Picademy – The best CDP you’ll ever experience

Picademy – The best CDP you’ll ever experience

Day one of Picademy was a lot to take in, but it was also great fun. We’re told that Day two involves us creating our own project, and this can be absolutely anything we want it to be. Being creative is something I struggle with, so I spent a lot of time looking online for ideas, but not really having anything jump out at me. At home, I pulled out my electronics kit, and decided to take that with me for inspiration. Over time I have acquired a lot of stuff, LEDs, motors, sensors, HATs etc, but I’ve never really done anything with them, as I just didn’t know where to start. I was also given an Adafruit Heart Rate kit by my fianc√© to take along and use if I wanted to.


Day two arrived and neither Claire Foster or I had a concrete idea we wanted to go with. Teaming up again, to be affectionately dubbed 2 x Claire by Pete Lomas, we decided to work on a project that utilised what we thought were the most interesting items in my kit;

This resulted in an initial plan to create “Doctor Robot’s Heart Rate Monitor & Display”, a program which monitored someone’s heart beat, flashed an LED in time with the heart, displayed the average beats per minute on the LCD screen, and had the robot spin at a speed proportional to the heart rate.

I’ll be pretty honest at this point and tell you now that this isn’t what we ended up with, but we did get close…..

By the end of the second day we had successfully hooked up the heart rate receiver to pick up information from the transmitter, and translate the series of high/low pulses to control an LED on the breadboard.

After getting the basic right we moved on to adding the Display-O-Tron to output the average beats per minute. Here we encountered some problems…. First we had to change the code to run through the GPIO pins the Display-O-Tron had available, and the LED no longer flashed. We removed the HAT and tested the new code without it, and had no problems, so we knew that it was the Display-O-Tron causing us the problems. With some much needed help from Dave Jones, we discovered that the GPIO breakout was designed to be soldered, and so just putting the jumper cables in the holes wasn’t enough. With some clever engineering from Claire Foster, we managed to wedge the cables in tight enough to the connectors to get our code up and running again.

Our next step was to have the Display-O-Tron read the information sent to the receiver by the transmitter, analyse this information, calculate the average beats per minute, and output this to the LCD display. Unfortunately by this point we had about 30-40 minutes left, and neither of us had experience dealing with inputs and outputs in this way. After an amazing idea, and lots of help from Les Pounder, by the end of the hack, we had our Display-O-Tron showing the average beats per minute when our code was run.

We didn’t quite manage to get our little picobot spinning, but he still makes for an adorable doctor.


The second day at Picademy was rounded up with presentations on all the hacks, and it was amazing to see some of the projects people had come up with, and managed to execute, in such a short space of time.

I can honestly say that I have never had more fun, and learnt so much, than I have at Picademy. I’m so excited to develop and deliver Raspberry Pi workshops (in fact, I’ve booked my first one for later this month), and it’s also given me more confidence to play with the equipment I have, and get hacking!

A huge thank you goes out to everyone else who made Picademy so amazing, Damien Payton for organising, Clive Beale, Les Pounder, Dave Jones and Sarah Zaman, to Pete Lomas for presenting me with my certificate, and to my partner in crime Claire Foster!

(Full project write up for”Doctor Robot’s Heart Rate Monitor & Display” to follow)



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