STEAM – A Rant

 

rant= “STEAM; science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. Recently, there have been articles in the media and online about how the arts should be included in the Ebacc. For those of you who are unaware, the Ebacc is short for the English Baccalaureate. It is a measure that requires students to study English, Mathematics, Science, as well as a Humanity (Geography, History or RS) and a Language at GCSE level, and gain at least a C in these subjects. Nicky Morgan, the UK’s education secretary has recently announced that she would like for 90% of sixteen year olds to achieve this measure. I know what you’re thinking, “where are the arts among all of these subjects?” They are not there. The Ebacc does not include any “arty” subjects, suggesting that the government does not recognise these subjects as being helpful for the future of the UK’s youth. In fact, this issue has gained a lot of recognition from the public, with a national petition attracting in excess of 100,000 signatures. There will be a parliamentary debate held on July 4th 2016, and you will even be able to watch it live here: http://parliamentlive.tv/

 

I am constantly told at school that the students of today are the “lawyers, doctors and politicians of tomorrow”. So really, I am never being encouraged and inspired by the various industries and career pathways I can take with qualifications in the arts. Instead, I have to focus on creating a career for myself based on an “academic” subject. But who decides on what is considered to be an “academic” subject? Why should our society be able to place a label on our field of study and judge us on how “academic” our chosen field is? As you may know, I’m a Computer Scientist. However, this was never suggested to me as being a career choice until I won a European award. Instead, I was told to become an economist, statistician or even an actuary. Why? Because these are more “feasible” career choices. Clearly my school is slightly oblivious to the rise of technology and how computers will soon be capable to do the above jobs better than a human will ever be able to.

 

I am going to admit, I was never particularly gifted in the arts at KS3. I was actually on the ‘cause for concern list’ in year eight art, was told my composition sounded like a cat was being strangled in music and only really showed up to half of my year nine drama lessons. But just because I was less competent in these lessons it does not mean that other members of the class did not flourish. These students are having their education limited by the government who do not recognise these subjects as being beneficial for the young people in this country. When reading through the specification for A Level Fine Art, I came across the “3,000 word personal study of the student’s choice”. Surely this study would develop existing analytical and research skills, which are vital for any university course, regardless of the discipline. This is only one of the many mediums of art accessible to the young people in the UK.

 

I would like to emphasise that creativity is not only present in the traditional “arty” subjects. Sometimes, I express my inner creativity with particular applications of mathematics, or write some code to perform a variety of logical operations. Just because I am not painting on a canvas or composing a piece based on minimalism, it does not mean that I am not being creative. We as students should be able to unleash our creativity in any medium that suits us. We should be able to “fire one’s irresolute clay” and become our own people. We should not be limited or judged by society based on our academic pathway. We are all different. Our education system fails to recognise the wide variety of hobbies and interests among the young people in our society. Our education system fails to recognise that all subjects are “academic” and set us up for the future. Our education system fails to recognise who we are.”

I won an award!

Something really, really exciting happened this week, which you’ll find out about later in the post! Let’s start from the beginning. It’s fair to say that I like Computer Science, or even that I love it, so after the Cambridge Raspberry Jam in September I decided to nominate myself for an award called European Digital Girl of the Year. It recognises a girl(s) – spoiler alert – who distinguishes herself in her community by influencing women to take up STEM subjects, or actually increasing uptake. Personally I give up 3 lunch times a week in our Computing department at school to run clubs, plan lessons/club sessions and talk to the staff about what to put in the curriculum. On top of this I talk and run workshops at events such as Raspberry Jams, MozFest and  BETT 2016 (still to come!). I didn’t really expect much, as there are literally millions of girls in Europe, but if you don’t enter you don’t win I suppose!

On November 14th I was announced as one of two finalists for the award! The other was Niamh Scanlon, aged 13 from Dublin. Ireland. She is awesome! Niamh teaches at Coderdojo DCU in an all girls class, so girls can learn to code without thinking it’s ‘just for boys’. She also built an app which has a map of all of the electric car charging points in Ireland and tells a user whether they are in use or not. As a result she won awards at the Coderdojo coolest projects! Niamh is just generally awesome.

