Convincing a house cat to walk in front of a Cat Selfie Machine might be the most challenging aspect of the Raspberry Pi setup taught by Concordia's Technology Sandbox.
Throughout the year, Technology Sandbox coordinator Jasia Stuart welcomes about a dozen people to each Raspberry Pi 101 workshop to learn how to make the machine.
The goal is to teach attendees how to make a simple, motion-detecting selfie machine in about two hours.
"When you come to a workshop we want you to build something," Stuart said. "We want you to make something that does something."
The Raspberry Pi costs about $35 and is a very simple computer that runs on python code, along with whatever attachments are needed for what a person wants to accomplish.
"It's like the little brain of the computer," Stuart said.
For the cat selfie machine, a motion sensor, keyboard and camera are attached to the unassuming single board computer. The parts are provided by the Technology Sandbox for the workshop.
Stuart said that the selfie machine takes pictures whenever it detects motion and can be adjusted for other pets, like fish.
"Whenever the fish gets excited it would capture a picture. You could program it to do that," Stuart said.
The basic computer is popular with people who don't want to risk destroying a laptop to accomplish a simple task.
For instance, the Raspberry Pi can be programmed to measure rainfall, so a biologist can leave it in a forest without worrying they'll ruin something expensive, Stuart said.
The Technology Sandbox is primarily for Concordia students and alumni, but Stuart said that exceptions can be made for people who want to be part of the larger "maker scene" — a subculture where people who don't have formal training learn about technology in a hands-on environment.
The space was launched in 2017 as part of a $40-million renovation of Concordia University's Webster Library.
Stuart said that providing access to new technology is part of what the Sandbox does, with instruction being important too.
"It's a more than just buying equipment and putting it in a room," she said.
"It's having volunteers who are around to help with it, and having staff who can train you."
The next Raspberry Pi 101 workshop is January 20.