Author Archives: rpsk1vt

About rpsk1vt

Downhill and XC skier, news junkie, guitar player and software developer.

Maker Faire coming to downtown Rutland on August 1st

maker_faire_logoThe Rutland Mini Maker Faire (rutlandmakers.org) is calling all makers!  The homepage for RutlandMakers.org 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.

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Learn to Code this summer at Maclure Library

On June 20th I assisted with a Code.org 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!

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 Codecademy.com 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.

 

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 RaspberryPi.org.  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 rutlandtechclub@gmail.com, 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

Next event, January 31: HOUR of CODE Challenge

Saturday, January 31, 2015, 1-3PM
Rutland Free Library, Fox Room (upstairs)
10 Court Street, Rutland, VT

http://code.org/learn

http://hourofcode.com/us

http://www.codecademy.com/

All ages welcome.  Bring your laptops.  We will do the Code.org “HOUR of CODE” challenge.

Learn the basic concepts of computer programming, using a fun visual approach.  If you have never done the Hour of Code, you can start with the HOC Challenge.  Using a video-game maze theme, build short computer programs to make Angry Bird catch Bad Piggie, by snapping together Lego-like program code blocks on your screen. Later on you can make the Zombie find the Sun Flower in the corn maze.  When you successfully complete the HOC, you will get an online Certificate of Completion.  We can help you save or bookmark your certificate image to your computer, so you can print it out at home.

HOC_view_code

In between the HOC exercises you can view video messages from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Black Eyed Peas founder will.i.am, and NBA star Chris Bosh (he studied computer science in college).

If you have done the HOC Challenge before, you can go “Beyond the HOC” with additional exercises and challenges to learn more programming concepts on Code.org.  Also, for those who might be interested, you could also try the free tutorials from Codecademy.com, another free to use website to learn programming logic.

In 2014, we held two events around Scratch programming.  If you complete the Hour of Code and/or Codecademy, you will be ready to tackle Scratch programming, which has even more capabilities, and is also a visual approach to computer programming.

As Douglas Rushkoff’s book title says: “Program or Be Programmed”.  Learning to program is like learning another “language”.  It’s another aspect of “computer literacy”, writing programs, instead of just using them.

Tell your friends and family about the Rutland Tech Club.  This event is also posted on the Rutland Herald inViTe Calendar!

We look forward to helping you with the Hour of Code Challenge,

Ron, Steve and Chad

Rutland Radio Club offering classes in winter 2015

Tim Abraham is an amateur radio operator, WA1VT and president of the Rutland Radio Club, the Green Mountain Wireless Society:

website: http://www.gmws.net
Facebook: http://goo.gl/As8GMq

The Rutland Radio Club is offering classes to learn about Ham Radio.  It’s a good way to learn about electricity, electronics, physics, earth science and other technical subjects. It’s also a fun hobby as you can talk to the world via amateur radio or talk to your ham friends locally via 2-way home or mobile radio.

The Rutland Radio Club is conducting Introductory License Classes weekly, for 10 weeks, starting on Wednesday evening January 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rutland Red Cross building.  At the end of the class, students will be ready to take and pass the Technician class amateur radio license exam.  You do not need to learn Morse Code to get a license.

If you have any questions, please call Tim Abraham (WA1VT) at 802-558-0389.

Next Event: November 29, Linux 101

The next learning event is on Saturday, November 29, 1-3PM, again at the Rutland Free Library. This month Chad Merkert will be our guest presenter, and will give an introduction to the Linux operating system.

Linux 101 will cover the fast growing and popular open source operating system called Linux. Chad will describe what Linux is, as well as what Open Source software is. He will also explain and demonstrate how you can start using Linux and Open source software on your computer!

If you have an old Windows XP computer, you might already know that Microsoft is no longer supporting the XP operating system. If you have since purchased a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer or laptop, or plan to do so, have you thought about what to do with your XP?

It turns out you can install Linux on your old XP computer. If you’ve wanted to learn more about using Linux, converting your old XP computer is an inexpensive way to do so. You can install Linux on your PC or laptop directly. Or, there is also another option to boot your computer up with Linux, via a a “bootable” version of Linux on a flash drive.

We look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Ron, Steve and Chad