#Picademy – Day One

This February I was one of the lucky few to be accepted on the Picademy event at Google’s Digital Garage in Manchester. More details about the event can be found here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/picademy/google/manchester/

This post is a summary of my thoughts after day one – more as a memorandum for me than anything else. Apologies if I have forgotten any of the sessions or put them in the wrong order; to coin a phrase used in the training, I reached “cognitive overload” fairly quickly!

Day one started bright and early with James Robinson giving us an introduction to the Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and their educational aims along with the agenda for the two-day session.  My personal favourite quote from this section would be the “FAIL – First Attempt At Learning” – I feel that I am going to have a few of these over the day! To get started we were each directed to our own “swag bag” containing a Raspberry Pi computer plus loads of other bits and pieces to get us started with physical computing.

Our first session was to get hands on with using Scratch to control LEDs via the GPIO pins on the Pi. I have used Scratch with students a lot already but this was the first time that I have made use of the GPIO pins to control physical devices attached to the computer with this software. The ease of entry into Scratch makes this a great candidate for younger learners to get into writing code and the ability to use the Pi’s GPIO pins added a whole new element to this already great software package.

However, having already used Python to control LEDs and cameras through the Pi, using Scratch left me feeling it would be easier to do this through Python. This leads us nicely into the GPIO Zero session! We used the same wiring configuration of LEDs and buttons as we had with Scratch but this time used Python and the fantastic GPIOZero library written by Ben Nuttall to control the physical elements of our set up.

After our LED and button fun we moved onto looking at Sonic Pi. If you have not used this software before, I can not recommend it enough! After a quick intro from James we were all making all sorts of different electronic music through code. We were all recommended to go home and watch Sam Aaron’s (the creator of Sonic Pi) recent TEDx presentation which you can view here:

We then moved on to looking at Minecraft and Python led by Sarah Zaman. In this session we used Python to connect to and control what happened to our character in the Minecraft game; allowing us to create bridges as our character walked across water or flew through the sky as well as countless other possibilities. Having previously used Minecraft with students in the classroom, I can attest to the effectiveness of this as a method of engaging students with writing code!

After Minecraft it was time for some lunch ( and very nice it was too! 😉 ).

We started the afternoon session looking at “making cool stuff” with Big Les P. We were given a motor and wheel along with a Explorer Hat Pro add-on board for our Raspberry Pi computers. This add-on board allowed us to easily power and control our motors through Python.; as well as control and interact with the Pi through the extra interfaces this board offers. My final result of this session was a “disco, spinning, toy soldier thing” (or something like that! It had toy soldiers, flashing LEDs and it spun round… No picture, sorry!)

Our final session was using the Raspberry Pi camera. We first attached a Raspberry Pi camera module to the computer and then wrote some Python code to take a picture. This code was then expanded and the physical connections via the GPIO pins utilised again to attach a button which activate the camera to take the picture. We finished this session off by modifying our code to allow us to use the camera to take video selfies!

So after such a frenetic day’s training we were told that we needed to brainstorm project ideas to try to complete on day two… I have a few ideas but I am not committing to them tonight; I will see what is possible tomorrow and write-up after I have a conclusion!

To finish the day off we all went out for a meal and even talked a little shop too!

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