Getting Started with the FEZ Spider Kit for Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer


Ok I have to confess, I am addicted! I have been playing with a .NET Gadgeteer FEZ Spider Kit from GHI Electronics. The .NET Gadgeteer kits enable you to quickly prototype and test a wide variety of functionality for embedded devices. As you are all aware from some of my recent presentations I am a huge fan of the Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer.

A number of you  have asked me about about the .NET Gadgeteer kits and how easy is it for Teachers, Lectures and academics to grasp and teach this technology to school, college and University students? Well firstly you need to know some C# if you don't then watch the following tutorials.  

So for all of you haven't heard about Gadgeteer or are simply wondering what you can do with Gadgeteer  the following guide will hopefully be of assistance.

The following guide is to:

1. Introduces you to the basic hardware components of the GHI FEZ Spider Kit

2. Give you some examples of  how to create your first .NET Gadgeteer application.

.NET Gadgeteer development requires that you have Microsoft Visual Studio installed on your computer. You can use either of the following Visual Studio packages:


  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 - This is the full featured Visual Studio application development suite with support for multiple programming languages.
  • Microsoft Visual C# 2010 Express - A free alternative, Visual C# 2010 Express provides lightweight, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use tools for creating applications.

Both of these are free to download for all UK Students via there is an extensive .NET Gadgeteer support and learning materials available from .NET Gadgeteer and GHI 

So lets get started

Building your First .NET Gadgeteer Device

The FEZ Spider Kit consists of components, which are called modules, and cables that you can use to create various types of functionality in your device. To create your first .NET Gadgeteer device, you will need the following parts:

  • FEZ Spider Mainboard
  • A Red USB Client Dual Power (USBClientDP) module
  • A Button module
  • A Camera module
  • A Display_T35 module
  • Module connector cables
The FEZ Spider Mainboard

The FEZ Spider Mainboard includes a processor and memory, as well as 14 sockets. The sockets are outlined by a white box that surrounds the socket number (1 through 14) and groups the socket number with a set of letters that indicate which modules can be connected to the socket.

.NET Gadgeteer-compatible hardware modules connected to the FEZ Spider mainboard by these connectors allow you to extend the FEZ Spider mainboard with communication, user interaction, sensing, and actuation capabilities.

The FEZ Spider mainboard includes a Reset button to reboot the system. There is also a small LED (labelled D1) which lights up whenever the FEZ Spider has power.


The USB Client Dual Power Device Module

The USB Client Dual Power (USBClientDP) module (coloured red) enables you to connect the FEZ Spider Mainboard to your computer for programming and debugging. The dual-powered module is itself powered either by a USB port on a computer or by a 7 -30 volt DC power source. A USBClientDP module supplies power to the FEZ Spider and to any other modules that are connected to it. You can plug in both power sources of the USBClientDP module to program and to power at the same time.


Never connect more than one red module to the FEZ Spider Mainboard at the same time. This will damage the hardware.

The USBClientDP module has a black socket, identical to the sockets on the FEZ Spider Mainboard. Next to the connector, there is a letter D. This means that this particular module can only be connected to a socket labelled D on the mainboard.

In a similar way, all .NET Gadgeteer-compatible modules have letters next to their sockets that identify which mainboard sockets they can be connected to. Many modules are labelled with multiple letters. This means that they can be connected to any of the labelled sockets.

Red USB Device Module

The Module Connector Cable

Your hardware kit includes many module connector cables of different lengths. Apart from the length, these cables are all identical and can be used interchangeably to connect modules to the FEZ Spider Mainboard. Note that all sockets have a notch and the cable headers have a protrusion that fits into this notch, so the cables can only be inserted one way.

A .NET Gadgeteer-compatible Module Connector Cable

Connect the red USB Device module to socket number 1 on the FEZ Spider Mainboard, which is the only socket that has the letter D. Then, connect the small end of the mini USB cable provided with the kit to the USBClientDP module. However, do not connect the other end to your computer yet.

Connecting the FEZ Spider to the USB Client module


When plugging or unplugging any module into a FEZ Spider socket, always make sure that power is not connected, by unplugging either end of the mini USB cable. The mini USB cable supplies power to the FEZ Spider; if you plug or unplug a module on the FEZ Spider while it is powered, the hardware could be damaged.

