Hack the Pi Review – Days 4-6


Our Hack the Pi series is going SO well, I love that I am in a natural groove now so the days are no longer hard to manage. What is also working very well is groups being able to go at their own pace. It’s nice because my students are all at so many different ranges in their computer science abilities, since its not a strict timeline students do not feel pressured or stressed about completing the hack quickly. I want them to enjoy computer science so I am trying to make the overall experience as fun as possible.

Issues for these days: 

Issue #1: Minecraft was not installed on all of the Raspberry Pi’s. Obviously this is something that I should have checked beforehand  – however I just assumed the Pi 2B’s and B+’s all had Minecraft installed.

Solution #1: I told the students to use their computer scientist skills and download & install Minecraft on the Pi’s. This was a surprisingly easy task for them to do! They all figured it out fairly quickly.

Issue #2 – Raspberry Pi power cords breaking.

Solution #2 – I warned the students that if the Pi doesn’t turn on for the next group that comes in then they will not be allowed to participate in the next Pi day. I explained how when they yank the cords out this ruins the cords and they no longer work. Since that announcement the students have been MUCH more careful regarding the Pi’s.

The issues I am having running these Hacks are getting fewer and far between which is an AMAZING thing! This past weekend I was able to attend Picademy and I had an AMAZING experience. I will detail it on my next blog post.


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Hack the Pi Review – Days 3

Hack the Pi is continuing weekly and it is starting to get easier to manage. I have realized the videos are now unnecessary. Students are able to read the directions and look online for further guidance to help them complete their hacks.

Issue #1 Reflections: In order to make our Hack the Pi series I have created reflection questions that I make sure are aligned to the NGSS practices. The reflections are a VERY important piece to making sure computer science can be integrated into my current science curriculum. I originally was going to have them write their reflections in their science journals, but that would require me collecting their journals. Collecting journals is ALWAYS a hassle since I have 190 students so I definitely wanted to avoid this.

Solution #1: I decided to have students make their reflections on their seesaw accounts which were created earlier in the year. Seesaw is an online journal where students can record videos, post pictures and write reflections. I originally had them sign up so parents would get a peak at what is going on in class during the week ( labs, etc.). Having students post their reflections on Seesaw has really helped simplify the reflection process at the end of the Hack.

This is how I am currently having in class Hack the Pi time spent:

  1. Students enter the classroom and begin setting up their Raspberry Pi stations (includes plugging in and hooking up cords & logging into the Pi).
  2. I have students pause and give students the Hack the are currently on.
  3. Students work independently with their table partner to complete the Hack.
  4. Once the Hack is complete students log into seesaw and answer reflection questions. Once they have completed this they notify me.
  5. I check my seesaw and look at their answer and then I go to their station and make sure the code works. If the code works I mark they completed the Hack and they move on to the next one.

Here is the link for Seesaw: http://web.seesaw.me/

I have posted a picture of a students reflection, it also points out the biggest frustration students have when coding. “Where did they make a mistake in their code?” They hate when they get the “syntax error” box, but they always swear to me their code is right and there MUST be something wrong with their Raspberry Pi. Oh the life of a middle school teacher.

Screenshot (1)

That’s all for this week!

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Hack the Pi – Day 2 Review

Now that the second day is over I have a better understanding of the Pi in general, and how my Makerdays will be organized. There were less issues that popped up – yay!! The issues that did pop up I think I found resolutions for.

Issues & Solutions

Issue #1: When a period would unplug the pi to put everything away, the next period would come in and for many of the Pi’s it would ask them to go into recovery mode and they would have to re-download the iOS. I COULD NOT figure this out.

Solution: I realized the Pi’s were not getting shutdown the proper way, so this probably contributed GREATLY to why we continued to have these forced recovery of the iOS. Although we can shutdown on the start menu I wanted my students to use programming language whenever possible. Before they clean-up their station they now open Terminal and type in: sudo shutdown now. This has resolved the issue we had and the pi’s now load straight to the desktop once powered on. Yay!!

Issue #2: Once the Pi’s are powered down the correct way, students would still see the grey recovery mode screen when they powered the Pi up and they would hold down the shift key which would force them to re-download the iOS.

