Guest post from DesignSpark: Oxford Raspberry Jam

Here’s a guest post from our friend Pete Wood at RS Component’s community arm, DesignSpark. Pete is one of the organisers of the Oxford Raspberry Jams. This post was first published at

Raspberry Jams are now being held all over the world; I’ve been trying to go to about one a month, and am lucky enough to be in Tokyo for some press and meetings while the Tokyo Jam is on later this month. There’s a list of events in each month’s MagPi, and if you’re looking for something near you, it’s worth checking the events page on our forums. If you can’t find a Jam near your home, why not look into setting one up? There’s information on how to get started at the Raspberry Jam website, which Alan O’Donohoe tells me will be getting a redesign in the coming months.

Over to Pete!

This month’s Jam held at DesignSpark HQ in Oxford UK was our biggest turnout yet, with over 30 Pi Geeks crammed into the room!

Raspberry Pi Camera

I kicked off the event by showing the new Raspberry Pi camera module, which will be available from RS Components later in May. In the picture is a pre-production module, the production version is a couple of millimetres taller. The camera gives stunning HD video from a 5MP sensor at 30 FPS.

Digital Signage

Next up was one of my RS colleagues, Pete Milne, who showed us his Digital Signage application. Pete has connected up a network of Raspberry Pis to flat screen TVs here at the RS Oxford Offices and at our main facility in Corby, Northamptonshire. The Pis run a libreoffice slideshow in a continuous loop and display Health and Safety messages for RS employees. He’s been running these continuously for over 8 weeks without having to re-boot, so it’s very robust. The Pis runs without a keyboard or mouse and the content can be updated remotely over the network.

If you want to create your own Digital Signage Application, Pete has shared how to do it on GitHub. Just follow the INSTALL file for setup details.

Wii Controller Car

Oxford Raspberry Jam regular Alex Eames presented another cool little project using a Wii controller and Nunchuck. This one was for controlling a remote control car that has an on-board Raspberry Pi with Bluetooth dongle. It also allows the control of brake lights, headlights and indicators and also drives an aircraft propeller. Alex plans to build all this into the car itself, which would need to accommodate the Pi, the electronics hanging of the GPIO, some model aircraft batteries and the motor and fan. Alex, I think you need a bigger car… how about a Monster Truck?

You can read more about Alex’s project on his blog.

Giant Video Wall

Our next demo was one that has been featured on the Raspberry Pi site a few weeks ago for a Raspberry Pi powered video wall. Alex and Colin from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) have built this system in C and some Python Code. It has clever features like bezel compensation to accommodate different styles of screens. They showed a 4 screen setup, but have also run a 9+4 configuration. The software is scalable to any size or shape. Each screen needs a Pi, and one separate Pi is used as the master. This is a classic example showing that you can build your own video wall for a fraction of the price of a commercial solution that would certainly cost a lot more! Chaps, I can see a business opportunity here for screening big screen sporting events on a budget down my local pub. ;0) They expect to licence the software/design at some point. More details are available on their website.

Motion Detected Camera

Another Oxford Jam regular, Dave R, showed his Pi with a webcam motion detection system and linked to a DSLR. Dave created this for his bird table, to capture pictures of birds when they land on the table, I think I need to build a similar solution to stop my kids from stealing my Haribos…

Touch Screen Display

Paul had two projects to show. The first was a simple touch screen for the Pi to allow control and display. Paul was reading and displaying temperatures. The screens are semi-intelligent, storing screen images and having a sound output available. The screen images are loaded via a Windows app and USB connection. The Pi can then control the display of those images.

Sky Remote Controlled LED Lighting

The second demonstration was a programmable LED strip and infrared receiver, controlled by a Sky TV remote control. A simple Python script reads the codes from a remote control. He could the use this to flash the LEDs in various patterns and colours. The LEDs are driven by SPI and can be daisychained up to 1024 LEDs.


Paul M and Annierei L, showed us their ChiPhone box. ChiPi is an Electronic messaging system for children allowing them to send and receive voice messages. They have designed a child friendly box with large buttons and microphone. With simple record and ‘To/play’ buttons it makes for an easy messaging system connected to the internet via WiFi. You can find out more about their project on their website.

Pi Keyword Cruncher

Pi Jam regular and Data Geek John finished off our live demos by showing us his Pi based RSS feed collector and keyword analysis tool. The Pi collects data from various RSS feeds every 30 minutes and stores the results in a MySQL database. The data is then used to monitor trends in keywords, which over time show either peaks of activity or trends of ‘chatter’ about specific topics. The advantage of John using his Raspberry Pi Instead of his 50W laptop, is that it the Pi only takes 2W and can be left on all the time. It also frees up his laptop to do other tasks.

RaspBMC Toddler In-Car Entertainment System

The final presentation of the evening from one of my Jam co-hosts Alex Gibson, who in true Hollywood awards winners style couldn’t attend in person so sent a video message! Alex’s video featured his project for a Pi based RaspBMC In-Car Toddler entertainment system. One of the most impressive bits was a headrest bracket he had printed out on his Raspberry Pi-based 3D printer.

Thanks to all those who showed their projects. Looking forward to the next event!

We have loads more excellent Raspberry Pi content on DesignSpark, check out our Raspberry Pi Design Centre.


Will avatar

What a great post – inspirational, and so exciting to see the camera is nearing release.

Particularly interested in John’s work on RSS. Does he have a site/link/Twitter you could share?

Keep up the *incredible* work on this blog, and beyond. New to Pi and absolutely in love.

PeteWood@DesignSpark avatar

Thanks Will!

