Yet another fantastic day at the Southend Raspberry Jam on Saturday 16th August 2014. This time the event was held at the Tickfield Centre, rather than at TAP where it has been held for the previous Southend Raspberry Jams back in March and June, as well as the Open Electronics Day back in May. The extra space at the Tickfield Centre was definitely needed as the turnout for this Southend Raspberry Jam was enormous! I only had to walk to the Jam, but MyPiFi guy traveled over a hundred miles to get there!

Southend Raspberry Jam August 2014

Now that the event’s getting bigger, there are so many talks and workshops throughout the day that it’s a bit of a mind-boggle where to start. There were two separate conference rooms where talks were happening simultaneously, so unfortunately I was unable to sit down for each one, but I managed to make it to a couple interesting talks amongst all the workshop and table browsing in the main room.

LEDs. LEDs everywhere.

Peter Onion's LED tetris

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the sheer amount of LEDs everywhere. It’s hard to compete with brightly coloured flashing lights, so it seemed that workshop tables with LED displays were never lonely for company. (I suggested to Richard at the Cable Table that perhaps next time, when it’s getting closer to Christmas, he could incorporate LEDs into his Cat5 cabling workshop for geeky fairy light Christmas decorations.)

Peter Onion, pictured above with his fantastic beard, had brought along four 32×32 RGB LED panels. Its mesmerising colours and patterns that twisted and contorted like some kind of trippy kaleidoscope light show. He also demonstrated a game of LED Tetris and LED Game of Life!

David Whale LEDs

David Whale had an LED Neopixel strip that he could control the colour patterns of using three touch-sensitive resistive strips: Red, Green and Blue. By sliding your finger up and down each of the strips, you can change, combine and overlap the colours and affect the brightness of the colours displayed on the LED strip. David said that he intends to add a display to this which will show the hex code of the colour displayed on the strip (such as #FF0000 for red), so you could effectively mix a colour together and see what the hex code is for that colour. A young girl was trying to mix a fluorescent neon pink colour to match her backpack! I love how fun and interactive this colour mixer was.

David Whale was also at the Southend Raspberry Jam promoting the STEM Ambassador scheme and ExploreSTEM. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Ambassadors use their own enthusiasm in their STEM subject to inspire young people to get involved and enjoy STEM subjects.

 Raspberry Pi Powered Robot Arm!

Joseph Thomas' Robot Arm

15 year old Joseph Thomas demonstrated his robot arm with pincers that can pick things up and move them around. The robot arm is controlled by a nifty wearable gadget he designed himself with fingerless gloves and an arm guard! Using an accelerometer, he can move the robot arm as he moves his own arm and, with little buttons inside the palm of his glove, he can control the pincers’ grip to open and close. It was fantastic and I can certainly see the many uses for this kind of thing in the near future. Though I did feel sorry for Joseph having to wear that thing all day; far too hot for gloves in this weather! There was a very proud father sat beside him for the workshop though :)

Quadcopters with Dave Black

Dave Black Quadcopter Talk

There was a very interesting presentation by Dave Black – local legend, aerial videographer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast. Though I had seen his beautiful aerial videos of Southend and Essex before, trending locally on Twitter and Facebook, I’ve discovered a whole new appreciation for what it is that he does.

Southend From Above: Aerial Videos by Dave Black

Dave Black showed us his very impressive octocopter and quadcopter, which he uses to capture amazing shots of locations from perspectives that usually only the birds in the sky are lucky enough to see. He shared with the audience a few of his videos, the sort of work he has been able to achieve with his equipment, and how he records his videos. He also explained the legalities of what he does, and how his flights are regulated. It’s unbelievable the amount of detail and planning that goes into every video he creates. He has to be the director, the cameraman, the pilot, the safety officer and more! Logging all his flights, and communicating with Southend Airport when he has to, as well as maintaining certain heights and distances to comply with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).

Using Your Brainwaves to Control Radios

Ji Hu Mindio Raspberry Pi

Ji Hu held a talk about her incredible Mindio experiment. Basically, she presented to us this stylish piece of headgear that picks up brainwave signals of whomever is wearing it and can detect three basic states of mind: Meditation (or calmness), Normal, Concentration (or intense focus). Depending on the wearer’s mental state, their brainwaves can control three different radios that represent the three different states of mind. In doing so, Ji Hu was demonstrating the possibilities of using the mind as another electronic input, although the output possibilities are still somewhat limited.

The most interesting thing about her Mindio experiment though was the sort of results she has seen from it. How she has seen that females have actually been able to control their state of mind faster or easier than males, and that they could relax to reach a mental state of calmness quicker than males could. Extremely interesting to see how this bit of headgear hooked up to three radios can demonstrate the mental effects of the environment around you, by allowing you to physically see (or hear!) how you react to certain stressful situations.

