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Stewart's Blog

Stewart Watkiss website to the world ...

(Children, computing, first aid and other ramblings ...)

Hanbury Circular Walk

February 13th, 2021

This is a way marked route by Worcestershire County Council. Starting at Gateway Park near Droitwich Spa Marina (approx. postcode WR9 7DU). it goes along the Worcestershire and Birmingham Canal, and then across fields passing Hanbury Hall (National Trust).

Distance: 7 miles (including walk around the outside of Hanbury Church).

Map Hanbury Circular Walk
Click the map for a larger version

Worcestershire and Birmingham Canal at Hanbury Gateway Park

Hanbury Hall, National Trust house in Worcestershire

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Details of the route : Hanbury Circular Walk (Worcestershire County Council).

Redditch Dinosaur Walk

February 6th, 2021

This is a walk starting at Morton Stanley Park walking around local roads in the Redditch area. If you map your route using a GPS then it will be trace the image of a dinosaur.

Distance: 6.2 miles

Map of Redditch dinosaur walk - click for larger version
Click map for larger version

Redditch Dinosaur Walk

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

This route is based on an existing route, unfortunately I don’t know the original creator to give appropriate credit.

Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch

January 23rd, 2021

A walk through local paths including parts of the Monarch’s way. This walk has some challenges in terms of difficult stiles and can get very muddy. In some places I had to take an alternative route due to flooding of the path.

Distance: 5.2 miles
Terrain: Footpaths. Includes difficult terrain, stiles and may be very muddy.

Map of the Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch
Click map for a larger version

Photo on Morton Stanley Park to Elcock’s Brook and Ham Green, Walk in Redditch

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Raspberry Pi Pico on YouTube #Shorts

January 23rd, 2021

I’ve now created my first YouTube #Shorts.

It’s a quick demonstration of the Raspberry Pi Pico switching a large load through a darlington Transistor.

I’ve also created a standard video on the Raspberry Pi Pico and how to get started using MicroPython here:

This video is based around the Transistor switch and darlington driver video but I had already published that video before the Raspberry Pi Pico came out.

What are YouTube #Shorts

YouTube shorts are very short videos, created in portrait mode designed to be very short. Does that sound familiar? It’s essentially YouTube’s version of TikTok.
These are often raw footage videos. Some people may just want to create shorts, but in my case I think they may be useful to show simple clips of my projects to be followed up by full Videos or write-ups on my website.

It will be interesting to see how YouTube develops these further.

More YouTube Shorts

I’ve created a second short as a preview of my Raspberry Pi Pico Voltmeter project:

Raspberry Pi Pico – A microcontroller from Raspberry Pi

January 22nd, 2021

There’s a new microcontroller available but this one is from an unexpected manufacturer – Raspberry Pi!

Raspberry Pi well known for their single board computers has now branched out into a micro-controller. This has been done in partnership with other micro-controller supplies such as Arduino, who are expected to release a board based around the same micro-controller integrated circuit later this year.

The board is known as a Raspberry Pi Pico and is based around their own custom microcontroller IC known as the RP2040. The microcontroller has 256kB of memory and 2MB of flash memory which doesn’t sound a lot, but is quite reasonable for a low cost microcontroller.

Raspberry Pi Pico

The Pico can run code created in C++ or in MicroPython. The inclusion of MicroPython as a mainstream language is a game changer which is going to make microcontrollers more accessible to Python programmers.

The video goes through some details of the Pico and gives a basic tutorial on how to get up and running by installing the MicroPython interpreter onto the Pico and getting your first program up and running.

I plan to add more videos on the Raspberry Pi Pico in future so please subscribe to my YouTube channel to get notified of future videos.

Webheath to Banks’s Green Walk, Redditch

January 16th, 2021

This is a walk starting at St. Philip’s Church in Webheath Redditch. It goes to Bank’s green by using a combination of the Monarch’s Way and country lanes. Approx 60% of this is on roads. The route is based on one that I have followed as part of the Scout’s Shirehike.

Distance: 3.8 miles

Map of walk Webheath to Bank's Green - click for larger version
Click map for larger version

Fields near Bank's Green on walk

Ford on Webheath to Bank's Green Walk

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

Monarch’s Way

The Monarch’s Way is a 615 mile long-distance footpath route. It is based around the escape route that was taken by King Charles II in 1651 after defeat at the battle of Worcester. The route is well maintained and signposted.

Batchley and Enfield Woodland Walk, Redditch

January 10th, 2021

This is walk around the Batchley and Enfield areas of Redditch. It goes through 3 different wood areas, the Memorial Garden and 2 local parks. It also includes the site of the former Enfield factory and the railway.

Distance: 4.5 miles
Terrain: Woodland and tarmac paths. Includes some stairs (alternate route available).

