I’ve been interested in the LPC1114 Arm M0 from NXP as it’s a 28pin DIP so it’s easy to use on a breadboard but it’s also an ARM M0 with a nice (free) development environment and only costs ~ $4.00. The LPC1114 also allows very cheap hardware design as it only needs 2 resistors and cap for a fully running system (no crystal !).
http://chiselapp.com/user/jschimpf/repository/LPCLights/index is a link to a site about the hardware and software to run NEOPIXEL strips with this processor. The hardware design has the level shifters to convert from the 3.3 V LPC1114 to the 5V of the strip. Also level shifters are there to handle the SPI type strips. The site has an Eagle CAD based board design for the system.
Make a robot friend with Adafruit’s CRICKIT – A Creative Robotics & Interactive Construction Kit. It’s an add-on to our popular Circuit Playground Express, FEATHER and other platforms to make and program robots with CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. Start controlling motors, servos, solenoids. You also get signal pins, capacitive touch sensors, a NeoPixel driver and amplified speaker output. It complements & extends your boards so you can still use all the goodies on the microcontroller, now you have a robotics playground as well.