What is a Raspberry Pi?

This blog post on the Raspberry Pi is an excerpt from Lesson A-9 of our Intro to Robotics program. Level A covers building circuits, using a Raspberry Pi, and writing common code commands in Python. It contains 350 pages with 18 lessons and 45 projects and activities. Sample lessons and a full scope and sequence for Level A can be found here.

 

In Lesson A-9 you will begin to work with the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is a small, single-board computer developed in the United Kingdom for the purpose of providing an affordable computer so people all over the world could learn to create computer programs. The Raspberry Pi is a great option for learning to work with computer programs and components as well as more advanced projects as your skills progress.

Starting in Lesson A-16 and throughout the Intro to Robotics course, the Raspberry Pi will be attached to electrical circuits via a GPIO header. You will then learn to write Python code the Raspberry Pi will use to control the electrical circuit projects you build. Later in Level D, you will mount the Raspberry Pi to the robot as it will control all functions of the robot including processing sensor data and driving the motors.

Raspberry Pi Mounted to Robot Chassis

 

Raspberry Pi Hardware

While smaller than a typical computer, the Raspberry Pi has several types of connection ports similar to your home computer. The USB, Ethernet, and HDMI ports allow peripherals to be hooked up the Raspberry Pi. Peripherals include other devices such as a keyboard, monitor, USB drives, etc. The micro-USB provides power to the Raspberry Pi, and the Micro SD card provides memory for storing programs since the Raspberry Pi does not have any internal storage such as a hard drive.

Diagram of Raspberry Pi Model 3B

 

Raspberry Pi Software

The Raspberry Pi requires software to boot up, much like Windows on a PC. This software is called the operating system or OS. The Micro SD card, included in the Level A kit, comes pre-installed with an operating system called Raspberry Pi OS that includes several other pieces of software (see below). The Raspberry Pi does not have any onboard storage such as an internal hard drive, so the SD card will also store any setting changes or programs you create.

Micro SD card next to quarter for size comparison

You will interface with several different pieces of software during the course of the Intro to Robotics lessons. You will learn about each of these in more detail as the lessons progress.

  • Raspberry Pi Operating System: A Linux-based operating system specifically made for the Raspberry Pi (formally known as Raspian)
  • Python: The computer language you will use to build programs for the Raspberry Pi (and currently the fastest growing computer programming language in the world)
  • Nano: A command line-based text editing software used to create Python programs
  • Thonny: A development platform that will allow you to quickly create and test Python programs

 

Types of Interface

An interface is how you interact with a computer. It’s how you tell the computer what you want to do. There are two primary types of interfaces and you will work with starting in Level A.

  • GUI: Short for Graphical User Interface. This is an area where you can use your mouse to move around, click on icons to execute programs, and then interact with those programs. Most people will be familiar with using the GUI in the Windows Operating System.
  • Terminal: Also known as command line, Terminal is a text-only program that allows you to interact directly with the file system and other programs without using the mouse.

GUI and Terminal Windows

For the purposes of the Intro to Robotics lessons, you will be interacting with the Raspberry Pi’s operating system primarily through a GUI interface, but when working in Nano, you will be working in a Terminal interface using the command line.

This blog post on the Raspberry Pi is an excerpt from Lesson A-9 of our Intro to Robotics program. Level A covers building circuits, using a Raspberry Pi, and writing common code commands in Python. It contains 350 pages with 18 lessons and 45 projects and activities. Sample lessons and a full scope and sequence for Level A can be found here.

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