So, on Monday I boarded a train at 4am(!) to London City Airport in order to get on a plane to Luxembourg for the awards dinner. After two hours of walking around a terminal full of business people waiting for our delayed plane, it arrived and we were soon in Luxembourg! It is a really beautiful country, with old yet modern architecture. We arrived pretty early, so busmy mum and I managed to figure out the bus timetable and went to the city centre. Just a side note, the buses are rainbow coloured!! The town is again, really beautiful and as it is December, there were Christmas markets! The main, and most attractive things on sale were ‘gluwein’ (mulled wine for mum) and ‘chi chi’ which are basically a cone full of really tasty cinnamon churros with either icing sugar or nutella on top. There were also lots of waffles too. Luxembourg is really cool in the sense that there is really no border as to where a specific language is spoken (they speak French and German), so at one market I had to speak German, and at the other French (considering they were about 100m apart!)

After coming back from the markets, my mum had a quick power nap in the hotel before getting ready for the awards dinner. I waited in the hotel lobby for others to arrive who were attending the dinner and met Cheryl Miller, the person who organised it all (thanks!), who was really intrigued in what I do which was awesome. A little while later I changed into my dress (the dinner was incredibly formal) and went to a reception where I did some networking. The most notable person I met was Monique, who was a finalist for the Digital Woman of the Year Award. She does such amazing work and was overall a really cool person to talk to. After this, Niamh arrived from the airport after a delayed plane (Luxair seemed to be having a bad day) and we took some photos which are now all over twitter! At half six, the dinner began with both the Ada Awards and the ESkills for Jobs awards taking place. There were some really great keynote speakers to kick off the ESkills for Jobs conference which took place the next day, such as the VP of Amazon Web Services, talking about how cloud computing will be the future. In fact, cloud computing will create 15 million jobs next year! The ESkills award had a category for best young coders, which were won by Sara, Beatriz and Nuno from Portugal. They coded some really thought provoking animations in what looked like Alice, on topics such as the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Beatriz and Sara won a trip to a conference in Berlin (THE place for startups!) and Nuno won a Samsung Galaxy tablet. After some food (the starter was horrible- lots of fish, the main was chicken, potatoes and veg which was delicious) it came to announce the winners of the Ada Awards. VHTO won the award for Organisation of the Year, for their amazing wotrophyrk. In the Digital Girl category, the jury couldn’t decide and there were two winners, both me and Niamh! It was honestly surreal, as my phone was blowing up with twitter notifications. We won a Kindle Fire HD8 tablet, $100 for Amazon Web Services and a pretty glass diamond (I haven’t smashed it yet, honest). The awards dinner finished at half ten, so I went to bed (well tried to) but I seemed to have contracted “that cold” that everyone in the Pi community had got, so I basically got no sleep all night (yay). On the second day I was invited to attend a pop up CoderDojo affiliated with Microsoft. We created a program to create pretty shapes using angles provided by the user. Then, we had to code it in python, and make it as efficient as possible! I got lots of Microsoft swag including stickers, pens, t-shirts and powerbanks which all feature the new official European language, ‘code’. Afterwards we went back to the Christmas markets to buy lots of stuff for friends and family, including create your own cookie mix for my sister, which airport security thought was drugs due to the flour at the bottom! Our plane was delayed by two hours again and I arrived home at 11:30pm, I didn’t go to school the next day🙂 but I had loads of stories to tell on Thursday (my computing teacher had no idea I;d won an international award!)

Needless to say I had a great couple of days and my mum and I would really like to go back to Luxembourg (well I’ve been invited to run workshops at their new makerspaces). Thanks to everyone who made it possible and I really hope that I can inspire more girls through my coding adventures. I wish every one of you a great holiday season and a happy new year. Keep on coding!

 

Laser Cutting Wonder!

