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Summer camp teaches students to program Raspberry Pi computers

Contributed • Aug 10, 2018 at 4:43 PM

Last month, middle and high school students were learning how to program Raspberry Pi, not bake it.

The advanced coding and technology camp, held at East Tennessee State University, exposed students to a single board computer called Raspberry Pi that fits in the palm of your hand.

“The Raspberry Pi is all about accessibility,” said Mathew Desjardins, lecturer and camp director for ETSU’s Department of Computing. “Kids will explore and challenge themselves to see how computers work, but it’s not realistic to give a 10-year-old a new laptop to take apart.”

Each Raspberry Pi costs less than $40, works with any USB keyboard and mouse and can even be turned into a tablet. Plastic cases were 3-D printed at ETSU to protect the board and components.

By the end of the week, campers learned how to set up a Raspberry Pi and use a universal programming language called Python.

“It’s the same logic as a video game, you’re trying to avoid running into obstacles,” Desjardins said. “Programming is the most tedious part, but it’s just because the students aren’t familiar with it. Once they get exposure to it they will be ready for college or the workforce by learning a skill I think everyone should know.”

Ella, a participant in the camp, said she and her siblings were learning to use Raspberry Pi for many of the same reasons. In order to participate in this advanced camp, students were required to attend a beginner coding camp held earlier in the summer. At 13 years old, Ella said she understands that the skills she developed this summer will be valuable in the future.

“Coding is a neat skillset to have and I know most things work with computers now,” she said.

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