Raspberry Pis and open source at Rochester Mini Maker Faire

This article was originally published on Opensource.com.

The Rochester Mini Maker Faire is an annual event at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, NY. Each year, makers, creators, artists, and more from all over upstate New York and beyond show their crafts and creations to the community. Open source software and hardware are popular items at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire, with countless Raspberry Pis, Arduino boards, and open source projects powering many electronic projects.

On November 18th, the Free and Open Source Software initiative at the RIT MAGIC Center and the RIT Linux Users Group presented projects and their communities at the Faire. Students from both communities demonstrated projects made with Raspberry Pis or larger undertakings on other open source projects.

Looking good: Magic mirror and Raspberry Pi

Taylor Bowling with the Magic Mirror and Retro Pi at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire 2017
Taylor Bowling with the Magic Mirror and Retro Pi at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire

Students from the FOSS@MAGIC initiative presented the Magic Mirror, a mirror that combines your digital world into your reflection. A Raspberry Pi and salvaged monitor screen sit behind a piece of one-way glass. Through the glass, the mirror shows the time, daily weather report, calendar updates, and more along with your reflection.

Taylor Bowling and Solomon Rubin, two students at RIT, worked together on the project in spring 2017. The frame for the mirror was hand-built for the project. Using this guide, the two created a pair of them for the upcoming RIT MAGIC Center.

Community course-ware with LearnIt

Another student, Wilfried Hounyo, demonstrated his open source course-ware platform, LearnIt. LearnIt is a platform for topic-based, community-contributed courses and tutorials. Similar to other platforms like Udacity or Coursera, LearnIt enables anyone to host their own learning platform and build a community around it.

Wilfried’s inspiration for LearnIt came from working with the FIRST Robotics community in high school. LearnIt’s original goal was to build an open platform for learning and teaching within the FIRST Robotics community. This way, anyone around the country could create their own lessons for anyone to view and follow. After working on the project, Wilfried decided to make the platform ambiguous for any project, so anyone could use LearnIt for building a learning community around any topic or subject area.

A demo is available here and the source is on GitHub.

Linux operating system for RIT

Members of the RIT Linux Users Group also presented TigerOS, a custom Linux operating system for students, faculty, and staff of Rochester Institute of Technology. One of the project goals is to offer an installer based on major across all RIT majors. After picking your major, TigerOS installs and configures all the software used by the department or major.

Development on TigerOS began when student Aidan Kahrs picked up an abandoned project from past RIT students. After building a team, they set out to revive the project over the last year. To date, an early beta is available and efforts are going towards building an automatic CI build system and updating to Fedora 27.

To learn more about TigerOS, visit their website.

Spy Pi

RITlug also presented the Spy Pi at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire. The Spy Pi is a discreet camera embedded inside a picture frame powered by a Raspberry Pi. Taylor Bowling also helped lead this project.

In the picture, R2D2 is carried away by the Jawas in Star Wars: A New Hope. Taylor added two orange LED lights into one of the hooded characters and attached an infrared motion sensor, webcam, and Raspberry Pi into the picture frame. Whenever someone walks in front of the picture frame, the LED “eyes” light up and the webcam takes a picture that’s stored to the Raspberry Pi.

Taylor Bowling stands next to the Spy Pi, a discreet picture frame that takes a picture when it detects movement at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire 2017
Taylor Bowling stands next to the Spy Pi, a discreet picture frame that takes a picture when it detects movement

Taylor designed the project himself and wrote simple Python scripts to automate using the sensors. His code is available on GitHub.

See you next year!

This year was the third year for FOSS@MAGIC and first year for the RIT Linux Users Group to exhibit at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire. Both communities look forward to showing off our projects and what we’re working on again at Imagine RIT in May and again next year at the Faire.

To learn more, visit the websites for FOSS@MAGIC and the RIT Linux Users Group.

See you at next year's Rochester Mini Maker Faire!
See you at next year’s Rochester Mini Maker Faire!


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