In recent years IoT (Internet of Things) has become more and more useful to makers: we can now build automation and robotics projects from home using a variety of sensors, actuators, and more. I’m sure we can all agree that IoT is a fantastic opportunity for makers and creators like you and me!
I’m Cerys, and I lead maker sessions at Raspberry Jams and tech events in the UK. A “jam” is a hands-on maker session for the Raspberry Pi computer. I also run my own Raspberry Jam in Stafford where people build loads of different projects, from robots to games and anything in between. As you can imagine, IoT projects are really interesting for me, no matter who’s made them and how simple or complex they are.
I learned about Cayenne earlier this year, and in terms of Raspberry Pi and IoT, it can really help people build projects, regardless of what project they are creating. Cayenne is a drag-and-drop project builder with a visual user interface. I use a Raspberry Pi to build all my projects, and I add sensors and actuators using the GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) pins on the board. To compare the usual method for project building with Cayenne, let’s give an example of an LED project that I might be teaching a student: we’d plug in a Raspberry Pi and add all the components, then open up a coding program like Python or Scratch. If I’m going to use Python, we would start off by coding something like this (I’ll explain as we go along):
from gpiozero import LED
Imagine a library where we could grab a book and flip to a specific chapter: first of all, we need to find the correct book (i.e., “gpiozero”), then we need to grab some information from a particular chapter (i.e., “LED”). That chapter is the bit we need to read (or in our case, the protocol we need to use).
led = LED(17)
This is putting the LED and the GPIO in a variable to make it easier to use later.
This is just purely turning the LED on.
Not all students are keen on coding like this, though some can code pages and pages. This is where something like Blockly or Scratch usually comes in handy. But what if you could teach students the principles of coding and setting up things like sensors without the hassle of setting up the Raspberry Pi with a keyboard and monitor? And what if we could make it visual so that they learn how to think like programmers, even if they’re still having trouble with coding and syntax? Welcome to the world of Cayenne!
Since Cayenne is drag-and-drop, it makes building a lot easier for students. To compare with our last example, you’d simply connect your hardware, click “New Device” and select the sensor or actuator you want to use (in our case, an LED), and then pick the settings you want (like GPIO pin #17). Cayenne does the rest, and you get your very own button in the Cayenne dashboard. Turning the LED on or off is as simple as clicking the dashboard button with your mouse, or tapping it if you’re on a mobile device.
Tools like this are very useful, particularly if you are coding something like a robot, and you can access all your settings from your phone! Text and email alerts are available with Cayenne’s IoT platform as well. This means that if a sensor picks up values beyond a threshold you set, you can easily be notified. This feature, like others in Cayenne, means that beginners can build more complex projects, and intermediate students can do it all faster without writing lots of code.
The future is very bright for IoT and countless student builders who want to get involved! Programmes such as Cayenne will help makers do more with their IoT projects while learning how to think like a programmer. The more comfortable people become with IoT and tech, the more wicked projects we’ll start to see along the way.
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Hi there, my name is Cerys Lock. I live in the UK and I love a little computer called the Raspberry Pi – a low cost, creative PC that is the size of a credit card! These amazing little PC’s interest millions and they have a massive community. There are meetings all around the country called Raspberry Jams, one of which I run. If you want to learn more about me, log onto www.rpistuff.mrprintit.co.uk. You can also find me at @RPi_Stuff on Twitter or Facebook. If you want to learn more about my Raspberry Jam, find us at @StaffordRJam on Twitter or Facebook or visit our website.