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Open Access Highly Accessed Software

4273π: Bioinformatics education on low cost ARM hardware

Daniel Barker1*, David EK Ferrier2, Peter WH Holland3, John BO Mitchell4, Heleen Plaisier1, Michael G Ritchie1 and Steven D Smart5

Author Affiliations

1 Sir Harold Mitchell Building, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TH, UK

2 Scottish Oceans Institute, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, East Sands, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK

3 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK

4 Biomedical Sciences Research Complex and EaStCHEM School of Chemistry, Purdie Building, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9ST, UK

5 School of Biology, Bute Building, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TS, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14:243  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-243

Published: 12 August 2013

Abstract

Background

Teaching bioinformatics at universities is complicated by typical computer classroom settings. As well as running software locally and online, students should gain experience of systems administration. For a future career in biology or bioinformatics, the installation of software is a useful skill. We propose that this may be taught by running the course on GNU/Linux running on inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer hardware, for which students may be granted full administrator access.

Results

We release 4273π, an operating system image for Raspberry Pi based on Raspbian Linux. This includes minor customisations for classroom use and includes our Open Access bioinformatics course, 4273π Bioinformatics for Biologists. This is based on the final-year undergraduate module BL4273, run on Raspberry Pi computers at the University of St Andrews, Semester 1, academic year 2012–2013.

Conclusions

4273π is a means to teach bioinformatics, including systems administration tasks, to undergraduates at low cost.

Keywords:
Bioinformatics education; Teaching material; Raspberry Pi; Linux