Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist (That’s Me!)
This weekend I was in Sheffield with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and my fellow creative technologists. Okay, I realise that might need some explaining. For non-techie types, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a registered charity whose “goal is to advance the education of adults and children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science and related subjects.” (You can read more about their background here) They developed the Raspberry Pi; a credit card sized computer, which is capable of (almost) anything. As they are so keen to invest in the future generation, they invited a group of young people to become part of their creative technologist mentoring programme. Luckily, I am one of them! We have a year to plan and develop a creative project, using the raspberry pi, which will be exhibited early next year.
Over the weekend I used my Raspberry Pi to work on my personal project and learn more about computing and programming. Of course, I’m keeping my project top secret (definitely not because I haven’t actually figured it out yet…) so I’ll talk through what we got up to instead.
The weekend started Friday evening, where we were treated to pizza express, but the real work began Saturday morning. We headed over to Pimoroni, a talented, tech-savvy group of people who create innovate products to go alongside things like the Raspberry Pi. One of the things they make, and which we got to play with, is the Explorer Hat. The thing I am most proud of doing over the weekend is this:
As you can see, there are four coloured lights on the Explorer’s Hat. I managed to make mine flash, using a coding programme called Python, BY MYSELF (with a little help from the Pimoroni team). You can see a video of me doing this here. (I got very excited about it.) I even managed to programme it so that when the touch pads (5-8) were touched, the green light would turn on and off.
We were then allowed to explore Pimoroni’s workshop, complete with all their available products. I bought a Pi NoIR camera, which is just a fancy name for an infrared camera which works with the Raspberry Pi. I have since programmed it and taken a few pictures.
On Sunday we headed to a local cinema to get an openframeworks workshop from the ingenious Joel Gethin Lewis of Hellicar and Lewis. It turns out, a lot of programming can be done by using other people’s code and then experimenting with it. So many generous people make their work available for free online, making it so much easier for people like me to learn. Joel encouraged us to make our work open source; giving universal access so everyone can use it. He does this for his own projects at Hellicar and Lewis, including this one which was then adapted for Beyonce. Just remember to always give credit! (Unlike Beyonce, who didn’t.)
Before I started the CT programme I had no idea about computers, programming or coding. So to be able to get to here, with the kindness and patience of everyone on the course and all the mentors, is incredible to me. Most of them are helping us for free, just because (for some strange reason) they think that we’re worth their time and effort. For which I am incredibly grateful, I might add. To be told that I’m going to do incredible things before the end of the course and beyond, by such amazing people, is humbling. Working alongside the other CTs and seeing their creativity and talent is both inspiring and motivating. They seemed convinced that we will be the ones taking their jobs in the future, and yet are still eager to help us learn, develop, and nourish our future prospects. So far on the course I have not paid out a single penny, and yet their aid has been invaluable.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in computing to look into Raspberry Pi. Even if you think you can’t do it, or don’t know where to start. Raspberry Pi’s products are cheap, and come with an extensive range of online resources that even idiots like me can follow. There are so many people who are willing to help, and it makes me more positive about life to know that. Thank you to everyone at Raspberry Pi, all the mentors and creative technologists and the people at Pimoroni. A special thanks to Rachel Rayns and Ben Nuttall for organising the course in the first place.
Fellow CT Milton posted a blog about the course, check it out here. I will be keeping a record of my progress through blog posts, so if you want to know more about my creative scheming then check back to find out more. If you would like to know more about how to get involved, get in touch! I might do an introduction post in the future.