The Circuit Playground

The Circuit Playground is family of small microcontroller boards with LEDs, buttons, and sensors built in. Designed specifically for novice programmers, the Circuit Playground enables students to get up and running quickly with physical computing without worrying about many of the traditional barriers to entry. Developed by our friends at Adafruit, the Circuit Playground is the core tool used in Unit 6, Physical Computing in CS Discoveries.

Programming with the Circuit Playground

Code.org has developed a special set of commands for App Lab, our block-to-text app development environment, called the Maker Toolkit. Using App Lab and the Maker Toolkit, students can quickly build apps that communicate with external hardware using the same language and environment they've already become comfortable with.

Software Requirements

One of our primary goals in integrating the Circuit Playground into CS Discoveries is to reduce the barriers that teachers often encounter attempting to teach physical computing. To that end, we've developed a system that requires only minimal software installation and wide platform compatibility. If using Chromebooks, we've provided a browser extension to install. For all other platforms, we've created a standalone app that allows the programming tools on our website to communicate with the Circuit Playground over USB. Visit the Maker Toolkit setup page for more details on how to get your computers set up.

What’s the difference between App Lab, Circuit Playground, and Maker Toolkit?

App Lab is a web-based programming environment for building apps using Javascript with either blocks or text. App Lab features prominently in both CS Principles and CS Discoveries

The Circuit Playground is a series of circuit boards produced by Adafruit with a variety of sensors and ouputs built in. There are two variants of the Circuit Playground, both compatible with CS Discoveries:

Wondering which version you have? Check out Adafruit's guide.

The Maker Toolkit is an additional set of commands in App Lab that allow you to communicate with and control a Circuit Playground plugged into USB. You can enable the Maker Toolkit in any App Lab project by clicking the settings gear above the toolbox and selecting "Enable Maker Toolkit."

The Maker App is a standalone app that allows the Circuit Playground to communicate with the App Lab and the Maker Toolkit.

Getting Circuit Playgrounds for your Classroom

Code.org has partnered with Adafruit to create a classroom kit of Circuit Playground boards and accessories necessary for implementing CS Discoveries Unit 6, Physical Computing. The kit contains 15 Circuit Playground boards, 15 Micro USB cables to connect the board to a computer, and a few other accessories. The curriculum is designed for a 2:1 student to board ratio, so a single classroom kit supports a classroom of 30 students.

For smaller classrooms, we recommend investing in a set of Circuit Playground Individual Kits. The individual kit is designed for a single student or share-pair and costs $29.96.

Budgeting for the Circuit Playground Educator Pack

The full cost of the Circuit Playground Educator Pack is $350. All educators receive a 10% discount when they apply the code ADAEDU at checkout, which reduces the price of the kit to approximately $315. Note: The ADAEDU code only applies to orders of $250 or greater.

Many teachers are able to request funding from their school's technology budget to cover the full cost.

However, we understand that the expense of the hardware can be a barrier to implementing the full course, especially in low-income schools. Code.org is able to fully subsidize a limited number of classroom kits for teachers in the CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program who are unable to secure funding. Please read below for the full eligiblility requirements for this subsidy.

Subsidy program for Code.org Professional Learning Program participants

Subsidized Educator Packs were made available for teachers in the 2020-21 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program who received a scholarship to participate and are implementing the course in the 2020-21 school year. Additional information was shared with Regional Partners in January 2021.

If you participated in the 2019-20 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program, implemented the full-year version of the course, and were not able to secure funding for the classroom kit locally, you may qualify for a subsidized Educator Pack. Click here for more details.