Students get excited about computer science by building their own digital cameras and arcade consoles with Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer

Making, building, resolving, interacting… Students are excited by hands-on projects where they can increase their problem solving and creative skills using tangible, technical objects. Especially if the final article is something they can actually enjoy using in the real world.

If students have a personal interest in the end result of a project, why wouldn’t they use all their efforts to make it the best it could be? Especially if it’s an awesome gadget they can show to all their friends and family, and tell them that they built it themselves.

The Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer can help institutions to provide unique value to their teaching programme and really engage their students. Imagine teachers being able to tell their class that they are going to learn how to make an arcade console, a digital camera or a remote control for a helicopter. Gadgeteer can make that a reality and helps students learn about electronics and computing in a fun way, and encourages them to finish projects both timely and effectively by seeing real-time, usable results. Gadgeteer is an open-source toolkit for building small electronic devices using the .NET Micro Framework and Visual Studio/Visual C# Express.


The Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a tool that can be used in classes from 12 years up to university level. A challenge in the past with teaching ‘physical computing’ is that it may have needed some level of skill in programming or electronics. Gadgeteer turns that around by making it possible to build compelling projects immediately with simple high level programming skills.

So what kit is required? At a minimum - an electronics mainboard, a red USB module to connect to a computer and power the mainboard, and some modules to build a your device. Software wise, some free software development tools and some support software for your mainboard and modules will need to be installed. Students are then free to build their first gadget!


There’s proof that the Gadgeteer has created an interest and passion for learning for students. At the end of January 2012, 70 British students aged 13 to 16 gathered at the Microsoft Research Cambridge Lab to present their final projects and celebrate the end of the first .NET Gadgeteer school pilot project in the UK.

The enthusiasm and dedication shown by the youngsters and teachers during the school pilot demonstrated the hunger for hands-on computer science in schools. The high level of student engagement was best captured in this message posted by one of the teachers in the pilot’s Edmodo group:

“First day back at school, the building is cold and miserable but 7 kids have turned up after school to start designing and making their own gadgets ready for 30th Jan! The atmosphere is amazing—two groups, one either side of a mobile whiteboard, planning and drawing their gadgets and code on either side. One group is using polystyrene (and hair slides!) to construct the physical object ready for their code. Loving it!”

The .NET Gadgeteer pilot project aligns with the UK’s commitment to prioritise computer science education in schools, as spelled out by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, in his speech at the BETT Show.

We look forward to more schools, colleges, and universities utilising .NET Gadgeteer to unleash their students’ creativity and enthusiasm in technology—in the UK, and beyond.

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