Introduction: What You'll Need & Learn

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A Raspberry Pi board is what you will learn to use in this class. So, what is it and where did it come from? The Raspberry Pi is a small, inexpensive, and programmable computer created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. One of the foundation's co-founders, Eben Upton, has this to say about the Raspberry Pi board's creation:

“When we started Raspberry Pi, we had a simple goal: to increase the number of people applying to study Computer Science at Cambridge. By putting cheap, programmable computers in the hands of the right young people, we hoped that we might revive some of the sense of excitement about computing that we had back in the 1980s with our Sinclair Spectrums, BBC Micros and Commodore 64s.” This snippet is quoted from a recent post Eben made in celebration of the ten-millionth RPi being sold and the announcement of a new kit.

In simplest terms, the Raspberry Pi 3 is a computer. It's also an educational tool that has grown to be loved by all kinds of people with all levels of skill. Like a personal computer, an RPi can have a screen for output and a mouse and keyboard for user input. It runs an operating system like Mac's OS X and Microsofts Windows. You can download applications to it like a word processor or play games on it like Minecraft. Although it does all these perfectly useful but also ordinary things, the real magic is when it's used for unexpected purposes. Once you understand how it works you will be inspired to think about it as far more than just a computer.

The name Raspberry Pi gives a sneak peak into what the board is about. When asked about the origin of the name Eben Upton has stated that it follows a long line of naming computer companies and products after fruit. That’s how the Raspberry half was born. The Pi half comes from Python, a programming language you will use in this class. To read more about the origin of the Raspberry Pi check out this 2012 Interview with Eben on TechSpot.

Tools + Supplies:

The Raspberry Pi Foundation put one out themselves to honor the 10 millionth RPi sold. This kit can be purchased by distributors mentioned in this post on

Assumptions Made About You, the Student

  • You have never used a Raspberry Pi before. Perhaps you've bought one but have never gotten to it or you are not even sure what a Raspberry Pi is. Either way, this class is written for an absolute beginner.
  • You have access to a personal computer and can use a Mac or a PC or maybe even a Linux computer.

What This Class Is and What it Is Not
Raspberry Pis can be used to power robots, they can be strung together to create digital networks, and they have even been sent to near space. So, there is no mistaking that there is a lot one can do with a Raspberry Pi board. This class touches upon the tips of mountain-sized topics and then gives resources to go further. The goal is for you to have a base understanding of how the board works and explore some of its capabilities. You will be introduced to computer-world concepts and learn through hands-on coding and a little circuit building.

This class uses the Raspberry Pi 3 which is the most recently released Pi as of the writing of this class, but you may also most other Raspberry Pi boards. Earlier models do not have built-in wifi and so will require an additional accessory to wirelessly connect to the network. Smaller boards like the model A and Pi Zero will also work, though connector type and availability will differ than the images in the class and will require the appropriate adapter cables and a powered USB hub.

Step 1: HDMI Monitor

Pictured above is a 10" display that is convenient for my workspace. A larger screen was used for the photo booth project. Get or use whatever size is available to you or that you want to you use in the final photo booth.

Step 2: Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

I recommend a wireless USB mouse keyboard combo. The Raspberry Pi 3 has Bluetooth onboard, but you need a mouse to set up a new Bluetooth device. so I recommend you get the type with a USB transceiver dongle. This particular combo has one (and it's not even Bluetooth) but was chosen because it is affordable. Using built-in Bluetooth would save one of our precious USB ports, which is an upgrade you may wish to make later.

Step 3: EzConnect

The EzConnect is a perfect option for making lasting connections to your RPi's GPIO pins without needing to know how to solder. This is an optional piece because you can plug components onto the board's pins without the breakout board.

Step 4: What You Will Make

As you progress through the class, there will be several small exercises to get you accustomed to navigating software and programming. Some exercises will contribute to the larger final project which is a photo booth!

The booth can take single images or GIFs. It can be a full-size booth or a small portable box you can carry with to parties. The "booth" design is up to you. I will share with you how I built mine but mainly you will focus on how to write the program, build the circuit, access the camera, and all the other technical tidbits that involve the Raspberry Pi. After a picture is taken, the Raspberry Pi uses its awesome power of WiFi to upload it to a Tumblr account. This way guests can revisit and download the images.