall. The Pi community took over one of the learning theatres, bringing line-following robots, pirate ships, and a whole host of other creative Pi projects. Many members of the Pi community from across the country came to meet up, and passers-by at the show joined in too.

I’ve been visiting Bett for years. I’m used to the busy aisles and the enthusiasm of educators about the world of technology, but I was still blown away by the numbers of people who came to see us and the strength of their enthusiasm for Raspberry Pi and Code Club.

What’s great about this show is that most of the people you speak to work directly with children or young people. The enthusiasm we saw will translate into many opportunities for them to learn about computing and digital making.

Thanks to all the team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club for the hard work they put into the show. From planning for the show, to running workshops and spending whole days on stands, these events take a lot of work and energy. Thanks to everyone for making this huge event such a success.

Until next time, keep on computing!

Carrie Anne
Education Pioneer
Raspberry Pi Foundation
Take a look at our latest digital making resource, See like a bat: it teaches you how to turn your Raspberry Pi into an echolocation device, which can be worn and which will help you see like a bat.
Read our special educators' edition of The MagPi, the official Raspberry Pi magazine which features all the latest Pi news and tutorials. 
Download our latest physical computing posters for your classroom to inspire the next creators of technology! Includes a GPIO Zero Python cheat sheet.
Copyright © 2016 Raspberry Pi Foundation. All rights reserved.

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