So this week, Picademy changed my life. That may sound dramatic, but it really was an amazing two days of CPD that has awakened a new understanding and enthusiasm for computer science. I learnt so much about coding, hacking, robotics that my head was spinning on my drive home! For any educator involved in teaching the computing curriculum, I really cannot recommend Picademy enough. The team at Pi Towers have an infectious passion for the subject and you are guaranteed to come away with new ideas, perspective and friends.
So that’s enough gushing – onto the real stuff! Part of the two days involved us taking over the reins and developing our own projects using the Raspberry Pi. After talking with another Picademy attendee (@mvnorwood) about his idea for a display that could draw from an RSS feed of inspirational quotes on demand, we soon delved into a discussion about all the things this could be used for – news updates, weather, facts about topics, maths questions. What if these quotes could come from a cuddly character? Buddha Babbage was born!
- Raspberry Pi
- Male to male jumpers
- Male to female jumpers
- Button (we used one from CamJam EduKit)
- 2 breadboards (1 large, 1 small)
- LCD screen (we used 16×2 2-line screen by Starfun)
- A Babbage (other bears are available)
- Electrical tape
- Paper cup or other stand
NB: You will need a lot of jumpers. It takes at least 12 jumpers to connect the breadboard to the Pi, three for potentiometer and two for the button.
The first thing we had to do was check the LCD screen worked. To do this we found instructions in the wonderful Carrie Anne Philbin’s book Adventures in Raspberry Pi. After wiring the LCD screen to the Raspberry Pi (all pins from the screen except for 7, 8, 9, 10) we typed used Carrie Anne’s Adventure9 git code which you can find in her book, or you can run another test program.
NB: Make sure you connect the potentiometer first! This was vital as we thought the test had failed until we realised the contrast needed turning up! Doh!
We then connected the button to the breadboard.
Next – the code!
This photo shows the code we used – largely pinched from other bits of code we found, it worked really well and the results are great for a small amount of code. This code worked after having pulled the Adventure9 git before during the test. You may need to tweak it.
The inventory line contains all the phrases that we wanted to be randomised for Babbage to say. You could change these to be anything you want!
The final step is to pop the button under Babbage’s top so it’s under his Pi logo, and set up the screen with card on a stand so that the wires are hidden.
To improve this, I now need to work out how to make the process repeat itself after a longer period of time, perhaps with another loop, so that Babbage is always waiting for someone to push his tummy. You can also adapt the code to pull info from an RSS feed.
What ideas can you think of for using this project? Perhaps a character who gives up to date news headlines?