Exploring Raspberry Pi: A Gateway to Computer Science Enthusiasm


The interest in computer science and related subjects among students appears to be declining, potentially due to various factors. One proposed solution to this issue is to provide students with access to a small and affordable board known as the Raspberry Pi. This initiative aims to encourage young individuals to engage in computer programming from an early age, particularly within educational settings. This paper explores the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi board and its potential applications.

The Raspberry Pi board offers a wide range of possibilities, from basic programming tasks such as blinking an LED at a beginner level to more advanced projects like constructing a complete gaming console. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi can serve as a valuable tool for researchers, enabling them to explore cloud systems using cost-effective hardware and aiding bioinformatics students in mastering specific software applications without disrupting computer laboratory policies.

The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the diverse applications of the Raspberry Pi in introducing the field of computer science to various demographics, spanning from children to researchers. Moreover, it explores the practical implementations of Raspberry Pi technology in real-world scenarios.


What exactly is the Raspberry Pi? It's essentially a miniature computer, roughly the size of a credit card, equipped with an ARM-based processor as its primary engine. The Raspberry Pi, or RPi for short, boasts the capability to function as a fully operational computer or seamlessly integrate into various electronic projects. To set up the RPi, you'll need some essential components, including a display device such as a television with video-in or HDMI port, a USB-based keyboard and mouse, a single 4-75 SD card containing the RPi operating system, and an adapter capable of supplying 5V 2A DC current.

In addition to these fundamental components, selecting the appropriate RPi operating system is crucial. These operating systems can be obtained by visiting the downloads section of the Raspberry Pi website. Utilizing the RPi as an affordable and compact computer for learning programming or engaging in do-it-yourself electronic projects can provide enjoyment not only for children and teenagers but also for adult electronic enthusiasts and hobbyists alike.

History of Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi was conceived by Ben Upton, a former Director of Studies in Computer Science at St. John's College, Cambridge, who currently serves as the Technical Director and ASIC Architect at Broadcom. Its primary aim was to address the declining engineering skills in the UK by fostering children's or teenagers' interest in computer science from an early age.

Ben Upton conceived the idea for this compact motherboard while serving as the Director of Studies in Computer Science at St. John's College. He observed a decline in both the number and caliber of students enrolling in computer science courses. Recognizing the potential future implications of this trend, he identified a lack of programming resources in high schools. Additionally, parents expressed concerns about potential damage to their computers when their children interacted with them.

Collaborating with friends, Ben Upton sought to tackle these issues by creating a small, affordable computer suitable for children and teenagers, yet powerful enough to function like a standard personal computer. While continuing his work at Broadcom, he dedicated his spare time to developing this low-cost computer concept, aiming for a price point below $99 USD.

After extensive research, they established the Raspberry Pi Foundation as a non-profit organization in 2009 and finalized their product design based on Broadcom's BCM2835 ARM11 system-on-chip processor. Released in 2012, the Raspberry Pi featured all necessary computer components, including an HDMI port, a video accelerator, a digital signal processor, and a USB controller.

For the operating system, they chose Linux due to its versatility and compatibility with ARM CPU architecture. By February 2012, they had successfully scaled up production, marking the official launch of the Raspberry Pi.

Through this innovative and affordable computing solution, the Raspberry Pi aimed to ignite interest in computer science among children and teenagers, thus addressing the skills gap and paving the way for future generations. For a comprehensive account of the Raspberry Pi's development, further details can be found in the provided references.

What is Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi (RPi) is an affordable and compact computing device priced below $25, designed primarily for teaching programming skills and introducing various computer science concepts to children and teenagers. Developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation under the leadership of Eben Upton, the RPi comes in two models, known as Model A and Model B.

Model A, the initial version, features 256 MB of memory and lacks a USB port, while Model B offers 512 MB of memory and includes two USB ports. Both models are equipped with a General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) port for interfacing with external devices, an Ethernet port for network connectivity, and are powered by Broadcom BCM 2835 ARM 11 processors clocked at 700 MHz (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Picture of B model of Raspberry Pi board

To utilize the Raspberry Pi (RPi) as a standard computer, several additional components are necessary. Firstly, a display device such as a TV or monitor with an HDMI or video-in port is required, as the RPi can output high-quality video via its HDMI port or standard-quality video through its video-out port. Secondly, a USB-based keyboard and mouse are needed for interaction with the Raspberry Pi system. Additionally, a minimum 4 GB SD card serves as the storage media for the system, and a micro USB power adapter capable of producing a stable 5V1A DC current is necessary for power supply.

