The Raspberry Pi Foundation says it hopes to give away "four or five thousand dollars a week" in prize money to entice children to learn to programme on its mini computer.

Raspberry Pi programming contest poster

The £25 Linux PC is the size of a credit card and was built to try and ignite a passion for programming in the same way the Sinclair ZX and BBC Micro did for many children in the 1980s.

The project is designed to increase the number of computer engineers in the UK in the future. The government also recently paved the way for the ICT curriculum to be overhauled in schools, with major companies such as Google and industry leaders such as Ian Livingstone advising it.

Until that happens Raspberry Pi inventor Eben Upton says he hopes the chance to win money for outstanding projects can entice more children to try their hand at programming.

"While we are waiting for [the changes in ICT] to happen we are doing a number of things, the most visible of which is the programming contest," he said.

"If any of you have Raspberry Pis and you have children who are under 18 we are about two weeks away from the end of our first programming contest, which has thousands and thousands of dollars in prize money. We are really looking forward to seeing what we get."

Upton said if the results of the first competition are good the foundation hopes to expand it.

"If that is a success, our aim - in parallel to support the curriculum change - is to try and provide kids with evidence that computer programming is something that can earn them money. We hope to get to the point where we are giving away four or five thousand dollars a week in prize money to children to try and persuade them to program," Upton said.

He noted that one of the changes that lead to a drop in the amount of children finding their way into programming was that they were not exposed to it at a young age.

Upton explained that the whole ecosystem had gradually changed as 8-bit computers were replaced by games consoles and the PC.

"The problem with games consoles is they are like many of the appliances that we use today in that they are designed to be unprogrammable. They are unprogrammable as a feature of their business model. So there is no hope there," he said.

Even though he described the PC as "an awesomely programmable machine", he was disappointed only a small percentage of people ever bothered to make that leap.

"You have to choose to do that. You have to want to go and get the tools. That's a 10-minute barrier but a lot of people never cross that line," Upton said.