Raspberry Pi and X10i

10th January 2013

Raspberry Pi – Developing the next generation of IT gurus

In 2006, Eben Upton and colleagues at Cambridge University became concerned about the change in skills set of applicants to Computer Science courses. They noticed young people were interacting with computers in a different way than before. Driven by the school curriculum and increased penetration of games consoles, children were learning how to use computers to deliver web pages or office products instead of experimenting with programming.

The Cambridge team set out to create a platform that, like old home computers such as the BBC Micros and Spectrum ZX, could be used to program on. The Raspberry Pi Foundation was born. Its aim is to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; where owning a truly personal computer is normal for children.

The Raspberry Pi went into production in 2009 as a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that a desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games.

At Heber, we are passionate about developing the next generation of engineers and had noticed a similar skills decline through our work with local schools and colleges.  Excited by the Raspberry Pi concept, we wanted to get involved and support this great initiative.

Our start point was following and contributing to the technology during its formative stage. We were delighted to be invited to speak at the second “Raspberry Jam” in Cambridge and from there to develop the inaugural Bristol Jam in partnership with the Bristol and Bath Science Park. Intended as a networking and thought generation initiative, the Jams are an opportunity for owners of Raspberry Pi’s to come together and gain an insight into what can be delivered through the PC and how to achieve it. Bringing together hobbyists, educational experts and some business users, there have been two Bristol Jams to date and a third is planned for 2013. The Jams involve presentations and forum discussion opportunities. Heber engineers are on hand to give advice and tips as well as more formal presentations to showcase what the Raspberry Pi can achieve. Since starting the Bristol Jam we have also had the opportunity to present the Raspberry Pi project to the British Computer Society and at the Malvern Festival of Innovation.

Heber engineers also felt additional functionality could be provided to the Raspberry Pi through our products. So, we redesigned the X10i USB peripheral for the Raspberry Pi. A plug and play USB board, the X10i offers multiple digital inputs and outputs for controlling and interfacing with external devices. The X10i has proved a useful addition to the Raspberry Pi. It is being used by students at Worcester University, by key educational body Computing At School, and is used as far away as Canada by business customers utilising Raspberry Pi and the X10i to measure the RPM of factory machinery.

Les Ashton-Smith, Heber Managing Director comments: “We have a strong work experience programme at Heber, collaborating with local schools and colleges to give budding engineers a first insight into electronics. We were very excited about Raspberry Pi and its ethos and keen to get involved. We are delighted to have been able to support the Foundation through providing product expertise and I hope, acting as inspiration for what Raspberry Pi can do through the Bristol Jams.”

If you would like to know more about Raspberry Pi, the X10i or the Bristol Jams, please contact nigel.brown@heber.co.uk .

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