My GrovePi Adventure

19 Nov

Here we go again . . . another story of following the instructions for a project exactly and failing miserably.  A while back, I got a GrovePi and a bunch of sensors.  It would be perfect for adding inputs to the Raspberry Pi since it has temperature, pressure, flame, light, sound, knock, distance, and more sensors.  So, first, I decided to try the joystick.  I went to the website for GrovePi and found instructions there ( or  Wait . . . what?  The kit didn’t come with any cables.  Huh?  The one in the picture has a white plastic connector with four pins.  Mine has no connector and 5 pins!  What’s going on here?

I found out that the sensors that I bought on Amazon are not GrovePi sensors at all.  They are compatible . . . sort of, but they are not the GrovePi sensors.  They came with some connector wires (that don’t fit) and a ribbon cable (which is pretty useless).  The little instruction book only has a picture of each sensor and no instructions whatsoever.  There is an instruction manual online, but it sounds like it was written in another language and translated by a 4-year old.  Here are a couple of quotes:

“13 comes with digital interfaces of the LED, the shock sensor access number 3 interface, when a sense of shock sensor”

“The reason why we feel that infrared is really a wonderful thing, it is because we are invisible, intangible, but Okay, we do not need that, too, can control it and make it serve us, in fact, we are more magical, Is not?”

“The amount of points we can hand to block receiver module, see also the normal communication between them do? The following is the receive window Ah, looked at the window, and we all know it. . .”

I don’t mean to make fun of anyone and their English ability, but these sentences are so confusing that I cannot figure any of them out.  And it’s only written for Arduino (yuck!), not Raspberry Pi.

The reason for all of this is that I purchased a kit on Amazon called the SunFounder 37 modules Raspberry Pi Sensor Kit.  This kit is no longer available, but there are still Arduino kits like this one.  You can still get the old kit at, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Bottom line is that the GrovePi is a great product.  It has solved all of the issues that I blogged about before with using analog sensors on the Raspberry Pi (here).  The GrovePi library has all of the code for accessing the analog ports on the GrovePi with simple code.  But I would highly recommend buying actual GrovePi sensors (like this one), not SunFounder sensors.  Support for GrovePi sensors on the Raspberry Pi is pretty good, but the software comes with sample code that can easily be modified to use most of the sensors and there are a few cool projects on their website (here).  (Note: This kit no longer says on the advertisement that it works with GrovePi and it comes with an instruction book.  I don’t have the book, so I cannot tell you if it’s good or not.)

I’ll blog later about how I used the code for the analog temperature sensor to make the SunFounder analog sensor work and then modified that code to make the Photo Resistor Sensor work with very few changes.  I’ve added some error handling that people on a forum told me about, so the program doesn’t crash anymore.  My ultimate goal is that some of the students at my school are planting an experimental citrus grove and we want to use moisture sensors to automatically trigger an irrigation system.  So, it would have about 40 moisture sensors and a couple of relays to trigger water pumps connected to a tank of reclaimed water.  We might also get a water flow meter to measure how much water we’ve used and track whether the system is working.

I did it!!!!

3 Sep

I was selected as a Broadcom MASTERS semi-finalist!  That’s top 300 in the country and two weeks from now, they’ll narrow it down to the top 30.  Those 30 will go to Washington DC and meet the president, inventors, astronauts, and more!  It’s going to be a stressful 2 weeks of waiting.  I AM SOOOOO EXCITED!  To make it even better, my friend Becky Dana also got selected as a semi-finalist.  That’s awesome!  Society for Science and the Public does such a spectacular job with this event that I think everyone should do whatever they can to get nominated.  Check out the announcement page here for more info:

Big Day!

3 Sep

I was nominated for Broadcom MASTERS again this year.  If you haven’t been following for long, it’s like the International Science Fair but for middle school students.  Tomorrow is they day that they announce the Semi-Finalists!  I can’t wait!!!!  The announcement is at noon eastern, so I think that’s 9 am California time.  Wish me luck (wait, I believe that people create their own luck by working hard).  Wish me hard work, I guess.


