A second UK pilots involved 8 secondary schools using .NET Gadgeteer for around 12 weeks, mostly in extra-curricular groups with some using .NET Gadgeteer in the lower high school curriculum. Teachers were recruited to run the clubs and provided with some initial training. The students attending the clubs mostly ranged from 14 to 16 years old, with a few younger students. The students worked in groups of 3-4 with one .NET Gadgeteer kit per group. They followed a series of lessons which involved developing a camera, a stop watch and a game. At the end of the pilot, students were invited to enter a competition and invent and program a device of their own. Prizes were given and the students enjoyed being creative and coming up with an idea that they could implement.
Teachers felt that the kits were engaging to use and developed determination and resilience in students as they tried to get their gadgets to work:
“The technology of gadgets inspired them to work a little harder and play with ideas more.” (Teacher, second UK pilot)
Devices built by the school-age students included a device to check if your hot drink is cool enough to drink, a Baby safety device, a football game, a wrist watch which tells you the temperature as well as the time, and a simple photo-editing application.
The iSpyder, shown above, is a double-sided device in a wooden case built by the students; one side has a touch screen which displays the temperature and credits when a button is pressed. The other side houses the coaster which contains a buzzer. The iSpyder’s tests the temperature of coffee, tea or any other hot drink. When the drink reaches a temperature cool enough to drink (e.g., 70 degrees Celsius because that is the temperature drinks are served in Starbucks) the buzzer will go off to alert the user.
The winners of the competition were two 15-year old students from Licensed Victualiers School, Ascot, who devised the Football Game. This demonstrated their ability to design graphics for the 3.5” touch screen and build and engaging and interactive game
Our experience thus far, based on qualitative feedback, has indicated that .NET Gadgeteer would be a motivating environment for teaching programming within the 14-18 age group and within the curriculum as well as in an extra-curricular club. Recent changes in the Computer Science school curriculum in the UK will mean that this will now be possible. With .NET Gadgeteer we hope that we can engage all students, in terms of a better understanding of how the devices and technology all around us works.