MacRobert Award: Raspberry Pi wins prestigious engineering prize

By Russell Barnes. Posted

The Raspberry Pi has helped reverse the downward trend of interest in computer science and programming

The Raspberry Pi has won this year’s MacRobert Award, “the UK’s longest running and most prestigious national prize for engineering and innovation.”

“The Raspberry Pi team has achieved something that mainstream multinational computer companies and leading processing chip designers not only failed to do, but failed even to spot a need for,” said MacRobert Award judge Dr Frances Saunders CB FREng.

MacRobert Award: why Raspberry Pi won this prestigious engineering award

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said:

“All three of this year’s finalists demonstrate exceptional engineering, but 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. 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. It is manufactured in the UK cheaper and at higher quality than elsewhere. Raspberry Pi’s original educational goal has actually resulted in a computer control system that can influence many different industries. “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 Raspberry Pi has helped reverse the downward trend of interest in computer science and programming. This trend “is thought to be linked to the demise of programmable home computers like the BBC Micro and [ZX] Spectrum,” according to the MacRobert nomination.

Speaking at a separate event, Raspberry Pi co-creator Eben Upton corroborated this. “We used to get about 600 people applying to study computer science at Cambridge,” he expanded. “We got down to about 200 – our worst year, in 2008. We had 700 [applicants] last year [2016].”

Previous winners of the MacRobert Award include EMI Ltd, who in 1972 developed the CT Scanner, a vital medical device that can now be found in almost every hospital in the developed world. In 2002 Cambridge Display Technologies won the MacRobert Award for its light emitting polymer displays for televisions and smart phones. In 2014 the Award was given to Cobalt Light Systems, which pioneered a technique to determine the chemical composition of materials in containers and behind a range of other barriers including skin, for use in airport scanners and medical diagnostics.

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