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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Denton ISD Host Second Annual Raspberry Pi Camp for Middle School Students

Students coding and problem solving.
(Photo by Ernie Stripling)
Denton ISD just completed our second annual Raspberry Pi Camp.  Twenty enthusiastic middle school students worked together to learn computer skills beyond the Graphical User Interface. Students learned how to research, plan a project and most importantly problem solve.  After all, a student learns more from having to troubleshoot a stubborn difficult project than one which is simply put together like a recipe.

Students were also shown how to unpackage and assemble a Pi before moving into the lab. The first day of the camp was all about getting familiar with the Pi and researching possible projects.  Students completed tasks such as installing software from the terminal window and writing a simple program in Python. Students learned how to copy code directly from instructional web pages to the terminal command line. The convenience of this was countered by stern commands from the instructors to try to understand exactly what they wanted the computer to do and to try as much as possible to understand what software packages they were using. That way, when they encountered problems they were better able to talk about the obstacles they were facing. The last three days of camp students created projects with their Raspberry Pi’s based on their research.  Projects ranged from building their own games in Scratch, making Minecraft servers, and building a Wi-Fi enabled juke box that played songs from Pandora.  Some of our students were articulate and experienced with the Linux command line. Others were quiet and solved problems with their hands, while putting together external hardware. One student used a pair of Pi’s for her project. The best part of the camp, from an educator’s point of view, was watching the kids think through problems and seeing what lengths they would go through to research and solve the problems that they encountered to make it work.

What’s a Raspberry Pi? 
The Raspberry Pi is perhaps the first popular, cheap, small, computing platform which enables anyone to participate in a do-it-yourself approach to computing. No bigger than a credit card, it plugs into a computer monitor or TV through HDMI, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse via USB. There are thousands of projects that can use a Pi for all sorts of applications, including programming in languages like Scratch and Python.  Raspberry Pi’s can run on a number of different operating systems. The default OS lately is a free Linux distribution called Raspian. The latest Pi model, the Pi 3, has a fast 64-bit ARM processor, HDMI, 1/8” audio out, and four USB slots.

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