Kids in Tech: Raspberry Pi

If you were born in the late 70’s or early 80’s like myself, you probably remember the days of booting up computers and typing in commands to do simple things like open a file or a program. If your mom and/or dad was anything like mine, you probably had a computer that had a hard drive that very seldom had the cover on it because of the constant tinkering that took place in attempts to make it process more information faster. I grew up in a house with a computer geek. For fun, my mother brought home Punched cards and green and white striped dot matrix computer paper for my brother and I to play with. We spent plenty of weekend days in cold rooms that had servers and large reels of tape collecting massive amounts of data. To this day, old school white tiled rooms, surrounded by glass, and filled with enormous computers brings back memories of my childhood.

I grew up around computers, like a lot of kids my age. Even if most of us only used them for simple things like playing games from floppy disks, we had a familiarity with them and an intimacy that kids these days don’t. When I powered up my old IBM, there was no pretty icons that showed me what programs were available. There was no mouse that I could point and click and have information quickly at my access.There was no start menu with lists of software to choose from. All we had was the C prompt. That was it. We had to learn. We had to learn how to navigate and communicate with our computers. We had to learn to understand what it was saying to us and how to address the scenario should a problem occur. “Syntax error” meant nothing more than you did something wrong and had to ask for what you wanted again. In magazines, there were fun codes we could run. I remember a code I spent about an hour typing in just for something to flash across the screen. Our world existed on a black screen with a flashing cursor in DOS. It was THE life!

Then entered Windows and Nintendos. Bye floppy disks and C prompts! See you later!

If you haven’t already checked out my last 2 Kids In Tech posts, check them out here and here.

With the rise of the home PC and game consoles came a decline in kids needing or wanting to learn computer coding or about computer language. Super user friendly GUIs such as Windows does almost everything  so that most people only need to know how to click icons, right click, left click, and press buttons in order to get to what they want from their computers and other devices. PC’s don’t require the users to do anything at the boot level any longer, so simple tasks such as running a programs from a command prompt is lost on most kids. Many kids don’t even know what a command prompt is. This lack of interest/need, and in adequate school curriculum in computer programming language and coding has lead to a lack of skilled people in the job market.

This lack was noticed by 4 scholars at University of Cambridge in 2006 and they decided to do something about it. In an effort to make learning about computers and coding more accessible and affordable for people all over the world,  Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, based at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory created the Raspberry Pi.

What is a Raspberry Pi? The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.(Taken directly from www.RaspberryPi.org)

The Raspberry Pi is not meant to replace a pc/laptop. Though the processor is limited, it is still powerful enough to support some really cool projects at an affordable price. You could probably do the same things by buying all of the pieces and building a computer yourself, however, a lot of people don’t have the knowledge on where to start or how to begin. This simplifies the process by having the actual computing component already built with and OS and softawre. It comes with a Linux based OS called Raspbian. On the Raspbian the pre installed software is Python, Scratch, Sonic Pi, Java, Minecraft Pi, and more.

How much does a Raspberry Pi cost?

There are 3 versions of the Raspberry Pi:

(All prices are plus shipping and handling and tax.)

The Model A+ is the low-cost variant of the Raspberry Pi. It has 256MB RAM, one USB port, 40 GPIO pins and no Ethernet port. It costs $20.

The Model B+ is the final revision of the original Raspberry Pi. It has 512MB RAM (twice as much as the A+), four USB ports, 40 GPIO pins, and an Ethernet port. Itcosts $25,

Pi 2 Model B, the second generation of the Raspberry Pi. The Pi 2 shares many specs with the Pi 1 B+, but it uses a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and has 1GB RAM. It costs $35.
The Pi 2 is completely compatible with first generation boards, and is the model we recommend for use in schools, due to its flexibility for the learner.

At home we have a wireless keyboard and mouse that we plug into one of the USB ports on the Pi 2. The keyboard and mouse both have AA batteries in them, which is awesome as they are not wired together.We also have a 8GB 4D SD card that was pre installed with NOOBS (New Out Of Box Software), camera, a wifi dongle, heat sink, power cord, and an HDMI cord to connect to our television. On the sight and various places on the internet, there are projects that you can do with your Raspberry Pi such as building robots, bird feeders, sensors, automated devices, the possibilities are endless. I will compile a list of some of the projects that I have found that seem like they would spark a kid’s interest.

Where can I get a Raspberry Pi? The Raspberry Pi can be Purchased directly from RaspberryPi.org or other online retailers. We purchased ours through Amazon.
There are also other retailers that offer different kits such as The Kano Kit, Cana Kit, and BrickPi.

