In October 2013, a new .NET Gadgeteer kit (REF) was launched specifically for education. It includes a low memory board and key modules that can be used in schools. The combination of modules and mainboard chosen keeps the cost down whilst allowing for sufficient different projects to give a full exposure to physical computing and programming.
Alongside the development of the kit, a new book “Programming in Visual Basic and .NET Gadgeteer” has been written by Sue Sentance and colleagues at Microsoft Research to use alongside this new education kit.
25 schools across the UK are now piloting both the kit and the books in schools. These schools range from middle schools to secondary schools with sixth forms and also include three girls-only schools. The schools are in England, Wales and Scotland, from Devon right up to Edinburgh! The pilot will end at the end of February and the schools will report back on their progress with .NET Gadgeteer but initial feedback indicates that the students are excited to be using the kits and enjoying learning to program in Visual Basic. For most students on the pilot, they have no prior knowledge of programming. The projects that are developed in the book include a tunes generator, stop watch, traffic lights, burglar alarm, morse code generator and a game. Each chapter covers a different set of programming concepts in an incremental way so that students gradually build up their confidence in programming.
Chris Atkinson, from St. Bede’s School, one of the pilot teachers reported: “The kits are fantastic!! We are using them with our gifted and talented students who are really enjoying learning programming! Although the buzzer lesson was an interesting lesson with the noise! Great fun for the kids, practice and the students are developing a love of programming. We have now developed a programming group because of this.”
Tom Hendry, from Balerno Community High School in Edinburgh says: “So far the gadgeteering is going great – the third years have started to make their own improvements to the gadgets [in the book], and the students will be starting to plan their own gadgets, which should lead to some good ones …
More information about the materials for .NET Gadgeteer can be found at http://gadgeteering.net/learn . Electronic copies of the book can be downloaded from this site, or there is an option to order a free hard copy (whilst stocks remain). The Gadgeteer kits for education can be purchased from GHI Electronics or various other electronic outlets.