ShrimpingIT After-school Maker Club

St Leonard’s CE Primary School in Walton-le-Dale,Preston, Lancs has become the first (AFAIK :) ) primary to run an after-school ShrimpingIt Maker Club.

Having seen and talked to Mr ShrimpingIt (Cefn Hoile) at several events over the summer, I spent a very enjoyable evening up in Morecambe learning how to put a Shrimp together.

Armed with 10 Shrimp Kits, I now have 10 pupils in out Maker Club where they spent the 1st session being very excited but managed to install the Arduino IDE on 10 of the school laptops, have a look at a built shrimp and a full Ardunio Duo and watch me blink an LED!.

We talked about building a Simon Game, LED Dice, a spinning dice and the favourite was a bedroom alarm to keep out nosy siblings and parents!

Next time we will be actually building a Shrimp on a breadboard and getting them to flash LEDs!


So, we got to build our first Shrimps 🙂  I pre-installed the ATMega328s onto the board (had to install the bootloader on them the night before) and the pupils inserted the 2x22pf capactitors, then the crystal, the 10K resistor and the 100nf reset capacitor and bridged across the top of the chip with an LED between pins 19 (Arduino Pin13) and pin 8 (0V).  The pupils wanted me the check their wiring but I tried as much as possible for them to use each other.  Some did struggle with inserting the components in the right holes and it was apparent that what we need is a construction booklet for each person with clear diagrams and simple steps with the booklet also up on the whiteboard display.

We just had time for 2 club members to upload the blink sketch and flash their LEDs (make sure all chips are blank in future – some already had blink loaded!) and they changed the blink pattern to show that they were the ones instructing the Shrimps – they pulled the TxD/RxD/DTR cables off to show that the Shrimp was running the program by itself.  I just used coloured breadboard jumpers to connect the USB programmers to the breadboards as I hadn’t prepared short coloured wire leads.  I think for future sessions, some sort of pre-wired loom that just plugs straight into the breadboard would be a good idea.

Roll on Week 3 🙂


Only 2 out of the 10 Shrimps actually worked straight away – got another 3 working by end of club (only had 50 mins due to normal school over-running) and move onto actually determining what project they wanted to build (and therefore what bits I need to get over half-term) – they were interested in a POV project (5 people) but then 9 of them voted to build a bedroom “burglar” alarm.

Things learnt – between week 2 and week 3 – test and fix all breadboards – also definitely need to color code major rows on he board (such as pin1, pin7,pin8 and the DTR connection) and make sure using the rainbow coloured cables (green/yellow/orange/red/brown) for the programmer connection as 2 different colour schemes was too confusing.

So half-term – time to get some bits – maybe need 2nd breadboard for extra space for projects – also some 3xAA battery boxes for POV projects.
Good things – I ordered the PIR sensors, got plenty of LEDs, got 10 extra breadboards to give more space, tried and tested (and fixed) all 10 Shrimps 🙂
But…the PIR sensors didn’t arrive in time (China sourcing is cheap but slow 😦 ), decided to get club members to install S4A (Scratch 4 Arduino) on the laptops and upload the S4AFirmware to their shrimps – that took lot longer than it should/expected so we just ended up with 15 mins of actually programming our Shrimps but they all liked using a Scratch type interface and they switched their LEDs off and on and connected a switch to an input and saw that the S4A monitor changed value (they did query the words true/false).
As I only had one PIR sensor, we plugged that one in instead of the switch and we had a bit of fun in seeing if anyone could get near the Shrimp without setting it off.
Hopefully – next week, they will all be able to code up a simple alarm using S4A and maybe we can get around to the principle of an entry/exit delay

After-School ScratchPiBot Club

St George’s CE Primary School in Chorley, Lancs has become the first (AFAIK 🙂 ) school to run an after-school “Build and Race a RaspberryPi Robot” club.

The school have bought two Magician Chassis kits and two RaspberryPi plus other bits and the target is to build 2 robots that can race each other across the school hall, detect the wall, slow down, turn around and get back to the start line again.

The robots are going to be completely autonomous and the plan is to program them to do this in Scratch.

Week 1 has gone well, the teams have started putting their Magicican Chassis bits together, looked over their RaspberryPi’s and had a look at Scratch.

Hopefully next week they can get them to go for a manual test drive and start playing with Scratch

Week 2
Disaster, we couldn’t get a RaspberryPi to do anything in the school – it was working fine at home, but once in school (with a different USB Hub) it wouldn’t even recognise a mouse and therefore we couldn’t use the Pi to control the Robot.

Nevertheless, the club members completed the mechanical construction of both their ‘bots and powered them on and had a simple uncontrolled race across the classroom.  The girls ‘bot won as one the boy’s motor wires came loose and their’s started going around in a circle.

I’m going to go into the school this weekend and make sure that both Pi’s can be communicated with OK when they are on the school WiFi to make sure the teams can start programming them next week.

Decided we needed to do a quick 20 mins Scratch session and then found that I hadn’t installed it on the netbooks we were using ! 😦 10 mins later up and running and did the quickest Scratch lesson I’ve ever done (half the club did Scratch last year in Year 5). Then we moved onto running Scratch on one of the Pi connected to the robot motors (but tethered via USB cable) and we showed be could control the motors. We discussed using the IR Light sensors as line followors but time was our enemy again. Next week – those robots ARE going to roll across the floor

Having successfully had a run out at Manchester Raspberry Jam, I thought it would be plain sailing but no 😦  I couldn’t get a 2nd RaspberryPi to connect to the school WiFi so we had to make do with just the one (Which worked fine via VNC).  The roboteers coded up 2 different methods of controlling the bot – Method 1 was to control both motor speeds using up/down arrow keys and then increasing one/decreasing the other using left/right keys to steer.  Then they tried W/S for left motor Up/Down for right motor.  Next time I aim for them to re-code up a control system and race against each other.  We are both learning a lot 🙂

Determined to have 2 robots running but one failed on me 20 mins before the club start when I tried plugging in an IR Line Sensor. We did get the other robot racing across the floor using a simple scratch control program. We added on an Ultra-sonic range detector and sucessfully programmed the ‘bot to stop automatically when it got within 40cm of a Duplo brick wall – our first proper step into building an autonomous machine 🙂