Now, depending on your level of knowledge of engineering, electronics, and other technical topics, you may be a little unclear on the definition of a microcontroller. At its most basic, a microcontroller is a computer on a chip. It has a CPU capable of executing embedded code, RAM for storage of run-time data, and long-term storage for storing the code to be executed. What makes microcontrollers fun is the surrounding hardware that is also on the chip. This surrounding hardware makes it very simple to read signals from the physical world, translate them into something the code can take action on, and then react back out to the physical world. The Arduino is a small circuit board wrapped around one of these microcontrollers that makes it very easy for you to upload new code that you write, in a variation on C++, and access the set of inputs/outputs and interact with your world. This answers this second part of my question above, “How can it help launch me into the world of cool projects?”
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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