(Previous Southend Raspberry Jams: March 2014June 2014 • August 2014)

There was a fantastic turnout on Saturday for November’s Southend Raspberry Jam! We completely packed the Tickfield Centre, with the various workshops held all day in the main event room and talks occurring throughout the day in the different lecture rooms. It was spectacular to see the number of children at the event, all so eager to learn and play with access to all this amazing technology scattered around the room for them to get their hands on and ask plenty of questions about. Not dissimilar at all to the adults at the Raspberry Jam event, who seemed to be overflowing with the same childlike excitement and energy all day long.

Southend Raspberry Jam - November 2014

What seems to set aside Southend Raspberry Jam from other Raspberry Jams is how diverse the workshops and lectures are. Listening to the praise about Southend Raspberry Jam from those who have come from outside of Essex to join in all of the geeky goodness, there does really seem to be something for everyone no matter how old you are or what you’re into. You don’t need to have a Raspberry Pi to get in on the action; there were workshops that were completely unrelated to Raspberry Pis and the Southend Raspberry Jam just seems to encompass a broad range of techy interests, from amateur radio to programming Minecraft.

Adventures in Minecraft Workshop with David Whale

Adventures in Minecraft at Southend Raspberry Jam

David Whale, author of Adventures in Minecraft (which you can buy here by the way), was hosting a Minecraft workshop that seemed particularly thrilling for the young attendees of the Raspberry Jam. With assistance from David and Ferran (who flew all the way from Barcelona to Southend exclusively for the Jam!), children were enthusiastically learning how to code their very first Minecraft programs in Python – starting with the mandatory “Hello World” program of course! Didn’t take long before they were coding rainbow trails that magically appeared beneath them as they flew around in the air. And then it didn’t take long before they figured out that they could substitute the randomly generated colourful wool blocks for flowing lava, creating a trail of fiery chaos and destruction behind them wherever they went!

Minecraft Talk and Minecraft Camera

Ferran was showing people how they can use Python to render JPG images into Minecraft using coloured wool blocks, and how to use Minecraft with the Twitter API. David Whale also held a talk on The Making of Adventures in Minecraft, where he did a presentation on how the book can be used in schools to encourage fun Computer Science learning as part of the new curriculum that was introduced this year. Especially considering that you can follow the book on Windows and Mac too, and not just on a Raspberry Pi, so learning how to code Minecraft programs in Python is accessible to anyone – whether you have a PC, Mac or Raspberry Pi! One part of David’s presentation caused the entire audience to erupt into childish giggles as he demonstrated one of his “Minecraft adventures” within the book using a big red button and the Thunderbirds countdown. You probably had to be there though to find it funny….

The Pinnochion is evolving!

Pinnochion Face at Southend Raspberry Jam

Every time that I’ve attended the Southend Raspberry Jams, it seems that Laura’s Pinnochion is getting smarter and smarter, and there seems to be more and more added to her stall each time. This time round, her wooden Pinnochion AI chatbot was accompanied by a strange and somewhat sinister looking little friend that stares menacingly at you as you inspect the terrifying bit of tech. Upon closer inspection of one of its eyes, there’s a tiny little screen that displays the Raspberry Pi desktop with impressive clarity for something so small. So much so that you can actually see the cursor in the eye as you move the mouse around. (It’s about the size of my thumbnail. And I have little thumbs!) Meanwhile, the other eye is fashioned out of a small camera that displays the video image of you on the small black monitor in real time. Staring at the face of Pinnochion as it stares right back at you! Into your soul! Creepy….

Printers Printing Printers Printing Printers and Other Oddities…

3D Printer at November Raspberry Jam

I saw my very first 3D printer and it was amazing! Seeing one in action in real life is just awesome. Alex explained that components of the second printer were actually printed with the first. He demonstrated how 3D printing works by printing Christmas decorations and coat hooks that we were free to keep as a souvenir. You can see first-hand how 3D objects are printed layer by layer. Truly astounding, and I can’t wait until every home has one!Southend Raspberry Jam - November 2014

Other Jam activities included a demonstration of music production on Linux using a synth to create samples and studio effects. Andy showed off his musical talents composing and sequencing music on desktop Linux with Linux Multimedia Studio (LMMS) software and a Korg padcontrol – USB midi device. Peter Onion was back at this month’s Raspberry Jam too, getting everyone addicted to his 32×32 LED Pi Tetris game. I personally stayed away from that one. They would otherwise have had to pry me off the controller with Raspberry Pi powered robots.

