When I was a little kid, I wanted to build a Heathkit HERO 1) in the worst way. I was too young to have a job, so obtaining one was not in the cards (being a parent now, I can attest they really are not made of money). I never lost the desire, though. Recently, my buddy Matt from Hack Pittsburgh introduced me to the Arduino electronics platform. Arduino has its own programming language, but being a .NET guy, it’s so much nicer if there’s something in the languages you already use. Make Magazine (if not the Bible of hacker spaces, at least a set of commandments/challenges) recently announced Netduino, a .NET based electronics platform, similar to Arduino:

Just in! The Netduino is an open source electronics platform using the .NET Micro Framework. The board features a 32-bit microcontroller and a rich development environment, making it a perfect solution for engineers and hobbyists alike. Here's everything you need to know to get up and running with this amazing little micro controller.

To use Netduino, you'll need to be running Windows XP or later and the free Visual Studio Express 2010 (or the full version).

Netduino is not the first .NET-based platform; there is also Fez Domino:

Welcome to TinyCLR.Your guide to embedded systems.Jump start your first .NET Micro Framework project with
the C# Language and Visual C# 2008 Express Edition in minutes!

FEZ Domino and FEZ Mini are very small (open source) boards targeted for beginners. They are based on the USBizi chipset and all it's features. FEZ offers many peripherals, such as USB host and SD interface, not available with hobbyist-targeted boards. Even though FEZ is targeted for beginners, it's also a low-cost starting point for professionals wanting to explore NETMF (.NET Micro Framework).

FEZ stands for "Freakin' Easy!"

Hack Pittsburgh has had a couple classes on Arduino in the past, and Matt promises some in the future, too. Stay tuned at their site http://www.hackpittsburgh.org/. If you’re not in Pittsburgh, look around your local area for a hacker space who works with Arduinos.

Hat tip: Greg at http://coolthingoftheday.blogspot.com/ (and, of course, Matt)

P.S. Congrats to Hack Pittsburgh on their LEAD balloon launch. The balloon was launched near Akron, OH, and the near-space photos are really cool. Flickr galleries are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/17267190@N02/sets/72157624683768174/ (this one has the space pics) and http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelgirl2dot0/sets/72157624684148062/ (more behind-the-scenes).