Category Archives: Teaching Computing

A Tale of Two πs


Happy Pi Day!   In countries where dates list the month before the day, 3 14 brings to mind the very special number π.  Yes, there really is a Pi Day, and the first time I “observed” it was a joke with my wife Tao.  She comes from China and doesn’t know all the American Holidays, so I was joking that we have a holiday coming up.  Someone that same year asked me how one celebrates on Pi Day, and after a moment of reflection stated that we had to eat round foods.  So we (a group from work) went to a burger place that also served onion rings.

Seriously, the day has inspired me this year on a couple of points.

Peach Pie

The first “pie” is a home-made peach pie.  We have a peach tree in the back yard, 2013-peach-pieand we harvested enough peaches to fill the freezers even after giving away a lot.  We have enough left for many pies throughout the year, and it is a good time to use up peaches from June 2012 before the new crop comes in.

So I asked if Tao would make a peach pie this week, and she did.  Yum!

Raspberry Pi

A short time ago I saw a You-Tube video concerning building a project with the Raspberry Pi single-board computer.  The teaching of computer programming skills is also an interest of mine, and, like the message from the Raspberry Pi story, I’ve often felt that kids these days have these powerful and mysterious PCs and don’t get exposed to “making it work” the same way as I did, even if they are in a class for that express purpose!

They say, “If you want to support us, we’d love you to buy one”.  So, in honor of Pi Day, I’m buying three.  In the very near future, I’ll see about getting them into the hands of local kids through high schools or some existing computer clubs.  It’s a whole lot easier to simply give money and goods to causes than it is to be active in one!

My own early computer experience was with an 8-bit device that had 1K of RAM.  So it’s still hard to think of something with Xbox 1 level of performance (24 GFLOPs GPU) as “simple” or “primitive”, after ray-tracing without floating-point instructions at all (maybe a quarter of a megaflop?).