Resources

Look into getting a bulk order of Raspberry Pis, or RPi kits - besides being simple to set up and guaranteeing that each student has a consistent workstation, sending the kids home with them is a great way to give them a head start and ensure that they'll continue to be interested in computing down the road.

To be complete, you'll also also need monitors, keyboards and mice, as well as HDMI cables, micro-USB power supplies, etc. Everything you need, along with setup and installation instructions, is covered here. There is also a setup guide in the GitHub repository.

Raspberry Pi

All of our students at PyCon work on Raspberry Pis (which they take home after the class).

The RPis are simple computing machines, perfect for the lessons in this class.

On earlier versions of the Pi, examples had to be kept simple - once the kids learned how to perform math and string operations they started pushing the limits of the RPis' processing power by trying operations that could force memory errors (such as multiplying a string by a very large number).

These kids were fearless with their experimentation. But when the machines got bogged down, it was simple enough to unplug, reboot, and continue on.

Additional equipment

Along with the Raspberry Pi itself, you'll need a few other small pieces of equipment. These days, it's easy to get most of the things you need in a kit, such as this one. For more options, go onto Amazon or your favorite electronics web site and search for 'raspberry pi starter kit'.

Pieces you should have:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Protective case (optional but recommended)
  • Micro USB power supply
  • A compatible SD card, with NOOBS installed (Most kits include a card that already has the NOOBS operating system installed - if you buy a card independently, you'll have to download NOOBS and install it yourself.)

Peripherals

Rent your peripherals - preferably from someone who can deliver and pick up. It'll cost a little extra, but you'll make up for it in time and headaches saved.

  • Keyboard and USB connector
  • Mouse and USB connector
  • Monitor and HDMI cable

If you can't find rental places that specialize in computer accessories, check on general office supply rentals in your area.

Assembling workstations

It's probably a good idea to plan on setting up the classroom the night before, if you have access to the space. It can take some time, and you don't want unexpected bumps to derail you on the morning of the class. Your teaching assistant volunteers will probably be happy to help!

Most Raspberry Pi kits will come with a guidebook for assembling all of the pieces to get your Raspberry Pi desktop up and running. The Raspberry Pi web site also has a Quick Start Guide that explains all the parts of the computer and walks you through installation.

Once the board is in its case, all the peripherals are hooked up, and the power supply is plugged in, turn on the monitor. You should see an installation screen.

From that point on, use the setup guide in the GitHub repository to guide you through any keyboard and localization changes you might need to make.

Idle

One important thing to note: Your NOOBS operating system will have Python installed already. You'll probably have both Python 2 and 3 - the materials for this class are written for Python 3.

You'll also have a regular Python interpreter, but this class is designed to be taught using a program called Idle. If you've never used Idle before, practice with it a little ahead of time. It's got functionality similar to the interactive shell you're probably used to, but with a few added extras, such as the ability to save and run scripts.