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November 16, 2015

Raspberry Pi Class

November 16, 2015

Each year at the 24 Hour Project, we try to directly involve the organization we’re working with in as many ways as possible. This year, since we were working with a school, we wanted to find ways to involve the students, so I volunteered to teach a class on hardware, computers, and programming. Built by an educational nonprofit, the Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that runs Linux and has been used by hobbyists and educators around the world (check out my previous post about Raspberry Pi projects to learn more!). I’ve been working with Raspberry Pi’s for a couple years now and have always loved teaching, so here was a perfect opportunity to combine these together!

There was lots of excitement and energy in the air as 14 kids, aged 10 to 14, clamored into the lower collaboratorium on Thursday afternoon. Everyone there was part of the School for Community Learnings’ robotics club and they were all eager to get their hands on the new tech. We began the project by splitting into groups, with 2 to 3 kids at each computer station, and then assigning roles. There was a programming specialist, hardware expert, and a graphic designer, each with specific jobs and tasks assigned throughout the duration of the class.

First up were the hardware experts who began by assembling their group's Raspberry Pi. This allowed the students to familiarize themselves with all of the different wires, connections, and tools and get a general idea of how all of the computer pieces work together. After booting the Pi’s up, the students were presented with a blank, command prompt screen where they would only be able to enter commands in a language known as Bash. Working together, we setup a new user, made changes to a few system settings, overclocked their Raspberry Pi to make it run faster, and configured the computer to automatically boot to a graphic desktop. Lastly, Drew led the group through a short programming tutorial, using a graphical coding program called Scratch, to build a fun, two-person video game.

After the project was over, the kits were disassembled and donated to the school so that the students could continue working on their computer and their video game. Their robotics teacher, Chris Howey, plans to continue working with the Raspberry Pi’s when they get back from their upcoming robotics competition and I’m very excited to hear about all of the great and creative uses they find for their new computers! As a programmer who first started working with computers at the same age as these students, it was a great privilege to work with them during 24 Hour Web Project, and I’m sure they will go on to do great things with their new computers.

Do you remember the first time you setup a new computer? What was it like? Share in the comments!

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