The Raspberry Pi – with more than 3 million sold — has been put in the spotlight by tinkerers, hackers and hobbyists who continue to innovate with the tiny, bare-bones computer.
But many of its millions of fans don’t know the Pi’s original calling: a novel, cost-effective way of teaching students basic computer programming skills.
For a group of volunteers at Broadcom’s Singapore office, the Raspberry Pi (which sells for about $25) is a fantastic entry point to hook students into computer science and engineering disciplines.
“What makes the Raspberry Pi a great learning tool is that it’s very hands-on,” said Jeffrey Chin, Principal Engineer, Central Engineering, at Broadcom in Singapore. “We hope that through their experiences with the Pi, students will grow more curious about engineering and might be inspired to go home and explore.”
Chin has rallied a group of 20 Broadcom employees to help carry out this vision of using the Pi to create an engineering spark for young people. He’s helped organize Raspberry Pi workshops for teachers and students who haven’t yet had a chance to learn about the credit card-size microcomputer.
Chin’s team organized a half-day program to help teach the teachers so they could carry the Raspberry Pi lessons into their classrooms. These teachers later will host a Broadcom employee in their classrooms to demo the Pi and talk about careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Chin’s team also held a workshop for senior high school and university-level students that included some background on the semiconductor industry in Singapore and a visit to a Broadcom lab.
The students could tackle one of three projects with the Pi: “We go through the basics, step-by-step,” Chin said.
The first was simulated intersection with LED traffic lights. A second project was a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi stereo system that uses a smartphone application to interact with a Raspberry Pi, and the third project was a motion detecting camera that was manipulated by the Pi.
“We invite students to create something that, at first, looks difficult,” Chin said. “But when you break it down, they find it’s actually not that hard and they learn the basics of coding. What’s important is that they get the opportunity to try it out and that they can explore it further.”
The Singapore team is looking to expand the program to more teachers and to younger students by fostering collaboration with the Broadcom Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Picademy program, the Singapore Ministry of Education and the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association.