For PiWars, I have decided to make my robot out of some plywood, a light yet sturdy material. I am no stranger to my school’s DT department (design and technology) so in order to create some parts for my chassis I asked my amazing Product Design teacher to use the laser cutter. What was awesome is that he said yes, considering there is a queue to cut, and I kind of just skipped the whole queue. In order to keep up with the Volkswagen camper van, I cut and etched some cute little bits of plywood. 1163-142444638599887 (3 in case I paint them really badly!). These are really cute, 10cm wide and 13cm tall! I have some eggplant coloured paint and GLITTER to put on them, along with some other planks to put on the sides!

 

I am number four!

 

MERGED FROM ORIGINAL  BLOG!

Today, all thirty-two of the confirmed entrants for PiWars 2015 were announced. I am in fact, competitor number four. This is amazing news and I am so excited to get started.

Okay, so I intend to enter all of the challenges with my robot, The Piwagen. You may ask how I chose the name. My robot will use the motor controller board from Ryanteck along with their motors as well. The motors will use four AA batteries to supply 6V. The Pi will be powered by a 2600mAh  battery pack. The chassis will be made out of plywood, which will be laser cut to precision and etched to make it look like a Volkswagen camper van, hence the name. I intend to adapt the sensors to tailor the bot to each challenge. The controller will be a simple wireless, Bluetooth keyboard.

Well, those are the plans for now. I hope you join me for the rest of my adventures building up to December!

Yasmin!

MozFest Day 1!

After a 6am start, I ended up at Ravensbourne College for day one of the annual MozFest. I had never attended before and therefore had no idea how much awesomeness would soon be upon me. I was originally helping Nic (@duck_star) to tape cables to the floor so no-one would trip over them, and soon went to changing monitor/cable setups on the Raspberry Pis. IMG_3501At 10:45, the first workshop started, which was titled ‘Astro Pi – Your code in Space’. This was led by the fantastic Dave Honess (@dave_spice). Dave did an awesome introduction to the Astro Pi project/competition as well as the stages the payloads have gone through to make it on to the ISS. This was super cool and really interesting to listen to the different tests a small device IMG_3504needs in order to be taken to space! After that, Carrie-Anne

Philbin (@MissPhilbin, @GeekGurlDiaries) from the Raspberry Pi Foundation took over and taught the 30 or so children how to create an interactive avatar using the accelerometer and LED matrix on the new SenseHAT. After the long (1hr45m) session was finished, I had an obligatory selfie with Carrie-Anne and the back-up Astro Pi flight unit (in case the flight ones suddenly blow up, or dots boards spill conductive paint on them!), I decided to go with Dave, Carrie-Anne and Helen (@Helen_Drury) from the foundation to IMG_3506get some food. Needless to say there weren’t many options for children and I didn’t really like my food, however reports from others have suggested they enjoyed it (it was probably me just being picky!) After lunch, myself, Carrie-Anne and Helen explored MozFest, as the Raspberry Pi workshops were on floor 2 of 9! I didn’t have time to fully explore everything (although there are 2 days to the festival), but there were some really awesome projects, such as a game that looked really like mario kart, however the controllers were Sony phones that were linked to a web page using a modified version of Firefox! There were loads of 3D printers at MozFest, and someone had printed a droid thing with an XboxIMG_3509 Kinect camera. There was also an open source sensor display with Arduino and custom made open source boards. Carrie-Anne was ready to quiz all the stall-holders on their amazing projects, and suggested open sourcing the board’s SOC (system on a chip). There was loads to explore, but I also found a BBC microbit controlled table football game. The microbit is a small board that will soon be given to every Year 7 child in the country. I have recently been very interested in them as they will soon be arriving at my school, so I can do some projects with them at my programming club. After quickly touring MozFest, we bought some really nice cake and biscuits and went back to the main Raspberry Pi room. Next up was a Scratch Sense HAT workshop with the Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists Connor and Milton (@connorbanona and @miltonio94 respectively). During their session I was put on DOTs boards, GPIO addons that are a dot to dot with conductive paint, that produce a flying plane in Minecraft. At that point the FireFox (Mozilla Mascot) arrived! He seemed to love the Astro Pi flight unit! Lastly, it was the legendary workshop everyone had been waiting for, run my myself, Joseph Thomas (@jthomascoop) and Zach Igielman (@zacharyigielman). This went fairly ok, besides some coding errors that had to be slightly altered. On my way out, I met the wonderful Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher) who is the founder of Raspberry Jam, and is just so awesome! After the workshops, I got on a train back to sunny sunny Southend to enjoy the Saturday night fireworks!

