On day one, Mr. Martin gave an introduction to the Raspberry Pi, a small, inexpensive computer developed by Ada Fruit as a learning tool for adults and children. Students learned the parts of a computer, and how to hook up the Pi’s to monitors, keyboards, and mice, and they got some practice in troubleshooting when things didn’t seem to be working quite right.
The real fun started when we opened up Minecraft. Instead of opening on a network, Minecraft for the Pi allows students to experiment in their own worlds, leaving them plenty of room to get comfortable using Python coding to set blocks, plant flowers, and teleport in the game.
While enthusiasm for coding started out a little low thanks to the tedious typing work, students quickly gained appreciation for it when they realized that it allowed them to go beyond the limitations of creative mode to accomplish the most important thing in Minecraft: blowing things up.
Enthusiasm grew as students started experimenting with their own scripts, writing messages in the chat, placing blocks of flowing lava, and creating giant cubes of live TNT and glowing obsidian.
As students exercised their creativity in the game, discussion brought out some unique ideas about networking, technology, and gaming. In a discussion about networking, students talked about the importance of networking as a tool for sharing everyday information, or for communication during disaster events, while more casual conversation challenged the stereotypes about gaming and gender.
By the end of the final session, thoughts changed. In small groups, we summed up ideas about networking, coding, and who can be a technology expert, then focused hard to get our scripts polished and saved. In the end, each student was able to share their newfound tech expertise in a showcase with their parents, describing the computers and how they work, and demonstrating their unique scripts and the steps they took to create them.
We want to give a big thank you to everyone who participated in Tech Time this term!
If you'd like to try working with Raspberry Pis and Python at home, here are some resources to help you get started:
- Python in Minecraft Pi Brief Guide
- Raspberry Pi Equipment - In order to do these activities at home you will need a keyboard, mouse, and HDMI monitor in addition to the items on this AdaFruit wishlist to compile an affordable Raspberry Pi computer. If you have a TV with spare HDMI input, that can work instead of a monitor. You can also buy an HDMI to VGA adapter or HDMI to DVI adapter if you have a spare monitor, or are buying a monitor that doesn’t have an HDMI input.
This post was written by volunteer Natasha Wand who is part of Martin Wolske’s class at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.