We want the future generation to understand programming better using professional tools, and we need your help.
The community have probably talked about this a million times! Some have even taught some classes. I think this is due to the fact that we know NETMF is just perfect. It is easy to learn and fun, yet students will be using Visual Studio, a professional tool used by professionals. Meaning their learning would scale from blinking an LED to full blown commercial projects, still using the same tools! Unfortunately, we never grouped our efforts into pushing this forward.
As some of you know, Gary and John have been working with some middle school students for few weeks. We have used Gadgeteer and just plain NETMF. We have learned many things through this experiment. Things that was obvious for us was very difficult for kids it understand. Other topics were thought to be complex but the kids understood it easily. For example, we found out that Gadgeteer is a great tool for someone who already knew a little programming. Gadgeteer greatly simplified the hardware but you still need to program it.
At the end we decided to simplify NETMF to a single board that would have everything from sensors to outputs. While its being expandable for advanced students, it has everything the very beginner needs. We handed the board to individuals (boys/girls) with no programming or electronic background and they would quickly be able to come up with project ideas.
This board will be combined with books and curriculums, plus it will be scalable, from the very young with no programming or electronics experience, to the more advanced programming and science students.
Finally, we understand cost is crucial and we are trying to complete the circuit at around $25 school price, and around $40 retail.
If you are interested in helping in any way, we would like to chat with you privately and show you what we have so far. Once we and you (contributors) agree on the basics, we will make the materials and the circuit public for further feedback from everyone. Please email me directly at gusi@ ghi_domainname.com to get started. And feel free to reply to this post with question, comments or concerns.
At the end we decided to simplify NETMF to a single board that would have everything from sensors to outputs. While its being expandable for advanced students, it has everything the very beginner needs. We handed the board to individuals (boys/girls) with no programming or electronic background and they would quickly be able to come up with project ideas.[/quote]
Some standard input and output devices like buttons, LEDs, light sensors, perhaps even a 16x2 LCD would be good to have on board, but a couple of sockets might also be nice so they can extend their knowledge with Gadgeteer modules without having to invest in different hardware.
@ Gus - Ok you know I’m interested so I’ll send you an email later.
One of the many things I like about Gadgeteer is I’m able to setup project boards as needed for the different classes I’ve taught and so I worry that a one size fits everything board might be either too limited or cost to much, so I’m very interested in what your planning.
@ everyone I think for the low level we are trying to start them at, we need something even more simple than gadgeteer. We tried gadgeteer and we thought it is good for the next level, after they learn the basics, the very basics.
I will share more info on the board once we clear few things up in few days.
I too am concerned about one monolithic board limiting the lesson possibilities, but I do understand what you are saying about complex electronics distracting from the coding lessons.
Not a completely new concept, but what about completely sealed blocks that interconnect through a simple two-wire interface (e.g., I2C)? You could have a processor block, display block, led blocks, motor blocks etc. They could interconnect by snapping together using magnets, preferably on multiple sides and in multiple orientations, or via magnetically attached cabling. A super-simplified gadgeteer.
All of the hardware complexities are abstracted away both in hardware and code - in hardware, the blocks are just lego-like gadgets that snap together with no real rules, and in software you gain a level of plug-and-play functionality, so pins and ports and such are gone from the programming experience. In fact, you could even have your programming environment pre-seed the program with the list of discovered devices when a constructed project is connected via usb.
Yeah, that’s way beyond the scope of what you were suggesting with a single board, but I do believe that if you want an educational platform that is more than an RPi or Arduino with more onboard blinky bits, then I think you need an extensible platform. I believe you can make it interesting while still abstracting away the gnarly electronics and hardware-imposed software complexity.
@ Gus - Good question - which are you targetting? Hardware lesson plans? Software? Hybrid lesson plans?
My suggestion was for enabling a pure programming lesson plan where the hardware is (initially) just a tool for getting engagement. If this system was designed with a migration path into Gadgeteer, then you have a nice roadmap for teaching hardware topics too. But first teach the software side without the hardware getting in the way.
I kind of like the software-first approach because you get payoff by controlling and using hardware without having to introduce math-laden hardware concepts before you get any payoff. And if you don’t introduce some of that math, then really you are already treating the hardware like abstract tinker-toys.
I’m not totally wedded to this concept to the exclusion of others. I just see how it can be bent to a lot of different lesson plans in different orders by abstracting away the pieces you don’t want to talk about yet.
Very cool, I’d be interested in helping in some way on this effort. I did teach a high school class using C# and .Net. I’ve also judged a bunch of high school and college ROV and AUV competitions that .Net Micro and Gadgeteer hardware would be perfect for. Let me know how I can help.
The e-mail you provided in your first post on this thread isn’t working for me. I’ll be happy to send an e-mail when I figure out the right address.
i’m part of startup that is creating visual tool for building iot projects without programming. Currently we are in beta phase, and we are using G120 module, but it’s easy scalable to other mainboards.
Here’s more info: http://www.zenodys.com
It’s kind of pre-step into programming, feel free to ping me for more.
@ Gus - here is my email mcneillb@ zingpow.ca, you know you can count me in.
Approach, software first of course, its one of the limiting factors for platforms like Arduino and pretty much everyone else on the planet. Asking someone to learn hardware before they can learn the software is pretty much a no go anymore, so take one out of the equation which is what Gadgeteer does. Even better Gadgeteer doesn’t prevent you from doing hardware stuff, but it allows you to focus on the hardware your interested in. For example I want to use a new sensor to send readings to the cloud, I don’t have to breadboard everything, just the sensor I’m interested in, so if there is a problem, I know the network stuff for example works so I know that my problem is in the sensor area (code or hardware). So as an educator you can focus (and bound) your leaning.
The classes I teach tend to be fairly well define so a set project board works great, now if the objective isn’t to teach, but to let the students or attendees experiment then a kit is better. So perhaps ‘education’ is really too broad of a term and some further definition is needed.
@ Duke Nukem - I already had you on the list even before you replied
By the way, the kids we worked with can barely blink an led. Networking would be defiantly for the next class. Their ultimate thrilling project is in being able to control the led blinking speed using a button. The code for this very basic thing is still somewhat overwhelming.