#MonthOfMaking is back in The MagPi 103!

Hey folks, Rob from The MagPi here! I hope you’ve been doing well. Despite how it feels, a brand-new March is just around the corner. Here at The MagPi, we like to celebrate March with our annual #MonthOfMaking event, where we want to motivate you to get making.

A MonthOfMaking project: Someone wearing a wearable tech project featuring LEDs, a two-digit LED matrix, and a tablet screen. The person is high-fiving someone who is out of view.
You could make tech you can wear

But what should I make?

Making what? Anything you want. Flex your creative building skills with some programming, or circuity, or woodworking, metalwork, knitting, baking, photography, and whatever else you’ve been wanting to try out. Just make it, and share it with the hashtag #MonthOfMaking.

A MonthOfMaking project: a wildlife camera camouflaged in branches
You could make something to hide in nature while you capture… nature

In The MagPi 103 we have a big feature on alternative ways you can make — at least alternative to what we usually cover in the magazine. From sewing and embroidery to recycling and animation, we hope you’ll be inspired to try something new.

Try something new with Raspberry Pi Pico

I’ve got a few projects lined up myself, including some Raspberry Pi Pico stuff I’ve been mulling over.

A MonthOfMaking project: a homemade chandelier consisting of glass bottles and an LED ring
You could make a chandelier light fitting out of drinks bottles?!

Speaking of: we also show you some easy Raspberry Pi Pico projects to celebrate its recent release! You’ll discover all the ways you can get started with and learn more about Raspberry Pi’s first microcontroller.

All this and our usual selection of articles on weather maps, on-air lights, meme generators, hardware reviews, and much more is packed into issue 103!

A MonthOfMaking project: two Nintendo Game Boys, one of them hacked with two extra buttons and a colour display
Maybe you could tinker with some old tech

Get The MagPi 103 now

You can grab the brand-new issue right now online from the Raspberry Pi Press store, or via our app on Android or iOS. You can also pick it up from supermarkets and newsagents, but make sure you do so safely while following all your local guidelines.

magpi magazine cover issue 103

Finally, there’s also a free PDF you can download. Good luck during the #MonthOfMaking, folks! I’ll see y’all online.

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Bikelangelo is a water-dispensing graffiti bicycle trailer

Inspired by persistence of vision (POV) projects, Sagarrabanana built a system that incrementally dispenses water as pixels on a flat surface, creating ephemeral dot matrix messages/images. This so-called “Bikelangelo” device is towed by a bicycle for ultra-mobile marking, and uses a pressurized tank for fluid storage.

As he pedals, a series of seven valve open and close under Arduino Nano control. A Hall-effect sensor allows it to dispense accurately based on the bike’s speed, and a Bluetooth phone connection via an HC-05 module is implemented for text input on the go.

You can see Bikelangelo in action in the quick clip below, and more information about the project – including two longer videos in Spanish – is available in Sagarrabanana’s write-up.

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Going hands-on with STEM during the pandemic

This article was written by Valentina Chinnici, Arduino Education Product Manager.

The last year has clearly been challenging for educators around the world due to the pandemic. Yet despite these difficult times, educators and students haven’t stopped getting hands-on and experimenting with STEM.

But how is it possible to create a systematic environment for student ideas through scientific observation when the science lab is no longer accessible?

It’s down to creativity and innovation, which haven’t been put on hold even during a pandemic. Teachers have had to adapt quickly to this fast-changing environment, and technologies like Arduino have supported this adaptation, providing educators with flexible tools to keep experimenting from home. 

Arduino is committed to making STEM accessible for all students, with free tools and resources like the Arduino Science Journal app to collect data, leveraging either your mobile device or external sensors connected to Arduino, or a portable science lab for your remote needs (now on sale).

Teachers can also take advantage of different boards to experiment with science, which is what UK-based physics teacher, Alan Bates, did. Bates created an experiment to demonstrate the phenomenon known as the conservation of momentum, published in the February edition of The Physics Teacher.

Bates combined an Arduino Uno Rev3 and a PASCO Smart Cart to create a movable rubber band launcher to investigate the conservation of momentum, and the energy transferred by the system as the potential energy of the rubber band is released. The Arduino board was used instead to activate the motion releasing the rubber band, and consequently, the cart.

The launcher was made with a wooden stick, a nail, and the rubber band, placed on a low-friction track, and mounted on top of a PASCO smart cart base. Masses are added to the cart every three measurements of recoil velocity. 

Thanks to this scientific investigation, Bates was able to demonstrate and verify that, “elastic potential energy is not only transferred into kinetic energy, but also into other types of energy that include thermal and sound energy.”