After ensuring that the FEZ Spider mainboard is not powered, continue by getting a Button module from your hardware kit.

A Button with Multicolour LED

Turn the Button module over. Next to the connector are the letters X Y. This means that a Button module can be connected to one of the sockets labelled X or Y on a mainboard.

The Reverse Side of a Button Module

Get a Camera module from your hardware kit. Turn the Camera module over. This module has a single connector labelled H. Only socket 3 on the FEZ Spider mainboard supports modules labelled with the letter H. Plug one end of a connector cable to the socket on the Camera module and the other end to the FEZ Spider on socket number 3, also labelled HI.

Camera with Socket labelled H

Connecting the Modules to the Mainboard

Connect the Button and the Camera to the mainboard using module connector cables as described in the previous sections.

The .NET Gadgeteer designer can identify the sockets on modules and on the mainboard that are compatible. This method is described in the following section titled Using the .NET Gadgeteer Designer UI. In this example we will connect the remaining Display_T35 module manually.

The Display_T35 module has four connectors. Connect sockets 14, 13, and 12 to the Display_T35 module sockets labelled R, G, and B. As you might expect, these letters signify the colour distribution of the Display_T35 module. Connect socket 10 on the mainboard to socket T on the Display_T35 module. Socket T on the Display_T35 module facilitates the touch screen features of this module.


Make the actual connections between all modules and the mainboard before you connect the USBClientDP to the USB port on your computer.

The following illustration shows the mainboard connected to a Display_T35 module, a Button module, a Camera module, and the USBClientDP module. Now, with all the other modules connected, you can connect the USBClientDP module to the USB port on your computer.

.NET Gadgeteer Modules with Connectors

Creating Your First .NET Gadgeteer Application.

Start Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 or Microsoft Visual C# 2010 Express. The following sequence will get your first .NET Gadgeteer Application up and running in less than half an hour.

To create a Visual Studio application:
  1. On the File menu, select New Project....

    Microsoft Visual Studio

  2. On the New Project screen, under Installed Templates, expand the Visual C# category.
  3. Select Gadgeteer.
  4. Select .NET Gadgeteer Designer Application. Name the project GadgeteerCamera.
  5. Click OK.

    Microsoft Visual Studio, New .NET Gadgeteer Application Project

Using the .NET Gadgeteer Designer UI

The .NET Gadgeteer Designer opens with the FEZ Spider Mainboard displayed on the canvas. If the Toolbox is not visible, click the View menu and select Toolbox. The Toolbox with a list of installed modules will open. You can resize or hide the Toolbox to make more work space on the canvas.

Microsoft Visual Studio, .NET Gadgeteer Application and Toolbox

If you want to use a different mainboard, open the toolbox, and drag the mainboard icon of your choice onto the designer surface.


Replace Mainboard

When you drag a new mainboard to the designer surface, you'll be prompted, as shown in the following illustration, to confirm replacement of the mainboard. All existing connections will be removed.


To continue building the example device, open the Toolbox and drag the modules for this example on to the work canvas. You will need the following modules:

  • Camera
  • Display_T35
  • Button

The Designer canvas with modules is shown in the following illustration.

Microsoft Visual Studio, .NET Gadgeteer Application and Modules

As indicated by the instructions in the text box on the canvas, the .NET Gadgeteer Designer will graphically connect all the modules for you. Right click on the design surface and select Connect all modules. You can move the modules around on the design surface to make the connections easier to read. You can also delete any connection by right clicking on the connection and selecting Delete.

Microsoft Visual Studio, Designer Connected Modules

To manually set a connection, click on a socket in the diagram and hold down the left mouse button. Then you can drag a line that represents the connection from a module socket to a mainboard socket or in the opposite direction from the mainboard to a module. The sockets that the module can use will light up in green, as shown in the following illustration.

Writing Code for Devices that use .NET Gadgeteer Modules

To specify what the modules should do in this application, now edit the Program.cs file. The following illustration shows the Program.cs file open in Visual Studio.

Microsoft Visual Studio, New Project, default Program.cs Code

When using the designer, the modules are automatically instantiated by auto-generated code. This code can be found in the file Program.Generated.cs, but during normal use it is not necessary to view this file, and this file should not be edited because the Designer will automatically regenerate it and undo any direct changes made to it. The Program.Generated.cs file is shown in the following snippet.Program.Generated.cs file.

Microsoft Visual Studio, Progam.Generated.cs Code

The Button Pressed Event and Delegate Method

Next, you generate code that will enable the program to react to a button press. To do this, assign an event handler for the Button.ButtonPressedevent. The IntelliSense feature of Visual Studio makes this process very easy.

In the Program.cs file, after the comment that reads:

 Initialize event handlers here.

Type button.(button followed by a period). IntelliSense displays a list of properties, methods and events as shown in the following illustration.

IntelliSense Feature Showing Members of the Button class

Using the arrow keys, select ButtonPressed. Then type += (plus sign followed by an equals sign). IntelliSense offers option to automatically insert the rest of the declaration:

IntelliSense Offers to Create the Handler Declaration

Press TAB to confirm. IntelliSense offers to automatically generate a delegate method to handle the event:

IntelliSense Offers to Generate the Event Handler Method

Press TAB to confirm. The following code is generated:


Event Handler for the ButtonPressed Event

This event handler will be called each time the button is pressed. Delete the following line from the method:

 throw new NotImplementedException();

And replace it with:


Now when the Button is pressed, the Camera module will take a picture.

Take Picture in ButtonPressed Event

The Picture Captured Event and Delegate Method

The Camera module raises an event when the Cameracaptures a picture. You can use the event to display the picture in the Display_T35 module.

The PictureCaptured event is an example of an asynchronous event. Calling Camera.TakePicturein the Button.ButtonPressed delegate starts the process, but the result of the action is not returned by the ButtonPressed delegate. Instead, the GT.Picture object returns as a parameter of the asynchronous PictureCaptured event.

When the PictureCaptured event occurs, you can get the GT.Picture object and display it by using the SimpleGraphics interface of the Display_T35 module. The SimpleGraphics interface supports the DisplayImage method, which accepts a GT.Picture object as a parameter, along with integer values to indicate the X an Y coordinates that position the image on the display.

All code required to display the picture is shown in the following implementation of the PictureCaptured event delegate.

Complete Application Code

All the code for a .NET Gadgeteer Application that takes a picture and displays it in the Display_T35 module is shown in the following example.

Entire Code Listing

Deploying Your .NET Gadgeteer Application

To deploy this application to a mainboard and begin running it, select Start Debugging from the Debug menu, or press F5.

Start Debugging

Make sure that the Output Window is visible by pressing the CTRL + ALT + O key combination on your keyboard. If you have enabled sounds, you should hear Windows make the "USB disconnected" sound, followed by the "USB connected" sound as the Mainboard reboots. The Output Window should show the process of loading various files and assemblies. The final line, which appears once the application begins to run, should read Program Started.

Output Window

Running the .NET Gadgeteer Device

When you see Program Started appear on the Output window, you can take a picture. Smile for the Camera, and push the Button. Your picture will appear on the screen of the Display_T35 module. If it works - congratulations! You have completed your first .NET Gadgeteer application.

To exit debugging mode, select Stop Debugging from the Debug menu, or press Shift + F5.

Stopping Debugging

Note: The mainboard continues to be programmed, and will run this application whenever it is powered up, even if it is not connected to a computer.

Adding Timed Actions for a Surveillance Camera

An interesting extension of the camera application in the previous example is programming the application to take pictures automatically at an interval set by an instance of the GT.Timer class.

To create an instance of the GT.Timer class, add the following global variable to the Program class, as shown in the following example. This line of code initializes the GT.Timer to raise the Tick event at an interval of 2000 milliseconds (2 seconds).

    GT.Timer timer = new GT.Timer(2000);

Create the delegate to handle the GT.Timer.Tick event, but stop the timer until the button is pushed. The following code shows the set-up in the ProgramStarted method.

Initialize Timer

In the ButtonPressed handler replace Camera.TakePicture with the following code. The new code starts and stops the GT.Timer.Tick event and toggles the LED indicator on the Button. When the GT.Timer is firing events, you can use the event handler to take pictures instead of the ButtonPressed handler.

Toggle Timer

The implementation of the GT.Timer.Tick event is shown in the following example.