Unfortunately with the amount of interest this experiment generated, I wasn’t quick enough to her workshop table after the talk to try the device on myself.

Si Ye Toothbrush power

On a related note, regarding the use of the human body as a way of data input, Si Ye (who held a talk at the Open Electronics Day back in May) hosted her own workshop that day on the same subject as her previous talk: Toothbrushing. Using data collected from people’s brushing habits using a manual toothbrush, she could output that data to the electronic toothbrushes. It was very loud.

Kids Coding

Kids Coding at Southend Raspberry Jam

It was brilliant to see the number of young people sitting at coding workstations, fixated on the monitors in front of them as they learnt basic programming skills using a multitude of different applications. Some were learning to code using Minecraft, building simple little Python programs that, when executed, helped to visually build the virtual world around them in a creative environment that they are most likely already familiar with. Others were using a program called Sonic Pi 2.0 that teaches basic programming concepts using music editing as a tool. Kids and adults alike were creating and editing songs through loops and other commands in the console. There was also, of course, Scratch which teaches children programming concepts such as (control flow statements) in a simple-to-grasp, drag-and-drop programming interface.  Using Scratch, they could code their own mini video game, a short animation using the sprites available, or even control simple electronics hooked up to the Raspberry Pi. Eleven year old Marian ran the Scratch workshop, impressing many of the Jam visitors.

One girl had created an example of “wearable technology”, with a bright flashing LED that lit up her pink backpack.

Kids at Southend Raspberry Jam

A Strange Game of Minecraft Pong

Andy Knight, since the last Raspberry Jam, combined both his previous projects of coding in Minecraft and touch sensing to create a game of Pong within a Minecraft world where you can control the Pong paddle with your hand! Using the electrical charge in your body, by raising and lowering your hand to the aluminium foil on the table, you can move the paddle up and down to hit the ball. He showed me the Python code which he used to write the game in, using PyGame as a way to keep score, but it was quite lengthy… I got the overall gist but the majority of it just went straight over my head.

Talks, Lectures, and Presentations

Other talks during the day included:

  • Exploring Networks via Raspberry Pi (with Verena Hermann)
  • Internet of Things Platforms (with Edmund DSouza)
  • Interactive Media (with Graham Harwood)
  • PyGame and Python GPIO (with Andy Knight)
  • Intro to Arduino and Laser Text (with Matt Booker)
  • Using Github (with Tom Keene)
  • Quadcopters (with Dave Black)
  • Medical Electronics (with Ed Bye – no, not the director of Red Dwarf… I don’t think! 0_0)
  • Mindio – Mind Control (with Ji Hu)
  • Minecraft: Pi Edition & Python (with Andy Knight)

Southend Raspberry Jam talks

Other Cool Raspberry Pi Workshops

Southend Raspberry Jam Workshops

In between the brilliant talks, lectures and presentations, the main room became populated with an influx of all the Jam-goers. You could just get lost among all the workshops that scattered the place.

AverageMan was displaying the movie Avatar in HD on his Raspberry Pi powered PiTFT.

The Soldering Station allowed people to drop in and try their hand at soldering.

Richard’s notorious Cable Table was back again, teaching people how to make their own ethernet cables.

Laura’s awesome Pinnochion project was back. I’ve blogged about the awesomeness of the Pinnochion before from the previous Southend Raspberry Jam.

Michael Horne brought his elusive Star Trek box of magical tricks. It fell apart an awful lot (at the most appropriate of moments of course), and he admitted said so himself when he was demonstrating to me all of its features (far too many to remember them all), what actually worked and what didn’t. The breathalyser worked, at least, allowing me to prove that I hadn’t been drinking that day!

Matt Booker showed off his Arduino phone, that could call and text message his phone. He also showed off his Arduino laser text thingamajig that could draw onto the wall.

Southend Raspberry Pi workshops

The Raspberry Pi Raffle

The Raspberry Jam being a free event, donations could be made in the form of buying raffle tickets. There were some great prizes to be won too! donated the brand new Raspberry Pi B+ Ultimate Kit as the grand prize that was won by a lucky winner! Other raffle prizes that were donated included’s LED board and two signed copies of the book “Adventures in Raspberry Pi”, donated and signed by the author herself Carrie Anne Philbin – Education Pioneer of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Her book is the first most “wished for” computing hardware book on Amazon. As she browsed around the Southend Raspberry Jam, in what was a surprise special guest appearance, there were whispers of “She’s from the internet!” and other similar exclamations. Needless to say, she’s a big deal in the Raspberry Pi world.

Thanks to SoSLUG, JarJarGeek and The Average Man for allowing me to use some of their own photos for this blog post.