#Makersphere2016 One word = Awesome @biglesp @ItsAll_GeekToMe 

On Saturday the 18th June 2016 members of the local tech community along with staff and parents from St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School Penwortham, opened our school doors and invited people back to school for a free digital event called Makersphere. 

It had been many months in the planning, many late nights preparing and plenty of giggles along the way. Organisers Les Pounder, Rachel Lancaster and our very own Mrs Clemo and Mrs Lowe each brought their own individual strengths to the planning and the outcome far exceeded all expectations. 

Over 350 people attended the day and participated in 6 hours of back to back workshops in 12 rooms catering for all ages and abilities. Workshops included creating your own digital pet using the same technology that astronaut Tim Peake had used aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Wearable technologies were the must see event with children creating illuminated bags or pencil cases by sewing with conductive thread. Children also used fruit as a form of input with Codebug, learnt how to take control of a Minecraft world with code and created huge buttons for a Giant reaction race. The children even had the chance to learn about robotics and step into virtual reality.

The day was a great success and has spearheaded an increased interest in Computing and creativity in the classroom. Before attending this event most people would have been forgiven for thinking that a Raspberry Pi was something you serve up with cream and that Codebug, Scratch and Microbit sounded like cartoon characters.   

Children and adults left with a number of ideas and resources to help them take the next step into a brave new world where they will shape the future with inventions and ideas based on these pocket money devices.

We would like to thank everybody who helped out in not only the day but also the run up for their kind donations of equipment & time. Some of whom are pictured above and others who had gone home to lie down. Without ur support the day would not have been as successful as it was. We hope we see u back next year for: #Makersphere2017

Teachers & Pupils coming together to learn from each other @CASinclude #includeConf

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to be asked to run a demo stand, deliver a workshop with @all_about_code and for @girls2geeks to give a talk, at the CASInclude Diverserty Conference 2016 at Manchester University. Of course we jumped at the chance.

So on Saturday June 11th 2016 we packed our trolleys, set of early, then unloaded our equipment ready for the 9am start.  The day was based around 5 strands:

Gender, Ethnicity, Disability, Socio-economic & SEN. The aim of this years conference was to bring together the teaching expertise of classroom teachers, the knowledge and experience of industry professionals and academics to enable them to create opportunities for all to learn new and practical strategies, to teach back in the classroom across the 5 strands.

The day started off with 3 talks 1 of which was given by our very own @girls2geeks Elise. Her talk was about how to encourage girls into coding, her experiences and what changes she would like to see in the future. The talk was truly inspiring and many teachers had plenty of questions to ask at the end, I mean who better to answer them than an 11 year old girl coder facing the difficulties most females in this profession do.  

After the talk we fit in some demo time before the workshops started. What was lovely about the children running the demos was the questions, teachers asked them they really wanted to know the children’s views and were really interested in what they were learning and wanted to learn in computing at school. One of the things that really came across was how passionate these teachers were about computing and getting it right for their pupils, after all this was a Saturday and here they were all day with the focus on developing their knowledge.  

The first workshop we attended was called Bees Can Dance by Dawn Hewitson, we must admit we didn’t quite know what to expect, but we can honestly say that we have never had as much fun in a workshop ever before. We started off by watching some short footage of how Bees actually use code, then we watched a dance routine to Pharell Williams, Happy and had to find the code within the dance. It was something we had never thought of linking before but once you do it is so easy to see. The really fun bit though was when we broke into teams to write a code to our very own dance, that we then had to teach the rest of the class. We had so much fun doing this that we ended up trending on Twitter with one of the dances. Let’s put it this way we don’t think we will ever be able to listen to Night Fever again without remembering the dance.  

When it was time for lunch we couldn’t quite believe our eyes this was no ordinary buffet this was a banquet fit for royalty and we really did feel spoilt.  

Once lunch was finished we were ready for another workshop we still had an hour before ours was due to start, some of us decided to go for the Minecraft one with Sarah Zaman and the rest of us went into Codebug with Tom Macpherson. We thoroughly enjoyed both workshops gaining not only new knowledge and ideas, but also newly purchased gadgets we couldn’t resist to buy from Codebug.

It was now time for our very own workshop led by Joshua AKA @all_about_code ,this was a physical computing workshop using the CamJam EduKit and the Python library that Joshua had written to support it called EduPython. This library is a very simple way to write code for the EduKits in fact it even has SEN flash cards to use if needed, however that doesn’t change the fact that using breadboards is fiddly and requires patience and that is tricky at a Primary school level, so Joshua is working on a product to alleviate this. The workshop however went really well, everybody enjoyed it and achieved, we were able to give advice when needed and help out when people were stuck. The feedback from those taking part was really encouraging and what came across most was how much they enjoyed learning from children.

Before we knew it, it was time to pack up after a very encouraging and enjoyable day. The thing that stood out most about this day was how thrilled the teachers were to have demos and a workshop run by children, making it different from any other CPD training they had ever attended before, who knows it could be the future, but all we do know is we want to do it again and again!

