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!


Chasing LEDs Raspberry Pi and PiFace

5 May

Tonight, my dad an I decided to do a chasing LED.  I want to do an LED cube, but it was too close to my bedtime.  We got the basic instructions from this instructables.  Here’s what you’ll need to complete the project:

Raspberry Pi with accessories


LEDs, breadboard, resistors, and wires


The circuit is set up basically by having each of the positive legs of the LEDs (the longer leg) in one of the rails of the breadboard that go all the way from one end to the other.  The positive 5 Volts from the PiFace is connected to the rail next to that one and then a resistor connects the two rails so that the 5 volts must pass through the resistor to get to the LEDs.  I used a 180 ohm resistor because that’s what came with the Raspberry Pi CanaKit.  I ended up adding a second resistor for the video because the LEDs were too bright.

Then, each short leg of the LED goes to its own row on the breadboard and is connected to a different output on the PiFace from LED0 to LED7.

Here’s a picture of the code:


Here’s what each line does:

Lines 1 and two import libraries to be used later.  Line 3 is blank.  Line 4 shortens that long code into shorter pfd.  Line 5 makes sure that all of the LEDs are turned off.  Line 6 is going to make the entire sequence run 5 times.  Lines 7 to 11 is the loop that sequentially turns each LED on and then back off again after waiting .o2 seconds.  Lines 12 to 16 is the loop that reverses the sequence and turns the LEDs on and off from the other end.  The last line just once again makes sure that all of the LEDs are turned off before ending the program.

I did one new thing tonight.  I normally use VIM to type my programs into the terminal window but I keep forgetting the commands.  So, tonight, I used nano.  To run nano, just type “sudo nano” at the command prompt.  Then you use ctrl and the “O” key to save the file and ctrl and the “X” key to exit nano.  Then to run the program from the command line, I just type “sudo python” (my program’s name was

Here’s a video of the LEDs working.



Adventure with Canakit and NOOBS: Update

20 Apr

I am writing this blog on the new Raspberry Pi.  It was an adventure to get here, but I’m here now.  Here’s a link to the first part of the story:

[OK, I found one weakness with Chromium.  There’s supposed to be a photo here and Chromium won’t let me do it.]

I downloaded the new version of NOOBS.  There’s no need for extra software, you just unzip it onto the memory card.  I did.  And it failed.  The memory card didn’t seem to be working.  The activity light never even blinked when I put it in and plugged in the RPi.  I decided to use the one that came with it.  It has a really cool raspberry image on it.  But, the 8 GB memory card was only reading 1.17 GB.  I formatted it 3 or 4 times and it remained the same.  The NOOBS image is bigger than that, so I couldn’t put it on the card.  I know that this is because the operating system sets a partition on the card to give itself space, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

Instead, I deleted a few of the operating systems that I won’t be using and got it down to 980 MB.  It fit.  It booted.  YES!  It worked!  I’m using Raspbian right now and it set up perfectly, the wifi was easy to set up, and it seems to be working.  Only challenge has been that none of the 3 browsers that came with it would allow me to start a new post on wordpress.  I am typing this in Chromium and it is doing an excellent job.

Although it has been a long road, I’m finally connected.  Message to Canakit, you really, really, really should make sure that the operating system that you put on your memory cards works with the Raspberry Pi that you ship it with.

Here’s how to install the Chromium browser.  Just open a terminal window and type this:

sudo apt-get install chromium-browser
To add some more fonts to make it look better, type this:
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer 

Adventure with Canakit and NOOBS

20 Apr

My dad is the assistant principal at my school, the Western Center Academy, a really successful STEM charter middle school in Hemet, CA.  He is trying to get enough Raspberry Pi kits to start a Raspberry Pi club that will be a side project of our Computer Programming club (See our Kickstarter campaign here).  Because 15 of us finished the tutorial and half of us were girls, they gave us $1,000 to spend on a donorschoose project.  We got two complete Raspberry Pi kits.  We might do a summer institute this summer to do some projects with them.  So, we took one of the kits home to set up and start learning how to use the webcam and the PiFace.

Everything was going great.  Then, if you’ve been reading my blog very long, you probably know what comes next.  Everything fell apart.  We got the CanaKit RPi complete starter kit and it came with a memory card already burned with NOOBS on it.  NOOBS is a little program that allows you to install any of 5 or 6 different operating systems for the RPi.  It has RISCOS, Raspbian, RapbMC, Pidora, etc.  Sounded really cool and easy to use.  I didn’t even need a computer to do it.  Boy was I wrong.

I’m familiar with Raspbian, so I thought that I would start with that.  It took maybe 20 minutes to install (similar to how long it would have taken if I had burned it on the computer using WinDiskImage) and seemed like it was going great.  Then, it restarted to a black screen.  When you start up NOOBS, it tells you to hold down the shift key to enter setup or reinstall the image.  So, I did that.  In the setup, there were a bunch of settings related to HDMI and I am using an HDMI computer monitor.  I tried and tried to adjust those settings (by deleting the “#” to turn it from a useless comment to a useful computer command).  No good.  I reinstalled Raspbian and there was no difference.

At this point, I thought I’d try something new.  I tried to install Pidora.  Installation went great.  There were a few questions and username, password, and account settings.  I chose not to be an administrator on the computer, more about that later.  As I usually do with Raspbian and Occidentalis, I typed “startx” and got an error message something about gnome not being installed.  This was about my 8th failure and 15th restart of the night.  I googled the error message and found out that with Pidora, I need to type startxfce4 instead of just startx.  Awesome!  Not so fast.

Everything looked good and I clicked to get on the internet.  Fail!  Remember when I said that I chose not to be an administrator?  When I clicked on my home’s wifi, it told me that I do not have the rights to do that.  But I didn’t know how to use sudo override in the GUI.  I figured that I’ll just reinstall Pidora and this time, I’d choose to be an administrator.  Keep in mind that each install takes 20 or 30 minutes and it was around 10:30 on a Friday night already.  I reinstalled, chose to be an administrator, and got exactly the same message when I tried to connect to wifi.  The Pi could see my wifi, but it wouldn’t let me connect to it.

I tried installing RISCOS and a couple of the other systems and had the same issues, mostly black screen.  I read online that I should press 1, 2, 3, or 4 to change the display settings, but that didn’t work for me.  Neither did the configuration files.  Finally, I went to bed and my dad took over.  Just before falling asleep, I announced “I HATE technology!” but I didn’t really mean it; I was just frustrated.

My dad ended up having exactly the same problems as me.  He was able to get one of the XBMC media streaming programs to install, but accidentally clicked on the update button and for more than an hour, it kept downloading and installing stuff and then restarting.  In the end, XBMC worked and did a great job playing the movies.  But I don’t want this to be a media streamer.  I want my Linux!!  So, it was about 8 hours of wasted time.

Right now, I’m downloading the most recent version of NOOBS because the date on the one on the memory card seems old.  I’ll let you know if this takes care of the problem.  I read that some of the newer Raspberry Pi computers don’t work with the older operating systems.  They came in a box together.  If this is the case, Canakit could have saved us 8 hours by including an upgraded NOOBS.

I have to say that I think that NOOBS is a good idea.  I can reinstall the OS with just two button clicks.  But so far . . . it has been very, very frustrating.

3D Printing Step-by-Step

15 Apr

How to 3D print Thingiverse Objects on a MakerGear M2 with Simplify3D Creator and Pronterface

–          Plug-in 3D printer and connect the USB

–          Find the object that you want to print on

–          Download the STL file for that object

–          Open simplify 3D/creator

–          Drag STL file onto coordinate plane

–          Click “arrange”

–          Warm up 3D printer bed and extruder with Pronterface software

–          Click “add” in the Creator software

–          Complete the settings and hit  save

–          Put your memory card into your laptop

–          Click “prepare” and do your settings and save to the memory card

–          Run preview if you want by dragging the “end” slider

–          Put your memory card back into the printer

–          Bring up Pronterface (or click Tools, Machine Control Panel in Creator, but I prefer Pronterface)

–          Click “connect” and you’ll hear the fans change pitch for a second.

–          Click “SD” and then “SD print”

–          Choose the file that you want to print

–          Spray a little bit of Aqua Net hairspray on your 3D printer bed

–          As soon as the printer warms up and starts the actual printing process, unplug the USB cable

That’s it.  Now just pray that the bed is level, the Z-offset is correct and that the bed is sticky enough and the extruder doesn’t clog.  Other than that . . . piece of cake!