Alan O’Donohoe writes: I’m often asked how Raspberry Jam started, how the jam spread so quickly, and why I was motivated to start this movement. So here’s a little history of the birth of the Raspberry jam movement.
On the 11th February 2012, I organised our very first Hack To The Future event [ film | blogpost ] at my school, Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston. Everyone agreed it was a fabulous event, attended by 365 children, teachers, developers, hackers and computer scientists. In the months leading up to #H2DF (Twitter hashtag), I had hoped that the Raspberry Pi Foundation would be able to attend, but unfortunately, a number of production issues with the hardware on the Raspberry Pi set their launch back considerably and all hands were needed ‘on deck’ in Cambridge. In spite my best efforts, I was unsuccessful in placing an order for a Raspberry Pi on that fabled morning of Feb 29th 2012.
In May 2012, after seeing some of my twitter friends posting photos of their recently delivered Raspberry Pi computers, I grew green with envy. During 2011 and 2012 I was on the lookout for ways to increase access to Computing for all pupils at my school, we had been using Arduino, Picoboards, FIGnition and Shrimps. I was desparate to get hold of a Raspberry Pi so that I could see if this would be the solution I was looking for. I remember in July 2011 receiving a reply from Eben Upton.
So on the 5th May 2012 I hatched a plan… I believed that if I organised a computing event that focused on the Raspberry Pi computer that I would be able to persuade some of the new owners to come along and then finally I could handle a Raspberry Pi and discover first-hand the educational potential of the device.
I wanted to use a snappy name that perfectly described what the event was and I asked Deborah my wife for suggestions. She replied,
“You know how you play saxophone, but not very well. Well whenever you jam with others you don’t sound half bad. So, why not call it a Jam? A Raspberry Jam!” and so the name was born.
So that day, I developed my plans for the event a little further. I knew I had a room at school that could accomodate 30 people out of school hours, so I listed the event on Eventbrite. To my surprise and delight, all 30 tickets ‘sold out’ within a manner of an hour or so. My friend Martin Bateman at UCLan offered me a larger room and so we were able to issue a total of 60 tickets.
On the Sunday morning of 6th May, through the power of twitter, I received a steady flow of messages from Raspberry Pi enthusiasts around the world asking if they too could hold Raspberry Jam events. On the same day, I had discussions with Alec Clews about setting up Melbourne Raspberry Jam and my good friend Ben Nuttall about running Manchester Raspberry Jam events. Manchester can definitely claim the title of ‘1st Raspberry Jam event’, this took place on Saturday 9th June 2012. I couldn’t attend, I was away on holiday at the time, but Dan Hett wrote a review.
In the months that followed I jointly organised Raspberry Jam events in London, Bristol and Cambridge, and supported Raspberry Jams that followed in Coventry, Milton Keynes, Penzance, Machynlleth, Somerset, Durham, Oxford, and Egham. Raspberry Jam communities quickly established in Germany, California, Africa, Japan, Singapore, CERN, Geneva. Now I’ve lost track of where they are, in fact – it started to take over my life so much that it caused quite a bit of friction at home and in school.
Raspberry Jam events come in all sorts of different flavours, so there is not really a strict template that has to be followed. I’ve tried to encourage a mix of playing, hacking and sharing. It’s great to look back at the talented individuals I’ve met at Raspberry Jams and how their passion for Raspberry Pi and computing education has taken them away on exciting adventures, just look at what happened to Carrie Anne Philbin, Ben Nuttall, Amy Mather, and Ryan Walmsley
Characteristics of a jam:
- Welcoming a mix of people from different backgrounds, age and levels of experience
- Educating participants about the potential of the Raspberry Pi through sharing projects
- Inspiring participants to try new projects and ideas, returning to the next jam to share developments.
The future: I’ve just secured some funding to launch a UK roadtour starting in November 2014 called ‘Jam Packed‘. It will bring Hack To The Future and Raspberry Jam to the communities most in need, with the intention of forging & developing computing communities in the areas that Jam Packed will visit. There will be another Raspberry Jamboree in 2015 and 2016 where we will be sharing the successes and resources from our Jam Packed UK tour.
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