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Electronics/Robotics: Raspberry Pi

The Belk Library and Information Commons Tech Desk has a wide variety of electronics and robotics available from beginners to seasoned techies alike!

What is Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a low cost, mini computer that plugs into your TV that you can program for all sorts of projects. Preloaded with a Linux operating machine, Raspberry Pi enables people of all ages to explore computing and learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.  Capable of more complex programs than an Arduino board, Raspberry Pi is a good tool to use for projects that require multiple functions and outputs.  Use Raspberry Pi for anything that you would want a computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games.  The options are endless!

Play with one in the Inspire Maker Lab, or check one out from the Tech Desk!

Raspberry Pi Elements and Terms to Know

Raspberry Pi Board

A mini computer board with various ports installed.  Runs a Linux system.  The Tech Desk has Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 boards and kits.

Raspberry Pi 3


A type of open source, computer operating system.  Linux commands are one of the ways to control the Raspberry Pi.  More information on basic Linux can be found here.


The recommended operating system to use with Raspberry Pi (and a version of Linux).  Raspbian comes preloaded with software that makes coding in Python and other languages easier.  Installation of Raspbian is done through downloading it from, then transferring it onto the SD card that will be placed in your Raspberry Pi board.  Check out more information about Raspbian, including installation and set up.


Image credits

Raspberry Pi icons (board, tv, cables, card, keyboard, mouse) by: Raspberry Pi Foundation via creative commons license. 

Raspberry Pi pic: Raspberry Pi foundation via creative commons license.

Smart Mirror by: Bradley Melton

PiPhone by: David Hunt

Wall calendar by: Tom Scott via Make Magazine and Reddit

Kitty tracker by: Jeremy Wall via

How to get started with Raspberry Pi

Want to learn the wonders of Raspberry Pi?  

1)  Start by checking out a Raspberry Pi kit from the Tech Desk or buying your own board.  In order to work with the Raspberry Pi, you need to have the following items:

Raspberry Pi board  TV or monitorHDMI CableUSB keyboard  Computer mouse  Power supply with cable  SD card 

  • Raspberry Pi board
  • TV or monitor with HDMI port
  • HDMI to HDMI cable
  • USB keyboard
  • USB computer mouse
  • Micro USB power supply wall plug
  • 8GB SD card

The Tech Desk Raspberry Pi kit contains the board, SD card and HDMI cable.

2) Next, using another computer download and install the Raspbian software onto the SD card.  This will enable your Raspberry Pi board to become a computer.  For directions on how to install the Raspbian operating system, follow this Quickstart Guide from

3) Once you have imaged your SD card, plug it into the SD slot on the Raspberry Pi board.  Then connect the HDMI cable from the board to the monitor. Connect the mouse and keyboard to the USB ports on the board. If you plan to use internet, connect a USB wi-fi adapter or an ethernet cord.  Finally, plug in the micro USB power supply into the wall.  This will activate the Raspberry Pi.  For more details on this, see the Hardware Set Up page on

5)  Start creating your projects!  

smart mirror  Pi Phone 

 Wall clock  Kitty wearing a raspberry pi

Create a smart mirror which will talk to you, tell you the time and temperature and more, make your own smartphone, never forget an event with a wall calendar and weather system, or find out where your cat goes during the day.

Resources for Raspberry Pi

How to program your Raspberry Pi:

For most of the software available on Raspbian, look at this guide for more information.