Various operating systems are compatible with the RPi, all of which are based on Linux. For those wishing to use the RPi as a conventional computer, options such as Raspbian, Pidora, Arch, and Risc OS are available, while Openelec or RaspBMC are suitable for multimedia center purposes. These operating systems can be accessed via the RPi official website, although others tailored for specific functions like cloud servers, network-attached storage (NAS) servers, and home servers can be found with a simple internet search.

RPi boards are obtainable from online retailers like Premier Farnell/Element14 and RS Components/Allied Electronics. The cost of the RPi board, as previously mentioned, is $25 USD for the first model (A model) and $35 USD for the second model (B model), excluding taxes.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has also established an online store akin to Google Play for RPi users to purchase or download applications for their devices. These applications, which run on the RPi, are essentially Linux applications ported for ARM processors. In addition to the pre-existing applications, the RPi store offers a wide array of additional applications. Accessing the Raspberry Pi store requires the installation of Raspberry Pi client software, similar to the Google Play client in the Android environment.

What Raspberry Pi Can Do?

This section will explore examples of how the Raspberry Pi (RPi) can be utilized by children, teenagers, and researchers.

For children, learning to program with the Raspberry Pi can be facilitated by their parents, IT teachers, or knowledgeable adults. These mentors can guide children through hands-on activities, demonstrating how to create various projects using the RPi. For instance, 240 students at St. Saviour's Primary School in Paddington had their first exposure to the RPi, writing their initial lines of code while learning to control a Lego crocodile robot using the open-source tool Scratch [9]. With assistance from members of organizations like Element14, these students received guidance and support, leading them through the process and witnessing results within 20 minutes.

Teenagers, who typically exhibit greater responsibility, can leverage the RPi along with their programming skills to embark on electronic projects ranging from simple to complex. Basic projects may involve tasks such as programming LEDs to blink in different patterns using the General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) port and Python. More advanced undertakings could include constructing a basic gaming console using recycled USB joysticks, an LCD screen, and a 5V power supply switch [10]. By incorporating additional tools like Arduino boards, teenagers can delve into even more challenging projects, such as developing a brew machine controller for regulating brew temperature or setting up a private CCTV system using the Raspberry Pi camera for monitoring home surroundings [11].

For researchers, the potential applications of the Raspberry Pi are virtually limitless, limited only by their imagination and creativity. At the University of Glasgow, researchers are utilizing RPi to construct a cloud system, employing 56 RPi boards organized in four miniature Lego racks for studying cloud systems. Traditionally, researchers would rely on simulation software for studying cloud systems due to the high cost of proprietary hardware. However, the affordability and versatility of the Raspberry Pi allow for real-world experimentation [11].

Moreover, the Raspberry Pi can serve as a cost-effective alternative to personal computers in certain scenarios. In bioinformatics studies, where specific administrator privileges are often required for software applications, universities may face challenges in providing dedicated computer labs with such privileges. By deploying multiple RPi boards as personal computers, universities can reduce costs while ensuring students have access to the necessary software privileges [12].


In this section, the findings are summarized, and recommendations are provided regarding the potential uses of the Raspberry Pi (RPi) for our benefit.

The availability of affordable and compact RPi boards brings Eben Upton's vision of early computer science education closer to realization. Children can engage in learning programming and undertake electronic projects, ranging from simple to highly complex, with the assistance of adults. For instance, students at Paddington's school learned to control a Lego crocodile robot using RPi under the guidance of Element14 members. Teenagers can explore electronic projects using the Python programming language. Moreover, RPi serves as a valuable learning tool for researchers studying cloud systems and can provide administrator privileges for bioinformatics students using specific software.

Drawing from the insights gained from the review of RPi literature, the following recommendations are proposed for its utilization:

1. In schools, RPi can be utilized to introduce programming and other computer science concepts to children, but it is essential for teachers or IT instructors to seek assistance from individuals or communities with expertise in electronics and programming.
2. Similarly, teenagers can benefit from RPi projects with the guidance of IT teachers or external mentors, such as university personnel.
3. Researchers can explore various avenues of research with RPi, including measuring its resistance and power consumption during continuous usage, assessing its impact on education, and evaluating its effectiveness as a problem-solving or learning tool.

However, it's important to acknowledge the limitations of this paper. It only provides a glimpse of the diverse projects and applications of RPi, and there's much more that can be explored. Nevertheless, it's evident that RPi offers solutions for introducing computing devices and learning tools across various demographics, from children to researchers. Eben Upton's aspiration to promote computer science and programming skills in educational settings has made significant strides forward.

About The Author

Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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