Raspberry Pi


2013 Polytechnics Canada Case Competition for the Raspberry Pi computer


Page last updated April 4, 2013


The Raspberry Pi is a new, fully functional computer that sells for less than $40.  It also features software built and adapted with the help of Seneca students and faculty.  With support from NSERC, Seneca’s Industrial Research Chair for Colleges, Professor Chris Tyler, and students and faculty from Seneca’s Centre for the Development of Open Technology (CDOT) collaborated with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to retool the existing Fedora Linux operating system to work with the Raspberry Pi hardware, turning this interesting gadget into a computer that is surprisingly capable despite consuming very little energy.  The early popularity and success of the Pi prompted Google Trends to declare “the Raspberry Pi was more popular than Lady Gaga”.    


Key dates to note:


·         November 22, 2012: Competition Start Date

·         February 1, 2013: Entry nomination deadline for member teams

·         March 29, 2013: Technical testing deadline

·         May 8-9, 2013: Final judging at the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference at George Brown College in Toronto


Competition Background:

The Raspberry Pi is a $40 computer board designed to provoke and enable experimentation in programming and computer technology. Information about the Raspberry Pi as well as ordering instructions can be found here: http://www.raspberrypi.org/

Polytechnics Canada is a national alliance of Canada’s leading research-intensive, publicly-funded colleges and institutes of technology. Located in Canada’s key economic regions, the current ten member colleges and institutes of Polytechnics Canada are: British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), SAIT Polytechnic, NAIT, SIAST, Conestoga, Sheridan, Humber, George Brown, Seneca and Algonquin College.

For more information on Polytechnics Canada, please visit our website: http://www.polytechnicscanada.ca/

We would like to challenge interdisciplinary student applied research teams from each of our members to a friendly competition to design and produce a custom Polytechnics Canada-inspired case/enclosure for the Raspberry Pi computer that best blends function and form.

Polytechnics Canada would like to give Raspberry Pi computers - housed in the winning unique case - to keynote speakers as gifts for future events and meetings. Rather than the traditional thank you gift of a branded mug, or a nice book, we would like to give our special guests a unique and functional gift. The Raspberry Pi is a computer that they can actually take with them on business trips, or have at the office, or use at home.  The computer, as well as the back-story on how the case came to be, will make a great conversation piece that constantly reinforces the value of student applied research, which is the raison d'etre of Polytechnics Canada.

The target audience for these gifts will be keynote speakers and distinguished guests to our future events. In considering the design and functionality of the case, team should note these people are often federal and provincial politicians, senior government decision makers, presidents and CEOs of Canadian companies, authors and thought leaders on applied research, innovation, and skills training.


The Challenge


The Raspberry Pi can be used as a simple desktop computer, but it also makes an excellent controller for embedded and robotics projects. It does not come with a case, and although many different cases have been designed and are available for the Pi, they are not suitable for demanding environments.


The challenge for the teams will be to design a case for the Raspberry Pi computer that meets specific technical and aesthetic criteria.


The case will need these technical qualities:


1.       Waterproof to 3 metres.

2.       Maintains the system-on-a-chip at temperatures not exceeding 50C when operating at 100% CPU utilization in 30C water for 1 hour.

3.       Able to protect the Raspberry Pi through a drop of 2m to a concrete floor while powered-on and operating.

4.       Provides waterproof connections for power, USB, ethernet, and GPIO header cables.

5.       Permits viewing of the Raspberry Pi LED POWER and OK indicators.

6.       May be securely mounted to a flat surface such as a plywood board.

7.       Either uses no energy, or uses 5 VDC at up to 500 mA for active systems (e.g., cooling, indicators).

8.       Can be opened to provide access to the SD card slot and SOC in less than 3 minutes, while the unit remains in operation and attached to a mounting surface.

9.       Can be built for less than $40 per unit in a 50-unit production run.


And these aesthetic qualities:

1.       Incorporate the Polytechnics Canada “maze” logo in some fashion. A vector file of the logo is available from Ken Doyle: kdoyle@polytechnicscanada.ca

2.       If possible, incorporate the Polytechnics Canada name and website address

3.       Otherwise teams have total creative control over colours, materials, lighting, sizes, shapes or any other features that they choose



·         Entries will be judged according to the requirements listed above, the quality of the case design and construction, and additional innovative features of the case.

