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Breeding a generation of savvy programmers

August 11, 2013

RASPBERRY PI, INDEX: AWARD 2013 FINALIST.

The dramatic digitalization of our world requires future generations to be equipped with special skills, enabling them to steer the helm of the difficult digital age. Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge developed Raspberry Pi, a tiny, credit card sized, and highly affordable computer that can be used by children all over the world to learn programming. 

Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory sparked the idea for a highly affordable and customizable mini-computer in 2006 due to the year-on-year decline of both the numbers and skill levels of students applying to study Computer Science. Upton explains that in contrast to the 90′s when those applying had experience within programming gained through their hobbies, a typical applicant in present day might only have minor skills within web design. Due to the lack of good quality applicants, which is backed by research carried out by the Royal Society that shows there has been a 60% decline in the number of British students achieving an A-level in computing since 2003, they were unable to fill classes and realized something needed to be done in order to solve this increasing problem.

This decline is of huge concern as now – more than ever – we are living in the digital era, and “if you can’t control technology, you are controlled by those who can”. Generally the more sophisticated a device is, the harder it is to program. There’s no lack of interest in technology, but there’s a barrier between being a user and becoming a designer of content. Raspberry Pi is designed to eliminate that gap.

Designed in Cambridge and manufactured in Wales, the Raspberry Pi is looking to be a catalyst towards solving the world’s computing issues by educating and empowering today’s youth about programming. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a Non-Profit Organization that spent 6 years developing their first Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a computer the size of a credit card, at a price of $25, designed to activate mainly kids into coding computers. According to an article by the BBC, they are able to keep the costs down due to the goodwill toward the project. The software is open-source, chip manufacturers have kept their prices low, and the majority of the profits are funneled towards improving the devices and creating incentives to get children programming.

The success since their launch has been immense due to their careful and perfectionist approach. When their second model was launched February 29, 2012, the 10 thousand units they put on sale were sold out in a matter of hours. During a TEDX talk, Jack Lang explained that Raspberry Pi had become the fastest growing computer company in the world. 1 million Raspberry Pi’s were sold globally in 2012 alone.

What’s more amazing is that Raspberry Pi actively encourages other companies to clone what they’re doing, with the goal that owning a truly personal computer will be normal for children and that the next generation thinks about coding and building in the computer universe. If we want the young generation to design the future in the digital age we need to make them computer-literate. We are going from being informed by computers to informing computing in an open source environment. Raspberry Pi is the possibility for people and especially kids to inform and get informed on the knowledge flow in society and thereby be an active player in the evolution and articulation of how democracy will be able to function in the future.

Raspberry Pi is democratizing coding and giving back to people the possibility of exploring Data Mining and Data Processing so each individual has the possibility to construct arguments, insights, and specific design proposals for new services, businesses and applications.

One application for Raspberry Pi’s has been for use in rural areas, such as in schools in Bolgatanga, Ghana in order to improve access to education. The Pi’s have been used as servers for textbooks, health guides, world literature e-books etc. Thanks to the Pi’s students have access to a huge amount of content without having to rely on poor quality and expensive Internet.

Dave Akerman found another use for the Raspberry Pi when he attached one to a hydrogen balloon along with a webcam and a GPS. The Pi in the Sky was the first Raspberry Pi to visit near space, it reached almost 40km up before the balloon burst, but Akerman was able to recover the Pi unharmed after it took the highest ever photographs transmitted live from an amateur device.

We’re excited to see what’s to come and in what other ways Raspberry Pi’s improve life!

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One thought on “Breeding a generation of savvy programmers

  1. Pingback: Announcing the Winners of the €500,000 INDEX: Award 2013! | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

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