Maker Faire coming to downtown Rutland on August 1st

maker_faire_logoThe Rutland Mini Maker Faire ( is calling all makers!  The homepage for has several helpful links to help you learn about Maker Faires and how you can apply to participate in the Rutland event, or volunteer at this event.

This event will be held in conjunction with the annual downtown Rutland Sidewalk Sale and Circus.


Learn to Code this summer at Maclure Library

On June 20th I assisted with a Hour of Code event at the Maclure Library in Pittsford, VT.  We had 6 participants, one adult and five young folks.  I met some very sharp and up-and-coming young programmers on Saturday.  I hope they continue learning and gaining more skills in this area.

Bonnie Stewart is the Librarian at Maclure Library, and she is planning some summer activities, including some events or sessions related to learning to code or program computers.

The Maclure Library recently switched to a new website, so they don’t yet have their calendar of events listed.  But if you are interested in what they are planning for summer activities, you can contact the Maclure Library at (802) 483-2972.

Have a nice summer!

libre planet 2015

went to beantown for


see some sample videos here:

i will write more on my personal experience but for now see what the fsf has to say here

here’s the video archive

and here’s a session i attended on blender:

thanks for your interest, stephen

Raspberry Pi for Theater

Raspberry Pi: Live @ The Brick Box

I was helping with a Theater production at the Brick Box here in Rutland, Vermont. I was in charge of running the lights and sound, but the only sound they needed for the show was a telephone ring. I could have looked online for a phone ring device designed to be used in theater, but instead I decided to use a Raspberry Pi to get the job done. Here is how I did it.

First off, I was going to be in the back of the audience, and the phone ring needed to come from behind the stage. So I needed a way to have my Raspberry Pi Setup back stage, but be able to control it from the back of the theater. I decided to set it up as it’s own wireless access point, with DHCP server. To accomplish this, I configured the wireless adapter on the Pi with a static IP address of, and installed a program called hostapd. The hostapd program allows you to broadcast an SSID (name of network for other devices to see and connect). Then I edited the config files to use the name I wanted for the network, as well as set a password, so only I would be able to connect to the network. I also needed to install  isc-dhcp-server which allows the Pi to act as a DHCP server, and assign IP addresses to any device that connects to the Pi’s wireless access point. After all of these were install and set up properly, my Pi was ready to run headless (without a monitor connected to it).

To set up the wireless access point, I followed instructions found here:

Now that my Pi was set up properly, all I needed to have plugged into it was power, and a speaker for the ring noise. I used a rechargeable speaker called a Music Bullet I got for Christmas a few years ago, but never really used til now. I also used a Lenovo Battery pack for recharging devices like cellphones and tablets on the go. I tested it, and the battery pack can keep the Pi powered and running for the better part of a day on a single charge. The only thing left to do was copy the sound file to it.

Pi Project finished

Bottom: Lenovo Battery, Middle: Raspberry Pi in a case, Top: Music Bullet rechargeable speaker.


All that needed to be plugged in was Power on the left, and speaker audio cable on right. The wireless adapter is inside the side door of the case, and protected from being removed.

Screenshot from 2015-03-22 11:10:02

I connected my Laptop to the wireless access point of the Pi, in my case it was called TheCocktailHour as that was the name of the show.

Continue reading

Programming Languages and Raspberry Pi

There are two programming languages that are popular for use with the Raspberry Pi computer.  The first is Scratch which is a visual programming language.  The second is Python which has a more traditional approach, with text-based language statements, and use of a text editor interface for program development.

Last year, the Rutland Tech Club hosted two Scratch programming events.  Scratch is a visual programming tool developed by MIT.  The programming language constructs resemble “Lego” blocks which can be snapped together on the computer screen to build programs.

On the Raspberry Pi computer, the Raspian Linux operating system it comes with it’s own custom version of Scratch.  This version of Scratch allows access to GPIO connections on the Raspberry Pi, which are the general purpose I/O or input/output connections.  That means you can access external input sensors and output devices which can be connected to the Raspberry Pi, via the GPIO connectors.  For example, you can instruct Scratch to read in a sensor input (i.e. motion sensor, temperature sensor, etc.) or send output command to output device (i.e. camera, LED lights, etc).

