Event Report: Pi and More 3

Lead Image © vpublic, 123RF.com

Soldering and Barbecues

From all over Germany, Raspberry Pi fans went to Trier in mid-June for "Pi and More 3." For a whole day, visitors of all ages enjoyed lectures and participated in hands-on workshops.

In the UK, Raspberry Pi jams have long since become frequent events: In the home country of the cuddly minicomputer, a jam takes place somewhere almost every month. Now, these events are starting to spread elsewhere; for example, Pi and More [1] took place for the third time on June 15 in Trier, Germany.

This semi-annual event has grown amazingly since it began. Half an hour before the start of the first item on the program, most of the chairs were occupied, and the 100 seats at the free event were fully booked days in advance. Pi and More brought together a variety of participants under one roof: teachers, computer science professors, hardware hackers, and hobbyists, including a 10-year-old boy who taught himself how to script by following the tutorial.

Figure 1: Tux and the Raspberry Pi in all variants get along well.

Education

In the first keynote, Tobias Hübner explained how he was able to get his school students interested in the Raspberry Pi; the teacher started a Rasp Pi interest group with sixth-grade children. Although the content preparation took the age of the participants into consideration, the technical foundations were not neglected.

Students in Hübner's course investigated a real adding machine to find out how this old device adds figures in a mechanical fashion. Hübner gave an explanation of the binary system and the way transistors work and then built a bridge to the present day. The class took delivery of the Rasp Pis and learned how to handle correspondence and office work with free software on the basis of LibreOffice. Next, the students all played a game of Minecraft.

The game motivated the children enormously to pay attention to the ensuing Python course – after all, they all wanted to modify the game world with their own scripts now. In the last weeks of the Raspberry Pi course, the participants turned to hardware hacking and physical computing. Tobias Hübner has published the teaching materials created for this course on his website [2].

Screenly and KiCad

Viktor Petersson gave the second keynote, describing the success story behind Screenly [3]. This software runs on a Raspberry Pi and plays the desired content on a display (e.g., showing infomercials in department stores). The program exists both as GPLv2-licensed free software and as commercial software.

When you start hardware hacking with the Rasp Pi, you usually start with a breadboard; but, how do you convert the manually plugged circuit into a real printed circuit board (PCB)? For this purpose, Guido Schmitz explained the KiCad software [4] in the third keynote.

As an example of a circuit, he used the Ladder Game [5], which is often found in hardware beginner tutorials for the Pi. You initially use KiCad to create a circuit diagram and then a corresponding PCB layout. Schmitz concluded with an interesting overview of what costs hobbyists can expect if they want to etch a PCB.

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