No, no Windows 8.1 stuff. No HID stuff. While that stuff is cool and now that Windows 8.1 is generally available, nope, not today’s target.
Today, we’re going to take a step back and focus on learning… On how you can learn, and teach (or is it teach and learn? whatever…) programming and hardware development on a budget, using two of my favorite things, Visual Basic and .Net Gadgeteer
.NET Gadgeteer can be used to develop core programming skills that are needed when studying Computer Science at school. It also is an ideal platform for working on creative and collaborative projects.
This book has lots of exercises to develop programming skills as well as the excitement of making real things with Gadgeteer! Included are instructions for 10 projects including a burglar alarm, traffic lights, stop watch, binary counter, reaction game and morse code generator. The materials have been written for students from 14-19 learning to program in Visual Basic from scratch, but could be used with a younger age group with teacher support.
Go to Answers to the exercises
You can download this book for free using the links above. We will have some printed copies available shortly so watch this space to find out how to get hold of one.
Here’s a high-level snap of the pages in the 118 page PDF;
OBJECTIVES OF THIS BOOK
This book is intended for school students and others learning to program in Visual Basic. It assumes no prior knowledge of programming, electronics, Visual Basic or the Visual Studio environment. Programming concepts are introduced and explained throughout the book. Each chapter is structured in a similar way: firstly a new concept to be learned is introduced, secondly there is a step-by-step tutorial on how to develop a simple example in Gadgeteer which uses that concept, and finally a set of exercises which enable the reader to practice the main points. This last step is the most important: when learning to program, practicing new programing skills is crucial! Answers to all the exercises are available at http://gadgeteering.net.
This book is based on the Fez Cerberus Tinker Kit made by GHI Electronics, which is a good value-for-money .NET Gadgeteer kit produced specifically for education. Although images of this kit are used throughout this book, different mainboards and modules from other manufacturers or kits can be substituted with little or no changes to the associated code.
What, you don’t know about the .NET Gadgeteer? (Well, I know YOU know, but there might be others out there who don’t)
Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a really easy-to-use platform for creating new electronic devices using a wide variety of hardware modules and a powerful programming environment. Students with little or no electronics background can design and build devices that sense and react to their environments using components such as switches, displays, buzzers, motor controllers and more. Using cables these various modules are plugged into a mainboard which is programmed to make everything work together.
.NET Gadgeteer originated at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K. It was initially designed as a tool for researchers to invent new kinds of devices more quickly and easily. It very quickly proved to be of interest to hobbyists and for secondary and higher education. In particular, several pilots in schools in the UK and the US with students ranging from 11 to 18 years of age demonstrated that .NET Gadgeteer is a motivating environment for teaching computer programming both within the curriculum and as an extra-curricular club. Gadgeteer is programmed in a modern event-based and object-oriented style using Visual C# of Visual Basic. In addition to teaching programming, Gadgeteer offers exciting possibilities for teaching electronics and computer-aided design.
Microsoft Research launched .NET Gadgeteer as an open platform in 2011. As a result .NET Gadgeteer components are now available from several hardware vendors, whilst the software required to program the devices is available for free from Microsoft. The Fez Cerberus Tinker Kit from GHI Electronics consists of a mainboard and various modules which have been selected to allow someone new to Gadgeteer to build a wide variety of exciting devices. Other Gadgeteer kits are available and there are also a wide variety of individual modules which are available separately.
With .NET Gadgeteer we hope that we can give students a better understanding of how the devices and technology all around us work, as well as the skills to create their own. We hope to inspire a future generation of producers of electronic devices, not just consumers!
Here’s some other cool resources;
- Installation instructions
- School projects
- VB Tips and tricks
- Other teaching materials
- .NET Gadgeteer Update for Schools
- Answers to book exercises