Thursday, May 7, 2015

Programming Challenges

Our raspberry pi birdhouses have presented some programming challenges recently that students have had to work through with the help of each other.

One group wrote:

Day 11:
Yesterday, the group had set up our finished birdhouse for an overnight test run. The group has checked our raspberry pi and it seems as if the pi did not save the pictures. For now, the group must look over our code and correct any mistakes. After looking over some trouble shooting forums on the raspberry pi website, it seems as if our board is fried. For now, our group must hope for the best and try updating our software. Our group has also received a second battery. This will be very helpful, considering that we will now be able to test our raspberry pi using a battery, while also fully charging a different battery for our overnight test runs.

Check out some of our other student created blogs:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Metaphorical Lightbulbs and Personal Discoveries

This week in Pi, the room fluxed between intense coding, frustrated debugging and an elegant chaos as students began building the birdhouses which will host the infrared cameras. A fair number of students were surprised how doable the programming became with the helpful guidance of R-Pi-oneers who built similar projects and generously posted their python script on-line. Yet some groups struggled fiercely with code relying on the kindness and generosity of neighboring groups to help them get up and running. Now that the houses are taking shape and the students are thinking about integrating the Pi's as well as protecting them from weather and facilitating the ease of maintenance a whole bunch of new concerns are taking center stage.

“How do we attach the plastic box to the birdhouse so that it stays and we do not have to drill holes in it?”
“How will we get the battery cable in,without bringing rainwater in too?”
“Will the breadboard and LED go in there too?” “Is the wood too rough?” 

The fun part is just beginning as students start to see clearly how all the pieces and parts are interdependent and connected; simultaneously realizing that their clearly laid out plans missed a whole host of details. I love this point in projects because every moment, somewhere in the classroom, a metaphorical light bulb lights above a teenage head begins to glow as the student makes a personal discovery about how or why. 

Although stressful, these days are a gift to me as their teacher, because these shared moments; vulnerable, exciting, and affirming are sometimes life and career changing for these kids. It is a divine pleasure to bear witness as some of them fall in love, for the first time, with their minds and the possibilities before them.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Defining the Task

The primary focus of our NHSTE grant is to create data collectors with the Raspberry Pi. To get our students thinking about their own projects we are beginning with a class challenge to design a birdhouse with an infrared camera that will take pictures or a live Internet feed of the birds inside. Currently, our students are knee deep in defining the problem and thinking about the design challenges when you have to place a computer outside in the elements. We have a couple groups designing duck houses while the rest of the students are using birdhouses designed for smaller birds in New Hampshire. Visit the Raspberry Pi web site to learn more about the inspiration for this project.
Group coordinating research about New Hampshire birds and requirements for birdhouses.

Student measuring the bird house dimensions.

Bird species research.

Our students also began their group blogs in Blogger this week and we hope to have an occasional guest blog post to give you a student perspective on their project.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Raspberry Pi First Semester Photos

Our first semester students were able to get acquainted with the Raspberry Pi and learn some programming. It was a tangle of wires to connect the Pi's to our existing lab but well worth it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Partnering with Third Graders

Students sharing their findings with Mrs. Bourque.
As part of the grant, our third graders will play an active role. Their first role is to help us research the birds in New Hampshire and give us any recommendations for the birdhouses before we install them outside. I visited Deb Bourque's third grade class to present the project and to ask students to help with the research.

To give them a platform for presenting, we utilized iPads to create a brief presentation to teach the class what they learned. The apps for presenting were Tellagami, PicStitch, and Puppet Pals.

Students researching birds native to New Hampshire.

Student Examples:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pi's, Finches and Scratch

Today students worked with Finch Robots, Raspberry Pi's and the program Scratch. Scratch is a simple introduction to programming on the Pi before we ask students to start using Python. It is is installed on the NOOBS image that Raspberry Pi recommends you use. The Raspberry Pi organization offers a downloadable menu for programming with Scratch on the Raspberry Pi.

The Finch Robots were part of a loaner program through the BirdBrain Technology. The company has allowed 50 of their robots to travel to schools to celebrate Hour of Code. When the Finch Robots arrived, we realized they might have some interesting applications with the existing Pi's we were using. The Finch must be connected to a computer via a usb cord in order to run. They are tethered robots but with a Raspberry Pi you can tether the computer to the top of the Finch and run it's programs from there.

By the end of class, students had created a program with Scratch to control a virtual sprite on the screen or the actual Finch Robot rolling on the floor. Some students explored the idea of sensors and LED's through the friendly bird shaped robot which will be a great segway as we begin to talk about sensor and camera integration with the birdhouses.

Photographs by Pelham High School Student Clara Duff-Marsh