Raspberry Jam Round-up

For any visionary, dreamer or hapless idiot trying to drive societal change, there can be few things more vindicating than the sight of school-age kids teaching adults how to do things. I wandered into our Raspberry Jam event on Saturday and felt the status bar on my Hope Drive stretch out a little, maybe from orange into green. Raspberry Jams are open to anyone and this time we had people from zero years-old (yes, actually) up to, well, I wouldn’t like to say but put it this way: they’d remember Belfast before The Troubles.

This time the regular Farset crowd got a big boost by having the running of the event taken off our hands by the irrepressible AndrewMulholland, who finds time amidst schoolwork to make and teach technology (we hear his latest project  with his school robotics club is a cardboard quadcopter; turns out the sky isn’t the limit!). Andrew is one of a line of Dalriada acolytes to find their way to Farset somehow, setting a high bar for the involvement of NI’s schools in the maker revolution.

Going round the room, seated in front of monitors and amongst a snakes’ nest of cables, circuit boards, network components and blinking lights, there was a complete range of capabilities in the room. Parents were teaching kids, and kids were teaching parents. One of the frequent young visitors to the space, an unflinchingly energetic fourteen year-old, handed me his smartphone and said “press one of these coloured buttons”. I hit green. The mobile spoke to his web server in Holland and that in turn signalled the Raspberry Pi in front of him to illuminate the green LED wired into it. Frivolous? Maybe. But it’s from that kind of tinkering that world-changing technologies emerge.

Many of the attendees had come to learn the basics of programming and interfaces, by using the Pi to run Scratch, the supersimplestraightforward program from MIT that teaches basic coding. But these Jams, as with most of our hacking events, are there for all levels of skill and knowledge. There was John, for instance, who showed me his work on The vOICe. This is a camera system that is worn on a pair of glasses by a blind person, to scan the world in front of them and interpret it into an audio signal. They call it “seeing with sound” and it’s one of those ideas that makes you optimistic for the human world. John is trying to simplify the system and reduce its weight by running it on a Raspberry Pi rather than a heavy laptop. Anyone able to offer some help for John, get in touch.

So what next for Raspberry Pi? Well we’re looking to upgrade our collection and have dedicated sets with all the necessary peripherals for anyone to use as starter kits. Any help we can get with that would offer a huge return on investment for the community. And it’s just three months to the global Raspberry Jamboree too.

All together now, sing “Raaaaasp-berry Boree…

No? Just me? Getting old? Ye gads.

By Ben

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