PiWars 2018 – It Starts…

When we started our robot plan way back in September, it all seemed fairly straightforward: We build a robot, we write some code, we modify it to suit the challenges and ‘Bob’s your uncle’. Turns out, things are never that easy – the first thing we had to decide on was how independent did we want to go – did we want to go for a complete kit build or to try and freestyle it all ourselves? Then we had to make decisions on which kit to actually buy, whether we wanted to get one quickly just to get started, or make an informed decision to actually start thinking about our final design.

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Full of enthusiasm

Of course, we had to put a lot of our build on hold while we were all heavily involved in the launch of the amazing new pi-top with Inventor’s Kit (not that we’re super proud of all our hard work). But this meant that we couldn’t really do much until the latter end of October once things settled down.

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The new pi-top with Inventor’s Kit

As a start point, we bought a couple of quick and easy kits like the CamJam EduKit 3 and the Monk Makes kit, however, we quickly realised that these wouldn’t be powerful enough for what we had in mind. Still, Angus had great fun playing with the first robot and getting a feel for programming it – he is converting its code to Node.js as “the real world is event driven and asynchronous Python stinks”. Let’s hope our final robot can be coded in JavaScript too!

We spent a fair bit of time discussing wheel-types, especially after looking at the cheaper kits. So we originally settled on a three-wheeled model, but saw on the PiWars forum that it was recommended to go for four wheels instead. There were some crazy ideas from Alan about machine learning and openCV which left a muggle like me a little bit confused.

By the middle of November, we realised it was going to be essential to schedule in not only a regular meeting to discuss strategy, but also a regular building session to ensure that everyone gets a chance to be involved in the robot as our team was full of so many people with sometimes contrary ideas that it became essential that we work together.

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check out Mic’s Movember moustache

After a lot of question-asking, we eventually narrowed it down to two kits – either the DiddyBorg by PiBorg or Brian Corteil’s ‘Max’. At this point I should point out how supportive Brian has already been towards the pi-top team, offering us advice, ideas and support and so when we came to make the final vote, the decision was easy. We originally got in touch with Brian as we loved his Tiny 4WD, but were looking for something with a bit more power, Brian was really helpful and suggested that we consider his Max robot, which is not currently available as a kit, but he was happy to custom build one for us!! Brian’s kit will provide us with everything that we need except a motor board, but fortunately he was also able to recommended the Pololu board recently released at Pimoroni and so we now want to try out different torque motors and different wheel sizes to ensure our robot is able to complete all of the challenges effectively.

As you can see, we’re all taking this super seriously 😉

 

PiWars 2018 – Meet the team!

Here at pi-top, we love getting involved with the Raspberry Pi community and taking part in events so when the opportunity to enter PiWars 2018 came around, we couldn’t resist submitting a team. With a range of skills, talents and opinions, the pi-top team spent several weeks… only to decide on a name for our robot, eventually settling on Robo-Top.

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We’ll be updating you on our build progress over the next few months, but first we thought it was important that you got a chance to meet the team!

Name: CatCat
Role at pi-top: Education Outreach Champion
Role on the PiWars team: Chief Kitten Wrangler
Fun Fact: I sleep walk and talk so can often be found wandering around the house at night, confused and half dressed
Inspirational Quote: The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ Grace Hopper
Favourite pizza topping: Good ol’ margherita (now spelt correctly thanks to Mic)
Most likely to…: disappear early to sneak off home to bed
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Meeting (and beating) all the other teams

MicName: Mic
Role at pi-top:  Software Developer
Role on the PiWars team: Chief Artillery Officer
Fun Fact: When shaking a drink carton I have the compulsive need to break out into a rendition of Shake Your Booty by KC & The Sunshine Band
Inspirational quote: If it ain’t broke you ain’t trying hard enough
Favourite Pizza topping: Burrata
Most likely to…: Start an argument about pizza toppings
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Practice for the imminent robo-pocalypse

20431392_10155582276409265_159485426494440223_nName: Alan (also goes by Steve)
Role at pi-top: Generic dude who engineers from time to time
Role on the PiWars team: Chief Director of Shuffling
Fun Fact: I like to move it move it, I like to move it!
Inspirational Quote: If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big
Favourite pizza topping: Any pizza that doesn’t have cheese on it
Most likely to…: Build a robot that will start the robo-pocalypse
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: The cool conversations that will probably go down

AndreaName: Andrea
Role at pi-top: Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager
Role on the PiWars team: Chief Prettifier and Head of Glitter
Fun Fact: I follow more pet’s accounts on Instagram than people. A girl needs her dose of #dailyfluff!
Inspirational Quote: “Tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!” from one of the best TV shows, The Simpsons.
Favourite pizza topping: Pepperoni, pepperoni and pepperoni. Oh, did I mention pepperoni?
Most likely to…: Dance the night away
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Glitter, glitter and more glitter

