Cool Projects Come to Raspberry Pi Birthday Bash

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Cool Projects Come to Raspberry Pi Birthday Bash
The Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend
The Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend

The Raspberry Pi Foundation celebrated it’s fourth birthday with the release of the new Raspberry Pi 3, Model B. But what’s a birthday without a party? So the weekend following the launch, they had one. For the second year running the Foundation took over the Gates Building at the University of Cambridge, and held something that looked like a cross between a conference, an education workshop, and a community birthday party for the board that has taken over the world.


The party was kicked off with Eben Upton, the founder of Raspberry Pi, talking about some of the history behind the rise of the Raspberry Pi, what’s been happening since last year, and, of course, what’s next.

“This year, I’m hoping we’ll do maybe four million Raspberry Pis; I would expect that probably half of those might well be into industrial markets.” — Eben Upton

Eight million Raspberry Pi boards have now been sold. Of those, around two million have gone to schools, two million into industry, and four million have ended up in the hands of Makers.

Eben also talked about the aims of the Foundation, which despite the Raspberry Pi’s success amongst Makers is firmly focused on education, and increasing the number of children learning about and interested in computing.

“Our original ambition was to get the 1980’s back — not Duran Duran — but to get back to the 1980’s, we’re there now. However if you look more critically at the 1980’s demographic, the spike [in children learning about computing] was incredibly narrow. We have an enormous opportunity to make it a lot broader this time around.” — Eben Upton

Turning to recent hardware releases Eben talked about the overnight — and surprising — success of the Raspberry Pi Zero,

“We became the first computer magazine to give away a computer on the cover.” — Eben Upton

“We achieved the goal that the computer is cheaper than the cables you need to plug into it.” — Philip Colligan

Telling the audience that the Foundation is still struggling to make enough of the Zero to keep up with demand, and with the recent release of the Raspberry Pi 3, Model B, that was unlikely to change in the next month or two.

“You might think that all the staff at the Foundation had their Pi Zero on launch day. We didn’t. There was a queue of Foundation staff at the local newsagents [to buy the MagPi].” — Philip Cooligan

There were a few Raspberry Pi Zero boards for sale from vendors at the Birthday Party, but they didn’t last long. If you haven’t managed to get your hands on a Raspberry Pi Zero yet, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. However, nobody seemed to mind too much, there was plenty to see, and over 1,500 people turned up for the show.

The PanoHAT


Andrew Robinson, the creator of one of my favorite Raspberry Pi projects, the Frozen Raspberry bullet time rig — built from 48 individual Raspberry Pi boards, each with a Pi camera module attached — brought along his latest project, the PanoHAT.

Built using the new Raspberry Pi 3 board, with built-in Wi-Fi to network a ring of cameras without wires or network switches, while a corresponding ring of CodeBug boards showed their status the PanoHAT made its first appearance at the Raspberry Pi 3 Launch Party

The ZeroBorg


To support their Kickstarter Campaign, PiBorg brought along a table full of their serious looking Mecanum robots. Powered by the Raspberry Pi Zero and their ZeroBorg board — which can control four motors independently, allowing you to drive each wheel of your robot separately — their Mecanum robot can go forwards, backwards, tank steer, as well as strafe like a crab.

The Pi-Top


Funded last year on Indiegogo, the Pi-Top is a Raspberry Pi powered laptop. It has a 13-inch screen and an advertised 10 hours of battery life. The Pi-Top comes as a kit that you’ll need to put together, and costs $299 (or $269 without the Raspberry Pi).

We’ve been hands on with the Pi-Top before, and I was interested to see that they’ve addressed a lot of the concerns we had around the laptop. Especially around the hardware side with the release of their first add-on board, the pi-top PROTO, which gives access to all 40 GPIO pins available on the Pi.


No matter how well run things are, live demos do not always go as planned, sometimes the magic smoke escapes from your quadcopter. Andy Baker‘s Raspberry Pi Zero based quadcopter, called “Zoe” caught fire during a live demonstration during his talk, giving the Party one of its more memorable moments.

Andy walked away from the incident unharmed.

Wrapping up

Finally then, during the wrap up the Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists programme announced their end-of-year show and New Works Exhibition, to be held on the 23rd of April in Cambridge at the Raspberry Pi Foundation Headquarters. Tickets are free, but space is limited.

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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

View more articles by Alasdair Allan


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