Open Source

Raspberry Pi a hit in SA

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The pi-top, a build-your-own laptop kit using a Raspberry Pi, has been available in SA since June through distributor RS Components.
The pi-top, a build-your-own laptop kit using a Raspberry Pi, has been available in SA since June through distributor RS Components.

A large amount of South African students are using the Raspberry Pi, the low-cost computer board, to learn about coding and how computers work.

The product was developed with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries. It also has a large following of hobbyists.

RS Components, distributor of Raspberry Pi in SA, first brought it into the country in 2012 when it launched globally.

Since then, over 40 000 boards have been sold in SA, and over 10 million Raspberry Pi boards have been sold globally.

Mellisa Naidoo, head of marketing at RS Components, says the Raspberry Pi is used at various levels in the education sector.

"At the primary school level, young learners are introduced to the basics of computer programming and they also have access to various software programs that enhance maths, science and problem-solving skills through gamification.

"At high school level, students are introduced to robotics and how to program commands for basic automation during science projects.

"At a tertiary level, the Raspberry Pi becomes an enabler to implement projects in electrical and mechanical engineering subjects, where theory needs to evolve into practical real world applications," says Naidoo.

It is not known how many schools make use of Raspberry Pi in SA, as many students buy privately, says Naidoo. However, she notes: "Most of the major universities in South Africa use the Raspberry Pi in their practical modules."

In June, RS Components introduced the 'pi-top' to South Africa, which is a build-your-own laptop that runs on a Raspberry Pi. Naidoo says this has been successful as it "has its own ecosystem that enhances the learning process of coding while functioning as a normal laptop".

Naidoo says it is important for school children to learn programming because it gives them "a basic foundation in understanding how computers work and progresses onto how other technology works".

"This is an integrated skill that encompasses math, logic, and cause and effect. By learning to program through playing, subjects like maths, science and technology become less scary and more doable, giving learners the confidence to experiment and try new things.

"Another aspect is that with the evolution of technology, a whole new sector of skilled professionals will be required to design, build and maintain this industry, creating another stream of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young individuals."

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