Matt

Name: Matt
Role at pi-top: Senior DevOps Engineer
Role on the PiWars team: Make things work team
Fun Fact: I once ran over a dolphin
Inspirational Quote: I reserve the right to have an opinion, no matter how wrong I probably am.
Favourite pizza topping: Cheese, any kind, lots of it.
Most likely to…: be found down the pub
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Yeah, I’ll have a steak and ale pie, thanks

 
IMG_20160325_132440 (1)Name:  Val
Role at pi-top: Intern
Role on the PiWars team: Lead engineer
Fun Fact: I like to read medical textbooks for fun
Inspirational Quote: Shoot for the stars. That way, even if you miss them, you will smack into the moon.
Favourite pizza topping: Pineapple
Most likely to…: eat all the cake in the office (or team up with the robots in case of a robo-pocalypse)
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Showing everyone what a real engineer looks like

 
Chris_HantonName: Chris
Role at pi-top: Mechanical Design Engineer
Role on the PiWars team: CAD monkey
Fun Fact: My neighbour knocked on my door at 2:30am this morning- luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes!
Inspirational Quote: You don’t want to take your product out while it’s still floppy – discussing Injection Moulding
Favourite pizza topping: Macaroni Cheese
Most likely to…: Complain about missing the rugby
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: Use this as a stepping stone to enter Robot Wars next year!

 
AngusName: I am Angus.
Role at pi-top: I am Angus.
Role on the PiWars team: I am Angus.
Fun Fact: Angus Angus
Inspirational Quote: Angus Angus Angus
Favourite pizza topping: Angus
Most likely to…: I am Angus.
What you’re most excited about for PiWars: We are Angus

Meet the new pi-top!

It has been a pretty busy year so far here at pi-top: from winning Edtech Start Up Company of the Year at the BETT awards to attending ISTE, passing by welcoming a new accessory to our product family, pi-topPULSE. At the same time, during these months, we’ve been working on a (*super secret*) project and we thought that today, our 3rd birthday, was the perfect day to share it with you.

Let me introduce you to the new pi-top, our new fully modular laptop with endless hours of fun activities. It’s the new generation of simple, engaging and versatile technology to explore, create and invent. We want to inspire the new generations to seek the skills of tomorrow and create their future, today.

Among other features, the new pi-top, introduces a sliding keyboard that reveals a large magnetic rail. Slide it back to discover an exciting new world of electronics, coding and science you can enjoy, regardless of your age or computing ability.

 

 

The new pi-top comes with an inventor’s kit to take you beyond the screen and keyboard. Explore the world of making and use your limitless imagination to build computer science and electronic inventions. Invent like never before.

Key technical features of the new pi-top:


  • Vivid colours with 14” 1920×1080 FHD LCD display screen
  • Sliding keyboard – reveals magnetic rails for hands-on building of invention and adding your own hardware projects!
  • Flexible 180° Lid opening viewing angle
  • 8+ hours of battery life
  • More muscle from the Raspberry Pi microcomputer with integrated custom cooling bridge
  • Full OCR (Oxford Cambridge RSA Review Board) endorsed software suite (pi-topOS Polaris) bundled on the 8GB SD Card with hundreds of hours of project based learning on board.

What are the main differences between the new pi-top and pi-top?


  • Full-sized sliding keyboard and central trackpad
  • Free inventor’s kit with guide booklet highlighting over 20 hands-on projects
  • Comes with cut-out robots, spaceships and fun games to bring the projects and inventions to life
  • Improved display screen and 180° Lid opening
  • Easy access to all external ports via the back of the device (including AUX port)
  • Heat sink for faster stable processing with the Raspberry Pi micro PC

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We want to turn kids’ passive screen time into countless hours of active, fun, hands-on inventor activities. That’s why the the new pi-top comes 20+ hands-on activities, divided into three journeys:

  • Smart Robot
  • Music Master
  • Space Race

You can get now the new pi-top with inventor’s kit from our website.

 

We couldn’t conclude this post without thanking you. Thanks for sticking with us for the last three years and for allowing us to be part of your coding journey. Here’s to many more.

Now, let’s get hands-on inventing! And don’t forget to share your projects it with us using #DareToInvent ;).

With love,

pi-topTEAM

 

Why Moonhack is not another meaningless attempt to break a World Record

Last year, the Australian Code Club had 10,207 Australian kids participating in their free coding event, Moonhack. This year they are not holding back and they are turning the 15th of August into a worldwide event so kids (and not-so-kids) from all around the globe can take part and collaborate.

