Solebury School Hosted By RobustWealth for Raspberry Pi Workshop

Shizhen Liu '22

In January, Solebury School students were invited to RobustWealth for a maker session with Raspberry Pi, Scratch, and interactive components. Dan Swart '22, Ethan Glazer '22, Shizhen Liu '22, Nick Zborowski '23, and Carl Chang '21 engaged in conversations with members from the RobustWealth leadership team, discovering what life is like at a tech company and built their own computer programs using a Raspberry Pi kit. Below is Shizhen Liu's '22 reflection of the day.

Recently, I went on a field trip with six other Solebury students and our engineering teacher, Dan Perez, to RobustWealth, a financial technology (FinTech) company in Lambertville, New Jersey that aims to help their clients better manage their assets. The goal of this trip was for us to learn the basics of Raspberry Pi, a micro-computer, and use it to design our own projects. 

The company is situated on a quiet street in Lambertville. On the street, you would not be able to tell that a financial technology company that manages billions of dollars dwells in the nondescript brick building. Sarah Roman, Content Manager of RobustWealth, welcomed us and led us into a conference room in the company. We each sat down on either side of the table in the conference room. In front of us were computer monitors running a novel operating system, which I later discovered was called Raspian, a Linux distribution built specifically for Raspberry Pi. Looking closely at the computers, one could discover that there were no bulky machines behind the monitors or under the desk. Instead, the monitors were connected to green circuit boards no bigger than a phone. The green circuit boards were Raspberry Pi’s. A tiny SD card was inserted to the Pi, and Raspbian was stored in that SD card. On the desk, there was also a box full of electronic components--breadboard, LED lights, buttons, wires, and more, which we later used to build our own projects. 

Sarah began to share her stories with us over a pizza lunch in the conference room. Her experience as a high school English teacher who tried to integrate Raspberry Pi into her curriculum interested me. I was also impressed that she was one of the first certified Raspberry Pi educators in the United States. Sarah then showed us the different components of our Pi’s. The most exciting part of the Pi is the GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins. With these pins, one can control other electronic components by programming the Raspberry Pi. Later, Neal Hill, the Director of Data Architecture, came in to introduce himself and discussed what makes a computer a computer with us. During our visit, Rob Cavallaro, the Chief Investment Officer at RobustWealth, also discussed the usage of the rebalancing algorithm and shared his stories. RobustWealth’s founder and CEO, Michael Kerins, also gave us insights into the motivation behind founding the company and its rapid growth. 

After lunch, we began the most exciting part of the trip--using Raspberry Pi to design our own projects. We started exploring Raspberry Pi with simple tutorials. Initially, I was interested in using Raspberry Pi to make an LED that would blink. I first connected an LED to the Raspberry Pi per the instruction. Then I opened Scratch, a block-based programming language, and copied codes from the tutorial to my program. However, when I clicked the green flag in Scratch that was supposed to initiate the program and make the LED blink, nothing happened. I was confused and a bit frustrated. I asked Neal why my LED was not working. He first showed me how to use a breadboard to manage the circuit so I did not have to hold a resistor in my hand to connect it to the LED. Neal then found out that my Raspberry Pi was not receiving output signals from the computer, which was the reason why the LED did not light up. He then made sure that my computer output signals to the Pi, and as we expected, the LED lit up and started blinking. 

Having completed my first Raspberry Pi project, I was ready to do something more ambitious. I wanted to design a device that could measure a person’s reaction time. The device would have an LED and a button. A person needed to press the button as soon as the LED lights up, timing how long it took the person to react. It sounds like a simple project, but there were many components to it. I first made sure that a timer would start when the LED lights up. However, I was not able to make the timer stop when the button had been pushed. Sarah and I tried to figure out a solution, but time flies, perhaps because we were having so much fun.

Although my second Raspberry Pi project was half-complete, I still enjoyed tinkering and “jamming.” This experience has been memorable and will serve as a starting point for my further exploration of Raspberry Pi. Visiting RobustWealth has also made me aware of the impact of technology on the financial industry. I learned that because of technology, RobustWealth can manage huge amount of data with not many people. 

Enjoy pictures from the trip below: