with Les Pounder!

So for today’s event we had the plan of guiding young children to a creative world of tech. Using the great tools from such people as Raspberry Pi and Bare Conductive we showed both children and parents how easy it is to get into the world of tech and how truly accessible it all is.

First of all it was some colouring in, easy enough for everyone to pick up a pen and draw their very own character ready to make their drawing come to life.

We were specifically drawing on the flash cards from Bare Conductive, a range of colours and styles were everywhere. We had r2d2 from that sci-fi film pretty much everyone has heard of, and then we had a pirate which instead of a head just had a hat… The imagination is a wonderful place!

The next task was to load these drawings up with a bit of current. With the help of the Bare Conductive paint we could create our own tracks ready to place the led and battery on; though easier said than done!

So we had a mixture of ways to apply the paste, some with paint brush some with the squeezy bottle. The easiest seemed to be the provided squeezy tube, the nozzle thin enough to follow the tracks on the guides. The difficult bit came when actually fixing the circuit together with the components. You’re expected to place a pin through the sheet of card; no problem — done with a breeze. The challenging part came when actually getting the components to connect up to the tracks. Being card it’s not the most stable of materials, so it was common to split it completely when putting the led in, this of course meant no connection whatsoever. But perseverance is better than saying we failed!

So after plopping in the battery you have to either wiggle the led around a little bit or repaint over the track and led legs to get a connection. The switch is actually quite a clever little thing, you’re simply asked to paint a block on the card and then cut either side, this then creates a little folding flap… Perfect if you ask me.

Once letting the paint dry it’s a bit hit and miss with getting the LED to work but when it does… This kids love it, then sense of getting your very own circuit to work with a flashy LED is like the cartoon scene of a lightbulb flashing above their head!

Overall this activity is gorgeous, but you need to get it right! the design and instructions are simply laid out all on one piece of card. it’s a great little kit; the class kit at £70 with 10 tubes of ink, 30 cards, 30 LEDs and 30 Batteries, does seem a little overpriced but.. there are smaller kits avaible it’s well worth trying them out!

So that was the easy task over.

Next was the dots board activity!

Okay so this task was a little easier than the last, I’ve done a workshop with these boards on the past so I already know how to debug if needed.

It’s nice and simple, the board has got barely anything to it, it’s a bunch of exposed pads and a capacitor underneath… a total of two components to go wrong, including the GPIO Header. So you’re pretty sure that if the board doesn’t work it’s your poor art skills.

Luckily the bunch of kids at #fleetwoodhack were able to join dot to dot with the bare conductive paint no problem what so ever!

For those who don’t know; the dots board is a slightly larger than hat size board which goes directly onto the GPIO. all you have to do is connect the dots together. It’s got a great big silk screen on the front with it’s own theming of a cloud, some birds and what appears to be babbage on a parachute; but i’ll get to that in a bit.

First things first, get your conductive paint and simply paint in the dots, now if you want to cheat a little bit then you don’t actually need to connect them in the correct order, all that applies is that the inner circle is connected to the groundplane which, one can only assume them completes the circuit to the GPIO explaining that number x is connected. but for those actually wanting to test their keeping in the lines skill, go ahead and draw them in order; that’s the idea any way!

once you’ve painted on your plane, that when it’s best to put the hat on the pi, this is because you can mess around with things later on. So now you’ve got your hat on the pi, it’s time to run the script… this is a script created by Andrew a fellow CT and Raspberry Pi advocat! code can be found below, luckily it’s an easy install with pip!

sudo pip install rpi_dots_minecraft

code n’ shiz https://github.com/gbaman/rpi-dots-minecraft/blob/master/rpi_dots_minecraft/dots_minecraft.py

Anyways, once you’ve got this up and running; (Make sure to have minecraft up and running already in your own world) you can then start working on your creation. All you have to do is simply right click the golden cube on the screen… all of a sudden your plane appears!

Now if you’ve filled in the dots correctly you should be able to inspect your plane walk around and do your pre-flight checks.. Simply return to the block and right click again to run your test. If all is good you shall have your plane flying in no time and even a little message at the end to say that you’ve got the creative art skill of van gogh. If not… then find out what you broke and fix it!

If you haven’t completed the tracks to the entire plane then your plane will come crashing to the ground, all of which descends into the depths of minecraft hell?! Simply look at what was missing on your plane and fill it in to create a successful flight.

Right now let’s change some things around…

See that little bear below your plane and cloud above and colours of many choices; go on… fill them in, you have treats in store! When testing out your flight you’d soon realise that a raging thunderstorm is above babbage on his parachute and a multi coloured plane!

This of course is a variable within the script, something you can change to affect the overall outcome of the events happening.

If you managed to draw a perfect plane the first time round, then why not mix it up and rub off, with a baby wipe of course, a proportion of your plane… my advice would be, taking the tips of the wings, i’ve just been told by a source that there is an easter egg in store so try it out!

Overall the dots boards is a great activity for all, it’s so simple yet so fun, there’s no reason whatsoever that you can’t look at the code and try it mess around with it to try and make your own outcome! From what I heard you can pick these things up for £5.00… personally a great little price for a techy canvas!

Okay so that’s the review of the tools over…

Venue; Amazing little place we went to on the coast of blackpool in fleetwood. We were posted in the pavilion that had a bell strike on each hour, there’s even a little picture for you to enjoy, I managed to ask at the end of the session if it was possible to go upstairs and get a pic; no hesitation whatsoever!

Out of all the events/jams/hacks etc etc I’ve done this was awesome on a personal level, being able to chat about tech and creativeness for more than 5 mins at a time explaining the benefits and what can be done on your own time.


Right okay so this is my first official posting of a blog/review type thing, feedback welcome, as well as criticism… I’m very new to coding and would love for someone to tell me where I went wrong!

If you think I should review something else let me know, I’ve got quite a bit of a kit collection over the years, so if i don’t already have it, I’ll find a way!

Connor, out.

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