A taste of Raspberry Pi

It seems that everywhere you look, everyone in education is talking about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Whether it’s teaching coding to all students or making sure that all schools have access to makerspaces, STEM education is a buzzword in educational circles. And why shouldn’t it be? There’s a lot to be excited about in terms of STEM education – real world problems, great community inclusion and 21st century skill development.

However, there are some significant concerns that teachers must face – especially teachers who might be enthusiastic about the idea of STEM education, but perhaps don’t have the experience or the skills or just the knowledge to know what they are doing and how best to implement it in their classroom.

STEM education is a dense collection of anagrams and strange sounding words that might appear impenetrable to a new teacher. Hearing other teachers talk about Sense Hats and Cobblers and Raspberry Pi and Python might sound unusual and perhaps even confronting at first, but fortunately, it is possible to make sense of the field.

This article is meant as a very brief introduction to one of the key components of many makerspaces: the Raspberry Pi. This device has gained a lot of popularity amongst STEM enthusiasts in recent years, mainly because of its adaptability and affordability, but for teachers who’ve never engaged with one before, it can be confusing to know what they are, and how they can be used.

So what is a Raspberry Pi? The Raspberry Pi is basically a credit card sized computer. There are a couple of different models, with different capabilities and settings, but they are all designed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK.

The best thing is that they are built specifically for schools to use in teaching basic computer science. Raspberry Pi boards need to be connected to displays, keyboards and mice to be interacted with (although it is also possible to use them remotely). The Pi isn’t particularly powerful – it’s certainly not going to run the latest games or compete with a Playstation – but that’s not important. It does do a couple of really interesting things. Firstly, it’s a great environment to run software like Scratch to teach students about programing. Second, it’s relatively simple to connect the Pi to things like sensors, so that you can gather real time data. For example, you might connect a temperature sensor, or a humidity sensor, or a camera, or any one of a dozen other kinds of things. Students can use basic programing tools to interact with these sensors and process and display the information they find.

What kinds of things can you do with a Pi?

Where can I find out more?
A good place to start is the official page for each device. Raspberry Pi: https://www.raspberrypi.org

Keith Heggart