Dot Dot Dot

We recently attended an event at Salisbury Cathedral in which there was an activity tent run by the Royal Signals Museum. I am a huge fan of old forms of communication, especially Morse and so myself and the boy sat down and used the telegraph keys to relay messages to one another. Mine were calling him smelly whilst his messages comprised of instructions to go buy chocolate. I am impressed with how Charlie’s Morse skills are coming along. He’s never forgotten the lesson he got from the kind radio operators on board HMS Belfast a couple of years ago and I think the interest has stuck with him ever since.

Morse Code at the Royal Signals tent at Salisbury Cathedral

To keep the momentum going when we returned home, we started looking online for any interesting Morse projects and found this one by Make Magazine here. Surprisingly when I Looked around the workshop I found I had all the components to make this project, including a spare arcade button so I’ve slowly been piecing it together.

Internet Telegraph Make Magazine Project

I downloaded the complete image and booted it up. Whilst I’m always appreciative of complete image downloads for Pi projects, I always find it’s more difficult to debug compared with if you built your project from the ground up. Not to worry though, a few checks and I found my issues, Make’s article on it is extremely helpful when it comes to that sort of thing. You can see it fired up here, though I think the communal lobby is a little empty most of the time as I’ve only had one exchange. After a quick scout around online I can’t see that many people have made this project. If you have, drop me a line and we’ll chat.

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New Adventures in Coding

I have news! This is me enjoying a drink in May 2016 after having my after school coding club confirmed. I still remember the buzz I got knowing that someone else loved my ideas.

Coding Celebration

Despite a rocky start my club has since evolved over the year and it’s through the support of some really great people that my code has seen me tutor some amazing kids and meet some great parents… It even got me into shows where I sat next to two of my childhood heroes. I can’t thank them enough.

Meeting Simon at Bitterne Con
Defcocon

I now have the chance to do this as a job. I’m nervous about leaving a job of ten years but a chance like this is not going to come along again and I’m really attracted by the new challenge. I hit the ground running in January so wish me luck.

First Coding Classes - Creation Coding for Kids in Salisbury

Whatever you make or do, step outside your comfort zone once in a while and show it off to the world. You never know where it may lead!

My Droid Chat App

This is my app Droid Chat, it allows you to interact with my chatbot via your phone but it also allows you to bring a degree of interactivity to any build or toy (just hunt out previous videos of my BB8 toy). Droid Chat was an idea that came about after meeting prop makers at a comic con last year and it has taken many months and hours evolving the concept into what it is today.

A chatbot android app based around Star Wars droids.

My chatbot relies on people talking to it to improve its responses, so before I release it to the app store I would love it if people helped me train it. If any Android users out there would like a play with my Droid Chat app please just tap me up. It also comes with a few Easter eggs too such as voice controlled radio, predictions, jokes and story telling.

This was all made within App Inventor and is proof that you just need an idea to go out into the world and create. Hopefully this will inspire people to start building themselves. Have a go, you never know where it might lead.

Salisbury’s New Coding Club

This week saw the first code club for kids in Salisbury. It’s progressed from a school club to a village club and now the club is being trialled in Salisbury. I had ten great kids attend, all with different abilities and ideas. We made a Space Invaders game which was a lot of fun.
My interactive BB8 droid is making an appearance in the next lesson as I’ll be showing the kids how to a build chatbot.

Salisbury Coding Club for Kids

Salisbury Coding Club for Kids

Charlie’s Radio Station

Today the boy started asking how radio stations work so we took apart an old in-car FM transmitter and built a little radio station setup around it, all housed in a box we built and painted. Flicking the big switch at the front and talking into the microphone will see Charlie broadcasting his shows around the house and garden.

Building an FM transmitter for our home radio station

The idea is to have one of those ‘On Air’ lights (hence the big hole at the front) illuminate when there’s a show going on.

 

FM Transmitter Hack to Boost the Range

I have always thought transmitting data via an FM frequency would be a creative addition to any project especially if it involved kites. I once came up with the idea to fly a bunch of sensors via kites that would relay the information down on the ground via a low powered FM transmitter. This could then be adapted to broadcast your own recordings should you be at the beach with friends and wanted to broadcast your own radio show to the people below. Rather like this Raspberry Pi project here.

After finding an old in-car FM transmitter I decided to revisit this project and test it out only to find that the range of the things wasn’t very good at all, probably just a few metres. So I set about modifying the FM transmitter to see if I can boost its range somehow.

Now I’m no electronics expert but on opening up the case I think I got the thing figured out, just check the video out for more details.

I took it outside for a bit of a test, making sure it wouldn’t interfere with anything whilst I was playing around with it.

FM Transmitter Hack to boost its range

I plotted my position and measured the distance. My simple modification managed a comfortable 200 metres before the signal started to fade or got drowned out with static.

FM Transmitter Hack to boost its range

I have a feeling I could further modify the transmitter more to achieve an even greater distance but I don’t really want to push it. This project is just for fun don’t forget so obviously check the laws in your area before experimenting yourself

Traffic Calming in Shrewton

After my previous post about building my Microbit synthesiser I wanted to pursue coding random tunes further as it’s something that’s always interested me. There are two projects that I’ve enjoyed listening to and I wanted to take inspiration from them. The first is a site called Machine Conversations that allows you to listen to the conversations of elevators by hooking into their api and translating the data into simple sentences. You can listen here. The second is a site that does something similar, generating poetry from the data generated by Manchester’s many services. It’s called Every Thing, Every Time and you can check it out here.

With these examples I decided to generate my tunes using a similar method, the traffic. My village of Shrewton is suffering from an ever increasing traffic problem, so I thought I would join the cause in my own little way. Let’s gather some traffic data from one of the busiest roads in the village and convert it to something randomly tuneful. You can listen to the Shrewton village’s traffic tunes here.

I chose to host it on a free site anonymously as I’m toying with the idea of pinning up the url on the village’s notice board. This would hopefully encourage people to visit the site out of curiosity and help raise awareness of the problem Shrewton is facing.

Microbit Synthesiser V2

I’m working with the BBC Microbit once again and loving it. I had previous made a very simple synthesiser and entered it into a Microbit competition (read about it here) but unfortunately it didn’t win though it was a great deal of fun finding out what the little programmable board can do.

I’m now developing my synthesiser further and getting my little boy involved too which is always a good thing. It’s still in its infancy, getting it into a working state is probably the hardest thing to do but now it’s there we can have fun playing around with the code and enjoying the results.

Here are some photographs of the adventure so far.

BBC Microbit Synthesiser

BBC Microbit Synthesiser

BBC Microbit Synthesiser

Hacked Furby – Suggestions Please

I’m sad to say that one of my most fun projects, the hacked Furby is still sat on my shelf gathering dust. I occasionally fire him up to monitor my inbox and read out any new emails that drop in throughout the day. Sadly though as Pi boards are a valuable commodity in my house, Furby’s board tends to get used for other things which is a real shame.

Hacked Furby Reading Out Emails

I really want to progress this one further but I’m stuck for ideas at the moment and I’m hoping readers of this post will be able to offer up suggests as to how to improve him. If you have an idea, no matter how silly you may think it is I would love to hear it. It’s often the silly ideas that turn out to be best ones. Drop me a line here: jez.whitworth[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk.

Here’s a little video short of him reading out my emails. I’m using an old Raspberry Pi with espeak to do this though the speech synthesiser isn’t terribly great. I have yet to find a better one that’s as easy to use.