The Raspberry Pi is a fully functioning computer with most features you would expect to find on your desktop/laptop computer, tablet or mobile phone. You simply need to provide a computer monitor or TV, keyboard and mouse.
What sets the Raspberry Pi apart is its capacity to interact with the real world. This is facilitated through the General Purpose Input/Output(GPIO) pins, held in the block and circled in red on the right. These pins are a physical interface between the computer and the outside world and comprise of power and ground pins as well as GPIO pins. To start with, the GPIO pins can be thought as switches, which may be switched on or off as inputs or the computer may switch on or off as outputs. Inputs can come from sensors (temperature, motion, etc.) or other computing devices, whilst outputs may be turning on an LED light or sending data to another device.
The Raspberry Pi, which you may receive, is intended to allow you to experiment with computing devices and develop your computing/coding skills prior to commencing your course. In addition, it can be used to assess where your skills and interests lie within the spectrum of computing subjects. For example, if you enjoy the coding tasks and learning to program the device using a language, then it is probable that a Software Engineering programme of study may be more appropriate for you. If, however, you are more interested in the theoretical aspects of problem solving and the mathematics of the computation, then you would be definitely well advised to take the Computer Science Programme. Alternatively, if you do not enjoy the coding and programming aspects, but enjoy using the Raspberry Pi to accomplish other tasks, then Computer Studies may be a more suitable programme of study for you.
The overall intention for those students who receive a Raspberry Pi is to set a challenge whereby a new application/project is completed using the device, which can be presented during Induction Week, directly before you start your studies in the department of Computer Science at LJMU. Firstly, however, a series of tasks and projects will be discussed and developed where you and the computer science department can interact to explore your skills and interests in computing, whilst you are acquiring a knowledge of the Raspberry Pi, programming and computer science in general.
Task 1 - Familiarisation with your Raspberry Pi
When you receive the Raspberry Pi, it will need to be set up. The first task includes instructions on setting up your Raspberry Pi then investigates various aspects of the device. For example, the Graphical User Interface and the Linux Shell for accessing operating system functionality is examined and analysed. This will give you experience of working with the Raspberry Pi and insights into computer architecture and the basic operations of a general computer. You will then be guided to look at various applications, which you can interact with on the device. These include photo editing, gaming, listening to music and playing videos. At this point you should have a good working understanding of the Raspberry Pi and its operation.
Task 2 - Programming of your Raspberry Pi
To some extent the Raspberry Pi was created to inspire programming and the acquisition of coding skills. At a basic level, program code is simply a set of instructions to make your computing machine do something. These instructions, however, can become very complicated as all eventualities need to be accounted for to address any inputs that are used by your program. In this task you will start to program, using the Python programming language, which is widely used in industry. Typically, some programming examples will be studied leading to you creating programs, initially with step-by-step instructions, such as a simple arithmetic calculator, an interactive story program or even an application of Artificial Intelligence, allowing you to chat with your Raspberry Pi.
When you have finished this task you will have acquired many of the basic skills and knowledge of a programmer.
Task 3 - Advanced programming of your Raspberry Pi
Using the skills of a programmer it is now possible to start interacting with the rest of the world. In this task the Raspberry Pi will be used to interact with social media and automate tasks to enhance users experience whilst online. In this task instructions will be less directive and you can start to use the understanding you have gained as a computer scientist and the skills you have built up as a programmer to code the application.
Now you have gained some practical experience and knowledge of the field of computing, you can start to let your imagination free to envisage new applications and uses for computing devices in general and your Raspberry Pi, in particular.
As part of induction week there will be a full program of activities. One of these will be to look at different applications that have arisen from these Raspberry Pi activities. The challenge is to come up with an application of your own design that utilises as many features as possible on your Raspberry Pi. There will be prizes for the best and opportunities to interact with industry professionals, building your important career networks from an early stage in your studies.