The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK based charity who aim to educate people of all ages in computers and computer science. The idea behind the charity first came about back in 2006 when four professors from Cambridge University realised there was a decline in not only the number, but also the skills of those applying to study Computer Science.
In the 1990s most people applying to read Computer Science were experienced hobbyist programmers and coders, but by the 2000s this was no longer the case. The four professors, Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft identified problems that they felt led to the lack of suitable candidates.
- The ICT curriculum was being diluted with lessons based on using programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel, no longer teaching children programming or how to code.
- People were no longer writing web pages and instead using user-friendly software to create them.
- The rise of the home computer and what these computers were capable of, meant that the costs were rising. Computers were considered far too expensive to let the children experiment with programming and coding on. Less people were learning to program on machines such as the Commodore 64 of Spectrum ZX.
It would’ve been difficult, and maybe even impossible, to change the school curriculum. Harder still to encourage people to write web pages the hard way, instead of using software that does this for you. However, they identified that they could develop a computer that was cheap to buy, which people were able to experiment with coding and programming on, risk free. With this, the concept for Raspberry Pi was born.
By 2009 the processors used for mobile devices were becoming much more affordable and had the ability to deliver multimedia features such as sound, and picture. This feature was likely to make the computer much more desirable to children, especially as they may not have been interested in a device that focused purely on programming.
According to the organisation, “The Raspberry Pi has the ability to interact with the outside world, and has been used in a wide array of digital maker projects, from music machines and parent detectors, to weather stations and tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras.”
The Raspberry Pi is a cost-effective computer that is a little bigger than a credit card. The tiny computer plugs into a monitor and uses a keyboard and mouse. Despite being so small, the Raspberry Pi can do everything that a desktop computer or laptop can do, including, surfing the internet, playing games and creating documents. In 2012, the computer was manufactured and distributed and since then has become the best-selling British computer of all time, selling over five million units.
The newest model of the computer, Raspberry Pi Model B, was released just last month and costs as little as £25. According to the organisation, it is six times more powerful than the previous version.
At Soumac we recognise the importance of keeping young minds interested in computer science, and we support any organisation that aims to help this become a possibility. Allowing young people to have access to computers in a way that has not been done before is what we think makes Raspberry Pi such a successful and ground-breaking organisation.
This year we launched our second Soumac Award offering young engineering students from Portsmouth and Southampton Universities the chance to gain experience in the industry. Our 2014 winner, Jonathan Griffiths, designed and built a low cost atmospheric imaging and data collection device. He said of winning the award “I feel privileged to have been awarded the 2014 Soumac Award. It was an honour to be given the opportunity to present my project at the 2014 Southern Manufacturing Show. It has given me an insight into the inner workings of the industry.” Stay tuned over the next few months to see how our 2015 students get on.