I’ll let you know.

Broadcom MASTERS/ISEF Day 4

16 May

     Today, I got to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  I just went on a field trip to Catalina Island with my school and the aquarium is right around the corner from where the boats leave to take people to Catalina. 

     I love the touch tanks where we can touch moon jellyfish, bat rays, and starfish.  My favorite creature to touch is the sea cucumber.  I don’t know why, but sea cucumbers and sea slugs are my favorite.  I once went out on a boat right next door to the aquarium where they throw out a net and catch lots of different animals.  They caught a sea slug and let me hold it.  I was so happy!  It was like a dream come true.

     Then, we toured the exhibits inside the aquarium.  There were coral reefs, kelp forests, and a giant aquarium filled with California marine life.  There is one display that features incredibly camouflaged creatures as well.  There was also an area with frogs.  I LOVE frogs!  A long time ago, I did a podcast called “Fun Stuff for Kids to do in Southern California.”  I interviewed one of the volunteer SCUBA divers from the aquarium.  Check it out here.  Keith Brush was really, really nice.  He also runs a company called “Future Scientists and Engineers of America.”  Wow, I was really young back then!  My brother in the pictures will be 17 this month!

     We also had the opportunity to have Universal Studios all to ourselves.  They closed the park down and only ISEF and Broadcom students were there.  I got to ride on Dispicable Me, Transformers, The Mummy, and The Simpsons rides.  There was also a sort of museum with props from old movies.  They had one of the dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park movies.  I didn’t get back to the hotel room until after 12:45!  I was so tired that I’ll have to post pictures in this blog some other time.

     One of the most helpful things that we did is that we got together with all of the ISEF students from my region and we practiced their interviews over and over giving them feedback and helping them get better and better each time.  I hope that this helps them with their judging.  It was really fun for me to learn so much about their projects.  We did this with all of the Broadcom students in Washington D.C. and it helped me a lot.

      Broadcom and Society for Science and the Public have done such a wonderful job of making sure that we’re having a great time and learning a lot.

      Oh, and I forgot to mention yesterday that they gave us a Raspberry Pi.  I now have 3 Raspberry Pis.  I’m going to have to find a project that connects all three to do something special.

Broadcom MASTERS/ISEF Day 3

14 May

    Today, we went to Disney Studios in Burbank.  We went to the stages where the shows are made.  We went to the stages for a show called “Intelligence.”  We had lunch with Imagineers.  I sat with an Imagineer named Amy Goodwin and she was inspired to become an Imagineer when she was at Disneyland and saw an interactive display where a cartoon character talks to you and knows things about you (I think that there are cameras and a person behind the scenes doing the voices through a microphone).  This really motivated her.  Then she was an intern at Disney Studios and she met the right people and worked really hard and eventually became an Imagineer herself.  This was her dream come true.  Her sister is a microbiologist and got to name her own protein!

    Then, we went to Disney Archives which is kind of like a museum of old Disney memorabilia like items that they sold at Disneyland when it first opened.  We got to hold the Oscar award that Walt Disney won.  We saw an original Disneyland ticket and some of the costumes that they used in Saving Mr. Banks and costumes from Pirates of the Caribean.  We saw miniature models from A Christmas Carol.  They showed us the camera that they used to film Snow White and ended up using for other movies.  The movie was such a hit that it funded the creation of several more movies after that.  Here are some photos from these two places:

Image ImageImage

    Then we went to the La Brea Tarpits.  I had been there once before, but it’s such a great place, I could go there ten times and it would still be fun.  We had a tour guide explaining things to us and telling us stories.  One of the coolest things that they have is metal plungers that are down in some tar and you get to try to pull it up to see how sticky and strong the tar is.  After trying this, you can really see how animals couldn’t get out.

