Moles, STEM, Raspberry Pi and Great Teachers....

technology pi

What am I doing to help kids achieve?

How do I know when they are there?

What is the evidence?

I have to admit. I am really lucky. I teach with some of the best teachers on the planet. Mike Geyer is one of them. Here is how this story may help you....

Have you ever seen something that was really cool and you thought, "I could use this in the classroom, but I just don't have time to work on this now?" This might be one of those ideas. This is the kind of thing that could get you started as a fun summer project.

Mike introduced me to something called a "Raspberry Pi". A raspberry pi is the one of the world's cheapest computers. It is a $35 computer that runs off of an eight gig SD card. Anyone can program it with Python (a relatively simple coding lanquage) and it can do small things. Here is what Mike did. First he purchased a Raspberry Pi. He then went to the tech guy in our building and hunted down old computer peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, screen and some cables. Next, he wrote a simple program that has the computer (Raspberry Pi) count continously and display the count on the computer screen. Mike displayed the time and the date of when it started and he made a nice little display explaining a bit about "Raspberry Pi" and how "Qwerty" the computer was counting to a mole. Students have to figure out when it will hit one mole. There are all kinds of ways it can be done. One student started taking pictures of it with her cell phone over time. She had a number on a screen and a time and date of the picture. She was able to start graphing and develop a reasonably good estimate on when the computer would hit one mole. Mike published this in J. Chem. Ed (J. Chem. Educ., 2014, 91 (11), pp 2005–2006).  

Here is what I like about this project.  First, kids are shown a neat and simple way to get into programing.  The "black box" effect is dispelled which is the purpose of the raspberry pi.  Next, it has them trying to predict what a mole is and when it will reach a mole.  Finally, there are many ways to solve the answer so they are allowed to think "outside" the box.  It did take some initial work on Mike's part but once it is up, it is simple to run and to forget about it.  I have used it as an extra credit project with great success.  Most of the teachers in our building have taken a liking to "Qwerty".

Sometimes our jobs can seem overwhelming.  The summer time is a great time to re-energize and to consider new projects or activities that would be fun for us and for the kids.  This might be one you may want to add to your tool kit.  Mike did a great job with the article and who knows how else a raspberry pi might be used in the chemistry classroom?  A great challenge for the kids...might want to give this project a try....

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Comments 1

Lauren Stewart's picture
Lauren Stewart | Wed, 04/27/2016 - 05:55

I love this so much! I have students code in Python throughout the year and this would be a great intro to that process. I heard about Raspberry Pi earlier this year and I have kept it in the back of my mind as something I would like to use in my classroom. Summer project!