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.

The Signalman

I found an old rusty Signalman train badge and thought it would be perfect to fix to my ham radio receiver and Morse decoder. I always like to name my projects and Signalman is perfect.
The Signalman WebSDR Receiver
I burnt my finger whilst cutting the clasp off the back but it covers a nasty scratch on the box (the dangers of taking projects out and about I guess) and that is how the Signalman got its name.
Web SDR Amateur Radio Receiver Box
Still loving the handset despite some funny looks when I’m out with it. Today whilst out walking I was able to pick up a couple of old gentlemen talking about building their own radios. I love listening in to snapshots of people’s lives like this. It’s like I’m fishing for good conversations with the Signalman being my net.

Gaming Picture Frame Guide

My retro gaming Retropie picture frame has been really we met, which is a relief to me as I’m always nervous when posting the things I’ve made. Two people who have tried to make their own have made contact with me, which is just the best news. However, they were having a few issues with the screen so I’ve drawn up a little tutorial on how I made mine. The guide can be downloaded here.

Retro Gaming Picture Frame Guide

Here’s a quick video tour of the picture frame. It is now hanging on my wall, waiting for Player 1 to plug the USB controller into the frame and play on.


A New Code Club for Kids

I’m really pleased that an idea I had over a year ago and one that has undergone a couple of false starts is finally gaining momentum. The code club for kids will be starting this summer here in Salisbury.

I’ve deliberately chosen subjects to teach that are very close to my heart. The first session we’ll be building our own Space Invaders game which will serve as a good introduction to Scratch. The second session will involve chatbots and how we can code our own. I’ll be bringing along my BB8 droid for people to chat with, showing how you can go on to develop anything with the building blocks provided in these workshops.

Code Club with BB8