BETT 2014 and the Pi club

Well it’s been an interesting few weeks. The Pi club has sparked a lot of interest with children and we are now almost half full.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the children can learn and how they make use of their skills.

The BETT show

Been to BETT today in London. There were several interesting exhibitors there working with the Raspberry Pi. There was a good talk by the education lead at Raspberry Pi emphasising that it is not just teaching programming but the skills behind it such as logical thinking and also the creative output. That’s so true. It’s like writing – there’s a skill to learn how to write but it’s the content that’s important.

Been doing several workshops – thanks to Dunnington Primary and Heworth primary for being my test schools. It really helped me to see how things worked in the classroom and it was exciting to see the skills the children developed in only a single workshop.

So lots of ideas from BETT. Some great robots on display and also some really good programs to make interaction with the real world through programs that much easier.

A Happy New Year to you all

So it’s the start of 2014 and the start of ScratchMyPi. It’s exciting starting a new business and I am sure this will be successful. I wrote my first computer program when I was 12 using a VIC 20 and Basic.

Computing in the old days

Computing in the old days

It was fun to use but what was hard was getting the computer grammar right. Put the wrong text in or miss a colon and you would get a syntax error.

 

But it taught the basis of computer programming. Thinking about what would happen and developing a sequence to make it happen.

That was a long time ago. Now we have much more user friendly programs like Scratch.  I first started using Scratch about 8 years ago and was impressed by how easy and obvious it was to use. But don’t be deceived. Scratch is very powerful and you can make fantastic things happen. All you need is a flow chart and patience to debug programs.

Linking Scratch to a microcontroller takes the power of Scratch a whole lot further.   A microcontroller is simply a chip with inputs and outputs.

Arduino microcontroller

An Arduino microcontroller. Each pin can control and input or and output.

A program can sense inputs from sensors. If you can think of a sensor, we probably have it.

Sensors include temperature, noise, light, water level, touch and heat.

The Arduino is able to recognise the strength of the “sense” – and gives you a reading.

What you do with that reading is up to you. With a number (variable) in Scratch, a lot can happen. Colours can change, objects can move. They simply respond to the variable.

You can link the sensor to an output. As the temperature gets warmer, a LED gets brighter. Or a motor spins faster. You can control the outputs from Scratch. Simply select a variable and the output alters.

It’s really exciting getting to do this with primary children. I don’t think there’s another company using Arduinos and the Pi as control devices in a primary school. The technology is simple to program – it just needs careful setting up which is my main priority. I believe that things need to be simple and reliable to ensure that children feel successful.

So we start the New Year and I am sure we will have plenty of bookings, I’ll put examples of children’s work and projects on here.

Robyn

Motors used with Scratch

Stimulate their imagination

arduino_robot_shield

This is an Arduino robot. Pupils make their own robots using the motors,sensors and wheels provided. They use Scratch for Arduino to program the robots and to make them function. The robots can be pre- programmed to carry out a routine or can be operated wirelessly using the Raspberry Pi.

Pupils are able to take advantage of a wide range of sensors and outputs.