I have had an awesome first day at MozFest and I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who has made the event possible, especially Andrew (@gbaman1) for organising all of the Raspberry Pi workshops (these have literally been like 3 months in the making).IMG_3520

Robotics for Beginners 1 – An introduction

Hello everyone and welcome to my series about getting started with robotics and the Raspberry Pi. In this series you will learn how to make a standard two or four wheeled robot, and make it smarter and smarter with sensors! This series is ideal for anyone who has/intends to purchase the CamJam Edukit 3. So, let’s get started!

Okay, when I say the word ‘robot’ I’m sure many of you will reminisce about massive killer machines, Daleks, and maybe even Wall-E. However, I am sorry to say we will not be building any of those. By ‘robot’, I really mean a Raspberry Pi controlling motors that are screwed into a chassis which is usually made out of some form of plastic or wood, however you could get more creative and make a chassis out of anything! In order to build your first robot you will need:CRC8BgUWwAAretf

A Raspberry Pi – The model A+ is ideal due to it’s small size and lower power consumption compared to other models. It also has a 40 pin GPIO header which is great for adding sensors, or customising your robot with blinky LEDs!

Motor Controller Board – This will plug in to the GPIO pins of the Pi. There are many brands and models available and I will try* to write code for the several models available to ensure tutorial compatibility. If you don’t have an MCB, I personally recommend the one from Ryanteck as control is by turning on and off GPIO pins.

Motors – Generally, most Pi robots use yellow DC gearbox motors from China which can be purchased from Ebay for around £6 a pair.

Power – You will need to find a portable way to power your Pi as well as your motors, otherwise the robot will be stuck to a power cable! You can power both your Pi and motors from batteries, however you will need some sort of switching regulator to scale the voltage down to the 5V the Raspberry Pi needs, otherwise you are at risk of damaging it. The other method is using 4 AA batteries (if your motors require 6V, if they require a different voltage just adjust the number of batteries), as well as a battery pack, the things normally advertised as being portable phone chargers.

Controller arrangement – There are many different ways of doing this; your robot could be autonomous meaning that once the code is run, you don’t have to control it, however that is less fun! I will teach you how to use a Wii controller to move your robot, but you could also use a wireless keyboard or an arcade joystick.

Chassis – Like said above, a chassis can be anything!

Sensors (optional) – Sensors can be used to create robots that can avoid obstacles or follow lines! There will be tutorials to control these later on after we have actually built our robot!

Robots can be controlled using python with gpiozero, or even ScratchGPIO, a visual programming language so even the youngest of programmers can become robotics engineers! Through building a robot you will learn programming concepts such as loops, debugging, if/else statements and functions!

Thanks for reading and if you have your own robots, tweet pictures to me @RPi_Yaz14 !

 

GPIOZero Tutorial 2 – Programming Traffic Lights

Hello again, and welcome to another Raspberry Pi tutorial! Today, you are going to learn how to wire up and program a set of traffic lights using gpiozero on the pi!

