Missile-firing classroom Grinch

Mr McKay is cooler than your computer science teacher because he has created a missile-firing Grinch for his classroom.

I found out via Twitter that Mr McKay’s civilian name is Fraser, but seeing as he’s a teacher, it feels only right to continue referring to him as Mr McKay, even though I am one thousand percent sure he is more than a decade younger than me. I fear authority.

Each Christmas, Mr McKay’s students are invited to take part in a cyber challenge. They have worked on hackable Christmas lights and, last year, a hackable Grinch. The fluffy green curmudgeon was a big hit, so Mr McKay hung onto him ready for a Raspberry Pi makeover for this year’s challenge.

How it works

The Grinch has his own email address and command line mail client. The classroom has its own local network, and students who are able to guess the username and password can SSH in to the Raspberry Pi Zero hiding inside the Grinch’s shrivelled heart.

Raspberry Pi Grinch is coming together... ear buds are standing in until I fit a speaker, but he talks and uses the camera!
The innards powering everything before Mr McKay sewed them inside the Grinch (the earbuds were a stand-in during testing until he found a suitable speaker)

Once they’ve cracked this, students can use the command line to control the Raspberry Pi camera and make the Grinch talk using text-to-speech software espeak. Mr McKay challenged his students to figure out how to remotely take a “grinchie” and email it to themselves.

How the Grinch fired missiles

The USB rocket launcher was a find from Mr McKay’s childhood bedroom. Shout-out to his parents for keeping hold of it, but they had obviously not serviced this important toy regularly enough, so the insides had to be gutted and the motors replaced with servos controlled by the Raspberry Pi powering the Grinch.

The foam rockets look a lot more vicious in this video

A Python file is hosted on the Raspberry Pi so that students can access it and control the servos to move the turret towards their target of choice before releasing the rockets. Like I said – cool teacher.


Harry Ligma avatar

I absolutely love this. Combines so much fun and learning in one and top it all off – it is festive too! That foam rocket USB launcher caught my eye though – going to have to think about getting that as a Xmas gift (might even get it myself). Super creative!

Eclipse Lightman avatar

I need to know what email think he was using because I need that for my own project

Eclipse Lightman avatar

Thing*. Not think.

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