Friday, 18 March 2016

British Science Week: Raspberry Pi 3

Originally posted as 

British Science Week: Let’s Talk about Raspberry Pi 3. #BSW2016 https://medium.com/@UniNorthants/national-science-week-let-s-talk-about-raspberry-pi-3-nsw2016-fbf6834b25c#.iwi50jpdd



Imagine this scenario: Sarah walks into the ICT suite, and sits down in front of a screen, keyboard and mouse and a few cables. She opens her bag and pulls out a small plastic box around the size of large match box and plugs in the cables, one each for the monitor, the keyboard, mouse and lastly the power leads to the box. One the screen after a few seconds the screen changes and she is ready to work on her coursework on the word-processor and do some searching, because this box has already connected to the wireless network.

The new Raspberry Pi 3 is exciting, but mainly because it is a Raspberry Pi and plays a huge part in what this means for the future of computing.

In the last few weeks, the scenario above took a giant step forward to being a reality with the release of Raspberry Pi 3 from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. A matchbox size computer for under £35 means that a truly personal computer is possible; one for each student or even as an alternative to shared PCs. The downloadable software used for Raspberry Pi includes the basic things most people need such as word-processing, spreadsheets, browsers, etc, and all for free.
Raspberry Pi has been around for four years now, but what puts the new Pi model a step ahead are two fundamental things:
1) Its wireless and Bluetooth connectivity are built into one for the first time
2) The processor is getting closer to that of laptops and desktop computers
Ok, so am I suggesting that schools throw out their current computers? No not for a moment.
When the time comes to renew them though, perhaps considering the advantages and disadvantages of a £30 computer instead or in the extreme scenario above, one £35 computer per student is worth considering.
The technical aspects alone are a good reason to make a Raspberry Pi 3 purchase, but in my opinion it would be the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself and it’s community that are the real advantage. The Foundation’s stated goals are “…to advance the education of adults and children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science and related subjects.”
The Foundation also owns the Code Club; a network of volunteer-led, after-school coding clubs which are committed to training teachers in computing and training on how to use Raspberry Pi through a two-day course called PiCademy.
The ace up their sleeve is that they have the support of a relatively large community of hobbyists who play with Raspberry Pi for their own fun and have a culture of sharing ideas, projects and providing support to each other. In my view this is the ‘secret sauce’; the teachers and hobbyists in the community provide and share resources very openly.
As an example, a new resource for using Raspberry Pi in science classes was recently made available and like most resources this has been produced by one or more hobbyists. One further example is the idea of PiJams; where anyone interested in finding out more or sharing what they are doing can come along and take part.
With these fantastic events in mind The University of Northampton is hosting the first Northamptonshire Raspberry Jam on the 16 April 2016. Register for free and share your knowledge or learn something new!

If you'd like to find out more about Computing at the University of Northampton go to: www.computing.northampton.ac.uk. All views and opinions are the author's and do not necessarily reflected those of any organisation they are associated with