But the type of microcontroller that is gaining favor rapidly for creative older children’s projects is known as an “arduino.” An arduino microcontroller is based on an “open source” (non-commercial, publicly-licensed) design, and many small companies have sprung up recently to fabricate arduinos and related step-by-step project kits and accessories. Free software for programming arduinos is available for most laptop computers, which then connect to the arduino to download programs.
For girls who might appreciate a very cool, geeky female role model in this traditionally male domain, check out Lady Ada. Lady Ada (a/k/a Limor Fried) is a recent MIT masters graduate who started her own company selling arduino-related kits with easy-to-follow online instructions.
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, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, 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.