Picture Story

Yesterday was the culmination of quite a bit of preparation work.

I think almost two years ago Blaine and I got a Hummingbird Kit and began building robots.  After doing this for a few months, we invited a few other boys (and a girl too!) and began building small robots with them.  It was quite fun.

We finished up that “semester” and I began planning for the fall.  I got a Raspberry Pi and began developing lesson plans.  One of the projects we saw online was sending a Raspberry Pi up into “near space” (30,000 feet!) and taking pictures.  I so wanted to do that!  But Blaine wanted to do something else so we did the project he wanted to do.  When we finished that project Blaine decided he wanted to take pictures with the Pi from a weather balloon.  He probably heard me say it so many times that he was convinced it was his idea.  I don’t mind getting the bad rap for that.

So we began learning how to program the Pi.  We modified a few games that were included on the Pi.  We wrote our own game (Hangman) based on a programming teachers site I found.  Then we wrote a program to change words into Pig Latin.  Then we modified it to turn entire sentences into Pig Latin.  There were other small projects mixed in there but time prevents me from talking about them all.

Then we began the weather balloon portion.  Hooking up a camera to the Pi.  Writing code to make it take a picture every second.  Setting it up to connect to my phone’s WiFi hotspot.  Remoting into it while it was connected to the hotspot while it was running on battery power (not plugged into a wall).  We cut a hole in the box for the camera to have an opening for the pictures.  Decided how we were going to mount it.  Watched videos on how to fill up weather balloons.  Man, it didn’t seem like that much work because it was just so much fun.

I was extremely nervous as the day approached.  But I was all in – can’t turn back now.  No major problems.  It took a while to get connected to the Pi but we got it working.  Then we sent it up but Blaine hadn’t started the program to take the pictures.  We got it back down and dismantled the whole thing, got connected, started the program and sent it back up.  We watched the red light on the camera go off so we knew it was working.  We got it back down and the picture story from the balloon’s perspective is available.

I asked the kids if we were doing it again and they told me I won the award for the “dumbest question of the day”.   If we do we will probably pick out a few spots to go to during the day.  And then if we can really get our stuff together we will release the balloon and track it with GPS.

If not we have plenty of other projects to work on.  More robots of course.  This time we are talking about an underwater robot controlled wirelessly from a computer with a live feed camera.  Ummm, yeah I’m insane but it’s OK because we have fun.

Here are a few more pictures from down below.