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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Raspberry Pi Jamboree in Manchester

Raspberry Jams are a gathering of Pi enthusiasts who share ideas on all things Raspberry Pi. The story goes that Alan O'Donohoe had the idea for Raspberry Jams in the bath! This weekend saw the biggest Raspberry Jam in the form of the first ever Raspberry Jamboree in Manchester to celebrate a year since the release of the Raspberry Pi.

For anyone who does not know Alan (and I cant think why you do not! @teknoteacher) I should probably explain that is ultimate ninja skill is in bringing people together. Last year, he very kindly invited me to this gathering that he was planning. I had no idea then just how big it would turn out, or that I'd be speaking at it!

I've come a long way since my first Raspberry Jam in June (which you can read about here) both in my work to get girls into tech and the maker culture surrounding it through my project Geek Gurl Diaries and getting Raspberry Pis into my school to teach programming concepts to KS3 using music. I therefore thought I'd actually having something relevant to say to teachers about Rasp pi and I think the talk went down a storm. Even Steve Furber was at the book of the room listening to me. (This isn't going to be the only name drop in this post!) I hope there may be a video soon that I can post here.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me, was meeting and spending time with people I speak to online about Raspberry Pi projects like Paul Hallett @phalt_  who talked about how you can crowd fund class sets of Pis, @Rob_Bishop, Andrew Robinson (PiFace) and Alex Bradbury @asbradbury who talked about how you can manage class sets of pis especially when it comes to imagining large numbers of SD cards.

I also made new friends in the form of my current favourite author Chris Roffey, who was talking to me for a good 15 minutes before I realised who he was. If you are new to Python I really recommend his Coding Club books.

It was a real pleasure to meet Paul Beech from Pimoroni who design and make the Pibow cases which in school have been really good. The Pis have been really robust in them and the students can still see all the components. They are incredibly easy to label with numbers for a class set too!

My continuing 'will I, won't I meet Maggie Philbin' saga continued too as the lady herself was in the same building as me, but we again failed to meet in person. I did get a nice tweet from her tho.

Many of the talks and discussions on the day did indeed center around education. I particularly enjoyed the panel discussion with Clive Beale (Raspberry Pi) and Christine Swan and I think more discussions like these should be happening at Jams everywhere.

Finally, the most engaging and interesting talk was given by teenage girl called Amy, about her enjoyment of computer science and her Raspberry Pi project based on Conway's Game of Life. She proved the point that girls can be switched on and get excited by computing. It is using an idea that will hook them, and letting their creativity shine by taking the project further.

Me, Amy and Ben Nuttall - Photo taken by Pete Lomas no less!

My advice, if you are a primary teacher worried about the new program of study or a computing teacher, get yourself to a Jam. It is where the magic happens. It is like hanging out with family.

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