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Dublin Maker

For the past few years, the Dalriada robotics team have been heading down to Dublin every July for Dublin Maker (previously Dublin Mini Maker Faire) to let kids play with our robotics gear. This year was slightly different as we had decided to give the Raspberry Pi Foundation Dots board activity a go after the success that had been seen with it at Liverpool Makefest with the new Minecraft code.

As the team of us had to be down for 10am in Dublin, it meant an early start for some of the team who were starting out on the North coast. For them, the trip to Dublin would involve a 320 mile roundtrip in a single day…

Before we even left Northern Ireland though, we hit 2 snags. First was an issue with the Dots Boards needed for the activity. After a misunderstanding with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the planned 200 boards for Dublin Maker didn’t arrive in time. So we were stuck with my own set of 20 demo and test boards…
The second snag was my car decided to have exhaust issues the evening before. The result of this was the entire team heading down on the bus, 4 monitors, 4 lapdocks and all the supporting Pi gear to go with it…
On the way, we were joined by Toireasa and and Tanya, 2 awesome Kainos employees who signed up to give us a hand with the activity.

Dublin Maker

On arriving (a little late), we discovered this years event was even bigger than last year with already hundreds of people walking around!

Very busy
Super busy already!

We quickly set up our equipment and within 10 mins of arriving, we were already accepting kids to give our activity a go.

It started out quiet with only 5-10 kids wanting a go at a time...
It started out quiet with only 5-10 kids wanting a go at a time…

Dublin Maker tables

Within 30 mins of arriving, we had already hit capacity with people queuing to take part in the activity and many kids having to pair up with siblings.

Starting to get extremely busy with all 8 volunteers on their feet talking with or helping people
Starting to get extremely busy with all 8 volunteers on their feet talking with or helping people

Throughout the day, a crack team of “board washers” operated on the stall, hastily cleaning the Dots Boards with baby wipes so they could be handed out to the next waiting kid. Libby ended up spending most of the day doing this and as can be seen below, she ended up with some very black hands..

Libby hands
“This is what happens when you clean over 400 boards” – Libby
We even had the local press interested in what was going on
We even had the local press interested in what was going on
We had kids as young as 6 right up to adults as old as 85 taking part in the activity
We had kids as young as 4 right up to adults as old as 85 taking part in the activity
We were very glad we put down card on the table before starting...
We were very glad we put down card on the table before starting…

Thanks

My awesome team of volunteers deserve a massive thanks for taking the trip down to Dublin to be worked off their feet all day.
Over the 6 hours we were exhibiting, over 1000 Dots Boards were filled in (and cleaned) with over 1500 people getting involved. We count the activity as a massive success and look forward to using it again in the future.

From left to right Ryan, Tanya, Clare C, Toireasa, me, Toby, Libby, Claire M
From left to right
Ryan, Tanya, Clare C, Toireasa, me, Toby, Libby, Claire M

The team were rewarded at the end of the day with a lot of pizza…

Yes, that is a single slice from a 24 inch pizza....
Yes, that is a single slice from a 24 inch pizza….

BBC Make It Digital

On Thursday 26th and Friday 27th, myself and an army of volunteers students from the Computer Science department at Queens University took part in delivering workshops for 250-300 Northern Irish schoolkids from across the province, as part of the BBC Make It Digital event.

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The event was held at BBC Blackstaff studios in Belfast and ran from the 26th – 28th, although we were only doing Raspberry Pi workshops on the 26th – 27th.

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The kids worked through 2 activities. Introduction to Sonic Pi and Introduction to LEDBorg using ScratchGPIO.

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The feedback from the kids was excellent, with many having to be prised from the Raspberry Pis at the end of the sessions.

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Making awesome music with Sonic-Pi

And they certainly kept the volunteers busy with plenty of questions on how they could expand on the initial worksheets to create even more awesome stuff.

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And they were pretty keen to show off the cool stuff they had made to their teachers!

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Huge thanks to my army of volunteers from Queens University Computer Science department and thanks to the department for supporting the activity!

A few of my awesome volunteers from Queens.
A few of my awesome volunteers from Queens.
Well what else did you think they were for?
Well what else did you think they were for?
The upgraded CERN hat from Farset Labs
The upgraded CERN hat from Farset Labs.

Motorola Lapdock – The ultimate mobile option for Raspberry Pis?

So a while back I heard about the Motorola lapdock. It was designed for the Motorola Atrix phone, idea was it would slot in the back and could be used like a computer.

The idea never really took off so there are a number of people in the world sitting on large warehouses of these.

The Spec

  • 11.5 inch screen
  • Keyboard (usually has English and Hebrew characters)
  • Trackpad (isn’t great, would recommend USB mouse)
  • x2 USB ports via built in powered USB hub
  • 4-6 hour battery life with the Raspberry Pi model B+
  • Battery status LEDs
  • Weights little over 1kg
  • Micro HDMI male port (for connecting to Raspberry Pi)
  • Micro USB male port (for connecting to Raspberry Pi)

Using with Raspberry Pi

With the correct cables, the lapdock is perfect for use with the Raspberry Pi, especially for use with a mobile classroom or one that needs to be packed away at the end of a lesson.

Setup is extremely quick, for Raspberry Pi 1 model B, you only need 2 cables. For Raspberry Pi 1 model B+ and Raspberry Pi 2 model B, you require an extra standard micro USB cable as the newer Raspberry Pis don’t support backpowering over USB.

Cables?

The lapdock requires some pretty specialised/weird cables to use it. You require a male USB to female micro USB and a male HDMI to female micro HDMI cable.

For the USB cable, it is easier to get 2 cables, a micro USB extension cable and a male USB to female micro USB adapter. Both are not hard to find on places like Ebay.

The more complicated cable to hunt down is the HDMI cable. Best source I have found so far is here.

Where do I get a lapdock?

A good question. There are a number of sources you can buy them from. The most direct option is from Israel, where a charity is sitting it seems on a warehouse or 2 of them. A majority of UK sellers will have likely bought it directly from them and are just reselling it a bit higher. You have 2 options, buying in singles or in 6s.

Just a word of warning. Given you are ordering an item in from outside the EU, you may have to pay import taxes, especially if buying 6! I ended up with taxes and charges close to £95 when ordering in 6 recently.

They were still well worth it though!

 

So what do I think?

They are awesome! We can take the 7 we have and have them set up in a matter of minutes, given it is so few cables. The inbuilt battery is extremely useful for workshops where we don’t want to set up a mains network across the room. They are extremely well built and feel solid. They are also great to sling in a bag or suitcase where you know you will need a Raspberry Pi setup. A perfect example is I quite easily brought over 2 to the Raspberry Pi 3rd Birthday celebrations in Cambridge at the weekend with no issue due to them being extremely thin and light.

The keyboard is fine to use, although I sometimes find the spacebar doesn’t register. The keyboard though is completely usable and I have had very few complains from students about it. The trackpad isn’t great, so I would recommend a cheap USB mouse to go with it if using it extensively.

I don’t know anything out there that could beat it for the price and ease of use combined! Including cables, they work out about £75 each if you get hit by import taxes and ordered in 6s. The screen is extremely clear, the build quality is excellent and the battery is a much welcomed added bonus.

If you need a solution for your Raspberry Pi that you can throw into a bag for Raspberry Jams etc, this might just be  it.

Motorola Lapdock hooked up to a Raspberry Pi
Motorola Lapdock hooked up to a Raspberry Pi