Hack the Pi – Day 1 Review

My first Hack the Pi Day is finally over and for me it will go down as a success. Were there many problems,hiccups and issues throughout the day? Yes, but overall the kids were challenged and excited throughout the process. My big picture goal is to create a student version of picademy. (Note – I have not actually been to a picademy, this is more of my vision of what I heard they were like.)

Hack the Pi – Day 1 Objectives

  • Set up a Raspberry Pi, log in, load the graphical interface and begin working with command line.
  • Explain, with evidence, the difference between a Raspberry Pi and a personal computer
  • Design a solution to the problem: Computer Science is not taught in many school due to how expensive computers are.

So how are my Hack the Pi days organized?

For homework on Thursday nights students will watch my Hack the Pi videos where I go over what they will be doing the following day. You can see my first video here (its my first video ever so be nice!). I made an Edpuzzle quiz using this video, you can take a look and create an account on Edpuzzle here. Edpuzzle is truly amazing! I can track which students watch the video and it automatically grades the quiz about the video for me so I know which students did not understand what I was explaining. In addition to watching the video students needed to make a drawing of their Raspberry Pi set up in their Interactive Science Notebook (ISN). 

Once they come into class each station contains a monitor, keyboard, mouse and a makerbox. Each makerbox contains the following: Raspberry Pi B or B+, Pi powercable, Wifi USB adapter, VGA cable, HDMI/VGA adapter, microSD card(which is stored in the Pi).

At the end of the last period of the day I have the students put everything away before they can go. I have  cleared off a table and part of a cupboard to store our supplies. See below. I need a larger table so 5 monitors are currently sitting on the back counter.


Classroom Expectations for the day

At the beginning of the period I explained to my students that every Friday they would be acting as real computer engineers. I then asked them if real computer engineers have their professor next to them to fix their mistakes whenever they do something wrong. They of course replied no. I then asked them what they thought computer engineers do when they run into a problem. They quickly came up with research and work together to find a solution. I agreed with them and told them they are not allowed to use me as a crutch on Fridays. We have a class set of chromebooks they can use to research issues (they quickly found the Raspberry Pi forums) and they also have my Youtube video they can look back on to make sure they did not make a mistake with the set-up.

I told them they were allowed to  move their stations wherever they needed to due to our horrible outlet situation. We only have outlets on the outside walls – none on the ceiling or floors. Here is a look at what my classroom looked while they were working:

Issues I experienced & solutions:

Problem #1 – The Pi begins to boot up and the freezes on the splash screen with a black background and white text.

Solution – The students failed to do what the grey screen before the splash screen was telling them to do. At the beginning of boot up a grey screen appears that said Recovery mode (hold shift key). None of them did this. Once they held down the shift key when this appeared everything booted up fine.

Problem #2 – Everything is set up perfectly and the monitor stays on the self-check screen or stays black.

Solution – the microSD card was not formatted correctly. I downloaded NOOBs on my Microsoft Surface, extracted the files and everything. When I downloaded NOOBS on my old desktop computer at school and then copied everything over to the microSD cards everything worked perfectly. I suggest having extra microSD cards that you have double checked and know work.

Problem #3 – You know the Pi and microSD card are not the problem and the screen is still black. The monitor would power on but as soon as we plugged the VGA cord in it would power off.

Solution – This one had me stumped but what it ended up being was that we had two faulty monitors. Once I was able to track down two spare monitors and swap them out everything worked perfectly.

Problem #4 – The students never completed the developer reflection, probably because I forgot to introduce it.

Solution – I will talk about the reflection during my video they watch Thursday night, and I will also make it a homework assignment for Monday nights if students do not have enough class time on Friday to finish it.

Hope this helps you integrate the Raspberry Pi into your science curriculum. I will be posting my student handouts in the next post! Come back next week for a review on my classroom’s second Hack the Pi Activity.



1 Comment

Filed under Raspberry Pi

One response to “Hack the Pi – Day 1 Review

  1. This is a great way to organize RP learning activities! For many teachers, the idea of coding/engineering in the classroom is overwhelming but your system makes it managable!


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