    I got back from the tar pits too late to hear the panel of Nobel Prize winners speak, but I met two of them in the lobby and got my picture taken with them.  One of them was named Dr. Sir Harold Kroto and he was a Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry 1996.  His work was about proving that Buckyballs exist and can be produced in stars.  Here’s a link to his Wikipedia page.  The other was Dr. J. Michael Bishop who was a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology/Medicine in 1989 for his discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes.  Here is his Wikipedia page.


    Then, we went to L.A. Live.  They have music and dancing at the Nokia Club.  They had all different kinds of juices for us.  There’s also a game room, bowling alley, food, and pool tables.  It was a great way to mix with all of the ISEF participants and observers.

Today was another incredible day!  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us tomorrow.

ISEF/Broadcom MASTERS International Day 2

14 May

Today, I got to do several amazing things.  I’ll start with the last one first.  Tonight was the ISEF opening ceremonies and keynote speaker.  The keynote speaker was Mike Ebeling.  He’s the founder and CEO of “Not Impossible Labs” a group of inventors trying to improve the world and help people remain healthy and live good lives.  He’s a great presenter and is doing amazing things for the world.  Here’s a link to some of his videos:

TED Video called “The Invention that Unlocked a Locked in Artist

“Not Impossible” website with a list of the inventions from “Not Impossible Labs

Here’s a picture of the amazing opening ceremony


There were over 1,780 participants from 70 countries!  There are thousands of judges, translators, and chaperones to make this all happen.  Amazing!  The only thing missing is all of the TV cameras and reporters that would be here if the top 1,700 athletes were in the room.  I guarantee you that with the number of brilliant, inventive teenagers in this room, there are at least a handful of billion dollar inventions/apps/companies and at least a handful of future cured diseases in this room.  Every reporter in the country should be here!

Here I am sitting with my friends from my region at the ceremony.


From front to back, there’s Andres Gonzalez, me, Hondo Gonzalez, Michael Janner, Saumya Ramadugu Keremane, Loren Newton, Connor Tom, and Jared Tramontano.

Today, I also got to tour a 3D printing lab at UC Irvine.  We have a 3D printer at my school, but it is nothing like the printers that they have.  Theirs are amazing.  We didn’t actually get to see them print, but they did some cool things with us.  They had us make a mold of our thumb and pour resin into the mold.  Now, I have a 3-D model of my thumb!  AWESOME!  Here it is:


Maybe the coolest thing that I got to do today was to tour the Broadcom offices.  Broadcom makes one of the chips on the Raspberry Pi!!  When you type in the python code “GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)”, the BCM stands for “Broadcom.”  Eben Upton, the inventor of the Raspberry Pi works for Broadcom.  To me, this was as if a baseball fan got to go in the locker room at Yankee Stadium or if a Sci Fi fan got to go on the set of Dr. Who.  The only thing better would have been to go to one of the factories where they make the chips.  This Broadcom building is mostly offices, but we did get to have lunch with some engineers.

Today was a day of meeting new people, seeing existing friends, bumping into D.C. Broadcom MASTERS colleagues, and touring amazing places.  Today was an incredible day!!!


International Broadcom MASTERS

12 May

Today was my first day at the International Broadcom MASTERS, International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.  If all of the days are like today, it’s going to be one of the best weeks of my life!  Keep watching and I’ll try to blog every night about what we do.  The plan is that I’ll get to visit the Broadcom factory, get a behind the scenes tour of Disneyland, meet Nobel Prize winners, and visit university laboratories.  Amazing!

Today, I got to meet my team.  We are called the “Grey Wolves” and there are members from China, Japan, Finland, India, and more.  That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.  So far, there hasn’t been a lot of communication because of the languages, but I’m sure that Society for Science and the Public will help us out with that over the next 5 days.  We started with some ice breaker activities and they were fun.

We also do a pin exchange with us and the International Science Fair students.  This is where people from all over the world exchange pins or buttons that represent their local area.  See the picture below for some of my collection.

Keep watching my blog as the week is going to get more and more exciting each day.  Thanks, Broadcom!



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