Old and New Combine for Ventura College Student Projects

Raspberry Pi Fuels Innovation Across Disciplines

Efrain Hernandez is the go-to person in his family whenever anyone needs help with technology, but he never thought he would pursue it as a career. Now the recent Ventura College graduate is heading on to complete his bachelor’s degree and hopefully secure a position in the Computer Science field.

Hernandez combined his interest in Computer Science with his love of vintage video games into a unique project for professor Elliot Gertner’s Computer Architecture Class. He created a bar-top arcade game that contains hundreds of video games from Pac Man to Street Fighter.

IMG 1294“I always enjoyed Nintendo on arcade because that’s what I grew up with,” Hernandez said. “When we started learning Raspberry Pi, one of the things I considered was trying to use it to play old arcade games and classic Nintendo games.”

At the heart of the system is Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer designed to teach students the basics of computer science. Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communication Technologies, secured funding for Gertner to purchase 30 Raspberry Pi units for his class.

Raspberry Pi newHernandez’s project is just one example of real-world Raspberry Pi applications developed in Gertner’s class. Student Sam Rice developed the Multi-Purpose Agriculture Robot, which he is already branding as M-PAR.

Ely Baltazar developed sensors that track the amount of moisture in soil to prevent crop overwatering or under watering. She hopes to market the product out to small farms and CSAs who could benefit from additional data.

All of these projects are low cost and easily scalable, one of the benefits of utilizing Raspberry Pi over more complex solutions.

Hernandez purchased all of the parts for the console from the software to hardware like buttons and controls. He estimates that it took about 40 hours to assemble and test over the course of two weeks.

He consulted online videos for help putting everything together. The biggest challenge, he says, was programming the controls to move the way he wanted them to.

“I would press joystick up and it would go down and things like that,” Hernandez said. “I kept playing with it and eventually figured it out.”

IMG 1295Hernandez kept his friends and family updated on his progress through social media and has received offers to produce two more of the units for a cousin and a friend. He expects that building additional systems will go much more quickly now that he has one under his belt.

He sees the potential for a business model, but for now is going to focus on earning his bachelor’s degree and taking classes in system security and game design. He appreciates the opportunity to learn Raspberry Pi and said he never would have known about it if not for Gertner’s class.

“I didn’t know you would be able to do anything like this with Raspberry Pi,” Hernandez said. “I want to consider doing more things like this in the future.”