Ten seventh-grade girls at Charlotte Latin School are doing all kinds of things with Raspberry Pi – and it’s not in a home economics class.
They’re studying with Tom Dubick, who has taught engineering at Latin since 1989. And while he’s always looking to teach students about new technology, Dubick took this year’s class to a new level: He was the first in the nation to bring Raspberry Pis, computers roughly the size of a credit card, to the classroom.
The miniature computers, which have outlets for all kinds of gadget plug-ins, cost about $35 and are an easy way for students to learn about computer programming, Dubick said.
“We want our kids to create technology, not just consume it,” he said.
His seventh-grade class prepared projects that involved the Raspberry Pis to present at a TEDxCharlotteED conference on Feb. 14.
Dubick’s students said using the Raspberry Pis changed their views on programming and proved to them that girls can be just as good – if not better – than boys at creating new computer technology.
“It’s been really fun,” said seventh-grader Martha Elizabeth Watson. “Girls have really different ideas than boys, and I think it’s really important to have both girls and boys in the field.”
Martha Elizabeth and two of her classmates, Chaney Howard and Lilly Omirly, developed “wearable computing” with fashion hair bows that have flashing LED lights, and also made a decorative throw pillow with LED lights.
“That’s kind of the girly thing to do, so we made things for other girls to get interested in this,” Chaney said. “I don’t think boys would’ve thought of this.”
Student Breck Stenson said she didn’t know Raspberry Pis existed until this class, but she’s glad Dubick introduced her to the miniature computers. Breck said she liked the mobility of the Raspberry Pi.
“You can bring it somewhere and not mess it up,” she said.
Cady Hammer found a practical use for wearable computing by making directional signals for her rolling backpack.
“I didn’t like it when people would trip over it,” Cady said, adding the signals have helped solve the visibility problem.
On a piece of blue fabric, she programmed LED lights to go off in the shape of directional arrows and a brake light at the push of buttons sewn onto the fabric. She made the fabric taut on the backpack handle by attaching playing card boxes to the back for support.
Learning about computer programming with the Raspberry Pis changed her mind about engineering: “I wasn’t sure if I was completely interested, but now I want to keep doing more with it.”