When you alter the way kids learn about technology, people are bound to take notice.
This week, Fortune recognized Broadcom technical director Eben Upton as one of its “Heroes of the Fortune 500” for getting a low-cost, pocket-sized computer into the hands of programming students around the world.
The Heroes of the Fortune 500 recognizes 50 employees of Fortune 500 companies that use their professional skills and expertise to actively participate in their local communities.
They’re an esteemed bunch: The 50 heroes include, among others, a nurse who triaged victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a financial planner who established orphanages in India and a technology supervisor who spends weekends assisting survivors of the 2011 tsunami in Sendai, Japan.
Upton is a co-founder and public face of the Cambridge, U.K.-based Raspberry Pi Foundation, which has a mission that echoes that of the Broadcom Foundation. They are frequent collaborators and both are supporters of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as cornerstones for education.
“When Broadcom established the Broadcom Foundation an overarching goal was to promote the ‘T,’ ‘E,’ and ‘M’ in STEM education, and Eben’s genius Raspberry Pi quickly became the centerpiece for every major Foundation initiative including the Broadcom MASTERS and Broadcom MASTERS International,” Executive Director of Broadcom Foundation and Broadcom Director, Community Affairs Paula Golden said.
Eben developed the now world-famous Raspberry Pi, a $25 credit card-sized motherboard built on a Broadcom System on a Chip (SoC), after noticing that the computer science students he was working with lacked basic programming skills. Even more disheartening, he found that many students didn’t have the curiosity and enthusiasm for computing that he’d known growing up. He knew what they needed most was an affordable, Swiss-Army-knife of a computer to use as a learning tool, something they experiment on to discover programming in endless ways.
“Eben has inspired kids from age five to ninety-five to appreciate the wonders of electrical engineering and computer science, the power of coding , and the ubiquitous application of mathematics to virtually every discipline — from physics to animation — by creating an iconic little computer that’s fun, affordable and accessible to people in every social strata on every continent around the world,” Golden said.
Since its release in 2012, more than 2 million Raspberry Pis have been sold. The endless ways to customize the device have inspired countless hobbyists, fans and tinkerers, a developer-led Raspberry Jamboree, a robust community of D-I-Y-ers with instructional YouTube videos and blogs devoted to its many uses.
Raspberry Pi has even captured the imagination of the business world, where it’s been used in a smart sprinkler designed to conserve water and in emerging markets where developers are leveraging its versatility to jumpstart microbusinesses. And, this summer, the Raspberry Pi will introduce a module development kit for embedded applications.
In addition to the recognition from Fortune, Eben has been awarded a silver medal from the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering and been named on the 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “35 Innovators under 35.”