A few weeks back, we were fortunate enough to be sent the Puppet Kit for Raspberry Pi, from our friend Simon Monk of Monk Makes. The kit shows you how to use your Raspberry Pi to take control of a traditional marionette, including controlling the puppet from your keyboard, recording stop-frame puppet movements, and setting the puppet up so that it waves when it detects movement.
Given my limited experience of physical computing with a Raspberry Pi, I decided to take on the challenge of completing the kit, and documented my journey through Snapchat.
Right out of the box, the kit feels as if it has been put together with care and thought. All wooden pieces have been laser cut, all components (apart from the Raspberry Pi itself) are provided, and the kit includes a step-by-step guide so foolproof that I felt confident I could complete the project.
The only issue?
My intense fear of clowns, which was instantly triggered when I opened the box and saw the puppet itself:
Despite my coulrophobia, I carried on with the build, because that’s how much you all mean to me, dear readers. I do these things for you.
The guide walked me through the project, with clear instructions supported by photographs and diagrams. It was only when I reached Step 16, “Run the Test Code”, that I realised I couldn’t find a mouse. Fortunately I was able to enlist the aid of Ben Nuttall, who has become my Raspberry Pi hero in cases such as this.
Ben helped me to set the Pi up on the Pi Towers local network, allowing me to feed Simon’s code to the Pi via my MacBook. If you don’t have access to Ben and his heroic abilities, you could use the recently mentioned PiBakery from the legendary David Ferguson to preset the network details into Raspbian before setting up your Raspberry Pi.
After this, setting up the walking functionality of the puppet, plus the additional sensor, was a breeze. With very little previous experience of using GPIO pins, servos, and nightmare-inducing clown puppets, I was somewhat taken aback by how easy I found the process. In fact, by the end, I had the clown dancing a merry jig and waving to anyone who passed. Cute, right?
All in all, the kit was a wonderful experience and an interesting learning curve. Not only did it teach me the value of a well-executed and detailed maker kit, it also taught me the value of a Ben Nuttall, and helped me not to fear all clowns after having watched IT at a teenage slumber party like a fool!