Often when I use examples referring to the Arduino micro controller board I am asked about the Raspberry PI. It is often implied that the PI, with much more function, is “better” than the delightful simplicity of the Arduino.
Arduino’s are a programmable switch. They require almost no additional setup. They let people learn to code simple programs that, with the addition of a few wires, turn lights on and off, make sounds etc. It blends the physical and the digital( and is in my TV showreel). In it’s raw form its simplicity is its key.
The Raspberry PI is the other end of the spectrum. It is a full computer. Hence it can do everything Arduino does and lots more, but… it takes a different level of set up.
Typically getting a PI running requires the user to do some basic system administration, getting an operating system (picking one from the many available) and then plugging in keyboards and monitors. When you do though you then have lots of choice of languages to use, development environments etc.
Both are great, and so this is really not a versus platform war.
Recently I received my additional shield for the Arduino. (A shield is an additional bit of hardware providing extra function to the Arduino) This one is called GameDuino2.
Many other shields provide things like network connectivity, more ports etc. This Kickstarter funded shield instead adds a screen to the Arduino. However it is much more than that. The screen is touch sensitive and there is also a tilt sensor. In addition it provides hardware to be able to put interesting visuals on the screen. It extends the Arduino development environment with some more library calls and is specifically designed (as indicated in the name) for building games.
I have looked at the extensive tutorial code. It seems that it is brilliantly straight forward.
This will simply get the details of any touch interaction on the screen.
Whilst this might be straightforward to do on other devices like iOS, but the lack of expense and the simplicity of the environment to be able to develop or prototype a touch based application is fantastic. All the Xcode, developer registration etc needed to just begin to tinker is obviously off putting for many people.
There is much more though with GameDuino2 things like hardware sprites, audio and other game goodness.
Not only that though, to quote the kickstarter information “Does it work on the Raspberry PI? Yes, it hooks up directly to SPI port on C13 on the Pi. And Raspberry Pi software support is done, so the GD library and samples/demos/games all run fine on the Pi.” So you can combine both worlds.
Right at the moment though one of my Raspberry PI’s is being a dedicated set top box for the TV using the XMBC open source media centre version Openelec something the Arduino certainly can’t do 🙂
Either way go out, get one or both and enjoy coding and sharing.
The STEMnet programme here in the UK enables people who are interested in sharing their expertise in STEM subjects with the next generation are given some support to do so. Schools ask their local STEMnet coordinator for help and volunteers step up and go along.
Yesterday at the Intech science centre (our local hub for STEMnet) I helped run an ambassadors intro into Arduino (and also a little bit of Scratch too).
Intech had bought 8 arduino starter kits. These are fantastic combinations of components and projects that have now become more official within the arduino community.
The packaging and collection of it is very professional and whilst still all based on open source it provide way more than I was expecting in the pack. Before seeing the kit I has thought we could start with the basics of the blinking light (a standard piece of code) using the onboard LED, then build the flashing light, then cut and paste and build 2. Basically following the 3 minute piece we did on Cool Stuff Collective
The basic presentation I used was this one, it was not designed to be overly pretty as it was just a catalyst to get things going.
I also did not know what the experience of each of the attendees was likely to be. As it was we had a great and helpful mix of people who knew lots, and were very advanced hardware engineers, some traditional IT professionals and programmers and some very enthusiastic newcomers to the subject (but technically literate)
***update 13:23 14/2 (Just uploading again as it seem the Slideshare conversion repeated some words and removed others!)
The aim of the pitch was to suggest the basics (inspired by the basics in Choi Kwang Do)
I thought most kids would want to be into programming initially because of games. There is an instant disconnect between seeing all the code and the effort for a AAA title that can be quite off putting.
So I settled on the light switch as a real world blended reality example. Layering on that the Arduino is a swicth we can control, but that the basics of input, process, output or sense, decide, respond are the fundamentals of everything. So if you get a basic piece of the experience dealing with getting some user input, deciding what to do and then making a change with an output you cover an awful lot of ground very quickly.
Very often as techies and engineers we all see the intricate detail, we become very aware of everything that we don’t know, how complex details can be. However if we treat the knowledge as a set of repeating patterns, like a fractal image we can talk about a basic building block without worrying about the complexity of the overall picture. After all you have to start somewhere.
Anyway, a huge thankyou to Sarah at Intech for hosting and for getting all the kit and for asking me to help in the first place 🙂 A huge thankyou to the group of Ambassadors that braved the potential snowstorm and dived and all had a go and got everything working in the few hours we had. It helped to debug what we need to tell students and other ambassadors.