Meet Matt Richardson: engaging the maker community for Raspberry Pi

If you’ve ever been to an event in the US where Raspberry Pi was officially there, whether hosting the event or just with a stall, chances are you’ve met Matt Richardson. His work spreading Raspberry Pi around North America has been huge. Now though, he has a new job, albeit still with Raspberry Pi. He’s a maker at heart, however.

matt richardson as marty mcfly
Matt as Marty

“Before Raspberry Pi came about, I stumbled on the maker community because Arduino projects were starting to surface in the technology blogs that I read at the time,” Matt tells us. “People were making cool stuff, and it inspired a ton of ideas for things I wanted to make. I ordered an Arduino starter kit, and I just took to it immediately. I made a lot of things like weird doorbells, wireless gum ball machines, and internet-connected scrolling LED message signs. I eventually started posting my own articles and how-to videos. Eventually I got noticed and became a contributor for Make Magazine.”

matt richardson using dynamic headlight
The dynamic headlight in use by Matt

When did you learn about Raspberry Pi?

I remember being on a conference call for Make editors and one of my colleagues mentioned that this new thing called Raspberry Pi was making headlines – this was back before it started shipping. I was sceptical that we’d ever see it ship at the promised $35. Boy was I wrong, and I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong about that! I emailed Eben Upton to see if he could send me one to review for Make and amazingly, he did! I booted up this Raspberry Pi connected to my family room TV and I knew that this was going to be HUGE. A few years later, I started working for Raspberry Pi, for some of that time on the commercial side, and for some of that time on the non-profit side. I’m lucky that I’ve had the chance to gain experience in so many facets of the organisation.

matt richardson
Matt represented the Raspberry Pi Foundation at many Maker Faires

What is the American community like?

Although the internet was an important catalyst for the maker movement and the Raspberry Pi community, I think both have really benefited from in-person engagements like Maker Faires and Raspberry Jams. Whether it was a small gathering of five people at a makerspace, or a multi-day event for thousands of people, these events really helped to grow and strengthen the community. The pandemic had a detrimental effect on that, but with things getting back to a more normal state, I think we’re starting to see opportunities for new events to sprout.

matt richardson at new york world maker faire
Helping people take their first steps into coding at New York World Maker Faire

What kind of events do you like to attend?

I love geeky, family-friendly events like Maker Faires and Raspberry Jams. You get to meet such an incredible spectrum of people, some who’ve never heard of Raspberry Pi and have never written a line of code, to engineers who’ve been tinkering with Raspberry Pi in their spare time since day one. I especially love seeing a parent sitting at a Raspberry Pi with a child in their lap, showing them how to code and light up an LED. It reminds me of how I first learned to code with my father in the 1980s.

matt richardson

What is your favourite thing you’ve made with a Raspberry Pi?

The one I had the most fun making was the dynamic bicycle headlight. I strapped a battery-operated projector to the handlebars of my bicycle and wired up a Raspberry Pi to read a sensor on the wheel and display my speed in the projector’s beam down ahead of me. The best part was when I was troubleshooting it, I had to log into its Raspberry Pi wirelessly via SSH. I thought it was crazy to be remotely logging into my own bicycle to get diagnostics and upload new code.

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