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How to Inspire Exciting Wearable Tech With Circuit Playground #WearableWednesday #wearabletech #Arduino #DIY

Circuit Playground Prototype

I recently taught a wearable tech boot camp at The Hacktory in Philadelphia. It was an intensive week of evening classes for adults who are curious about creating wearables. It was also my second experiment using Adafruit’s Circuit Playground microcontroller for education (my first being a great experience). The class was a mix of teachers, fashion designers, artists and first-timers. Most had little to no experience with Arduino, so it was even more exciting to create a first exposure. I started the workshop with some singing while wearing a Circuit Playground pinned to a hat. The students quickly learned the meaning of on-board sensors as lights began to flash!

The beginning of the week was spent exploring the “Hello Circuit Playground” sample programs, and students quickly learned how to hack simple things in the code like RGB colors, tones and delays. They also learned how to copy and paste code from learning guides as well as install libraries. During the middle of the week we had a crash course in soldering and stitching, since those are the more popular methods of joining other sensors or LEDs to the pins of the board. Finally it was time to develop personal projects.

Fashion Sketch Circuit Playground

Checking out CuteCircuit

Some in the group got their inspiration from Adafruit learning guides like the Sparkle Skirt and Ampli-Tie. Others had original ideas including devices for energy harvesting or bicycle safety. One of the class faves was a voice activated LED collar so a dog could be found running around in the dark. There was much shouting of “dog, dog!” for prototyping which kept us all laughing, but in the end it worked!

Circuit Playground Voice Activated Pet Collar

Some students wanted to start with more intricate projects and ordered more parts, so of course there was time to tinker with other materials like a found Pringles can. Experimenting with NeoPixels is always fun, especially when a mic is involved. Another music loving classmate was also found rapidly eating pizza to start work on the Pizza Box DJ Controller. There’s always something you can make with a Circuit Playground.

Circuit Playground Kaleidescope

If I had to choose, I think this was the best class I ever taught. Circuit Playground is quick to excite and even non-coders picked up the Arduino environment swiftly. It is also apparent that this is one of the best microcontrollers to take to a hackathon for fast prototyping. It may not have BLE, but it has every other sensor you may need. I know a few of my students were getting ready to start their larger projects as we departed, so I look forward to blogging about their completed work. If you are considering using Circuit Playground for your class, check out Lesson #0 for the basics. There are simple explanations of the sensors and pinouts and notice that there are some unique code calls for the board. It really is plug and play with no soldering or sewing necessary. Have you been using this board? Let us know so we can share your STEM activities with teachers around the world.


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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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