RaspberryJam at Manchester’s MadLab 08.09.12.

Written by Liz Hannaford

This really tested my commitment to turning myself into a techy.

RaspberryJams are events taking place monthly all over the country (even globally) as a way of supporting and encouraging people to get the most out of their Raspberry Pis – those little credit-card sized computers which cost about £25.   I’ve had one for a few months now and it was still sat in its snug, foam box doing nothing because I just didn’t have the confidence to start tinkering.

So, I decided the only way I was going to start playing with it was to go along to a jam.

This was about as far out of my comfort zone as it was possible to get whilst still being in a breathable atmosphere.  The attendee list showed that I was the ONLY female signed up and I knew I was going to be the class dunce.

To drum up the courage to walk through the door of MadLab, I went across the road to the LOVELY Home Sweet Home cafe for an espresso.  The window seat on a sunny Saturday morning is a fantastic place to people watch as the Northern Quarter wakes up to the weekend.  I also like a cafe that tweets back!

So, were all my fears about RaspberryJam justified?

On the whole, absolutely not.  I was really impressed by how generous people were with their time and equipment to help me get started.  Even the keyboard I’d brought with me decided not to work properly (wouldn’t do S or T at all, pretty good at J.) so I had to borrow one of them, plus various cables.  I am extremely grateful to all of you, especially Dave who copied the operating system onto my SD card!

And as it turned out, I was NOT the only woman!  Hello, Dawn!

It was great to see lots of dad there with their 10, 11 yr old sons.  But where were the daughters?

I really liked the way the event was set up as a sharing experience.  Everyone was asked at the beginning what they wanted to get out of it and what they were able to put in (nothing, in my case).

So, what did I get out of it?

1. I finally found the motivation to take the Pi out of its box.  An important first step.

2. Got the OS copied onto the SD card.  Thanks, Dave!

3.  Got my Pi connected to a screen, mouse and keyboard and saw it spring to life.

4.  I borrowed an SD card with OPENelec’s XBoxMediaCentre so I got my Pi to play TV programmes from iPlayer onto a screen – which is something I definitely want to have a go at myself at home.   I want to be able to do it myself because I think that would give me a great sense of achievement but I’m worried I’ll get frustrated and just find somebody else to do it for me!  But the Jam has made me feel I could give it a go,  I know where to find the information and I could probably go to the next Jam and get some help if it all goes wrong (sorry to bug you, guys!!)

5.  I started to make a shopping list of equipment I need.  This will end up costing more than the Pi

6.  I met Simon Walters (@cymplecy).  He’s an ICT technician and network manager in primary schools but he also teaches children REAL computing.  He had a small gang of 11 yr old boys utterly absorbed in using Scratch to programme a tiny set of traffic lights.  Even better, he takes the time to blog about the stuff he’s doing with his RPis.

I have to admit, I left after a couple of hours because I felt I couldn’t absorb any more and I wanted to go away and digest what I’d learnt.  I may go back to the next one – if they’ll have me!  (I was definitely a taker rather than a giver)

But I’m pleased I didn’t stay in my window seat at Home Sweet Home.  That would have been too easy.

Tags: