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4.0 out of 5 stars High quality projects for the Raspberry Pi that are easy to get into, 11 April 2014
ColinD (Bristol / Bath UK) - See all my reviews
First, a disclaimer: I'm one of the volunteer technical reviewers of the book, albeit I do not know Daniel the author and hence do feel I remain impartial. Having read it cover to cover more than once and having gone through every single example I do feel I'm qualified to comment on the book and recommend it.

The book is split into essentially three projects (one with extensions - see below) with the compulsory Getting Started with the Pi that all Pi books seem to have leading the reader in. However kudos to the author for both introducing the command line in the first chapter (an important topic), and also providing a short troubleshooting section for common my-Pi-doesn't-work problems.

Over to the projects: the first, writing a simplified version of Angry Birds in Scratch, is a great way into programming. What I absolutely love about this project is that it introduces an element of real world physics into the equation of how the character moves around the screen. This isn't just yet-another "my cat moves" project. Oh no. On Page 30/31:

"Adding physics...
First, let's add some gravity".

This is done by using separate x and y "speed" variables. Changing the value of y by a negative amount will effectively act to pull the character a little back to earth. This is a great concept to introduce to kids: that variables can be used to control stuff, and you can simulate real-world physics in a computer. It really sets off those neurons: what else can I model in a computer? Absolute top marks to the author for including this. I was smiling a lot when I read this section while reviewing the book.

Onto the second project, and from here on in we're moving from Scratch to Python. What's more the author introduces a basic electronic circuit in the form of a home-made (Blue Peter style with tape and paperclips) game pad controller. This is an entirely achievable project for kids as it involves no soldering. However it may be an idea to work with young kids on this project as there is a possibility of frying the Pi's GPIO port if the cables are badly connected. Done well it'll work a treat. One especially nice touch in this chapter is that the author shows a section of code in Scratch and then presents the same functionality in Python. This definitely eases the transition from one to the other.

And finally the third project. This introduces user interfaces via a project to interface with Google Maps. It's a more complex (but not unachievably so) project that takes one through creating a GUI (using Python's TKinter), obtaining map data via the Google API (and pre-selecting the map's location, scale and size in pixels) and then adding additional user-interactive (via detecting mouse clicks) functionality to the map. As with the previous projects there are some great touches here-in such as introducing the concept that computer languages generally count from 0 and not 1 (ie: the first item is 0 and the second is 1).

So why 4 and not 5 stars? Well, it's a tricky one: the projects genuinely are interesting, achievable, and people of all ages will learn from them, and the book is a reasonable length for a reasonable price. However one does feel that just one more chapter would have been good. I say this as the extensions to the interactive map project, while great ideas, could have been flushed out into a chapter of their own. This is however a grumble more than a genuine complaint. If I could, I'd have given 4.5 stars.

This is an absolutely great read and I genuinely believe that kids will be able to follow these projects at their own pace and gain from them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Although a slim read, it's a good addition to your Pi resources, 7 May 2014
Mr. M. D. Horne "recantha" (Potton, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids (Paperback)
I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher, Packt. As usual, however, this will be an impartial review.

Raspberry Pi Projects for kids is a slim volume printed in black-and-white by Daniel Bates, a computer science researcher at the University of Cambridge. In the past (though I’m not sure about currently), Daniel has volunteered for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and did a lot of work on early versions of Minecraft Pi Edition. He previously wrote Instant Minecraft: Pi Edition Coding How-to for Packt, the publisher of his new book, Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids.

The book has an easy-going, but very clear, style and has been very well written and edited to be concise but accessible to it’s target audience: kids and their parents.

The book opens with the usual introduction to the Pi and a guide on how to get it set-up. It’s 14 pages long and includes a good troubleshooting guide at the end.

The next chapter is Scratch-based and goes from first principles through to creating a clone of the Angry Birds game. I applaud the author for this chapter. Too often, Scratch programming examples are very simple and don’t go far enough in showing what can be done with the language. Daniel Bates has taken the approach that what kids want at the end is a working game with everything in place. So, he’s even covered getting projectiles acting as though gravity affected them.

The next chapter moves onto Python and into the world of physical computing. Whereas other books go into circuit prototyping with breadboards, Bates has taken a different approach. His circuits are built with cardboard, paper fasteners and paper clips! This is, of course, an entirely valid way of introducing kids to physical programming without swamping them with a rat’s nest of wiring issues. The Python programming is fairly simple but does cover importing libraries and other concepts as well as creation of functions. He also compares some Scratch examples with their Python equivalents, which I think is the best way of showing how you go from the simpler programming language into Python. The program you end up creating picks a random letter and then you press the appropriate ‘button’ as fast as you can to test your reaction time. It’s a really fun example of what can be done with not very much equipment and a little programming.

The final chapter leverages the Google Maps API to create an interface where you have a map displayed and then click on it to identify locations with a circle and a label. It’s one of those weird projects where it sounds like it’s going to be really complicated but, with the magic of Python and the Tkinter module, turns out to be simpler. Bates has very clearly broken down the task into steps and then takes the reader through each step in turn, linking them together as you go. It’s a really great way of building up concepts (like APIs, mouse input and text input) and then bringing them together.

So, in conclusion, I have to give Daniel Bates a big thumbs-up. This is a very well put-together book and it’s written in a style that will appeal to kids and parents. Projects are clear enough and broken down into enough simple steps that it’s easy to ‘do a bit at a time’ and dip in and out when you have time. I have two criticisms, however. First of all, the price for the printed version is 14.99. If you compare this to something like Wiley’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi (which you can get for around 10), it doesn’t come out well. It is also black-and-white whereas Adventures is full-colour. You can download the colour images for the book from the Packt website but I doubt many people will. Secondly, for the price, it doesn’t seem anywhere near long enough. Three projects in a short book does, of course, appeal to kids – it’s a bite-sized book for bite-sized attention spans. But, I feel it could be expanded into a book three times the size.

Those criticisms aside, however, Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids is a good addition to your Pi bookshelf.

I will give it a solid 7.5/10 with the price being the biggest concern (if it was cheaper, I’d be giving it 8.5/10, on the strength of the content). I recommend getting the electronic version which is half the price.
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Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids
Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids by Daniel Bates (Paperback - 17 Mar 2014)
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