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 CS Discoveries Unit 6, Physical Computing.

Programming with the Circuit Playground 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 an 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:

  • The Circuit Playground Classic - the first version of this board which can be programmed with either Maker Toolkit or the Arduino IDE
  • The Circuit Playground Express - the newer version of this board which can be programmed with the Maker Toolkit, Microsoft Makecode, Scratch 3.0, Circuit Python, and more .

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 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 classroom kit

The full cost of the Circuit Playground classroom kit is $350 (plus shipping/handling). 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 classroom kit can be a barrier to implementing the full course, especially in low-income schools. is able to fully subsidize a limited number of classroom kits for teachers in the 2019-20 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program who are unable to secure funding. Please read below for the full eligiblility requirements for this subsidy.

Circuit Playground classroom kit Subsidy Program

Available starting January 2020

If you are participating in the 2019-20 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program, implementing the full-year version of the course, and are not able to secure funding for the classroom kit locally, we may be able to fully subsidize a single classroom kit for you. To qualify for a fully subsidized kit, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Teach at a school with 50% or greater free/reduced price meals, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Be a participant in the 2019-20 Professional Learning Program for CS Discoveries (i.e. attended a 5-day summer workshop for CS Discoveries), OR be a participant in the 2019-20 Facilitator development program as a novice CS Discoveries facilitator.
  • Completed the first semester of the CS Discoveries course with at least one section of 10 or more students who have made measurable progress in Units 2 and 3 of CS Discoveries on Note: Content learned in Unit 3 is a prerequisite for Unit 6.
  • Committed to attending Academic Year Workshop 4, covering Unit 6 (for in-person Professional Learning Program participants) or the last 2 modules (for virtual Professional Learning Program participants).
  • Will teach Unit 6 by the end of the 2020-21 school year. When the program launches in January 2020, we will ask interested teachers to fill out a Unit 6 implementation plan template in the semester they will be teaching Unit 6 and submit it to us at

By the end of January 2020, teachers in the 2019-20 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program will receive an email from us with more information about how to request a subsidy for the Adafruit Circuit Playground classroom kit on our website if they are unable to secure funding and are otherwise qualified.

Participants in the 2018-19 Professional Learning Program should click here to see their subsidy requirements.