BETTer late than never...

It was a tale of two cities, a game of two halves or some other euphemism. But BETT 2016 seemed centred on bringing the Maker Movement into the classroom. At one end of the hall we saw the hard sales of smart whiteboards, IT service plans and high speed / high cost broadband for schools. I was amazed at how many stalls offered a similar service, and just how many services were on offer, automated credit terminals for children to purchase their lunch. But at the other end of the hall, and I tell you it was a very long hall, was a special village.

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The STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics) Village was a joy to behold, no hard pressure sales, in fact things were being given away. Over at the Raspberry Pi Foundations stall I saw my colleagues Clive, Dave, Marc, Carrie-Anne, Sam, James, Rachel and Ben along with newcomers Dan and Helen manning multiple booths showing off the best that the Foundation has to offer.

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Running sessions every half hour focussing on Sonic Pi, Scratch and the GPIO Zero Python library, the Foundation attracted quite a crowd, all eager to get to grips with the Pi. What was great to see were the great looking Pi Top CEED Pi desktops being put through their paces. Much cheaper and sturdier than their laptop predecessor.

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The Raspberry Pi team were joined by their new colleagues from Code Club, who are now owned by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Code Club team were on hand to talk about their ethos, projects and support network and it was clear to see that the new Raspberry Pi / Code Club team are well skilled for the task at hand.

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Moving further along the village I saw the fabled …micro:bit.

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Yes they are real and no longer rarer than a Unicorn steak…ok you still can’t get hands on yet but the stalls advised that it would be around six weeks, roughly mid March, before the boards get into the hands of teachers across the UK. At the other end of the hall there was a Microsoft Village that showed off, well Windows 10 and a load of pupil management systems. Minecraft Education Edition was on show and it did look good, wonder when we can start hacking that?

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Also present in the village were a series of micro:bit related stalls, and a live presentation and demo of the board, hosted by the most repetitious of hosts. When describing the available languages for micro:bit he seemed to really know his stuff with Blocks, Touch:Develop and JavaScript, but sadly his knowledge and enthusiasm for Python was lacking. I know that the Python Software Foundation (PSF) are hard at work with the Python software and a release is imminent.

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It was great to see Kitronik and David Whale showing off what the micro:bit can do, and also good to see Samsung demonstrate their Android app that will enable a mobile / tablet to code the micro:bit.

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Moving outside the village I visited the Pi Top stand and spent some time talking to their CEO Jesse, nice lad and very honest in his demeanour. Interesting to hear how the Pi Top CEED, their new desktop set for the Raspberry Pi, has been widely received.

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The best part of the event was seeing my friends in the community

Pete Lomas

Andrew Mulholland

Andrew Robinson (Codebug)

Jarle Teigland

Alan O’Donohoe

Albert Hinney

Andy (@SouthendRPiJams)

Plus many others!

The Raspberry Pi community was well represented, in fact there were enough Picademy alumni and community members to run the stalls on behalf of the Foundation. It is great to see so many passionate people taking time out from their busy lives to attend BETT and learn more about the new curriculum and support their clubs and children.

BETT is not a one day conference, you really do need to spend a couple of days just taking it all in. That said, I enjoyed my time at BETT and would recommend heading down if you have the chance in 2017.