June 2016

Schools coming together to explore the roles of Digital Leaders #WRISTDigLead 

Yesterday 5 of our Digital Leaders attended the first ever WRIST Digital Leaders Conference. This involved 8 schools coming together and sharing ideas on the role of being a Digital Leader. Each school had something different to offer making the event varied and exciting. The event was split into two sessions allowing each group to split in half. One half would demo or present while the other half looked around, after the end of the first session, they swapped over. 

So what did we take I hear you ask? It was more a case of what didn’t we take! 

 We had put a lot of thought into what works well in a primary school, what is simple to use and what has plenty of online resources for lessons. So here is the list;

Codebug – George demonstrated a Full fruit/veg keyboard. The fruit conducts electricity while you hold one end of a croc clip and press a fruit with the other end, this then scrolled the name of the fruit. This works by coding the Codebug to assign the name of the fruit that is attached to a particular leg number. 

 Sonic Pi – using a netbook Noah Banged out some awesome tunes and Elise treated us to a little live coding. People were able to have a go themselves by taking part in our guess the tune workshop. We showed Sonic Pi on windows so that people could see that their was no cost involved in buying extra equipment it could simply be downloaded on any computer. It is safe to say this was a big hit. 

CamJam EduKit- Josh showed us his breadboard skills using the CamJam EduKit 1. He showed us how to code in Morse Code and say Hello. After this he talked us through his traffic light sequence explaining why we used resistors, how to tell the difference between the negative and positive leg of an LED and how the grid of the breadboard worked. Josh coded using EduPython which is a great stepping stone to using the GPIOZERO worksheets. These were no ordinary traffic lights though they were Jelly Baby Traffic Lights. 

 Raspberry Pi & Pibrella- William showed a very impressive solar system that 2 of the year 5 children did as part of their topic earlier this year. Attached on top of the Raspberry Pi was a Pibrella which allows you to very simply control lights, buzzers, switches and motors. William used a project code that Carrie Anne Philbin used in her Digital Garden project but instead of spinning flowers he spun planets. 

Last but not least was Elise with the Astro Pi Sense Hat on a Raspberry Pi. After explaining that Major Tim Peake was currently running projects with these in space she showed how easy it was to collect information like temperature and humidity. Then she made use of the accelerometer and showed us her pixel pet – hot dog when you shake the Pi it reads the temperature then the dog sweats if it’s hot. Finally Elise showed how the sense hat could interact with Minecraft, needless to say there was a fairly big queue to have a go at creating a physical Minecraft world. 

 What was great to see at this event was how enthusiastically the Digital Leaders talked with each other. Let’s hope this is the first of many more events like this. 

This week at Pi Club we had a visitor from one of the other local primary schools who had been at the conference yesterday. He was a willing guinea pig for us as we were trying out a workshop that we are running next month at The CAS Diverserty Conference. Well Done Mr Costas Walker you did great! 

24th May 2016.

Can u believe @MaryMagsPiClub is one today- that’s a whole year of coding, a whole year of blogging & a whole year of FUN!

This week we celebrate our 1st Birthday- yes that’s right the MaryMagsPi Club is one year old. That’s a whole year of coding, a whole year of blogging and a whole year of fun.  How did we celebrate I hear you say? Well with doughnuts of course.

This week at Pi Club we had a very special visitor- our computing governor Mrs Heaton. It was a really great opportunity for the Digital Leaders to share their knowledge of coding today and listen to Mrs Heatons experience of when she first started out and how it has progressed over time. We were so excited to show her everything we do and what we use. Of course we started with various models of the Raspberry Pi and some of our favourite HATs such as the Sense Hat, Unicorn hat and the Pibrella. We then broke out with the CamJam kits and had plenty of debugging to do along the way. We had hoped to have our CamJam robot up and running with the sensors however somebody forgot to charge the power bank didn’t they (@all_about_code)

We also showed her the Codebug and explained how beneficial and versatile it was for primary schools and how well the transition from this to the Microbit worked. 

After we had shared some of the adventures the club had had so far we told Mrs Heaton about some of the upcoming events like the Digital Leaders Conference, CAS #include conference and our very own event #makersphere .

We really enjoyed having Mrs Heaton attend the Pi Club and hope she enjoyed it enough to pop in again sometime.

Summer Term 2016

Session 2

Morse code messages with EduPython & CamJam EduKit @all_about_code

One of the most rewarding things about working in a school is seeing the development of skills as children challenge themselves at the same time as supporting each other. 

One of those examples is the continued support they are giving to testing out EduPython which is a Python Library created by 12 year old @all_about_code to make Python easier to use with the CamJam Edu Kit range. This week Jack and Matthew continue to help test out the library by sending messages using Morse code using EduPython resource sheet 5. Now just think about the hours of fun you could have doing that. We also had a look at coding a traffic light sequence with just a few simple EduPython commands. 

I think it is safe to say they found EduPython really quick and easy to use


We look forward to using it for more of the projects.To use EduPython open up the LX Terminal and type sudo pip3 install edupy a getting started guide and resource sheets can be found on GitHub bit.ly/edupygit

Spring Term 2016

Session 8

5 Digital Leaders & Pi. @MissPhilbin @LegoJames Our Story!

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.

April 2016.


