Simple programmable computers

The Raspberry Pi and Arduino are computers which are ideal for learning about computing. They are designed to be easy to use for beginners and can be used for a range of creative programming projects.

The Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer that costs around £30. Unlike a smartphone, tablet or regular home computer the Raspberry Pi comes as a basic machine which has to be programmed and customised. It runs the Linux operating system and takes peripherals such as a screen, keyboard and mouse. It can be programmed using Python.

Because it is light and portable it can be used for computing projects outside.

Raspberry Pi single-board computer

Raspberry Pi projects

Many people have creatively used the Raspberry Pi for a range of creative projects.

GPS tracker

One project included inserting a Raspberry Pi along with a digital video camera into a teddy bear and sending them into the Earth's atmosphere attached to a balloon. The computer tracked the GPS of the bear and captured photos and video of the journey.

Drum machine

Musician Scott Garner created an electronic drum machine by connecting a Raspberry Pi to some beetroots.

Raspberry Pi-powered instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching beets

Bird box

The BBC programme Springwatch and computer scientist Andrew Robinson teamed up to use a Raspberry Pi to monitor activity in a bird box. The Raspberry Pi was connected to a 3G dongle and two sensors and was left in a bird box. The Raspberry Pi captured data every time a bird entered or left the box. Because of the 3G connection, they could read data from the Raspberry Pi on a computer or smartphone hundreds of miles away, and could tell whether a bird was entering or leaving.

Andrew Robinson explains how he used a Raspberry Pi to find out how bird box activity is affected by the weather

Download the Raspberry Pi programming exercise (330 kb) for a programming exercise using the Raspberry Pi to activate an LED light.