Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Adventures in Pi

Three words to describe my two days of Picademy training in Baltimore - transformative, learning, growing. It was two days of embracing challenges, persevering through setbacks, and collaborating with incredible educators from all over the US. Through hands-on, minds-on workshops full of learning that led to growth, the whole experience was truly transformative. Sponsored by the Rasberry Pi Foundation whose mission is to bring the power of digital making to people all over the world. They believe, as do I, that the complex problems facing society today and in the future will be solved by people who understand and shape our digital world through innovative solutions.

Here's a brief intro:


Chances are you have heard of the Rasberry Pi. If you are like me, I knew it was a $35 dollar computer and was really intrigued by it, but also intimidated. I had even bought one before Picademy to explore, but found myself asking, Where does one even start? What does it do,exactly? How much coding is necessary? How can I bring this to my students?

Until I recently became a Rasbery Pi certified educator, these were all questions that ran through my head.
So, where does one start? My first full day of working with Raspi involved a series of hands-on sessions:
  • make music using Sonic Pi
  • build and destroy towers in Minecraft
  • program Picamera with Python 3 to take selfies
  • operate a motor
  • light up LEDs with a button
The capacity to do all of this comes on the preloaded SD card that gets inserted into the Raspi and connected to a monitor. We explored coding with Scratch and Python 3. By the end of day 1, we were able to combine all of our skills to create a robot - everything from a beanie with a propeller to a car.

Here are some helpful guides to get started:

After a great first day of mini-workshops, day 2 was all about applying, synthesizing and creating.  We had the opportunity to individually reflect on all the Raspi tools in our toolbox and to dream big.  We collectively brainstormed dozens of ideas and ways that we could use Raspi to create something new, something original, something that had never been done before.  Here are some of the incredible inventions that came out from our cohort:

A musical, selfie-taking voting booth coded with Scratch using Picamera, a Raspi, and "Hail to the Chief" composed using Sonic Pi:


A selfie-taking, roaming robot that tweets out random messages celebrating great work being done in classrooms: 



A magic mirror that takes your picture and tweets out random messages to boost your self-esteem such as, "You look beautiful today!"



So, back to my three words...this whole experience of digital making was transformative in so many ways.  It not only transformed my understanding of what Rasberry Pi from something theoretical to something tangible, but transformed something in my imagination to reality. Working together with my team, we were able to learn and grow together through this experience of collaboration.  Ultimately, we celebrated the whole experience - the temporary setbacks, the challenges along the way because it was all part of the 'maker' experience.