@all_about_code helps us to try out his Python module- EduPy for @CambridgeJam EduKit#3 Robotics from @ThePiHut

It is great to see the enthusiasm of our Digital leaders setting up their own web blogs, reviewing products, designing resources and having a go at creating a better way to use things already out there. This week @all_about_code helped us to build a robot using the CamJam EduKit he bought while at the Raspberry Pi Birthday Bash in Cambridge. The kit includes links to 9 worksheets that take you through a step by step process from building the robot to driving and turning, line detecting, obstacle avoidance etc – all the code is written in Python. @all_about_code decided to have a go at creating a Python module that simplified the instructions the user needs to give the robot to make it do things.

The group involved in building the robot throughly enjoyed the challenge and managed to debug problems from PIN numbers being the wrong way round,creating the motors to turn in opposite directions and making the robot spin to no movement at all caused by wires coming loose.

The EduKit costs £17 from the Pi Hut and contains 

Custom designed pre-soldered motor controller board

2 Dc motors (wires pre-soldered)

2 wheels

1 ball castor (acts as 3rd wheel)

1 small breadboard

2 pieces 3m strong double sided tape

Battery box for 4 AA batteries

Ultrasonic distance sensor

Line following sensor

Resistors and Jumper cables

A strong cardboard box to use as a chassis

So that we could drive the robot wirelessly we used SSH.

With so many projects to do with this kit I think we will be updating you on the progress over the next few blogs. 

Don’t forget to take a look at some of our Digital Leaders Websites




Spring Term 2016

Session 6&7

All the best parties jam with @sonic_pi 

This week was party week to celebrate the 4th or 1st birthday, depending how you look at it, of the Raspberry Pi. Of course it wouldn’t be a birthday without a present and to celebrate it in style the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi 3 with built in WiFi and Bluetooth- NICE! So nice we couldn’t resist The Pi Hut’s price of £30.

All_about_code showed us his Pi3 hooked up to an Energenie which he had bought at the Raspberry Pi Birthday Bash in Cambridge at the weekend. It allowed him to control the plug socket remotely. 


He also told us about some of the workshops he had attended and gave us some idea for lessons. We did do a bit of coding this week with Sonic Pi looking at the Challenge for Tim Peake. After that it was time for a little boogie to one of Sam Aaron’s live coding videos and then we tucked in to the delicious cake kindly sent to us from Preston Raspberry Jam. Thanks Alan!

Spring Term 2016 Session 5

What do u do if ur about to run Pi Club and there r workman in the way? – Get them to show the children the inside of the alarm their working on of course! 

Well what at first looked like a disaster actually turned out to be an informative opportunity! Due to the extensive school building work that’s going on we are having to work around the workmen as much as possible. When we turned up to run Pi Club we soon realised it might be a little tricky as the workmen were busy wiring up the intruder alarms in the room, however when they discovered what the children were doing they were very impressed. They had never seen a Raspberry Pi before and couldn’t quite believe that children so young were confident in using GPIO pins wiring them up to breadboards, using jumper wires, knowing to use ground, understanding the use of resistors to protect the LEDs and then coding it all to be operated by a button. We took the opportunity of their presence to give us a little tutorial on the work they were doing inside the alarm and showed us the circuit pins, LED, sensors etc. 

After we had had a good look inside the alarm we set to work on looking at GPIOzero. Now all our sd cards have been updated to Raspbian Jessie we can make good use of this feature.  It makes using the GPIO pins so easy and we no longer need to open Python through idle. We used the Getting started resource off the Raspberry Pi website https://www.raspberrypi.org/learning/getting-started-with-gpio-zero/

This resource shows us how to control the output and input of the GPIO pins using LEDs, buttons and Python. The children were given the sheets and asked to work through them and try to debug any potential issues. During the session a couple of children thought they had a problem with their Pi – they had a code that ran, they had wired up correctly but still the LED would not light. The one thing they had not checked was did their LED work in the first place? We showed them a quick and easy way to check by using a cell battery and holding the LED legs to it positive to positive and negative to negative of course. 

Bingo the original LED was not working so we tested a new one before attaching it to our circuit. 

Everyone was really enthused at the ease of using GPIOzero and look forward to working through the resources over the next couple of weeks. 

Spring Term 2016 Session 4

We make sense of the Sense HAT with @TheMagP1 essentials digital book.

This week Elise and Isaac started to work through the MagPi essentials digital book for the sense HAT they won in the Astro Pi competition. They started off by scrolling messages, lighting up individual letters, creating images and setting orientation. After this they detected the temperature in the room.

30 degrees in mid January? 

“SAY WHAT!” Somebody needs to turn the radiators down! Once they had played around with some of the sensors, they decided to start creating an Interative Pixel Pet. After a few designs I think they have decided on their pet design ready for coding next week.

Some of our other Digital Leaders continued work with the Pibrella, this week using the excellent resources from Cam Jam Pibrella Workshop. George and Austin challenged themselves to run a code to mimick the way traffic lights work. They firstly discussed the correct sequence, then wrote an algorithm for it. After this they wrote their code in Python. Mrs C even cut out surrounds for the lights. Great work guys!

Spring Term session 3