Raspberry Pi competition fosters problem solving, ingenuity and teamwork

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Raspberry Pi competition fosters problem solving, ingenuity and teamwork

Jun 16, 2016
By Joan Matz

RaspberryPiHigh schools throughout Illinois recently participated in a Raspberry Pi Build It competition that encouraged students to develop new applications using the palm-sized, single-board computer.

Winners were awarded in two categories: sensor and artistic.

In the sensor category, The Whitney Young Leaf Leapers of Chicago developed an application that used a camera to analyze color — and sensors to gauge temperature and humidity — to determine if sufficient dry leaves had accumulated so someone could jump into them.

In the artistic category, the Glenbrook South STEM Learning Community of Glenview developed a two-dimensional plotter to print an art piece based on data.

The Raspberry Pi competition is part of a project sponsored by the Illinois IT Learning Exchange that aims to make classroom-based technology more accessible and fun for teachers and students alike.

The exchange’s Raspberry Pi project has a two-fold goal — one, to organize professional development sessions for teachers to help them better understand Raspberry Pi technology and use it in their classrooms, and two, to facilitate competitions to encourage student innovation and problem solving.

Raspberry Pi is a palm-sized, single-board computer developed by a non-profit foundation in the United Kingdom to promote basic computer science education and skills development in schools at low cost — less than $100 per classroom for the device and accessories.

Millions of Raspberry Pis have been sold worldwide and are making their small-but-powerful presence known in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — educational circles.

The other high schools represented in the competition included: Conant from Hoffman Estates; Glenbrook South from Glenview; two Henry Corliss teams from Chicago; Victor J. Andrew from Tinley Park; Hubbard from Chicago; Dixon from Dixon; and two teams from Normal Community from Normal.

Several educational and tech industry professionals— as well as computer science graduate students from the Illinois Institute of Technology — served as judges, circulating in small groups to examine each team’s Raspberry Pi application. Illinois Tech staff and students from the school’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers were extremely helpful in organizing the event, volunteering as greeters and escorts, passing out iPads with the judging rubric and tallying scores.

The event was fun and lively. Many teams participated in a previous competition held in November, coming to this event with fully developed applications representing ideas they had pitched then. For other teams, this competition was their first.

Judges and guests shared with me how impressed they were with the originality of the students’ ideas, as well as the challenges students sought to address. Teamwork, ingenuity and problem solving were highly evident in the final presentations, which ranged from robots to games to security systems.

Winners received a free voucher to attend a week-long NxtGen High School Summer Tech Program sponsored by Illinois Tech, which features choices of programs ranging from hacker school to modifying Minecraft to front-end web development. The courses are hands-on and involve interactive projects with support from Illinois Tech faculty, staff and select students.

The Illinois IT Learning Exchange has posted a video of the recent Raspberry Pi Built IT competition at https://youtu.be/lpjtA6wt0bg. It features the student teams and their applications — and showcases their enthusiasm and ingenuity — quite nicely. I hope you’ll take a look at it.

The Illinois IT Learning Exchange is an online public/private network to share resources and information about IT learning, jobs and careers with high school and community college students. Spearheaded by CompTIA and Creating IT Futures Foundation in partnership with state education and IT industry groups, it seeks to promote academic and work-based learning to prepare more students for IT careers. Funding for the exchange comes from a Race to the Top grant the Illinois State Board of Education received from the U.S. Department of Education to support college and career readiness for students.

In addition to competitions, Illinois IT Learning Exchange facilitates professional development sessions for high school teachers to help them become more familiar with Raspberry Pi technology. Typically, the sessions involve full-day training and include creating a web server or website, using camera and sensor peripherals, developing a coding program, and brainstorming classroom activities.

Teachers who attend the training sessions receive a free Raspberry Pi starter kit for their classrooms. The training is offered free of charge to teachers, who also earn continuing education credits for participating.

We’re planning another competition to take place in Spring 2017, and we’ll share those details when they’re available. In the meantime, if your Illinois high school would like to learn more about Raspberry Pi, please feel free to contact me.


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