Raspberry Pi wins prestigious engineering prize
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The MacRobert Award – one of the UK’s most prestigious engineering prizes – has been given to the team behind the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, which has transformed computer education.
The Raspberry Pi was originally conceived at the University of Cambridge as a way to boost computer science applications, following a decline in applications early in the millennium.
The affordable, versatile microcomputer can be used as the “brain” of lab experiments, robots and original smart home applications. The standard Raspberry Pi costs just £28, while the Raspberry Pi Zero, a stripped-down version, costs £5.
The Raspberry Pi has video and audio capabilities with a range of inputs and outputs, including USB and HDMI. It owes its versatility to its multi-layered design, which allows components to be decoupled.
So far, 14 million Raspberry Pi microcomputers have been sold, making it the best-selling British computer of all time. Although half of these are used in industry, the device has proved most influential in education.
“Raspberry Pi’s original educational goal has actually resulted in a computer control system that can influence many different industries,” said Dr Dame Due Ion, who chaired the judging panel. “Raspberry Pi has also inspired multiple generations to get into coding: children are learning about coding for the first time, often alongside their parents and grandparents. Communities in the developing world are being empowered by the Raspberry Pi and its modern day computing-on-a-budget.”
The MacRobert Award is run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which has, in previous years, awarded the prize to the engineers behind the CT scanner, the catalytic convertor and light-emitting polymers.
Other finalists were Darktrace, a machine learning company for cyber defences, and Vision RT, which develops technologies for radiotherapies. A judging panel composed of Fellows of the Academy selected the Raspberry Pi as the winning innovation, and HRH The Duke of Kent presented the engineers with their prize at the Academy Awards Dinner in London.
The Cambridge-based team received a gold medal and a £50,000 prize.
“What sets Raspberry Pi apart is the sheer quality of the innovation, which has allowed the computer to be used far beyond its original purpose,” said Dr Ion. “By blending old and new technology with innovative systems engineering and circuit board design, the team has created a computer that is cheap, robust, small and flexible.”