Map of the Batchley and Enfield Woodland Walk Redditch
Click map for a larger version

Site of former Enfield cycles factory in Redditch (Batchley and Enfield Woodland Walk)

The route is also available through the Ordnance Survey Online OS Maps and as a GPX file for handheld sat nav systems.

SnowPi RGB Christmas Game for Raspberry Pi

December 21st, 2020

My Christmas maker project this year is a game based around the SnowPi RGB. This is a PCB with addressable RGB LEDs (also known as NeoPixels).

The game is created in Python pygame zero. In the game you have to press an appropriate key (or button on the joypad) at the right time. It’s a simple skill based reaction game with the need to press the correct button at the right time. The USB joypad is handled using qjoypad.

See the SnowPi RGB Game page for more details and to download the source code.

Raspberry Pi controlled Christmas Lighting including NeoPixels and RGB Matrix LED display

December 3rd, 2020

This video explains about the Christmas lighting display I have at my house and how it’s controlled using 3 Raspberry Pi computers. Two of these are automated, but one does require manual intervention to turn it on and off.

There are outdoor Christmas lights including Christmas Tree lights and light-up animals using LED lighting. These are run off mains electricity so needed a safe method to turn them on and off. I achieved this using the Energenie remote control sockets with a Pi-mote. See more about this in my Raspberry Pi home automation project

Christmas tree with decorations and Raspberry Pi controlled lights

There are also NeoPixels / addressable RGB LEDs which are controlled using my NeoPixel GUI application.
See video of the Raspberry Pi controlled RGB PixelStrip / NeoPixel LEDs and the Raspberry Pi NeoPixel LED GUI application.

Finally there is an RGB matrix LED display which I have programmed to play animations which are stored as a series of png files.
See more details on the video Raspberry Pi RGB LED Matrix display.

The animation shown is an animated advent calendar for the 1st of December. This is created manually by creating the individual frames in LibreOffice draw and then exporting them as individual PNG files. I also plan to create some more animations using Blender 2.9 using the 2D animation mode.
I’ve also created a video tutorial on 2D animation in Blender 2.8 and 2.9.

These are just some of the projects I’ve done using a Raspberry Pi.
You can find more on the PenguinTutor project page.

micro:bit v2 – New version of the educational coding tool

November 29th, 2020

The micro:bit version 2 is now available. This is a significant upgrade on the original micro:bit with a better processor, more memory, a speaker, microphone, touch sensitive area and more.

What is a micro:bit

The Micro:bit (or sometimes referred to as microbit) is a small electronic programming tool designed to teach coding to secondary school children (11 to 16 year olds). I have also used it in my Codeclubs with much younger children who have really enjoyed it. It was initially designed by the BBC and a micro:bit was given to each child in the UK in one year group during 2016. It contains a basic processor and can follow programs sent to it from a PC (Linux, Windows or Mac) or mobile device (Android or iOS). It has LEDs on the front which can be programmed to turn on and off individually, it also includes buttons to control the device, but also has an accelerometer and also supports Bluetooth for wireless communications.

It has an edge connector which can be used with crocodile clips (alligator clips) to connect to external electronic components, or connected to a certain addons for additional connections or to control a robot etc.

What’s new in the micro:bit version 2

The new version has a better processor as well as doubling the available RAM memory from 16kB to 32kB. This should increase what it is able to do.

It now includes audio support directly on board through a new built-in microphone and a small piezo speaker. It also adds a touch sensor to the micro:bit logo.

micro:bit v2 - new version 2 of coding device

Programming the micro:bit using MakeCode (by Microsoft)

There is a MakeCode editor available on the web which is created by Microsoft. This supports a drag and drop programming environment which works with code blocks. There is also a Javascript editor and the ability to move between the two. Through these you can download the code in the form of a hex file to your PC and then transfer it to the microbit as a USB drive. Alternatively you can connect directly and send the file direct from the Chrome (Chromium) browser to the micro:bit.

Programming the micro:bit using MicroPython

The micro:bit also supports micro python. This is a slimmer version of the regular Python programming language designed for low spec devices such as the micro:bit. This can be programmed through the web browser.

It is also possible to use the Mu editor to create code on a PC and send that to the micro:bit.

The one issue with Micro-Python on the version 1 micro:bit is that there was insufficient memory to include the Bluetooth code and still be able to run other programs. With the new hardware the version 2 has more memory, so hopefully this is something that can be improved in future (the documentation does not list which new features are now supported, but the code is in active development).

Summary

The micro:bit is a really useful tool for teaching programming to children. The new micro:bit v2 adds more features and makes it even better. The only downside is that for those with existing micro:bits then it may not be possible to use the new features in a classroom environment if there are insufficient version 2 models for the whole class.

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UK days out, children and holiday information is also available on the Days Out Diary web site
Linux, LPI and the Quiz / Test Program posts are also available on the Penguin Tutor website
First Aid Information, first aid games and first aid practice test / quiz entries are also available on the First Aid Quiz Web site