RIGEL environmental data logger and games unit

  • Michael was granted a Ministry of Education e-Learning Fellowship during 2008. You can find his report here: 

    Authentic learning using ICT and the state of science education in New Zealand - eLearning eFellow Report

    The teaching and learning philosophy and the focus on developing the a true understanding of the nature of science highlighted and anticipated many of the issues covered in "Looking ahead: science education for the twenty-first century" recently released from the office of the Prime Minister's Science Advisory Committee.
  • He was also a finalist for the NZ INTERFACE magazines 'Best use of ICT in Teaching' award.

The RIGEL prototype invented by Michael has been successfully trialled with Year 13 Calculus students to analyse their respiration rates and can even record and display heartbeats


Scientist and Inglewood High School teacher Michael Fenton has a way of getting to the hearts of his students…quite literally.

Game Maker 3D flight simulator connected to an exercycle

"The RIGEL system is a mobile sensor and games-based learning technology to support students in Science, Mathematics and Physical Education of all year levels, useful in Primary, Intermediate and Secondary schools" Michael said.

"The unique aspect is its versatility and low cost. It is entirely possible that every student in a school could be issued with the device as part of their stationery - RIGEL becomes as essential as having pens or a calculator. Students can even wear RIGEL and play laser tag at lunchtimes to encourage physical activity and fitness."

Left: 3D flight simulator made in Game Maker controlled by 'flying' an old exercycle

"The impact nationally of using a system like RIGEL to help deliver the New Zealand curriculum could be enormous. Students discover a desire to investigate and analyse the world around them. They see themselves in charge of their learning, rather than passively receiving information for exams."

Michael is well qualified to see the benefits across multiple subject and curriculum levels; he is unique in having taught Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Computing and Electronics to Tertiary level as well as at various Secondary schools.

"Coming from a research as well as a teaching background has been hugely beneficial and meant I could develop the whole system from scratch myself - the sensors, the pods and the software to display and record information."

Photo: Primary school student Kimberley with part of a RIGEL sensor system. It doubles as a laser tag game that encourages students away from the computer and into the fresh air!

RIGEL is a system that explored using the popular game design tool Game Maker GML to interface with PICAXE microcontrollers.

The project is aimed at encouraging greater student motivation, interest, and ownership of their learning. "In Calculus we have discussed plans to integrate this technology into their cars so we can sit inside the maths classroom and monitor engine performance graphically and mathematically.

RIGEL has been a great motivator this year for real-world problem solving " Mr Fenton said.

Why would a busy teacher and parent invest so much time and effort voluntarily?

"Students find it difficult to be inspired by pioneers and inventors of the past; they will never meet them. In my view it is the person in front of the class - the teacher - who needs to be inspirational; who should be the role model for learning, research, and taking (educated) risks. If the teacher is excited about the learning, so are the students. RIGEL is a research project evolving in front of my classes. I have seen them become really enthusiastic as RIGEL developed from an idea to a reality. They can see all sorts of possibilities for its use across a wide number of traditionally unconnected subjects."

While he admits the system has its limitations, Michael says the benefits in comparison to costs are undeniable.

While research and development is still in progress, RIGEL has an impressive list of capabilities beyond the classroom and into the home.


  • remotely monitor or activate equipment or machinery.
  • monitor alarms and act as a security system
  • monitor respiration and heartbeat
  • link a player remotely to games on a computer or 3D games projected into a room
  • encourage exercise when used to play Laser Tag outside In the classroom

RIGEL can be set to different modes. Multi-discipline learning is possible between, but not limited to, any of

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Earth Science
  • Forensics
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education
  • Robotics/Electronics
  • Game design
  • Geography.  

"Students could gather data in P.E and analyse the data in Maths..."

RIGEL can record data from a 08M PICAXE chip, displaying data as analogue gauge, digital meter, column graph, or line graph. It can also remotely monitor or activate valves and switches as a process control system as well as interface the 08M chip with the games projected into a room. Data can be echoed to a network or the internet. Students with access to the source code can make there own "skin" (alter the colour scheme, style of buttons, menu system, etc) and add new features or functions...add a button here or a slider there...

Research findings: Conference presentation and Ministry of Education eLearning Report

A class set of pods has been constructed and tested along with different versions of the RIGEL software. A research project to examine the most productive ways to use the system was completed.

Asia Pacific Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference presentation

Read about Michael's presentation at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia...Learning from Life: Communities of Learning via a Connected Curriculum.

eLearning research report cover

Read Michael's eLearning eFellow research report based in primary snd secondary classes her: Authentic learning using ICT and the state of science education in New Zealand

Much of this work highlighted and anticipated many of the issues covered in "Looking ahead: science education for the twenty-first century"  recently released from the office of the Prime Minister's Science Advisory Committee.


Turn that common classroom calculator into a data logger for use in Science and Mathematics!

Collecting data from a picaxe and displaying it on a casio graphics calculator



Turn that common multimeter into a data logger in science and maths

Using a multimeter as a substitute for a data logger


Build your own SuperMouse Datalogger Use a computer mouse as a data logger

Use your mouse as a data logger



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