This year I wanted to give students an experience that combined coding with some basic engineering. The low-cost Circuit Playground Express from Adafruit Industries is ideal. The firm’s founder and lead engineer, Limor “Ladyada” Fried, is also a great role model for students interested in entrepreneurship.
There were several goals in integrating the CPX into the course: 1) provide a lab where concepts of fast/cheap computing and its relation to new product and market creation could be more deeply appreciated and explored, 2) provide an introduction to coding and hardware in a way that was approachable and inspiring, 3) introduce more students (especially women & students of color) to possibilities in tech, and 4) provide a “gateway drug” for students hooked on this experience to follow up with additional courses.
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.