I’ll try to avoid techno-babble words like “disruptive” when I say this, but there’s no denying – Raspberry Pi is changing the world. We’ve looked at some cool Raspberry Pi projects before, and I even set up a basic home automation system with the Pi. Now, it’s time to to look at some really amazing ways the Pi is making a difference.
Kano is a complete kit for learning programming at a young age. Bundling together the hardware with a custom Linux distribution and implementation of Scratch visual logic designer, kids can learn how to build simple games like Snake or Pong – then swiftly move on to modifying Minecraft!
The sad fact is that our current education system is letting kids down when it comes to preparing them for the modern Web-fueled world we live in – it’s only through efforts like these that we can change that. You can still fund the Kano project until December 19th, so perhaps it’s time to take things into your own hands.
Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that’s been Web-based for a while – now it’s available as a programming language, and free, on Raspberry Pi. If you’ve never used Wolfram Alpha, try this – “population growth by country“. Here’s Stephen Wolfram himself to explain why this is all amazing (warning: over an hour long)
Also bundled is Mathematica, which is a powerful mathematical language for data modelling, graphing, and dealing with complex equations, as well as acting as the front-end GUI for the Wolfram Language. One thing I do know: I probably wouldn’t have done so badly in my A-level Statistics if I’d had Mathematica.
By putting these tools on the Pi, the languages are also able to interact with sensor data and output devices. These are exciting times: the singularity is near.
Educating in Hostile Environments
Being a female in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Taliban-infested countries is not a fun experience: many are denied access to education, sold into slavery or married when they are still young, destined for a life of servitude to a man they will never love. Malala Yousafzai is just on such girl – shot in the head at the age of 12 for her relentless campaigning for access to education. She has since recovered, and now resides in Birmingham, leading a worldwide campaign to get all girls into school by 2015. Even if the dangers of terrorist organisations are dealt with, there still remains the severe lack of funding for IT equipment – which is where projects like this IndieGoGo campaign come in (in conjunction with Trust in Education, and now fully-funded). A complete Pi computer with peripherals can be built for under $200, making the prospect of equipping these schools for global connectivity a reality.
I’m confident that through education we can solve many of the worlds problems, from overpopulation to the stranglehold of terrorism.
Drone Hacking: SkyJack
Amazon recently announced they’re working towards 30-minute drone delivery of packages. Regardless of the reality of this – it’s doubtful they’ll even be licensed by the FAA. Someone has already invented air-piracy with a Raspberry Pi-powered drone hacking device. The rogue drone (A Parrot AR 2, reviewed by myself here) locates signals used to control the delivery drones, flies in close, then hijacks and overpowers the signal, gaining full control of the delivery.
I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will.
I class this as amazing from a purely technical standpoint of admiration – clearly, this does no good for the world and you’d have to be of a pretty low moral standard to actually use it – but still, there’s no denying it is amazing.
Block Nuisance Calls
Full PBX systems for call handling are ridiculously expensive – but add a $30 telephone-to-VOIP adapter to your Raspberry Pi and it’ll be just as capable as a $500 system, if not more. One popular use of DIY PBX systems is to block nuisance calls – you can add blacklists, whitelists, or just block anything that refuses to reveal their number or comes from international sources. Here’s one such Raspberry Pi setup using Asterisk. This might not sound that amazing, but if you get 5-10 nuisance calls a day, it can be life-changing, and might stop elderly relatives from being scammed by fake support calls.
With my own child on the way next year, the educational potential is what excites me the most (alright, I’m lying – I want to hack drones). There’s no doubt in my mind that coding, and the maker spirit, is by far the most important skill I’ll be able to impart upon them. Anything that makes that learning process fun has my approval, and the Raspberry Pi is a perfect match.