For more information on the findings and analysis of the Conservation of Momentum with Dual Technologies, get your copy of the February edition of The Physics Teacher.

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This program can tell if you paid attention to text

When you read a book, or… other website, you may find your mind wandering from time to time. This isn’t always a big deal, but if you want to ensure that you’re getting every last bit of information on a page, YouTuber “I made this” may have the perfect solution.

His “program that could tell if you are paying attention” employs eye tracking to see where on the page you’re looking, and correlates this with input from a NeuroSky sensor. Conveniently, the particular unit used here (salvaged from an old Star Wars toy) outputs an attention value from 0-100. An Arduino board reads the EEG directly and passes data along to the computer, which then highlights text green for “paid attention,” and red for “not paying attention.”

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Cops Using Music to Try to Stop Being Filmed Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Someone tries to livestream their encounters with the police, only to find that the police started playing music. In the case of a February 5 meeting between an activist and the Beverly Hills Police Department, the song of choice was Sublime’s “Santeria.” The police may not got no crystal ball, but they do seem to have an unusually strong knowledge about copyright filters.

The timing of music being played when a cop saw he was being filmed was not lost on people. It seemed likely that the goal was to trigger Instagram’s over-zealous copyright filter, which would shut down the stream based on the background music and not the actual content. It’s not an unfamiliar tactic, and it’s unfortunately one based on the reality of how copyright filters work.

Copyright filters are generally more sensitive to audio content than audiovisual content. That sensitivity causes real problems for people performing, discussing, or reviewing music online. It’s a problem of mechanics. It is easier for filters to find a match just on a piece of audio material compared to a full audiovisual clip. And then there is the likelihood that a filter is merely checking to see if a few seconds of a video file seems to contain a few seconds of an audio file.

It’s part of why playing music is a better way of getting a video stream you don’t want seen shut down. (The other part is that playing music is easier than walking around with a screen playing a Disney film in its entirety. Much fun as that would be.)

The other side of the coin is how difficult filters make it for musicians to perform music that no one owns. For example, classical musicians filming themselves playing public domain music—compositions that they have every right to play, as they are not copyrighted—attract many matches. This is because the major rightsholders or tech companies have put many examples of copyrighted performances of these songs into the system. It does not seem to matter whether the video shows a different performer playing the song—the match is made on audio alone. This drives lawful use of material offline.

Another problem is that people may have licensed the right to use a piece of music or are using a piece of free music that another work also used. And if that other work is in the filter’s database, it’ll make a match between the two. This results in someone who has all the rights to a piece of music being blocked or losing income. It’s a big enough problem that, in the process of writing our whitepaper on YouTube’s copyright filter, Content ID, we were told that people who had experienced this problem had asked for it to be included specifically.

Filters are so sensitive to music that it is very difficult to make a living discussing music online. The difficulty of getting music clips past Content ID explains the dearth of music commentators on YouTube. It is common knowledge among YouTube creators, with one saying “this is why you don’t make content about music.”

Criticism, commentary, and education of music are all areas that are legally protected by fair use. Using parts of a thing you are discussing to show what you mean is part of effective communication. And while the law does not make fair use of music more difficult to prove than any other kind of work, filters do.

YouTube’s filter does something even more insidious than simply taking down videos, though. When it detects a match, it allows the label claiming ownership to take part or all of the money that the original creator would have made. So a video criticizing a piece of music ends up enriching the party being critiqued. As one music critic explained:

Every single one of my videos will get flagged for something and I choose not to do anything about it, because all they’re taking is the ad money. And I am okay with that, I’d rather make my videos the way they are and lose the ad money rather than try to edit around the Content ID because I have no idea how to edit around the Content ID. Even if I did know, they’d change it tomorrow. So I just made a decision not to worry about it.

This setup is also how a ten-hour white noise video ended up with five copyright claims against it. This taking-from-the-poor-and-giving-to-the-rich is a blatantly absurd result, but it’s the status quo on much of YouTube.

A group, like the police, who is particularly tech-savvy could easily figure out which songs result in videos being removed rather than have the money stolen. Internet creators talk on social media about the issues they run into and from whom. Some rightsholders are infamously controlling and litigious.

Copyright should not be a fast-track to getting speech removed that you do not like. The law is meant to encourage creativity by giving artists a limited period of exclusive rights to their creations. It is not a way to make money off of criticism or a loophole to be exploited by authorities.

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CO2 Monitoring As an Anti-Covid19 Measure #ShowAndTell #Feather #COVID19

Pierre Carles demonstrates a portable CO2 monitor which can provide an air quality measurement, perhaps an environment which may indicate that the COVID-19 virus can to lurk in.

