My thoughts on the York Raspberry Jam

By Neil Rickus on

Last Saturday (8th June 2013), I attended the highly enjoyable York Raspberry Jam (raspberryjam.org.uk) at the University of York’s National Science Learning Centre (www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk). Having previously taught at the centre, I knew what an excellent venue it was and, unsurprisingly, the event was a sell out!

For those of you who don’t know, Raspberry Jam is a global network of user groups that meet to support anybody who wants to put their £25 Raspberry Pi computer (www.raspberrypi.org) to good use. The events, which were started by Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher), have gone from strength to strength since beginning in Manchester last year.

During the day, I attended three events, in addition to chatting with other attendees demonstrating various bits of technology. What’s nice about the events is you’re welcome to attend whatever you want and everyone was extremely friendly.

I began the day by volunteering to help children, along with some brave adults, start to program in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) during Laura Kirsop’s (@laurakirsop) Code Club (@CodeClub) session. Code Club (codeclub.org.uk) helps volunteers run after school coding clubs for children and has won a number of awards. The progress shown by the learners during the hour was impressive and it was clear how they took a lot away from the session. On a personal note, having predominantly taught primary school children, it was interesting to also work with the teenagers who attended the session and help them with more challenging problems.

My second session was led by Ben Nuttall (@Ben_Nuttall) and Jason Barnett (@boeeerb). Ben focused on the recently launched camera module and demonstrated some impressive time-lapse videos he’d programmed the Raspberry Pi to produce. He also helped jog my memory of some command line instructions I’d long forgotten about! Jason discussed his use of robotics and how the Raspberry Pi allows you to construct and interact with machines extremely cost-effectively. He also shared with us his Kickstarter project, which has now reached its funding target!

The final session I attended focused on using Minecraft (minecraft.net) in conjunction with Python and was led by David Whale (@whaleygeek). Having previously used Python, it was good to see it being implemented in a different context and in a way engaging to children. The free resources given out during the sessions were also particularly useful.

Reflecting on the day, it was also good that you could:

  • Put names to faces and meet the people behind the Twitter accounts
  • See technology in action and discuss it, face-to-face, with knowledgeable users
  • Buy Raspberry Pi components quickly and cheaply without forking out for postage and packing

One thing that may be useful for future attendees is some indication of the level of prior knowledge required to participate in a session. Although attendees were keen to help everyone at the event, some sessions were at a too advanced level for the beginner and they may have preferred to spend their time at other parts of the Jam.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day and I’ll be sure to visit another event in the future. I’m also keen to volunteer again, as I found this particularly rewarding and haven’t given up my time as much recently as I’m used to. Thanks especially to Alan for starting the Jams (and for sharing the story behind your Gameboy badge with me!).