Life With Pi: Microcomputing in Academia

Allie Verbovetskaya, Junior Tidal, Robin Davis, & Stephen Zweibel


BeetBox by Scott Garner

A Brief Introduction

What's a microcomputer?

  • Cheap
  • Small
  • Open source
  • Computer

Raspberry Pi


BeagleBoard BeagleBone


Arduino Uno


What are they for?


Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi

Special Needs & Interests

RFID Pet Feeder

Data Collection


But I'm not a programmer!

Why should I bother?

  • Uses beyond recreation
  • Ripe for inclusion in academia


  • Applications in the Classroom
  • Class Webserver
  • Repository for Coursework

Applications in the classroom

  • In-class research stations
  • Cross-disciplinary projects
  • Testing environment for coding class projects

Class Webserver

  • Class specific webserver on an SD card
  • A webserver on every student's desk
  • Virtual space for collaborative learning

Repository for Coursework

  • The paperless classroom
  • Classroom/coursework cloud storage or repository
  • Archive for past courses


Applications in the lab & studio

Cheap, disposable computing

  • Sensors!
  • Clusters!
  • Prototypes!
  • Integration with other machines!


  • Low-cost (stretch that grant!)
  • Tight control over your machines
  • Build on code others in the community have contributed
  • Publish & brag

Sample publications

Low-cost Photoplethysmograph Solutions Using the Raspberry Pi

Basic Neuroscience: An Inexpensive Arduino-based LED Stimulator System for Vision Research

Integrating Social Network Services with Vehicle Tracking Technologies

In Situ Measurements of Phytoplankton Fluorescence Using Low Cost Electronics

Hover for full citations



  • Reading & Writing
  • Digital
  • Computational (Software & Hardware)

What is Computational Literacy?

Algorithmic thinking

Basic understanding of how computers work

Capability to collaborate

Why Now?

The Internet of Things

  • Merging of the physical and digital realms
  • Proliferation of internet-connected sensors and actuators
  • Smaller, more flexible/expendable computing technology

(According to the Open University)

Analogy to reading

Important when required for government

Infrastructural when society came to depend on it

Vee, Annette. "Understanding Computer Programming as a Literacy." Literacy in Composition Studies 1.2 (2013): 42-64.

Computational Literacy in practice

def Hello world:
	print('Hello world!')

Can you read this?

What about this?

We drive cars, do we all need to be mechanics?

Not about becoming a programmer

Awareness of technology in society

Fluency in technology news: NSA, Google Books, etc.

Technical knowledge hepful for effective leadership

Computer hardware: cheap

Development software: often free

Computational Literacy: Priceless

In your English class:

Investigate how computers interpret language through Natural Language Processing

In your Biology class:

Program sensors to monitor (and email updates on) the growth of a plant

In your Sociology class:

Discuss the 'Quantified Self', track and compare personal life data



Get in touch

Allie Verbovetskaya, @alevtina

Junior Tidal, @juniortidal

Robin Davis, @robincamille

Stephen Zweibel, @zwounds