·         The Raspberry Pi board does not have mounting holes.

·         Teams may supply their own cable sets for testing in order to ensure that the cases are tested with cables of a particular shape and size. These cable sets must be a minimum of 4 metres long and the cables may not be specifically modified for the competition (for example, they may not have seals molded on to them).

·         The device will be operated at the normal (default) voltage levels and clock rate (700 MHz) during tests.

·         Teams may elect to use a standard-sized SD card, an SD card socket-and-plug assembly (extension), or a micro-SD adapter (such as the low-profile microSD adapter from Adafruit).

·         The software image used during testing will be provided by the testers. No special software must be required for use with the case.

·         SOC temperature will be measured at the top of the DRAM package using a thermocouple or IR thermometer.

·         Information about the Raspberry Pi board can be found on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website, including schematics, a FAQ, and partial SOC datasheet (see errata). The devices can be ordered from Newark/Element14 Canada.




The contest is open to students who are enrolled full-time at any Polytechnics Canada institution during the 2012-2013 and 2013-14 school year.

Teams may consist of one to seven student members from one institution.

There is a limit of two teams that may enter from each institution. The Research Office at each member will be in charge of vetting all interested teams and picking the maximum of two teams by January 30, 2013.


Entry Procedure

Team names from each member institution are due to Ken Doyle by email by February 1, 2013. Entries must contain:


·         Name of institution

·         Point of contact for the project (for Ken to contact directly with additional information)

·         Team name (if applicable. Possibly helpful if an institution will have two teams competing).

·         Student names

·         Students’ program of study

·         Name and title of Faculty or Staff Member supervising the team/project


Submission for technical testing deadline


Technical testing will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, April 24/25, 2013 however the deadline to submit an actual case for testing is Monday, April 22, 2013 by end of day. Submission details are found below.

Because of the equipment size and time required for some of the testing, we are very fortunate that Seneca College’s Underwater Skills and BioChem groups have very kindly agreed to provide us with access to their dive pool, controlled water bath and other research facilities. Technical testing will be conducted by Professor Chris Tyler and his research group from the Centre for the Development of Open Technology (CDOT). All of the tests will be videotaped and both the videos and the test results will be uploaded for all teams to see.

Entries will be pre-qualified by testing for:
·         Waterproof qualities
·         Thermal qualities
·         Ability to withstand shock
All entries that pass the pre-qualification will be able to present their case publicly at the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference on May 8-9, 2013 in Toronto.

As outlined in the competition technical testing guidelines, cases must:

1. Be waterproof to 3 metres.

- We will be using Seneca’s dive pool for the 3m tests. To test the waterproof qualities, the device will have to be operated underwater. The circuit board of the Raspberry Pi needs to be protected from ingress of water during operation. Some teams identified difficulties guaranteeing that all types of cables could be attached in a waterproof manner, so if your team wants to supply specific cables (4m  or longer) that would be fine, please include them with your submission. The power, ethernet, USB, and GPIO connections are the minimum cables required for this test.

2. Maintain the system-on-a-chip at temperatures not exceeding 50c when operating at 100% CPU utilization in 30c water for 1 hour.

- We will be using a controlled-temperature water bath for the 30c test. Cases will be placed in the 30c water bath and run for 1 hour while the testers monitor the on board operating temperature. Where available, we may be using the Raspberry Pi's internal thermal sensor either along with, or in place of, an external temperature probe for the thermal testing (at the time we made up the rules, the presence of the thermal sensor had not been announced, but now that we know it's there we may as well use it!).

3. Be able to protect the Raspberry Pi through a drop of 2m to a concrete floor while powered-on and operating.

- We will be using a platform and concrete floor for the drop test. Devices will be powered on, dropped from the platform, and are expected to still remain fully operational.


