The value of Pi will be unusually high this summer at Living Computers: Museum + Labs in Seattle. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the UK nonprofit behind the incredibly popular and inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer, has chosen Seattle as one of only four US cities to host its official “Picademy” this summer.
Picademy is the Foundation’s free training event for teachers to help them jump start their digital making efforts. Taking place August 6-7 and again August 9-10 at Living Computers, Seattle joins Denver, Atlanta, and Jersey City, NJ as cities hosting Picademy in 2018. It’s also a first for Seattle.
“Last year the West Coast location was in the heart of Silicon Valley, at the Computer History Museum,” said Lath Carlson, executive director of Living Computers. “When the Picademy team came to Seattle looking for a venue, Living Computers was the smallest and newest institution they toured.” Carlson sees the selection as validation of Living Computers’ work to bring computer science to learners, as well as Seattle’s reputation as a tech hub.
It’s difficult to overstate the popularity of the Raspberry Pi. Originally launched in 2012 as an extremely low-cost, credit-card sized, programmable general-purpose computer to help students learn computer science, more than 19 million Raspberry Pi computers have been sold as of March 2018. Prices for the basic Raspberry Pi are around $25, and the Foundation also has introduced a $5 model, the Raspberry Pi Zero.
At the Picademy, members of the Foundation staff as well as Picademy graduates (who become Raspberry Pi Certified Educators) help educators explore digital making with the Raspberry Pi computer, from understanding and using sensors to collaborating on building a real-world project.
The Foundation said it received more than 1,400 applications from educators for the Picademy 2018 sessions, and more than 500 of those wanted to be considered for Picademy Seattle. Carlson said that means more than six times the number of applications were received for the 80 spots available in the two August sessions at Living Computers.
“It is a great addition to the Raspberry Pi workshops we have already been running,” Carlson said.
While Living Computers may be best-known for being the only museum in the U.S. focused on displaying and operating vintage computers, it also has a broad complement of education programs. That capability was enhanced by the 2016 expansion at its south of downtown Seattle site, which added both exhibits and three computer science education labs.
“The response from the community has been swift, with attendance to the museum roughly following Moore’s Law. Attendance has been more than doubling every 18 months, and our educational programs are nearing capacity,” said Nina Arens, Living Computers’ education coordinator. Arens said teacher professional development is a focus. “Picademy fits perfectly into that strategy, as it will train and empower teachers and other educators to use low cost computers with learners in their schools and libraries.”
Arens said that even though Picademy 2018 is full, Living Computers will also continue to offer a variety of other educational programs open to teachers and the general public this summer.