In this tutorial, we try to address an issue that is both simple and very complex: the efficient ventilation of closed spaces occupied by people. SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for Covid19, is considered to be an airborne virus, spreading (among other ways) through respiratory aerosols (microscopic droplets that are expired as a normal byproduct of respiration). Outdoor or in largely open spaces, the best mitigating strategy against aerial contamination remains distancing: maintaining a distance of one to two meters between people is considered to be an easy way to safeguard against virus exchange through aerosols.

By contrast, in closed spaces, respiratory aerosols have been shown to travel over large distances and to diffuse uniformly in whole rooms when given enough time. Under such circumstances, distancing loses part of its efficiency, and the breathable air in the whole room is at risk of becoming a contamination vector.


See the full build in the Instructables guide here.

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Loomia Components are Heating up the Wearable Space

There is something about wearable projects that causes me to utterly forget my technical limits and computational boundaries and dream up the most extravagantly fanciful, unrealistic projects. The fact that I can wear tech is so exciting that I design the most fantastic, impractical projects possible, and when I begin to build it out, the roadblocks that I encounter are immense. Some of them have to do with power, some have to do with the balancing making the project IoT-based while keeping the footprint small, and most have to do with continuity in construction and extending the electrical circuit throughout the wearable.

Part of the problem is me letting my ideas get ahead of reality, but part of the issue is that these challenges accompany any wearable project. No matter how complex the project gets, power, construction, and connectivity will always be difficult to successfully design while optimizing for the smallest footprint possible.

While there are some products that make building wearables easier, they still don't really eliminate the specific challenges specific to wearables. But this shouldn't deter us from playing within this sector. Wearables are at the intersection of so many industries and can be used to link technology and fashion, furniture, aerospace, kitchen tools - really anything! Considering how the world is moving toward a data-driven model, in which the inanimate objects around us constantly collect, provide and utilize data to make our lives better, it isn't a surprise that we want to gain more information from the soft surfaces around us. We just need it to be easier to do.

New York-based electronic textile firm Loomia has created a series of circuits for soft goods that makes building wearables exponentially easier. They've built the Loomia Electronic Layer, or LEL, which is basically an embedded electrical circuit laminated onto fabric. Instead of building everything around a breadboard, the LEL is designed to make product-like prototypes that seamlessly integrate into whatever surface material you’re working with - all you have to do is peel the backing and it can stick to anything. It enables light, heat and pressure to be integrated into fabrics. Of course this ease of construction and usability has me back to dreaming up projects in the wearable-world, but this time it's just easier!

The Project

One of Loomia's components that stood out in particular to me is the 5V-7.2V heater. Using two LiPo batteries in series, it can warm up within 60 seconds and top out after two minutes. I've never seen a heater that is so easy to begin using, and that can be integrated on nearly any type of material.

Loomia 5V - 7.2V Heater

added to your cart!

Loomia 5V - 7.2V Heater

Only 2 left! COM-17858

The 5V - 7.2V heater is made to work with an off the shelf, 5V battery pack or two lipo batteries in series (just make sure b…


Here in Colorado in the dead of winter, I'm a fan of all things heat. I often can't go anywhere without my puffy jacket, but sometimes I want to wear other jackets that just don't provide the same type of insulation. The Loomia heating pad is perfect for solving this problem!

I can connect up the heating pad with other Loomia components using the interconnect system - all that is required is slightly trimming the connection pad - and then soldering the buses together like any other electrical connection. All LELs can be soldered together quickly like this!

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The code itself is run off an Arduino and is connected to a temperature sensor via Qwiic. When the temperature sensor hits a threshold (in my case 32 degrees F), it triggers the heater to turn on. So, the initial voltage is set to zero, and if triggered, it increments the voltage to tap out at 255.

Final Thoughts

Sweet! I've got an integrated heating pad in my blazer now, and I didn't even have to spend hours thinking about construction. The Loomia components make building wearables seamless, and really, can elevate any prototyping project and make it look like a final design.

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The possibilities are endless with these revolutionary soft circuits...I'm considering building an interactive pillow-case alarm clock with the pressure sensor next. What kind of projects does this technology enable you to do now?

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Victory! EFF Scores Another Win for the Public’s Right of Access against Patent Owner Fighting for Secrecy

Patents generate profits for private companies, but their power comes from the government, and in this country, the government’s power comes from the people. That means the rights patents confer, regardless of who exercises them, are fundamentally public in nature.