Python uses the more traditional form of programming, using text commands and statements, where the programmer must input the proper program language syntax in order to instruct the Raspberry Pi what to do.  Python is a popular computer language, which has some interesting syntax features.  Unlike other computer languages, the “if” statement (conditional, if – then – else), does not use curly braces “{” and “}” to delineate the statements within an if code block or else code block.  Instead, Python uses consistent code “indenting”.  This can make for a more readable program.  In other words, program whitespace or indenting is critical in Python, whereas in other languages, proper use of whitespace is not critical (although highly recommended for readability).

Just as in Scratch programming, you can use Python to access GPIO connections to input sensors and output devices.  The Python approach is text-based programming instead of Scratch’s visual programming method, but the same types of things can be done in both languages.

The website is a good place to begin to learn Python.  The tutorials are grouped into units and also include some problem solving exercises to allow you apply what you just learned.

Whatever types of projects you want to do on your Raspberry Pi, having some knowledge of Scratch or Python programming is very helpful.


Videos From Raspberry Pi Event

Thanks to everyone who attended the Raspberry Pi Event we hosted at the Rutland Library on March 14th 2015 (Ultimate Pi Day).

Here are the videos that were shown at the presentation. The first few are from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, on their website.  The rest are from YouTube.  There are many more videos on the Raspberry Pi on YouTube, which you can easily find by searching for them.

What is Raspberry Pi?

San Diego (CA) school kids and Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Stories (links to more videos and articles)

Raspberry Pi as seen on YouTube (more videos)

Continue reading

Next Event: 3/14, Raspberry Pi Demo with Raspberry Pie

raspberry_pi_logoOur next RTC event will be on March 14th, from 1-3PM, in the Fox Room at the Rutland Free Library.

Steve Waite and Chad Merkert will present an introduction and demonstrations of the “Raspberry Pi” from the Raspberry Pi Foundation in Britain.  The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer, for about $35, that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.  With the Raspberry Pi, you can browse the internet, play HD video, make spreadsheets, word-processing docs, and play games.  According to Wikipedia article:

“The Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card-sized single-board computers developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.”

If you want, you can also use the Raspberry Pi to learn coding, or learn about the Linux operating system.  You can also make your own projects by connecting the Pi to sensors (inputs) and other devices (outputs).  Steve and Chad will demonstrate some of their projects that they built.

There is a video that answers the question, “What is a Raspberry Pi?

At our last RTC event (Hour of Code), Steve brought his Raspberry Pi.  He hooked it up to the monitor and keyboard of the “Google Hangout” station, which is the large screen on wheels in the Fox Room at the Library.  So we were able to get a quick preview of what a Raspberry Pi is.  We got thinking that this would be a good topic for our next event.

As we looked for an open day for the Fox Room, we chose March 14th.  Later we realized that March 14 (or 3.14) is a perfect day to talk about the Raspberry Pi (3.141592654…).  We then later discovered that March 14 is actually “Pi Day in the USA”, according to the online forum at  That forum post suggests that your Pi Day event can get bonus points if you celebrate the Pi moment of 3/14/15 at 9:26:54.

pieHowever, since our event is in the afternoon, we will celebrate the Pi moment at around 3/14 1:59PM.  That is about midway through our event, and a good time for a quick break and indulge in some Raspberry Pie.  Thanks to Steve and his wife who offered to make us some Raspberry Pie for this event.

If you are planning on coming to our next event, it would really help us if you could please RSVP by email to, or call 802-775-8861, and let us know how many will attend.  That will help us determine how many folks are coming, and “how much” Raspberry Pie we will need for 3/14 @ 1:59PM.

We look forward to seeing you at our next Rutland Tech Club event about the amazing Raspberry Pi computer!

Ron, Steve and Chad