Yes, Gadgeteer is as you describe; just another variant of similar 'ready to connect together' systems which already exist in various forms.
Whether that's 'horribly sanitized' or exactly what schools are looking for depends on ones viewpoint and how they'll be used.
I can see I might be looking at this in the wrong way on two fronts. Firstly, in spite of the fact that I am a secret .net fan I all too easily jump on the MS bashing bandwagon. I suppose, grudgingly, I have to give it to MIcrosoft.
Back in the early noughties when it first appeared and I was barely in my twenties, just out of uni, unemployed and I wanted to teach myself about Flash and Actionscripting. The price of a license for Flash was astronomical. That didnt stop me for a moment though and - I'm running the risk here of the ACTA police knocking down my door, I 'obtained' a copy of Flash through 'other' methods.
Microsoft on the other hand have provided their (again I have to say this grudgingly) really rather good .net framework as well as lite versions of their IDE for free! Thus circumnavigating people criminalising themselves just because they want to learn!
Good business and good for society in general. Well done Microsoft! (bah humbug)
I'm responsible for the teaching (soon to be rebooted - how exciting) of ICT at a secondary school. I do have a personal interest in the nitty gritty bits of computers and hardware. Until very recently I used to think that no other device in education could match the "user port" that was tucked away under the keyboard of a BBC micro. I remember jabbing bits of wire into it and into a breadboard and lunchtime walks to Maplin to buy stepper motors and opto-isolators with my lunch money so that I could try to build doomed never to quite work robot projects ... ahhh ...
So, looking at this modular electronics kit from Microsft I felt a bit dismayed that, in essence, all you will be making is people who cant actually do electronics, they are just yet more consumers of something that is 'sanitized' and quite high level. I dont want students who give up if the "Acme-Bat Alphabet Soup Bubble Sorter Board" doesnt exist, I want them to go out and make their own instead ... But ...
I have got the audience all wrong!
When I think about going into partnership with the technology department to make robots or central locking systems for homes etc etc I am thinking of kids who are 12 years old and above, Where (generally speaking) they just about have the maturity to handle sticking resisitors into breadboard and doing all kinds of funky things.
What I am not considering is primary education. Given that every year I am partly responsible for "transition" from primary to secondary, I need to work with our 'feeder primaries'. At no point would I consider giving a seven year old a germanium filled tiny transistor, just about small enough to be swallowed and cause goodness knows what damage... I need some sort of prefabricated, sanitized module in a nice safe housing. Something a bit like this gadgeteer or Tinkerforge stuff, in fact.
So, actually, putting aside my long standing dislike of the big bad monopoly Microsoft (who arent really a monopoly anymore and I suppose (grudgingly) are pluckily fighting their corner) this kind of thing is actually quite a good idea. Generally speaking, I suppose.
(how much did you say it costs again?)