Raspberry Pi, a promising and cheap device to introduce IT to the youth

There is little doubt by now that computing will be the next stake in education and libraries in the coming years. As ever, you need the right tools to take up the challenge. Libraries can not always afford brand new App#§$ computers, and sometimes the softwares are kind of old-school.

A recent alternative is here to help children learn IT at the lowest cost, it’s called Raspberry Pi, or Raspi. First intended to bring back the basis of computing and coding to students, it has become in a little more than two years a phenomenon with a large and global community of supporters.

Briefly, it cuts the traditional computer to its core : you’ve only got a motherboard with a strict selection of external ports. Add a mouse, an SD card for the operating system, a keyboard, a screen…that’s it !

With Linux installed on the SD card, you’ve got no cost related to the operating system. 35$, it’s all you will spend, provided that you’ve got the accessories.

I hesitated to buy one, because of a slight technical problem : the video port on the Raspi is a HDMI one, and I had no available screen with an HDMI port. I had a screen with a VGA port, but the disclosure of the new model of the Raspi this summer, the Raspi B+, still didn’t show any compatibility. Checking the forums, I learnt that an adapter was not a good solution, for obscure reasons of impedance.

At last, I discovered the solution was to buy an expansion motherboard : it would connect to the Raspi and allow to use a VGA screen. I bought this expansion board in Hong Kong (at the time, it was available only in HK), altogether with a Raspi model B, an SD card and a transparent case. This is what happened next :




The components of the package ; the presence of the highlighter shows that the sizes are all very small, if you should compare with a classical computer.




This is what the expansion board looks like :




The Raspi  and the SD card. The motherboard is red, it’s peculiar to those produced in Asia  :




Of course I connected the Raspi to an HDMI screen to initiate the installation :




Assembling both boards :




Initial layout :




An old copy of « the librarian job » in french is supporting my main screen, I know some may find it….symbolic ?




Preparing to put together the case :




There it is :




Ignition :




My plans now are to try to use Scratch to realize some tests and develop small applications.

I would like to end this post promoting a great initiative from Christophe Lincoln, a teacher who is trying to raise money in order to build a PiClass in his Swiss county. Such an initiative is only one example in the constant moving educational context we face nowadays.

The scandinavian countries were the first to introduce IT in lower school, now the British and French governments are taking measures to fill the gap, it’s time to face the future.