Patent owners have no right to keep their patents rights secret. The whole point of the patent system is to encourage people to disclose information about their inventions to the public by giving certain exclusive rights to those who do. But that doesn’t stop private companies from trying to keep information about their patents secret—even when their disputes to go court, where the public has a right to know what happens.

A recent decision by a federal court in a long-running transparency push by EFF affirmed the public’s right to access important information about a patent dispute. For more than two years, we have been working to vindicate the public’s right of access to important sealed court documents in Uniloc v. Apple. The sealed documents supported Apple’s argument that the case should be dismissed because Uniloc lost ownership of the patents when it sued Apple, and thus lost the right to bring the suit. But as filed, the documents were so heavily redacted that it was impossible to understand them. So EFF intervened to oppose the sealing requests on the public’s behalf—and we won. When Uniloc asked for reconsideration, the court refused—and we won again. When Uniloc appealed, the Federal Circuit overwhelmingly upheld the district court’s decision—and for the third time, we won.

EFF hoped that the string of victories would mark the end of our intervention and that the parties would promptly file properly-redacted documents as required at last. But they did not do so.

In October 2020, after more than three months had passed since the Federal Circuit’s ruling, we discovered Apple had filed a new motion to dismiss against Uniloc. Again, the motion and exhibits were so heavily redacted that it was impossible to know what Apple’s argument for dismissal was. So EFF moved to intervene, challenging Uniloc’s failure to comply with the Federal Circuit’s ruling as well as its new failure to submit proper sealing requests. The district court agreed, and for the fourth time, we won.

That EFF had to intervene underscores the problem of excessive sealing in patent cases between private companies. No matter how much they disagree on other issues, otherwise-warring sides often have a mutual interest in wanting to keep information about the litigation secret. When that happens, both sides are motivated to make excessive requests to seal court records—but not to oppose them. If there’s no opposition, there’s no guarantee a judge will weigh the request against the public’s right of access. To make sure that happens, EFF often intervenes in patent cases to vindicate the public’s access rights.

In its December 2020 decision, the district court did not mince words, excoriating both parties for their casual attitude toward the public’s right of access. The court emphasized the perils of “collusive oversealing,” which happens in cases such as this where “both parties seek to seal more information than they have any right to and so do not police each other’s indiscretion.” Although Apple did not request secrecy, it had ample opportunity to challenge Uniloc’s sealing requests, but “opted instead to grab its December 4 victory on the standing issue and head for the hills.” Seeing Apple and Uniloc’s mutual interest in secrecy, the court realized that “[w]ithout EFF, the public’s right of access will have no advocate,” and granted our motion for intervention with thanks.

The court then denied all of Uniloc’s sealing requests—including the requests to seal the names and amounts paid by Uniloc’s licensees. In doing so, the court emphasized the public’s right to information about U.S. patents in addition to the right to access court records. As it explained: “a patent is a public grant of rights. . . . The public has every right to account for all its tenants, all its sub-tenants, and (more broadly) anyone holding even a slice of the public grant.” It also emphasized the public’s “interest in inspecting the valuation of the patent rights . . . particularly given secrecy so often plays to the patentee’s advantage in forcing bloated royalties.” We commend the court for recognizing the gravity of the public’s right—and need—for information about the ownership, licensing, and valuation of U.S. patents.

We hoped this victory would convince Uniloc to admit defeat and change its sealing practices, but it has decided to appeal its loss to the Federal Circuit again. EFF’s fight for access to Uniloc’s licensing secrets will continue. In the meantime, we hope this decision will encourage judges and litigants to enforce the public’s right of access, especially when the adversarial process collapses.


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What does equity-focused teaching mean in computer science education?

Today, I discuss the second research seminar in our series of six free online research seminars focused on diversity and inclusion in computing education, where we host researchers from the UK and USA together with the Royal Academy of Engineering. By diversity, we mean any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. This might be, for example, age, gender, socio-economic status, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or sexuality. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of difference. 

In this seminar, we were delighted to hear from Prof Tia Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Shomari Jones (Bellevue School District) (find their bios here), who talked to us about culturally responsive pedagogy and equity-focused teaching in K-12 Computer Science.

Equity-focused computer science teaching

Tia began the seminar with an audience-engaging task: she asked all participants to share their own definition of equity in the seminar chat. Amongst their many suggestions were “giving everybody the same opportunity”, “equal opportunity to access high-quality education”, and “everyone has access to the same resources”. I found Shomari’s own definition of equity very powerful: 

“Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement of all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as the distribution of resources. Tackling equity requires an understanding of the root cause of outcome disparity within our society.”