For this tutorial, you will need a breadboard, 3 LEDs in traffic light colours (red, yellow and green), 3 resistors (most likely 330 ohm) , an  active buzzer (some buzzers require resistors, so be sure to check yours – if you are using buzzers from the CamJam edukit you will be fine!) You will lastly need 4 male to male jumper wires and 5 male to female jumper wires. Make sure that your buzzer is an ‘active’ buzzer, as an ‘active’ buzzer only requires current of any type to go through it in order to make a sound. ‘Passive’ buzzers will require an oscillating current which is not provided from the Pi. Here is a circuit diagram for the traffic lights:

traffic lights

Again, like the last tutorial, you can use different pins to the ones I have used, but you must remember to use generic GPIO pins (and not any of the power, ground etc) for the positive ends of the components. The jumper wire connected to the ground leg of each of the components can be connected to any ground pin. I have chosen GPIO pins which make will make the python code compatible with all models of Raspberry Pi, from the A right up to the Pi2 Model B. For the traffic lights I have chosen these GPIO pins (BCM) :

Red LED: 24

Yellow LED: 10:

Green LED: 9

Buzzer: 3

Now that we know what pins our components are going to be using, let’s crack on with some gpiozero code! Like before, we are going to use a ‘while’ loop to run our program forever, however the ‘while True:’ line we will be using in the code can be replaced by a ‘for’ loop, which specifies how many times the traffic lights will be run. I will show you how to do both!

 

Here is the method that will cause the program to loop forever

from gpiozero import LED, Buzzer
import time

red = LED(24) # telling the pi which GPIO pin we have connected each component to
yellow = LED(10)
green = LED(9)
buzzer = Buzzer(3)



while True:

    red.on
    buzzer.on
    time.sleep(3)
    buzzer.off
    yellow.on
    red.off
    time.sleep(0.5)
    yellow.off
    green.on
    time.sleep(10)
    green.off

Here is the method where the traffic lights will run for a set amount of loops:

from gpiozero import LED, Buzzer
import time

red = LED(24) # telling the pi which GPIO pin we have connected each component to
yellow = LED(10)
green = LED(9)
buzzer = Buzzer(3)



for x in range(10) # this program will run 10 times, change the number accordingly
    red.on
    buzzer.on
    time.sleep(3)
    buzzer.off
    yellow.on
    red.off
    time.sleep(0.5)
    yellow.off
    green.on
    time.sleep(10)
    green.off

Thanks for reading guys, tweet me your working traffic lights @RPi_Yaz14 ! See you next time!

-Yasmin

GPIOZero Tutorial 1 – Controlling an LED

Hello everyone and welcome to PioTex! This little blog will post tutorials and for the anything to do with the Raspberry Pi! Today I will be teaching you to control an LED using GPIOZero; a library composed by Ben Nuttall at the foundation who aims to make using the GPIO on the pi simple, and more accessible to beginners.

Firstly, you will need to wire up an LED and for this you will need an LED, breadboard, 330 (or similar) ohms resistor, 2 male to female jumper cables as well as a pi and peripherals. LEDs can be wired without a breadboard, just with 2 female to female jumper cables, however it really depends on what you have available, so do whatever method suits you best!

Here is a circuit diagram for wiring upLED the LED:

The longer, positive leg of the LED (or anode) should be connected to the resistor and then to a GPIO pin, which can be any, however I have used GPIO10. The shorter, negative leg (or cathode) is simply connected to ground. If you want to remember which pin is which, you can print off a raspberry leaf, get a Portplus keyring etc.

After wiring the LED, double check it to make sure the wiring is correct, as you have a risk of damaging your pi through incorrect wiring. When you are sure it is correct, boot up your pi into either the graphical environment or command line, it really does not matter which as Raspbian Jessie now supports sudo-less GPIO access, meaning that you do not need to be a super user on the pi in order to access the GPIO. If you are in the graphical environment, navigate to programming, then Python3, then press control + n for a new document. If you are in the command line then type “nano led.py” to create a new document.

In this program we will code the LED to turn on, wait one second and turn off, making the LED effectively blink.

To do this, copy this code into your python window, remembering to change the LED pin number to the GPIO pin you have selected (GPIOZero uses BCM and not Board for labelling the pins

from gpiozero import LED
import time
led = LED(10) # change this to whatever pin you have selected

while True: # making the program loop forever
# indent the next 3 lines by pressing tab or space 4 times
led.on
time.sleep(1)
led.off

Thank you for reading! See you next time with some more GPIOZero tutorials!

-Yasmin