I’m not sure. I’ll drop John and email and point him at this post.



John List avatar

Thanks Pete for alerting me to this.

The best link I can give you is this blog post from nearly a year ago.

In the end I didn’t use the Python NLTK, I stuck with PHP because I already had most of the code. The client you can see in the pic above is HTML/Javascript via jQuery, and it’s running in a browser.

Hope that answers your question.

John List avatar

(I should have added this in my previous comment)

the graph in the picture shows the frequency of the keyword “scandal” in UK political news over they year to March. On the left is a big peak associated with he keyword “libor”, while on the right is one surrounding “horsemeat”. Other humps and bumps come from “phone hacking” and “jimmy savile” keywords.

Will avatar

Thanks John (and Pete). Will take a look. I’m about to try and do something vaguely similar with JSON, though not for indexing…just for alerts.

Keep up the good work!

Jorge Carvalho avatar

Camera finally…

Trying to get video conference to work with PS3 Eye with little sucess(to slow with motion and mjpg-streamer)

Lets se if it’s middle of MAY an not late…

Jorge Carvalho, Portugal

liz avatar

Let’s see! ;)

psergiu avatar

Raspberry Pi Camera available only from RS Components ?

I hope the won’t repeat the “RPi shipping disaster” from last year when upon ordering a RPi the full amount was deducted from your bank account but the RPis were shipped many months later (if at all). I canceled my order after a couple of months and didn’t even got all my money back (due to the multiple exchanges and fees).

Martin avatar

I also hope Farnell will be distributing the camera module as well.

liz avatar

They will, yes.

Montekuri avatar

How they get the sound? USB sound board?

BlueSky avatar

There is no sound on the camera, it is just a camera, you will need to use a USB audio device or similar if you want to capture sound.

Keith Adley avatar

Whilst I applaud the engineering skills involved in getting the Pi working in the car, why do parents today think the only way to entertain children on a car journey is to stick a video on?

BlueSky avatar

Because TV is the prozac for the nation.

Mr Logic avatar

“why do parents today think the only way to entertain children on a car journey is to stick a video on?”

They do not. Fallacies in your reasoning include begging the question and hasty generalisation. Your cognitive biases include wishful thinking. I fail to understand why you would post such a fallacious statement on a blog celebrating community, creativity and ingenuity.

liz avatar

Welcome, Mr Logic. You are my favourite commenter this week.

Zak Zebrowski avatar

Cool stuff. Amazing quality on the camera, looking forward to purchasing!

JBeale avatar

Interesting to see the camera board labelled v1.3 as the pics I’ve seen so far, for example are marked Rev 1.0

liz avatar

You guys scare me, with your sharp eyes and your tendency to *notice* stuff.

JBeale avatar

Let us just say that the ravening hordes are eagerly awaiting that camera board… attention is being paid :-)

Alex Eames (RasPi.TV) avatar

Wanted to add that the Wii controlled nunchuk car was using Derek Campbell’s brilliant Guzunty Pi CPLD board and a special core he kindly created for this project to control servos. I’m thinking I might bring it to show at the Cambridge Jam next week.

If you Google Guzunty Pi, you’ll find Derek’s Github pages all about it.

nelson avatar

On the digital signage part, the company i work for is deploying RPis everywere, we created a mixed pygame (pre made images + custom info slides built on the device) + omxplayer (movie clips).
The RPis are perfect for this application due to the low cost, low power, small size, no moving parts, no heat, serial number available, networked and embedded storage (think content cache) this allows a true deploy and forget approach and by deploy i mean copy a card from another RPi, connect ethernet, power and hdmi cables and assign the serial number to the desired information group, the system takes care of getting the proper content and keeping it and itself up to date.
When displays in the beaglebone style become available we plan on replacing/creating several systems for customer usage.

We also got some unexpected benefits:
To ease the transition phase the software was very easily ported to also run on windows boxes (we only needed to change from omxplayer to wmp and use a different method to get the serial number when windows is detected).
The nature of python and linux allows for very easy program and system auto updates.
The old dell boxes used before on the displays are now being used to replace older or failing computers elsewhere in the stores.
No PCs also means no crashes from overheat from dust or fan failure, we actually wrapped a RPi in a towel for hours to see what happened and no crashes or instability resulted.
No pop-ups from system, anti-virus, grandma, etc blocking the presentation.

The only problem we had until now was with the cheap cards we were using at the start, they only lasted a few boots before getting corrupted, the problem disappeared with better cards.

Ben Jacobs avatar

That video wall looks cool!
You should try to run Liquid Galaxy on a couple of RPis. If you’ve never heard of it before, Liquid Galaxy is a piece of video wall software for Google earth. It’s free, and actually pretty neat! Makes for a good flight simulator ;)

Marc Albers avatar

At the school I work we’re also using a raspberry pi for digital signage board. What we did it smb mount a windows share from a windows server so that our users can create a powerpoint presentation using their own Windows based pc. So there is no need for them to use Libreoffice (great, but scary…) or Linux ( idem). When the pi boots it mounts the share and it regularly checks if there is a new presentation.

rownyr avatar

It would be cool if the IR filter could be removed. Add some batteries, IR LEDs, a modem and remotely monitor nightlife in the forest!

Klemen avatar

I also made project similar to Wii Controller Car, it’s called PiRacerX… you can find more about it on my website PiRcaerX Pylo.

Also, how fast is streaming from Raspberry Pi Camera? Is it possible to stream video captured from Pi via WiFi conection with delay less than 100ms?

olivejer avatar

Can we use it with opencv ?

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