Astro Pi Competition

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Raspberry Pi third birthday party event in Cambridge. While I was there I took the opportunity to talk to the lovely Dave Honess about the competition he is helping to run for Raspberry Pi in collaboration with the UK Space Agency, Astro Pi.

The competition was launched a month ago at BETT, and I will readily admit that I wasn’t particularly fussed about getting involved. I wasn’t inspired and didn’t think I had the time to take part; however, after a long chat with Dave, I now feel really enthusiastic and excited about it as well as being full of ideas.

So what is the idea? One of the astronauts heading to the International Space Station, Tim Peake, has agreed to take a special Raspberry Pi into space with him. They’d like schools and Code Clubs to think up ideas for using the Pi and it’s sensors in space so that they can send their code into space!

Dave pitched the idea to me by suggesting that the Pi would be like a device at home on the shelf. What would you like it to do? What do you think an astronaut might like to have it do? Perhaps it could tell a joke whenever the motion sensor detected the astronaut go past or else display the flag of the country the station is above. The KS3 and 4 competition seems more geared towards recording data and results, but for primary, there seems to be a push towards a more fun app being planned and designed. Also, in a primary school the children just need to come up with an idea and then the guys at Raspberry Pi will create the code.

So, here is the Astro Pi board:


There are a number of sensors on the board as well as a basic LED matrix to display simple designs on. Here is the listed hardware:

  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Temperature sensor
  • Barometric pressure sensor
  • Humidity sensor
  • 8×8 RGB LED matrix display
  • Visible light or Infra-red (Pi NoIR) Cameras
  • 5 button joystick
  • Additional functional push buttons
  • Real time clock with backup battery

I’d like to find a video showing what conditions are like in the Space Station with zero gravity etc. and use this as a discussion point for what you might need if you were there. From this you could move on to what you would miss most if you were space for a bit of cross curricular PSHCE. Finally, this would lead on to what could you use the Raspberry Pi for in space- what do you think the astronauts might want or need that the Pi can provide?

<edit> A video of a ‘fly through’ of the space station can be found here which features an astronaut floating from one end of the station to the other and could be used as a starting point for discussion.</edit>

The children could then work in small groups and develop their ideas for a useful app in the space station – I’d also spend a little bit of time looking at the experiments theme ideas on the Astro Pi website (Spacecraft Sensors, Satelite Imaging and Remote Sensors, Space Measurements, Data Fusion, Space Radiation), but I think from a primary perspective it would be simpler to focus on ways to entertain the astronauts while they’re away from home.

I’m quite excited to get involved – entry seems very easy and I think it could be done in a single afternoon rather than spending too long fitting it in. I think you could get children really excited about science and space and bring in some PSHCE too so it’s got some good cross curricular links. What more could you want? With a few more resources in place it should be an excellent and fun competition for everyone to be involved in.

So, very simply, I’d like to encourage more of you to take part in this competition – the more people who get involved, the more likely this competition will run again and I think it would be a great idea to get children interested in coding – a real time application for code and the Raspberry P. The competition closes on 3rd April, so you still have a month to get your ideas together.

<edit>Raspberry Pi have now created a worksheet for the Astro Pi competition which can be found here </edit>

<edit 2>We received results from the first stage of the competition last week-I’m so proud to be able to say that one of our teams was highly commended by the judges! Well done boys <edit 2>


5 thoughts on “Astro Pi Competition

    1. That’s fantastic Dave, thanks for the heads up! I’ve sent over some primary worksheets to the Raspberry Pi Foundation and they’re going to make those look a bit nicer, but good to know that there is a video already in place 🙂


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