Good First projects for Teen with Arduino/Raspberry Pi

Hey Gang,

My niece is really into Computer Science and I am doing everything I can to foster that interest and to provide her with some company (as most young teenage girls at her school aren't even remotely interested in figuring out how their computer/tablet/phone/3DS works.) I wanted to get her a Pi or Arduino and include some basic project links/print outs. Any recommendations? I thought about giving her the Retro Gaming Rig How To with some physical copies of classic games (she's also a gamer).



Setting up a RetroPie using the guide you linked (or any other guide - seriously type Retropie How to in google and you'll find loads...) is quite fun as long you remember you need to download the necessary digital copies of the Games (ROM) your niece wants to play so I'd recommend getting a 32 GB Micro SD Card so you've got some space for them.

There is also the legal grey area of downloading ROMs for games you don't own but I'll leave that up to you.

I guess a Raspberry Pi is the more flexible option of the two since can do both pure informatic projects or projects that involve hardware too. But the "problem" with the Raspberry Pi is that she has to learn Pyton to control the GPIO pins and that can be challenging and not that user friendly.
The Arduino is much easier to work with because can be programmed in a language that looks like C but can "only" do projects that involve controlling motors, pull data off of sensors and stuff like that.
They both have the advantage to be really cheap so I guess for 100$ you can get an Arduino kit (that works also with a Raspberry Pi) and a Raspberry Pi with all the accessories needed (power supply, case and micro SD card).
Frankenstein the two toghether might be an interesting combination too. I wish I had an uncle like you!

I was going to buy her some retro cartridges of the classics so we could deal with the gray area that way ;) Also, who doesn't want SNES/NES cartridges ?!


Here's another alternative to rPi.

The chip without keyboard + screen is only $6.

It's every bit as extendable into projects as the PI. There's LOADS of hacking + modding + projects being done with it. Just start googling around.

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Well, last year I got her a course for Unity Development and 3D modeling, she did pretty well and has a grasp of programming basic concepts, and from my experience with Python, it's not incredibly hard to learn - that being said, I've not tinkered with a Pi, so I'm in the dark there... great excuse to buy one though. ;)

Diggin' it. Pretty cool little dealio.

This is true... they make great coasters actually ;)

Also side note - you are seriously uncle of the year at this point :D

It's really great that you're helping her out with this! Props to you.

Anyways I've recently started messing with Arduinos myself and my advice is to help her get the basics of it and then she needs to work on her own little creation. Something that she designs and makes all on her own. I did a some of the prepackaged stuff to get the basics but when I really got into it was when I started working on my own custom project, a little bluetooth controlled / self regulating vehicle kinda like an RC car.

Iā€™m a teen myself and I am enjoying my time building a dot-matrix printer at the moment. I am using the parts a couple of old cd drives and some Lego to make the printer itself. I ordered some parts including an Arduino mega to control the motors. I think I want to use a C# program to talk to the Arduino over a serial port.
Could be a fun project under 100 dollars/euro. You can leave out the C# program and only use C on the Arduino to do some cool stuff. The only reason I am using C# is because I am learning it in school.
if you really want to get a better understanding of how computers work you could build a 4bit or 8bit computer out of 74 series chips. this is on my to do list at the moment.

PS you sound like a really cool uncle :)

I try to be the cool uncle. Her mom is a bit of a worry-wart/overly anxious about everything, and really doesn't understand that some people are Nerds who enjoy video games, and taking things apart/building things that aren't physical structures. She thinks it's weird that my niece would prefer to stay in and that most of her decent friends are people online. She just doesn't get it, so I chat with my niece regularly and try to get her nerdy projects and work on them with her. Last year I bought her a C# course and a 3d modeling course. She got pretty far, but school and sports got in the way. This year she's out of sports (her mom realized that you can still be a decent human and not play sports...) and aside form her college level courses, she's got a bit more free time so I thought a micro computer of some sort would be a good time sink for breaks and de-stress.

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