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Raspberry Pi Scoops Top Engineering Award

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Micro computer maker Raspberry Pi awarded UK’s top award by the Royal Academy of Engineering

Micro computer maker Raspberry Pi has been awarded the UK’s top engineering accolade this week.

Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award on Thursday evening.

It comes as the Raspberry Pi celebrated its fifth birthday earlier this year with the launch of a brand new micro PC, namely the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

raspberry pi zero_mainCoveted Award

The Royal Academy of Engineering presented the MacRobert Prize at a ceremony in London on Thursday evening to the team of engineers behind Raspberry Pi.

The winners received both a gold medal and a £50,000 prize, and the Cambridge-based firm team members who were awarded the prize were CEO Dr Eben Upton CBE; COO James Adams; Director of Engineer Pete Lomas; Senior Principal Software Engineer Dom Cobley; Director of Engineering Gordon Hollingworth; and finally Director of Communications Liz Upton.

The Raspberry Pi team won the award ahead of two fellow contenders, namely cyber security machine learning experts Darktrace and surface guided radiotherapy pioneers Vision RT.

“Its tiny, low-cost micro PC can be used as the control centre of almost anything, from video games to robots, multi-room sound systems, pet feeders, or scientific experiments,” said the Royal Academy of Engineering. “The ‘Pi’ has inspired a new generation of makers and brought computer programming into classrooms in a fun and engaging way.”

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

“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,” Dr Ion said. “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,” she added. “Communities in the developing world are being empowered by the Raspberry Pi and its modern day computing-on-a-budget.”

Eventful Journey

It has certainly been quite a journey for the Raspberry Pi since its arrival in 2012.

Indeed, the Raspberry Pi is now said to account for 1 percent of the global PC market with sales that have now passed 14 million.

When it was launched five years ago, it had only expected to sell around 10,000 units and was designed as a cheap way to introduce children to coding. But now the Raspberry Pi is the best selling British computer in history, having past the Amstrad and Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum a number of years ago.

And in 2017 the machine is now much more than just a very cheap micro computer. Indeed, the Raspberry Pi is playing an increasingly important role (outside of education) in the Internet of Things sector, and is widely used in factories for example.

This is because the tiny low-cost micro PC can be used as the control centre of almost anything, from video games to robots, scientific experiments and industrial control systems.

It is incredibly reliable, only five in every million Raspberry Pi’s experience failures (much better than the industy average). This means instead of developing their own industrial control system, companies now simply opt to use a Raspberry Pi to control their systems.

And the Raspberry Pi is evolving.

The Raspberry Pi 3 for example included Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in a big to become a “hub” for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Since then, Microsoft released a brace of Raspberry Pi 3 powered IoT kits and a partnership with Google opened the doors to the introduction of artificial intelligence.

Quiz: What do you know about the Raspberry Pi?