One of the most powerful resources students have from Microsoft is DreamSpark, which gives students and educators powerful software to enable them to develop apps, games, tools, and designs.
Here are my 5 favorite fun picks for students, in no particular order; because these tools really enable students to develop projects that can make an impact on the community and the way we use technology.
1. XNA Game Studio 4—Build fun games for both Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360. Sam Stokes has several great posts on getting started on game development with XNA.
2. Small Basic—Have a friend with no programming background? Want to introduce kids to programming at an earlier age? I’m passionate about science and engineering outreach to students, and this tool makes it easy to start programming in a fun way.
3. Windows Phone and App Hub—Not only can you make money by getting your app into the Marketplace, but how many of your projects can you carry around in your pocket and instantly show your friends? Jerry Nixon shows student developers how to get started with Windows Phone development in this post.
4. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio—Because robots are cool. Check out this party photographer robot named Eddie, whom I met at Silicon Valley Code Camp in October 2011.
5. Kinect for Windows SDK BETA—The Kinect is completely changing the way we use technology outside of the gaming world. In this post I’ve included videos on a virtual dressing room and using Kinect in hospitals. Here’s a video demonstrating the Kinect Effect:
And if you want more free stuff, check out this post from Sam’s blog.