The event’s aim is to have as many young people from 8 to 18 years old coding as possible and set a World Record. However, the project goes way further than that: by bringing together people and getting them to code for a specific purpose they want to spread a love for coding and trigger a passion for it in future generations. This aligns directly with pi-top’s mission and beliefs. Learning to code can help young people strengthen their problem solving skills and logical thinking as well as their resilience when dealing with things going wrong. In this digital age that we live we think that it’s important to provide kids with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in a world of accelerating advancements, for both their personal and professional lives. Moonhack is a great place to start as it provides a fun environment that can either be structured or treated as an open, creative sandbox, depending on your preference.

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Moonhack is an inclusive event, so is coding. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of their skill level, age, gender or country of residency. Even if you don’t fall inside the age range, you can participate and submit your project, but it will not be counted for the World Record.

At pi-top, we think taking part in the Moonhack is a great idea, especially if you’re looking for something fun to do over the summer holidays so why not sign up on Moonhack’s website and get involved. Once you’re sign up,  you will have access to tips, ideas and project guides. On the 15th of August you will be able to upload your moon-themed project made in Scratch, Scratch JR or Python to make sure it’s included in the official record-breaking project count. For those that prefer to follow a project, do not panic, there are also open source Moonhack projects that you or your kids can complete, with easy to follow instructions for any level of learner.

So go on, sign up. Learn. Play. Create… And break things digitally!

The Argument For Game-Based Learning

“90% of European jobs require ICT skills, and yet there will be 900,000 unfilled ICT positions in the EU by 2020. Less than 15% of European students have access in school to high-level ICT teaching. In some EU Member States, such as Greece and Croatia, fewer than half of pupils even have access to the internet at school.”  – “Should computer science be taught in European schools

One in four teachers in European countries say they do not have enough ICT training. Per the figure above, there is a serious need for better training of teachers in ICT and STEAM fields, but this is not a gap that will be closed immediately.

The question, then, becomes one of how teachers can encourage and mentor students by proxy, allowing them to keep pace with ICT education in the rest of the developed and highly-integrated developing world.

This is where gamification has a place in the curriculum.

A survey conducted by TalentLMS showed that:

  • 89% of those surveyed stated that a point system would boost their engagement.
  • 82% are in favor of multiple difficulty levels and explorable content.
  • 62% stated that they would be motivated to learn if leaderboards were involved and they had the opportunity to compete with other colleagues. – “Gamification Statistics for 2015

These are figures based on a survey conducted by adults, but the gamification of learning taps into a process by which children are already conditioned to engage. How many under-12s have a playstation, or an existing passion for PC games? Certainly, not all of these children will have discovered these avenues of engagement with the help of their parents, so not only, by extrapolation, can children and young learners engage with new technology and systems through games, but it is also not necessary to have adult guidance in their uptake.  In the context of education, then, is it necessary for the teacher to have the same knowledge of the game that their students do, at base level, or is it enough to be able to keep track, with a built-in set of objectives which allow students to explore problems themselves?

Hello world: pi-top starts blogging

Hello world,

Welcome to our new blog. We are pi-top. We want to see a world of makers creating real hardware product. Our aim is to make affordable technology that anyone can use to learn, play and create!

“Ryan and I started all this in my living room in London. We had days when we had to choose between buying more 3D printing filament or buying something other than pasta and tomato sauce to eat (we chose the filament every single time). Now we have a great office in London and a team of twelve people. Without our backers and community, our lives would be so different and much less fulfilling, and for that we are forever grateful.” – Jesse, pi-top CEO

On the 8th of December, 2014, pi-top closed its first Indiegogo campaign with 217% of the initial funding goal. If you haven’t heard, the pi-top is a Raspberry Pi powered DIY laptop. Since the successful campaign, we have improved the design, software and hardware of the pi-top to ship worldwide to 47 countries!

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We are very proud of what we’ve achieved with our backers help. From our CTO Ryan Dunwoody’s five month stay in Shenzhen to get pi-top off the production line and into everyone’s homes, to our pride in the improvements we’ve made over the last year. (Image left: Ryan with the first production pi-top in China)

 

 

“When people give you their trust to produce something new, you must give everything else up.” – Jesse, pi-top CEO

The rewards are immeasurable – as you can observe via the images (below) sent to us by our backers through our Twitter.

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Now, as we move into our second year, we hope we will be able to continue improving, continue making, and continue bringing pi-top and our newest product, pi-topCEED, to as many people as possible.

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(Image: left green pi-top and right grey pi-topCEED)

We will be using this blogs for Our Story – to make updates on our recent progress, some Food for Thought – covering industry topics (STEM, Education, Entrepreneurship, etc.), and Building – where we’ll be writing about some cool projects for pi-top and pi-topCEED. We hope you enjoy!

Upwards and onwards,

Your pi-top Team