If you investigate the exciting world of hand-held computer coding, you’ll find that there are two major options out there: the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. So how do you know which one to choose? Take a good look at what you want to do with your library, your space, and your programs.
Arduino is a wonderful product, and is used across many libraries and makerspaces- in fact, if you’re looking for makerspace or 3d printer applications, this is the best one by far. You can find 3d printer software to robotic kits, and it runs its own language that’s easier to learn for non-computer people than Linux. If you aren’t familiar with computers, or don’t have someone on staff who is, Ardruino could be a good way to go.
So why go with Raspberry Pi? The reason I did was versatility: the programs that I had in mind range from internal computer basics (the guts of a Pi) to visual coding basics (Scratch), through electronics (LED and breadboard circuitry). I wanted to be able to teach computer coding languages and logic to teens (Python) while still being able to use them for gaming. So for me, the Pis were the way to go.
Throughout all my Pi programs, I had the same equipment, which depending on the monitors will cost you between $125-150 depending on your display sourcing:
- CanaKit Raspberry Pi B (or B+) Ultimate Starter Kit.
- powered USB HUB
- DVI-D computer monitor plus adapter (I was able to get monitors that were no longer in used from other departments from IT for my programs. Positive side- didn’t cost me anything; negative side- had to purchase $4 adapters)
- USB Keyboard & mouse
- Power strip
I tested all the Pis before I started the programs, making sure that the software was up-to-date, that all the hardware worked correctly, and that during the program time if I wanted the wifi would be able to support all 9 Pis working simultaneously.
For the first program that I did with the tweens and teens, it was just an introduction to the Pis- teaching them the guts of the computer, what each little part and circuit did, how to put it together, and how to power it up. If they did it properly, the software that we had pre-loaded and tested on the Pis would take their commands and allow them to discover the preinstalled games, where they could play whatever they wanted for the rest of the time.
I created handouts that showed exactly what piece on the motherboard what which, and a glossary of terms so that they would have definitions of what they meant. The range of tweens and teens that I had went from those who had no clue what a USB was all the way up to those who were writing software code- it was amazing!
I’ve put my teacher notes below for anyone to use. Fair warning, they are extremely dry and haven’t been cleaned up, but that’s because they’re notes, not an article. Feel free to use them to base your own program on, but definitely adjust them to your own style and teens- even I don’t use these verbatim!