Shomari Jones

This definition is drawn directly from the young people Shomari works with, and it goes beyond access and opportunity to the notion of increasing justice and fairness and addressing the causes of outcome disparity. Justice was a theme throughout the seminar, with all speakers referring to the way that their work looks at equity in computer science education through a justice-oriented lens.

Removing deficit thinking

Using a justice-oriented approach means that learners should be encouraged to use their computer science knowledge to make a difference in areas that are important to them. It means that just having access to a computer science education is not sufficient for equity.

Tia Madkins presents a slide: "A justice-oriented approach to computer science teaching empowers students to use CS knowledge for transformation, moves beyond access and achievement frames, and is an asset- or strengths-based approach centering students and families"

Tia spoke about the need to reject “deficit thinking” (i.e. focusing on what learners lack) and instead focus on learners’ strengths or assets and how they bring these to the school classroom. For researchers and teachers to do this, we need to be aware of our own mindset and perspective, to think about what we value about ethnic and racial identities, and to be willing to reflect and take feedback.

Activities to support computer science teaching

Nicol talked about some of the ways of designing computing lessons to be equity-focused. She highlighted the benefits of pair programming and other peer pedagogies, where students teach and learn from each other through feedback and sharing ideas/completed work. She suggested using a variety of different programs and environments, to ensure a range of different pathways to understanding. Teachers and schools can aim to base teaching around tools that are open and accessible and, where possible, available in many languages. If the software environment and tasks are accessible, they open the doors of opportunity to enable students to move on to more advanced materials. To demonstrate to learners that computer science is applicable across domains, the topic can also be introduced in the context of mathematics and other subjects.

Nicol Howard presents a slide: "Considerations for equity-focused computer science teaching include your beliefs (and your students' beliefs) and how they impact CS classrooms; tiered activities and pair programming; self-expressions versus CS preparation; equity-focused lens"

Learners can benefit from learning computer science regardless of whether they want to become a computer scientist. Computing offers them skills that they can use for self-expression or to be creative in other areas of their life. They can use their knowledge for a specific purpose and to become more autonomous, particularly if their teacher does not have any deficit thinking. In addition, culturally relevant teaching in the classroom demonstrates a teacher’s deliberate and explicit acknowledgment that they value all students in their classroom and expect students to excel.

Engaging family and community

Shomari talked about the importance of working with parents and families of ethnically diverse students in order to hear their voices and learn from their experiences.

Shomari Jones presents a slide: “Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

He described how the absence of a background in technology of parents and carers can drastically impact the experiences of young people.

“Parents without backgrounds and insights into the changing landscape of technology struggle to negotiate what roles they can play, such as how to work together in computing activities or how to find learning opportunities for their children.”

Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan. 2014

Shomari drew on an example from the Pacific Northwest in the US, a region with many successful technology companies. In this location, young people from wealthy white and Asian communities can engage fully in informal learning of computer science and can have aspirations to enter technology-related fields, whereas amongst the Black and Latino communities, there are significant barriers to any form of engagement with technology. This already existent inequity has been enhanced by the coronavirus pandemic: once so much of education moved online, it became widely apparent that many families had never owned, or even used, a computer. Shomari highlighted the importance of working with pre-service teachers to support them in understanding the necessity of family and community engagement.

Building classroom communities

Building a classroom community starts by fostering and maintaining relationships with students, families, and their communities. Our speakers emphasised how important it is to understand the lives of learners and their situations. Through this understanding, learning experiences can be designed that connect with the learners’ lived experiences and cultural practices. In addition, by tapping into what matters most to learners, teachers can inspire them to be change agents in their communities. Tia gave the example of learning to code or learning to build an app, which provides learners with practical tools they can use for projects they care about, and with skills to create artefacts that challenge and document injustices they see happening in their communities.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about this topic, a great place to start is the recent paper Tia and Nicol have co-authored that lays out more detail on the work described in the seminar: Engaging Equity Pedagogies in Computer Science Learning Environments, by Tia C. Madkins, Nicol R. Howard and Natalie Freed, 2020.

You can access the presentation slides via our seminars page.

Join our next free seminar

In our next seminar on Tuesday 2 March at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PDT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, we’ll welcome Jakita O. Thomas (Auburn University), who is going to talk to us about Designing STEM Learning Environments to Support Computational Algorithmic Thinking and Black Girls: A Possibility Model for Changing Hegemonic Narratives and Disrupting STEM Neoliberal Projects. To join this free online seminar, simply sign up by following the link at the button.

Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you the seminar meeting link and instructions for joining. If you attended Peter’s and Billy’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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