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The Raspberry Pi mini-computer is an fun and non-threatening way to introduce your children to the world of computer hardware and coding.
Raspberry Pi 4, the most recent version, packs enough power to drive two screens at the same time and features dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 1GB of or more of RAM. To new users it may sound complex to get started with the Raspberry Pi, but if you know where to start, you and your children can start enjoying yourselves learning the basics of computing together and end up with some incredibly creative and useful inventions.
Why Learn With the Raspberry Pi?
Many children, even those interested in computers, have not actually disassembled a computer. Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer, can act as the foundation for many projects. Working with the Raspberry Pi your children will learn a lot about the computers, components, peripherals, operating systems, coding, and connections.
Take the time to educate your children using the Raspberry Pi and they will be multiple steps ahead of other children (and most adults). They will learn about the different parts of a computer, how hardware and software interact, and gain the confidence that they can build their own solutions.
Below are some fun starter projects for dads to do with their kids. Relatively inexpensive, this 4 model B with 1 GB RAM from adafruit is only $30, the device can provide countless hours of fun and education.
Build a Weather Station
Sure you can check the weather on your phone, but it’s much cooler to build your own.
The Raspberry Pi is a modular device and is capable of running a variety of different coding languages. This allows you to take advance of wider computing projects.
Monitoring the weather using a home-built system with Raspberry Pi is great activity for dads and kids. Using the Python operating system with your device will allow you to access modules. You can then interact with USB weather stations and collate data of the weather from the week. For kids at home or in school this will be an exciting and educational project.
Build Your Own Computer
The maker and DIY movement have encouraged many people to build their own devices. Not only is this educational and fun, but it can save a ton of money.
The Raspberry Pi, by its very nature, is a computer that you can build all by yourself. Plug in some USB peripherals and install a Linux distribution (including Raspian and Pidora) and all of a sudden this small device is more than just a child’s toy.
With the simple setup out of the way you can install word processors, calculators, and other applications. While power will be limited compared to a normal desktop, you can still have fun completing basic tasks.
To expand functionality you can turn to pre-packaged kits. These kits generally contain the Raspberry Pi itself as well as other peripherals. This SunFounder kit helps you build a robot car (Amazon; $65.99).
Robot cars and computers are already cool. What’s even cooler is building one yourself. This is educational and adds to the excitement of playing with a new device.
Build a Cloud Storage Device
This is a bit more technical and introduces the idea of document storage, but is still a fun and educational project for dads and kids.
You will need to first add storage capacity to your Raspberry Pi. You can use a high capacity SD or microSD card. A USB drive also works. Format the devices so they are ready to store files. Remember, this is a learning exercise so don’t overwrite any important data. Use an SSH command via the Linux OS on the device to remotely access the drives. The final step will have you use a free network sharing protocol, Samba, to provide access for the cloud storage.
If you are technically minded and want to really layer on the fun use Nagios, a server monitoring software, to teach the importance of security. Nagios will monitor the home network and how it is being accessed.
Again, this is more of a technical project. However, dads and kids who are up for a challenge will be rewarded with building their own cloud storage device. How about that for some show and tell when the semester returns!
Program Your Own Game
Love gaming? Well, now it’s time to build your own!
Kids and parents alike enjoy playing games. It’s a great way to bond and spend quality time together. However, not many people actually consider building their own game. Top among reasons is the perception that it is too difficult.
The Raspberry Pi device, along with it’s visual programming language, Scratch, will allow you and your children to build your own game. Even better is that the Raspberrian OS is pre-installed with Scratch.
Available on a number of platforms, Scratch helps you create the logic for your game using drag and drop elements. This starts out basic, but an expand to include more complex actions.
Using the Raspberry Pi the experience can expand beyond games. It can include connected lights, speakers, and motors using the general-purpose intput-output pins.
Fun, educational, and empowering your child will enjoy building their own computer games. It fosters a sense of ownership and helps them connect how hardware and software work together. If that isn’t enough, they also build valuable skills.
Build a Formula 1 Car
If you don’t own a Formula 1 team or have millions of dollars to buy your own car, this is the next best thing.
Formula Pi bills themselves as “the world’s first Raspberry Pi Autonomous race series”.
Build a race car with your kids and you can get involved in the robot racing scene.
We’ll let you check out the below video to get a better sense for Formula Pi. Needless to say, it is very, very cool!
As you can see from the above examples, the only limit to what you can build with a Raspberry Pi is your imagination. If you’ve already mastered the above, brainstorm with your kids and find out what they want to build. If you need some assistance the internet is packed with tutorials and new project ideas.
If you need some additional motivation for projects check out raspberrypi.org for ideas and tutorials.