Bar chart in Minecraft Pi

Playing with data

Over the weekend we were at the Plymouth City Council’s brilliant Data Play event, run by the planning team who are responsible for most of the published open data from the council.

At the end of the second day, Saturday, I sat down to write a blog post about what we’d done … it turned out to be really difficult because all the really interesting stuff was being done by other people, and they will be posting that up themselves on the dedicated Data Play site in due course. Whereas all I did was sit in a room and tinker with Minecraft and a Raspberry Pi, which never really feels like work. So I assumed I had nothing to report, but that was before I saw this:

Astro Pi project data visualisation

This project was the winning primary school entry to the Astro Pi competition; there’s a series of scripts you can run to collect data using the sensors, read the data in to a file and then display the data file contents alongside a floating digital clock and counter. The code for this can be found at if you want to have a go (you’ll need a Sense Hat installed on your Raspberry Pi to use it as is).

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is the idea of visualising real world data in a Minecraft world; I’d hacked a basic Python script together using the Minecraft API which builds a simple column chart showing the numbers in a simple data array.

Bar chart in Minecraft Pi

At the same time, one of the Data Play entrants is building a detailed and very beautiful model of Plymouth in Minecraft, similar to what we want to do with our Minecraft Discovery Day this coming Saturday (only much more aesthetically pleasing right now!).

Plymouth modelled in Minecraft

So I wondered, what would it be like to have a Minecraft model of a landmark in Plymouth, one with a nice expanse of flat ground for preference, and to build a data visualisation showing some relevant stats for the area? Maybe numbers of visitors, or the weather conditions; or if it were for the council, a display on the top of Ballard House showing the number of calls about potholes or some other metric that Plymouth residents would like to know about?

Anyway, thanks to the Astro Pi project, I’ve got a sample set of scripts to play with – if you see me at the event on Saturday that’s most likely what I’ll be doing!

Posted in Events, News.