Since the CAS Conference in Birmingham in June I’ve been thinking about holding a Raspberry Jam in the local area. I had permission to host it in school once evening but it was getting awkward to find an evening that was suitable before the end of term. Two weeks ago I found out about the Cardiff Science Festival and had the mad idea of holding a Raspberry Jam to coincide. By coincidence Dr Tom Crick (Computing at School) and Laura Roberts (Technocamps) had a room booked that they could no longer use.
Two weeks later I find myself standing in front of 45 people at the Urdd in Cardiff Bay with no real idea of what their expectations are of this event. I’d had a few moments of wondering what on earth I was thinking of. My son Sam has a Raspberry Pi but I’d not really played around with it. It’s his and I want him to find his own way. Only a few days beforehand I realised that playing the Raspberry pi through the VGA projector was going to be awkward (Amazon sell an HDMI to VGA converter cable for £4 which proved to be useless – HDMI is a digital format and VGA is analog. Of course I know that NOW and NOW it seems obvious). So we tried out the RCA port with a composite cable and that worked. Looked shocking but it worked! Thankfully on the day Gareth Edmondson (who couldn’t attend) came to the rescue with his Kanex, kindly transported by Edward O’Reagan. It worked a treat.
Our first demonstration came from Dave Christian, a pHd student and software developer who demonstrated the graphics processing power of the Raspberry Pi. Apologies for the poor quality of the video, I was standing in the corner of the room with my Flip camera. We had the lights down as Dave’s Mandelbrot sets appeared quite dark on the screen.
Thankfully Dave has published his code on GitHub! Next time I’ll plan video a little more! You can see that while Dave was talking high graphics processing, a 4-year old girl is totally engrossed in a Scratch game on another Raspberry Pi set up for further demonstrations.
Dr Tom Crick then gave us his promotion of Computing at School and explained how he saw the Raspberry Pi fitting in with with this. A reminiscent discussion about the BBC Micro followed. Many of the attendees were parents concerned about the state of ICT education. With some saying their child had dropped ICT at school as it wasn’t relevant. To all those this resonates with, please join Computing at School and get involved. I outlined the 4 GCSE’s that are now available in Computing, although sadly these have come too late for some of the students attending the Raspberry Jam. We also mentioned Young Rewired State which is a fantastic summer opportunity culminating in the Festival of Code on 10-12th August. What I should also have talked about are the Technocamps Bootcamps taking place this summer – they have iOS App development, and Kodu game design in Swansea. Both are aimed at 16-19 year olds but they will accept slightly younger students who are keen. They also have the “build your own internet” workshops in Bangor for 11-15 year olds.
Sam Sherratt, age 10, then told us what his plans are for his Raspberry Pi. He talked about the camera that Eben Upton (the developer of the Raspberry Pi) announced at the Raspberry Jam on Cambridge the previous day and his plans for programming LEDs on the pins to flash. It was great to hear someone from the target audience of the Raspberry Pi talk so confidently about this! Sadly, I didn’t video Sam – but as his mum I was too busy feeling very proud of him! (Thanks to Tom Crick for the photo).
Finally Edward O’Reagan talked about the Pi User Group he has set up in Swansea, exhorting us to do the same! Video to follow. Edward also demonstrated running Quake 3 on the Raspberry Pi – further instructions on his website which is also an excellent Pi resource.
At the end of the event we had a surprise visit from Cardiff Hackspace who brought along a Raspberry Pi case they had 3D printed. Next time we hope they come along and present about their Raspberry Pi door entry system.