Submission for technical testing deadline
Submissions must be received by April 22, 2013. Each submission must include:
·         a sample of the case for testing
·         design diagrams
·         a report on tests performed on the case
·         a description of the case's qualities and features

Please send submissions by mail to:

    Attn: Chris Tyler
    Seneca College
    70 The Pond Rd
    Toronto ON  M3J 3M6
    416-491-5050 x33315

To drop cases off in person:

 Professor Tyler’s office is TEL 1036 at the Seneca at York Campus. Here is a link to a map: http://tinyurl.com/seneca-at-york

Additional notes:

Cables: With respect to the GPIO cable that will be used in the testing: The Raspberry Pi GPIO connector has 26 pins, and is usually an insulation displacement ribbon cable. Standard cables will be on hand. Since teams can supply their own cable, an alternate cable type could be provided, but all of the signals on that connector should be carried.

May 8-9 presentations/judging: Unfortunately, we do not have any discretionary funds to assist teams with travel. There is no requirement that someone has to be there to present, however, if the student would like to send along or ship a poster/display board explaining their entry, we can set that up on the team's designated table at the Annual Conference.

We can also set up two video screens at the table, one running an informational video on a loop, and the other possibly with a two-way live web cam feed to the student back in BC where they could interact with the audience of people looking at the displays at certain times. We'll double check the technological feasibility with the host college next week.

Copyright/IP for the cases: With respect to the raspberry pi cases and copyright and Intellectual Property generated by the teams over the course of the competition, Polytechnics Canada does not want any part of it. You are free to use our logo any way you want for the case design, but the resulting final product and its IP all belong to you and your team to use any way you want in the future.

Production of cases: For the production run, we will very likely commission the winning team to produce 50 or 100 units in a relatively small production run, as we would like to use them as gifts for our keynote speakers and invited guests at future Polytechnics Canada events. We will also write up the back story of the case design, the competition, and the team members names and bios for inclusion with the gift.




Technical Pre-qualification:


Entries will be pre-qualified by testing for:

·         Waterproof qualities

·         Thermal qualities

·         Ability to withstand shock


All entries which have passed the pre-qualification will be able to present their case publicly at the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference on May 8-9, 2013.


Presentations at Annual Conference 2013:


On May 8-9, 2013 at the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference at George Brown College in Toronto, display tables will be available for each team to present their submission to the competition.


·         Once an entry has been pre-qualified for the Conference display by successfully passing the technical testing, the judging criteria become totally subjective. Judges (described below) will likely have no prior exposure to the Raspberry Pi computer, its capabilities, the custom cases, or the student teams.

·         Teams can expect to have a display area that includes a 4’x8’ table and electrical outlets.


·         Teams should be able to articulate the rationale, design, functionality and other unique aspects of their Raspberry Pi case to judges and invited guests at the conference.

·         Teams are welcome to develop branded collateral presentation materials, posters, and handouts about their case, the team project, and why the judges should choose it as the winner.

·         Teams are welcome to demonstrate the technical merits of their case at their table (waterproof, thermal, withstand shock, etc.).

·         Teams are also welcome to demonstrate the technical capabilities and applications of the Raspberry Pi computer. We can secure display monitors at the tables for interested teams. Teams would be responsible for bringing any other peripheral devices for use in the demonstration.

·         Teams might even want to add someone from a marketing/communications program to the team to involve themselves with the display table and presenting their entry to the judges and conference attendees.




The judges for the case competition will be comprised of:

·         Presidents of the member institutions of Polytechnics Canada

·         Industry partner President and CEOs

·         Political and keynote speakers

·         College Industrial Research Chairs


Judges will be identifiable to the teams by a ribbon on their nametag. Each judge will have a ballot to vote for their three favourite cases.


Additional details around presentations and judging at the Annual Conference will be available at a later date.





·         To be determined/finalized.

·         $1,000 to the winning team from Polytechnics Canada

·         Each case given out as a gift in the future will contain a booklet detailing the project process, the team members, t heir program, and their institution.




Updates to the competition will be constantly available at the following website address:





For any questions, please contact:


Ken Doyle
Director of Policy
Polytechnics Canada

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