The Circuit Playground

The Circuit Playground is a small microcontroller board with LEDs, buttons, and sensors built in. Based on the popular Arduino platform, 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

Being based on the Arduino means that there are many options for programming the Circuit Playground, including using the standard Arduino IDE. Code.org, however, 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 remove 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. At present, the Maker Toolkit requires the following software:

Visit the Maker Toolkit setup page for more details on how to get your computers set up.

Please note that due to changes Google is implementing in Chrome, we are at present working on an alternative approach to connecting to the Circuit Playground. More details will be posted here when available.

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 Arduino-based circuit board produced by Adafruit. It has a variety of sensors and ouputs built in.

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 [BETA]."

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 teachers in Code.org's CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program

For teachers participating in the 2017-18 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program and implementing the full-year version of the course, we're happy to announce that we will be subsidizing the cost of a single classroom kit for each teacher.

  • For teachers at schools with 50% or greater free/reduced price meals, the classroom kit will be 100% subsidized, resulting in no cost to the teacher, including shipping.
  • For teachers at schools with less than 50% free/reduced price meals, the classroom kit will be partially subsidized, bringing the cost of the kit to $100 including shipping.

Eligible teachers in our Professional Learning Program will be sent details in Winter 2017 on how to receive a coupon code that can be applied directly on the Adafruit website.

For teachers independently using the CS Discoveries curriculum

While teachers not in the 2017-18 CS Discoveries Professional Learning Program are not eligible for the subsidized cost of the kit, the classroom kit can still be purchased directly on Adafruit's website.