Learning Experiences

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-04-19 Print this article Print

Hardware developers can use Visual Studio Express Editions and the interface kits and other electronic components provided by Phidgets USA to build a wide array of electrical gadgets and robots all controlled with software, the companies said. "Phidgets bridges the world of hardware tinkering and computer programming by providing components for interacting with electronic devices that developers can control from their desktop," said Trossen, president of Phidgets USA (soon to be Trossen Robotics), in a statement.
"As a no-cost, easy-to-use offering, the Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions provide an ideal development environment for creating these applications and helping our customers bring their hardware projects to life."
And eBay also is helping empower its hobbyist and entrepreneur customers by providing a Visual Web Developer Express starter kit that features pre-built functionality and templates to reduce the complexity of building an online presence. The eBay offering enables developers to build an ASP.Net storefront from what the company calls an eBay Seller Kit, Fernandez said. Fernandez said there are also APIs available for Skype users to build Visual Studio Express-based applications. Fernandez said at the upcoming Maker Faire, show attendees can see the types of projects they can build with Visual Studio Express and SQL Server Express, including the .Net Interface for Lego Mindstorms, an application that simulates a "Dance Dance Revolution" arcade game, and another that enables remote home automation such as monitoring a users home temperature using instant message commands. In addition, the new learning content will be available to help people get started with the tools, including seven new starter kits and downloadable demos on Coding4Fun, Microsoft officials said. "To give an example; at our last show, Robonexus, one of my favorite students that came by our booth was a young female who had more robotics knowledge than 99 percent of the boys that came by in her age group." "She has been independently building robotics projects and immediately took interest in the most advanced projects we had on display, asking questions at a skill level that frankly blew me away for a person of her age. She was around 14 years old and was chatting us up about inverse kinetics, navigation and motion control," he said. Click here to read the details about the recent Visual Studio 2005 Community Technology Preview. Moreover, added Trossen, "At our recent shows we have had females both young and mature alike, which showed a strong interest in programming and emerging technologies like the ones we market—from female students, to teachers, to industry professionals. "Some of the projects that we hear about using Phidgets are from female students or groups of students which include girls. Many of the female teachers we talk with ask us directly how they can use our products to get more girls interested in learning programming. Its clearly a growing initiative in the schools." Trossen made a distinction between his company and the Phidgets company. "Phidgets are made by Phidgets Inc. in Canada, and I own Trossen Innovations LLC here in the states. PhidgetsUSA.com is a subsidiary of my company, which is a reseller of the Phidgets products as well as our start up for our robotics initiative. Since Phidgets Inc. themselves focuses mainly on manufacturing and we are in sales and distribution, we end up doing a lot of marketing for the products." Jon Schwartz, a former Microsoft program manager, one of the developers of the KPL (Kids Programming Language), and a principal at Morrison-Schwartz in Chapel Hill, N.C., said he views the Microsoft Express editions of Visual Studio as the next step up from KPL. "Visual Studio Express editions are, of course, the next logical step after KPL," Schwartz said. "Express Editions, like KPL, are free to download and use—and they open up a much larger world of .Net development technology than we provide in KPL. KPL itself intends to remain a beginner language focused on games and game development—this is a much narrower focus than the Express editions, much less the broader .Net development community. Since this is the case, we will continue to recommend that KPLers move to .Net when they are ready." Schwartz said that among the goals of KPL are to make it easy to get started as a programmer and to make it fun and interesting to get started as a programmer. Next Page: The next generation.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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