Raspberry Pi Jam teaches children computer programming

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COLUMBIA - Young computer enthusiasts and programmers celebrated Pi Day Saturday by learning computer coding.

Programmers used a credit card sized computer motherboard, called Raspberry Pi, to build gadgets from homemade laptops to robots that were showcased at the Raspberry Pi Jam. Technology company MORENet hosted the event.

One parent said events like these encourage young students to get involved in technology. 

"Doing an open house, hands-on event so that kids can feel more comfortable, and adults can feel more comfortable," Dawn Thurnau said. "It takes away some of the nerves about coding or creating your own computer. And with a $35 credit card or palm-sized computer, it really makes it easy."  

David Drum, a Research Manager at MORENet, said a Raspberry Pi can be used to build a room or diary security system or even a smart phone. He said the hands-on learning is beneficial for students and children interested in STEM programs. 

"For children learning about science, technology, engineering and math, it's more about the experience than what they learn, up to a point. So the Raspberry Pi is a very safe platform on which to experiment, not just with computing and programming, but also with how the computer can interact with its environment."

Thurnau said, "A lot of people don't realize that in K-12 schools now, they're teaching coding in library class, and that's really exciting to me as a parent. It's also a great opportunity to bring those lessons home with an easily accessible device."

Saturday's event included presentations from coders, as well as Jonathan Sessions from the Columbia Public School Board. They shared project examples and Sessions explained how this device could be implemented into public schools. He said he already completed a project with the help of three West Middle schoolers and had a great experience. 

Drum said the computer can be easily purchased online or from electronics retailers, and there are project tutorials online as well.