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DIY Raspberry Pi Workshop for Kids

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DIY Raspberry Pi Workshop for Kids

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I did a successful workshop this past weekend at Silicon Valley Code Camp with 50 very enthusiastic future developers.  They were ages 10 and up, and everyone in the class got a Java game running on their Pis, and made 2 or more improvements in the span of a few hours.

Here is a picture of some of the young hackers at work:

This lab also happens to be easy to run, so I recommend giving it a try at a local school or at home with your own young ones.

Here is what you need:

Item Price Notes
Raspberry Pi $35 Make sure to get the Model B for the extra memory and ethernet.
8GB SD card $10 Another good option is to get a Raspberry Pi with a pre-installed SD Card
Silicon Keyboard $7 You can use any USB keyboard you have handy, but this is a good option for a portable setup.
Touchscreen $135 The Chalkboard Electronics 10" screens are compatible with JavaFX touch events and double as a power source. (Hint: Discount code on page 10 of the presentation below)

So for as little as $45 you can have a mini computer for kids to hack on, and if you get the whole setup you have the ultimate portable lab kit.

To setup the Pi for the first time, you need to install Linux, Java, and download the source code for the game.  This can be accomplished by following the instructions on my earlier blog entry on how to setup your Raspberry Pi for the first time:

The source code for the Java lambdas game I used is available in Github here, along with all the build scripts for executing it on the Raspberry Pi:

If you want a shortcut for setting up the above, I uploaded an image that should be compatible with any 8GB or greater SD card for download here (if you choose this option, you can skip the above two steps):

Raspberry Pi 4 Kids Workshop Image

Setting up the hardware and running the lab is as easy going through the presentation deck I prepared.  I uploaded the full deck to slideshare (which includes hardware setup, code walkthrough, and some kid-friendly warm-up slides) here:

Some notes for folks giving this as a lab:

  • Make sure you get through the electrical safety slide before distributing hardware to avoid any “oops!” moments.
  • When going through the code, ask the kids what ideas they have for making simple modifications.  Some easy ones include:
    • Increase the number of sheep that get generated by the Barn
    • Change the colors of the animals when they step on the Rainbow
    • Change the scale of the Fox when he eats animals
    • The kids will come up with plenty more ideas on their own!
  • I also recommend pre-connecting the cable to the HDMI board so that you don’t have any bent pins or the cables don’t end up upside-down

Give this a try with your own budding group of computer hackers and see how much fun they can have!

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