With Governor Whitmer's order to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic school year there is suddenly a LOT of children at home that don't have a dedicated decent computer to be able to continue their studies.
I am, with anyone who is willing to help, trying to raise some money to build low cost Raspberry Pi based computers for these children. I can then assemble these into functional computers and give them to children in need.
For most who don't know what that is a Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer that you can purchase for around $30-$50 dollars that is certainly good enough for running most if not all things a child would be asked to do as part of their home schooling. It has a HDMI output so it can be hooked up to most at-home TVs. They come with built-in WiFi / Bluetooth and will run a nice graphical user-interface based on Linux.
WHY NOT A CHROMEBOOK, OR A USED LAPTOP?
One of the key questions we've received so far is "Why not just buy them a Chromebook or a cheap used laptop online?"
There are a lot of reasons why we've gone this route. If you would like to donate a Chromebook or a used laptop to a child by all means please do so, but for us:
1) Chromebooks are more expensive, and very limited machines: Chromebooks are pretty much dead in the water without an Internet connection, they are at least as expensive if not more than this solution as well.
2) Used Laptops are inconsistent: You really don't know what you're getting with a used laptop. Does everything actually work, or not? What's the differences between this manufacturer and that manufacturer? We want to provide as consistent of a solution as possible because we're predicting people are going to need help once they get their computer to use it.
3) Raspberry Pis have non-crisis utility : We are looking past this crisis to see how getting more Raspberry Pis in the hands of children means more opportunities to getting these children interested in real STEM work. Laptops don't have GPIO ports (the ability themselves to let you build robots, automations, etc) where Raspberry Pis do. It would NEVER be a bad idea to give a child a Raspberry Pi even if they had a computer and by going this route we leave these kids post-crisis with a device that has value and potential for the rest of their educations.
4) More flexibility: The goal is to get as many computers into as many kids' hands in a consistent way as possible. Going the Raspberry Pi route we have a lot more paths to get there. For example, if we run out of monitors RPis can be hooked up to TVs with an HDMI port. People sometimes have extra keyboards they're willing to donate but not entire laptops. By going this route we maximize the paths to successful computers.
Hopefully this helps address these questions to those who are asking now and in the future! Thank you all for your support, and I welcome the suggestions that have been made.
What is needed to make a functional machine
To make one of these computers, the following components are needed. While cash is of course the easiest way to help just getting these components will be good enough and most welcome:
(Note, because I am hoping a lot of things can be donated I am putting parts here that I may need to get a setup working as it may require adapters or whatever. I priced out if I was to purchase just everything I needed to make a decent computer for the kids it would be around $200 dollars)
- Raspberry Pi (3 or 4)
- HDMI cables (long ones are good for using TVs, short ones are good if we have monitors)
- SD Cards (Probably at least 128GB is ideal, 32GB is the low end, high-speed SD cards are better regardless of size i.e. SanDisk Ultra)
- Keyboards (USB keyboards, wireless is best -- especially if using a TV for a monitor)
- Mice (USB, wireless best -- especially if using a TV for a monitor)
- Monitors (These are the most expensive item to purchase! Needs to have an HDMI cable input)
- Micro HDMI to HDMI adapters and/or cables (if we use Raspberry Pi 4s we need these)
- Micro USB power supplies (5v, 3 amp)
- USB Microphones (these can be purchased cheaply)
- Speakers (Raspberry PIs have a standard headphone jack so that can be used OR can do audio over HDMI if hooked up to a TV)
This of course is an evolving situation and I'm not even sure beyond what I've put here what will be needed to get these kids situated who are in need -- only the best guess. Any funds raised will go toward the kids, and as many donated items as we can use for computers will go to them as well.
- Terry Gonda
- Robert Wittenberg
- Kimberly Bernreuter
- Amanda Doherty
- VIRGINIA Martin