Robots meet Raspberry Pi: How kids are using their brains

Robots meet Raspberry Pi: How kids are using their brains

Summary: A troop of scouts has married the Raspberry Pi with a mind-controlled Lego robot and launched it into competition – a sign that the mini PC is already proving its worth in getting kids enthusiastic about computing

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TOPICS: After Hours
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  • Boreatton scouts' Raspberry Pi robot controller

    Twelve-year-old Claire Revans (left) is one of the core members of the Boreatton Scout Troop's robotics team, seen here showing off Scratch-based games running on their Raspberry Pi with a pico projector screen.

    She explained to ZDNet UK how the team had decided to work with the Raspberry Pi as its research theme was, coincidentally, about raspberry preservation.

    "It's hard to use at first because you don't know what to do, but, once you get the hang of it, it's fun," Claire said on Thursday. "We've been making games on Scratch and we've been linking our mind-control robot to it — it's very portable."

    Alan Herbert, who helps run the troop, explained that the EEG headsets are linked to the Lego robots using Python. That will be the main programming environment shipped with the educational release of the RaspBerry Pi, when it comes out.

    The Puzzlebox Brainstorms developers in the US are adapting their headset control software to the Raspberry Pi, Herbert added. The aim is to give people the ability to drive the robots by "thinking at them".

    "You have a headset on your head, and it reads your brainwaves into the computer. We link the computer to the robot, and when you think a certain thought, we can train our brains to move the robots," Claire said.

    Image credit: Alan Herbert; photos used with permission


    Read more about Raspberry Pi on ZDNet UK.


  • Boreatton scouts' Raspberry Pi robot and headset

    Ben Thomas, also 12, is another member of the robotics team. Here he is pictured wearing the brainwave-reading headset.

    Ben, a keen gamer, seemed most excited by the team's work on creating games using the Scratch GUI programming environment. "It's good — when you're playing on it you're kind of, 'This is cool'," he said.

    Herbert noted that the kids would be much less enthusiastic if they bought such a basic game, but that the reaction is different when they are involved. "Because they've written them themselves they play for hours, finding where it goes wrong and what they need to do to make it work better," Herbert said.

    According to Ben, the Raspberry Pi "gives you an idea of what's in a computer and how amazing they are, how they can make a computer this small".

    Claire, too, said she has learned a lot from playing with the device.

    "When you work with computers at school, you don't really learn much about what's inside. With the Raspberry Pi you can see what's going on and you've got a lot more to learn," she said. "It's probably more fun than working with normal computers. It made me respect people who work with computers."

    Image credit: Alan Herbert; photos used with permission


    Read more about Raspberry Pi on ZDNet UK.


  • Boreatton scouts' Raspberry Pi Lego case

    The Raspberry Pi, which is all about what's inside a computer, doesn't come with a case.

    Alan Herbert's daughter Isabelle, who is also part of the team, decided to fix that. She designed an enclosure for the tiny PC using Lego. The picture above shows the Raspberry Pi loaded into the box as it's being built.

    Image credit: Isabelle Herbert; photos used with permission


    Read more about Raspberry Pi on ZDNet UK.


Topic: After Hours

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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