The Raspberry Pi is so affordable, you can have more than 1 for various projects and not break the bank. These would also make awesome donations to community outreach programs and schools.

What do I need to get started? It depends on what you want to do and how much time and money you want to spend.

Below are some helpful links and books to get you started on your journey.

Helpful Links

RaspberryPi.Org

Geek Gurl Diaries

 Books

Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin aka Geek Gurl Diaries
Raspberry Pi Projects for Dummies by Mike Cook and Jonathan Evans
Raspberry Pi Users Guide by Eben Upton and Garath Halfacree
Python For Kids by Jason R. Briggs

Raspberry Pi Projects

Pi Pocket Raspberry Pi Gameboy
Retro Gaming Console
Home Monitor
Lego Robot
Another Lego Robot
Feeder Tweeter

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Cracking Coding for Kids

kid-reading-book-on-ipad

About a year ago, I noticed Rahni becoming more advanced in Minecraft, ie., being able to play in survival mode without dying. She was able to do this because she has researched strategies and tips. Through the help of You Tube, the Minecraft Essentials books, a week long summer camp devoted to Minecraft,  and other websites, she was finally able to grasp the concept and make the game more enjoyable. While I was hugely impressed by her ability to figure things out and research online different strategies, I was growing more and more concerned with the amount of time she was spending playing games.

Then it hit me.

Me: Rahni, do you want to learn about computer coding?
Rahni: What’s that?

Me: It’s teaching you language to tell the computer what to do in order to do things like make games and websites.

Rahni: Like Minecraft?

Me: Yes.

Rahni: Yes!

That was easy.

The hardest part is finding where to start and most importantly, affordable options.

From my research I have found so much useful information and I’d like to pass this information off to you. 

Since there is a projected increase of STEM jobs in our country between now and 2020 of 14%, there is a push in the school system to have more programs and material in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so that our children are prepared to take those jobs. I think that this is awesome because our children will benefit greatly from having a strong foundation in all of these areas. However, the truth is that many of our children, especially those that are African American and/or poor, will not get the support and instruction that is needed in order for them to be successful. As we all know, there is a huge disparity in income and access to resources causing it to be extremely difficult for children of lower income homes to be able to take advantage of the STEM programs that are available. Many of these programs start in the low hundreds.

Research shows that children in lower income homes actually handle technological devices more frequently than their wealthier counterparts. What does this mean? This means that all is not loss, and that we just need to use our technology in more productive ways. If I’m reading it correctly, it also means that a lot of children have access to smart phones, tablets, iPods, laptops, and desktops but they are not being taught how to use them as educational tools; they’re mostly only using them for entertainment. While this is disappointing, it also creates a huge opportunity.

*Soapbox* I’ve always said that if you have a smart phone that is capable of browsing the Internet and downloading  games, then there’s no reason why your child shouldn’t be reading books and learning on it.

To combat the education/technology gap, in some parts of the country there are free and income based STEM programs geared toward marginalized groups such as girls, children from lower income homes, and African Americans. For those of us that don’t have access to any programs like these, and who cannot afford the ones offered in our area, there is the interwebs.

The Internet is chock full of blogs, videos, articles, websites, apps, etc. that have of information on STEM and STEM related resources that can help you and your child. The key is that you have go out there and look for it.

I’ve been researching STEM for elementary school aged children for a couple years now and we have been able to benefit tremendously from the information I have found. From simple tutorials like using Word to more specific subject matter like building robots, there are so many resources to help you teach your child.

Since my daughter’s primary interest is gaming and gaming related subject matter, I will provide you with some of the references that I have found extremely helpful. Some of the websites are free or offer free activities. Some of the websites may also offer fee based courses/programs.


Coding For Kids For Dummies by Camille McCue

Helping Your Kids With Computer Coding by DK Publishing
DK Workbooks: Computer Coding by DK Publishing

Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math by Majad Marji


Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno

Hello World!: Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners by Warren and Carter Sande

JavaScript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Nick Morgan

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs


Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming by Bryson Payne

Super Scratch Programming Adventure! (Covers Version 2): Learn to Program by Making Cool Games by The LEAD Project

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps: Covers versions 1.4 and 2.0 by Sean McManus

Java Programming for Kids: Learn Java Step By Step and Build Your Own Interactive Calculator for Fun! (Java for Beginners) by R. Chandler Thompson

I hope you find more than a few things helpful for you and your child. Please continue to share the knowledge and pass this post along to any and all who can benefit from it.

Also, please, leave comments and suggestions of other resources to add!

Rahni’s Minecraft Corner

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