Solution: I had to explain to the students this screen will ALWAYS show. They only need to hold down the shift key if they power the Pi up & the screen freezes. Once they stopped holding shift every time they saw the grey screen the problem was resolved.

How I am keeping Track of Which Hack students are on?

Once I realized that all of the groups would be going at different paces I knew I needed a way to keep track of which Hack each group is currently on. I decided to print out attendance sheets for each period, instead of having the date listed at the top I just left it blank. On the top I filled in the name of each hack.

When students complete a hack they call me over to check their work and then I mark them off on the sheet. They are then allowed to move on to the next Hack. This has helped me TREMENDOUSLY because now I can easily glance and see which groups are behind and observe them to see where they are getting stuck. It allows me to better allocate where my time should be spent!

Well that sums up Hack the Pi – Day 2, please come back for future posts to see how we progress using Raspberry Pi in our classroom. Below you can see pictures as my students begin to use Python 3 on the Raspberry Pi, as well as a link to my second video.

Day 2 Video – Click Here

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Hack the Pi – Day 1 Review

My first Hack the Pi Day is finally over and for me it will go down as a success. Were there many problems,hiccups and issues throughout the day? Yes, but overall the kids were challenged and excited throughout the process. My big picture goal is to create a student version of picademy. (Note – I have not actually been to a picademy, this is more of my vision of what I heard they were like.)

Hack the Pi – Day 1 Objectives

  • Set up a Raspberry Pi, log in, load the graphical interface and begin working with command line.
  • Explain, with evidence, the difference between a Raspberry Pi and a personal computer
  • Design a solution to the problem: Computer Science is not taught in many school due to how expensive computers are.

So how are my Hack the Pi days organized?

For homework on Thursday nights students will watch my Hack the Pi videos where I go over what they will be doing the following day. You can see my first video here (its my first video ever so be nice!). I made an Edpuzzle quiz using this video, you can take a look and create an account on Edpuzzle here. Edpuzzle is truly amazing! I can track which students watch the video and it automatically grades the quiz about the video for me so I know which students did not understand what I was explaining. In addition to watching the video students needed to make a drawing of their Raspberry Pi set up in their Interactive Science Notebook (ISN).  Continue reading

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Hack the Pi Begins!

Well it has been a LONG time since I have written a post. I have spent some serious hours prepping and organizing how I would integrate Raspberry Pi into my science curriculum. The day has finally come as my weekly Hack the Pi series is beginning.

So, how did I get to this point? 

I became interested in the Raspberry Pi at the end of last year when I was researching for ways to make learning computer programming more project based. I decided I NEEDED a class set of Pi’s and so the planning begun on how I would get the resources I needed. The computer science department chairman at our districts’ high school contacted me about helping with my girls coding club, so of course  I mentioned what I wanted to do with the Pi’s. He told me he had a few Pi’s he could give me to start me off. 10 Cana kits later my vision seemed to be happening. Continue reading

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Introducing Scratch with a Vocabulary Quiz Game


At the beginning of the school year I explain to my students that we will be integrating computer science into the 6th grade science curriculum. I explain to them the importance of being introduced to CS while they are in middle school and the career possibilities that await them. I explain to them how coding will help with their problem solving skills which is a VERY important skill for any scientist to develop.

Once we have covered most of the vocabulary in our first unit about the Scientific Method, I introduce the Scratch vocabulary project. Last year after Directing at an iDTech camp I became really interested in Scratch – this led me to finding the Scratch education website. The website has improved very much over the past year and I was able to find a lesson for a scratch vocabulary quiz game. I instantly fell in love with introducing Scratch by using this lesson plan. Continue reading

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3D Print Show Comes to California!


While scrolling through twitter last Friday I found out that the 3D print show was going to be hosted in nearby Pasadena. The way the conference is set up there is an exhibit area with what seemed like 20-30 3D printing companies who specialized in various products; in addition to the conferences that were planned throughout the two days. I signed up for the design conference since that seemed to best line up for what I was interested in.

It was very interesting seeing where 3D printing currently is and where it is heading for the future. I loved hearing Les Karpas talk about his company Metamason. I loved how he talked about how we are currently in the 3rd industrial revolution – this is the time where the United States and Europe can take back manufacturing from the East. Everyone can and will be doing their own manufacturing.  Continue reading

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