Zombie projects

I post many of my projects on public sites for two reasons: (a) they *might* be useful to other people and (b) they *will* get lost if I store them on my home computer. It surprises me when I have a project that has been around for a while and then, seemingly out of the blue, there’s some activity. That is the case with my goiolink package that interfaces Vernier’s Go!Link adapter (and compatible sensors) with Mathematica running on a Raspberry Pi. (Clearly, something that many, many people are doing…)

So I was reasonably surprised that within the span of a few weeks earlier this semester, I received several communications about my code. There is clearly some small interest in reproducing my setup but folks are having problems following the directions. I have little experience in distributing software, and because the Vernier/Mathematica/RPi crowd is a fairly small one, I have access to very few beta testers. If there’s any hope of others using my software, it looks like I’ll need to streamline the installation. So here it goes.

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Dry labs real science

Recently, I had a chance to talk about an approach I developed to help students interact more effectively with on-line instrumentation simulations. I call it [Do][Explore][Act] and it’s an evolution of the Predict-Obseve-Explain approach to doing science demonstrations. The point is to provide mediation remotely so that students have a better understanding of what they are supposed to do with a simulator and how they are being assessed. The presentation has now been posted on DryLabsRealScience youtube channel. You can find the complete playlist here.

Saying goodbye to an old friend

One of my first Raspberry Pi projects was a Pi Palmtop. It was based on a build over at Adafruit and was my entry into building a self-contained device with a 3D printed case. It was fun, and got some decent use. One of the projects I did with it was incorporate Vernier sensors to make a RPi clone of their data acquisition system.

So long Palmtop, your parts will not go to waste.

Now, it’s time to say goodbye. I need the keyboard/mouse that is part of the build for my new Pi projector. Now that I’m pulling it apart, I see there’s a bunch of cool stuff in there (speaker with amplifier, still functioning Li-Poly battery, touchscreen) that will undoubtedly be harvested for future projects.

The Pi Projector

In a week, I return to teaching classes, and my course is going to meet face to face. The pandemic has kept me indoors more or less since the week before Thanksgiving, so I am itching to see students. That said, I’m aware that the virus is not at all contained, and there’s little chance for me to get the vaccine in the near future. [Yes, as a faculty member, I’m allowed to get the vaccine, and I can get it … sometime in April … when classes will be essentially over.

Thanks, government.

Enough of my soap box. I wanted a way to interact with students during office hours, but was worried if we were trying to show work on a computer screen or piece of paper (and thus breaking social-distancing guidelines). I decided solve this problem as I normally do lately – with the help of a Raspberry Pi.

Enter – the Pi Projector.

The Pi Projector, complete with CNC case and a cooling fan!
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