Introducing Web Development to Kids

Silkstream Web Design Essex

Leigh, from Silkstream (web design Southend), held a small workshop teaching young people the basics of website development so that they could code their very first web page using nothing but a text editor. Considering how many websites (let alone web pages!) that the average person visits every day, not many people know how websites are actually created. Introducing to young people the markup code behind the web pages hopefully gives them a deeper appreciation for the websites that they frequently visit, inspiring a new generation of web designers and developers as the demand for those job roles increases.

Wearable Tech and Electro-Fashion

Wearable Tech at November's Jam

Sewing Birds were at this month’s Southend Raspberry Jam, there to assist with the wearable tech workshop. The wearable tech workshop was a real hit, as you could sit and learn how to combine fashion and electronics. There were some very flashy looking accessories – literally! Everyone was sewing individual Neopixels to their clothing with conductive thread using the Gemma microcontroller. Neopixels allow for 16 million different colours! And you can program each one to change the colour, brightness, speed and pattern. Have you ever had so much freedom in your clothing?

Things To Buy, Things To See….

Southend Raspberry Jam Stalls - November 2014

There were so many stands selling all sorts of fun DIY tech kits! Including PocketMoneyTronics electronic project kits for pocket money prices! Sukkin Pang of SK Pang Electronics Ltd had an amazing Portable Pi that acts as a truly portable Raspberry Pi board, complete with keyboard and a HDMI display. The keyboard was attached to the board with Velcro for ease of use. Superb idea! There were also balloon car kits for kids that can fit a Raspberry Pi or Arduino, various Raspberry Pi addon boards and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Crawling around on the floor, or plugged into your own world?

Scratch and Pi Cars at Southend Jam

Eleven year old Marian was running a workshop on Scratch, showing others how easy it is to get into programming using nothing but a drag-and-drop interface and a little bit of logical thinking. Scratch is becoming more and more widely used as a learning tool for young children with an interest in programming. Due to it’s pseudo-code drag-and-drop nature, young children who may not be the fastest of typists can quickly learn the basics of programming and build their own programs without typing/spelling to slow them down. Almost all schools in Southend use Scratch now, so it’s something that all children should already be familiar with. But what a lot of kids don’t know is that you can also use Scratch GPIO to control electronic devices. So, using Scratch, you are also able to learn basic electronics such as LEDs and buttons!

Southend Jam's PiTop - November 2014

The Pi-Top Team were there with their Raspberry Pi powered laptops that you build yourself. With their IndieGoGo having already reached over $160,000 with days left to go, the Pi-Top is a serious success story, teaching Pi enthusiasts how they can design their components and build their own hardware. Another popular exhibit was Mark Turner‘s USB camera on a robotic arm, complete with 3D printed gears. I guess people just like seeing their face on the screen!

Essex HAM Radio

Essex HAM Radio were at the Southend Raspberry Jam this month, spreading the word about amateur radio and showing how it works to all the techies that may be unfamiliar with amateur radio. Essex HAM member Nick 2EoDVX ran a live demo (“Your Name in Morse Code”). They were there to encourage others in taking up the hobby, and provide those interested with information and leaflets to help get them going.

Awesome Raffle Prizes!!

Southend Raspberry Jam November Raffle

After much debate as to which order prize winners should be called out (start with the small prizes and build up to the climax, or is it more exciting/fair to start with the big prize first?), the Jam was drawing to a close and it was time for the Raspberry Raffle with the grand prize of Raspberry Pi B+ Ultimate Kit.

Raspberry Jam November 2014

Thanks to SoSLUG for yet another amazing Jam!