It might have seemed like a crazy idea to some, it would mean a really early start, major risk assessing and there was no guarantee we would be allowed to visit but knowing how keen Carrie Anne and the rest of the Raspberry Pi team are at encouraging young coders we thought it was worth a try. And we were not disappointed because of course they loved the idea of us making the journey down to visit. So after juggling around with a few dates we confirmed April 22nd which was the last day of our Easter Holidays. When it came to looking at train tickets there only seemed to be 2 options without costing hundreds. They were either set of around 8am and get to Cambridge for midday which seemed pointless or set off at 5.30am and arrive at 9.30am. But what on earth would the parents think and could the Digital Leaders get up and to the station in time. So we took the decision to run the idea past the parents first so as not to get the Digital Leaders hopes up. We were apprehensive about what the parents would think about the time, worried that they would think us a little crazy but we needn’t of worried at all because their immediate response was “Yes what a wonderful opportunity, thank you so much. ” which was an overwhelming response and confirmation that we had not gone crazy. Needless to say when we informed the Digital Leaders they squealed and screamed in delight and the very next day they all returned their signed consent forms and train fare.
So at long last the day of our adventure had arrived. We all met at Preston train station at 5am, you could feel the excitement in the air. We boarded the train and waved goodbye to the parents who promised to follow our adventure on Twitter. So what is the first thing you think the Digital Leaders did, eat breakfast maybe? No in true Geek style out came the laptops, Raspberry Pi’s, Microbits, breadboards, LED’s jumper wires, you name it they had it – Mary Poppins bag had nothing on these guys bags! However hunger got the better of them and they soon cleared some space for Croissants and Raspberry Jam (of course).
After breakfast was done it was back to some serious coding other passengers were intrigued to watch them beavering away at their projects. @Girls2Geeks made use of the compass feature on the Microbit, whilst @all_about_code and @Gal_Tec measured the temperature on the train using EduPython and the CamJam Kit2, William started exploring the Raspberry Pi Touchscreen meanwhile Noah couldn’t contain his excitement at having a plug socket in his table.
Before we knew it we had arrived at Euston, some of the Digital Leaders had never been to London before and never stopped snapping away on the short walk to Kings Cross.
We were getting nearer, by this time we had been keeping a lot of our Twitter followers amused with our adventure especially @teknoteacher.
Finally at 9.35 am we had made it to Cambridge. The excitement was really kicking in now. We made the short 5 minute walk into a 10 minute one by turning the wrong way but eventually there we were 30 Station Road and not a tower in sight. We quickly signed in at reception and took the lift up to the second floor where Carrie Anne and James Robinson were waiting to greet us.
It was at this point that I think it hit the Digital Leaders, they were speechless, eyes wide open gazing around in awe they were actually sitting in Pi Towers. After the initial shock they quickly got their priorities straight and asked very politely for the WiFi code, after all they hadn’t had WiFi for at least 5 hours which converts to weeks in their minds. After a quick brew Carrie Anne and James gave us a tour of the offices, we saw the rooms where the creative ideas got drawn onto whiteboards, the boardroom where all the big decisions get made and of course the hub of it all the main office where we were introduced to all the various teams of people from creations, education, designs, software development, event organisation you name it they’ve got it. Even Tim Peake’s Raspberry Pi’s were being monitored by Dave Honess. We were even lucky enough to meet Eben, Liz and Philip but we didn’t find out about anything top secret (Honest). After our tour we went into the Picademy classroom and set to work, firstly on a poster about ourselves and what qualities we had and then onto some digital art using the sense hat. We coded in Python and learn’t about the benefits of using variables. We designed two displays so that when you shook the Raspberry Pi the image swapped from one to the other. We had erupting volcanoes, blossoming flowers, changing weather, changing eye colours, growing raspberry and interchanging LED. They all looked great.
It was soon time for lunch which we quickly devoured after which Carrie Anne and James took us on a walk around the area. The Digital Leaders were fascinated and you guessed it off they were snapping away again. I fact we have given Noah the project of designing a Raspbery Pi head camera.
When we got back to the office @all_about_code gave us a presentation and demo of his EduPython project. It went really well and we were really proud of him.
The day was flying by and our time at Pi Towers was nearly over but not before our final treat. We got to meet the Creative Technologists who were putting together their final projects ahead of their exhibition the next day. We were able to ask them all about their projects, how they had liked the course and what they wanted to do in the future. We were all completely blown away with the standard and creativity of all the projects.
Now all good things must come to an end and it was time to say our goodbyes and thanks but not before a couple more photo opportunities.
So full of chatter about their exciting day we headed back to London to grab some tea before the train home.
Still very excited by the day’s events but clearly flagging we boarded the train back to Preston and although we did manage a bit of coding on the journey home I think we could all quite easily of nodded off. So exactly 15 hours later from when we met at the station we arrived back in Preston 5 Digital leaders all safely handed back to their parents. And 2 very proud members of staff who thought the Digital Leaders had been a credit to both their school and parents.
A big thank you to Carrie Anne, James Robinson and the rest of the Raspberry Pi Foundation for allowing us the opportunity of a fantastic experience we will remember for many years to come.