Timer Tick

When the LED is off and the user pushes the Button, the LED indicator turns on and remains on while the Camera module takes pictures at two second intervals. When the user pushes the button again, the GT.Timer stops, and the LED turns off.

The following code contains all the code for the camera with timer. The boxes show the changes to the previous example.

Code for Surveillance Camera


This section describes common issues that you may encounter and provides suggestions for how to fix them.

Set-up Issues

If VS is running when you install GadgeteerCore, you’ll need to close and restart it before creating your first project. Otherwise you won’t see the .NET Gadgeteer Application template.

You may need to change the USB name of the target mainboard in your first project. The most efficient way to do this is using the MFDeploy tool.

Sometimes VS will hang at the display: “The debugging target is not in an initialized state; rebooting”. Push the reset button on the mainboard to fix this.

If you’re using the Display_T35 and see a null reference exception on startup, verify that the touch socket is connected both in the designer and on the module.

If you’re using a laptop and you see errors on deployment like “Please check your hardware”, try plugging a 7 volt DC power supply into the USBClientDP module.

The camera image is blurred or not in focus   The lens is screwed into camera base, by unscrewing or screwing in you can focus it.

Compile Time Errors

If you receive compilation errors when you attempt to deploy and run your application, read the error message carefully. Most errors fall into one of two categories:

  • Syntax: A statement is missing required syntax, for example, the ending semi-colon character. These types of errors are generally reported unambiguously in the Error output window. Fix the syntax problem and try again.
  • Identifier: An identifier is unknown or invalid. This can happen if you spell the identifier incorrectly, or do not qualify it correctly. All identifiers are case sensitive; for example, Button cannot be entered as button. To help avoid problems with identifiers, use the IntelliSense feature of Visual Studio. IntelliSense presents only valid identifiers.
Unexpected Application Behaviour

If your application does not behave as expected (for example, pressing the button does not raise the event), start by checking that the physical socket to which the hardware module is connected agrees with the initializion in code of the identifier that corresponds to the module.

For example, if you connect a Button to mainboard socket 4, but initialize it to socket 8, the button will not work.

  // Button is actually plugged into socket 4.
  button = new GTM.GHIElectronics.Button(8);

The programming model for the .NET Gadgeteer platform is event driven. Events are raised that correspond to a hardware change or physical action. For example, when you press a button, the ButtonPressed event is raised, and when you release it, the ButtonReleased event is raised.

You can use debug statements inside your event handlers to make sure that your handler is receiving the event. For example, if your LED does not light when you press the button, you can insert a statement inside the event handler for the ButtonPressed event to make sure that your button is in fact receiving the event.

 private void Button_ButtonPressed(GTM.Button sender, GTM.Button.ButtonState state)
    Debug.Print("Button Pressed");

When you deploy and run your application, check the Visual Studio Debug Output window for your message. If the message does not appear at the expected time (for example, when you press the button), make sure that the physical socket and logical initializer are in agreement, as previously described. If they are, the button or the module connector cable might be defective. Unplug the mini USB cable from your computer, swap the module connector cable or the button with another from your hardware kit, reconnect the mini USB cable, and try again.


Occasionally, you may receive an error as you attempt to deploy your application to a mainboard. This can happen if the mainboard is not connected to your computer, or the mainboard requires a restart. If the mainboard is disconnected, connect it and retry. If the mainboard is connected when this happens, disconnect it from your computer (by unplugging the mini USB cable), wait a few seconds, and reconnect it. Then try the deployment again.

Device Drivers

When you install the .NET Gadgeteer core, the device drivers that are needed to communicate with a mainboard are also installed. This process usually does not require any intervention on your part.

In some cases, the .NET Gadgeteer core installation or kit installation might not install the device drivers automatically. If your computer is having problems communicating with a mainboard that you suspect are related to the device drivers, please refer to the Tiny CLR Forum.

If you get any error during installation of .NET Gadgeteer ensure that you have installed .NET Micro Framework Version 4.1 drivers and SDK from 

Have something to add? Got a request or suggestion?

You can email the Gadgeteer team at or follow them on Twitter @netgadgeteer.

Comments (1)

  1. Jonah says:

    When ever I try to Debug visual studio said error cannot Device cannot be found or opened please help

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