This guide will show you how to connect your CircuitPython board to the Internet, by using an ESP8266 or ESP32 as the ‘Wireless modem’ – we’ll even show you how to upload the required AT command firmware to the chip, all from your CircuitPython board
Use a chip with integrated WiFi such as the ESP8266 or ESP32
The all-in-one chips are powerful and low cost, but have some drawbacks. The ESP8266 has very few GPIO pins, and they are limited in functionality – for example only one ADC and it’s not easy to use. A RTOS also takes up a lot of processor time, and makes real-time control difficult for some things like NeoPixels. The ESP32 solves a lot of these issues but doesn’t have the native USB we require for a good CircuitPython experience.
Using an ESP8266 or ESP32 as a ‘Wireless Co-processor’ gets us:
A main chip like a SAMD21 or SAMD51 with USB, peripherals, pins, and timers
Wireless handling by a separate chip, so we don’t have to run the WiFi stack natively – saves a lot of FLASH/RAM space
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.