Microcontrollers are small programmable circuit boards that supply processing power to many kinds of electronics projects.

They're also a great way to introduce kids to coding and building. Just add a few components and everyday crafts or recycled material and you can build everything from a simple circuit to a fully-functional robot!

If you've got a bit of electronics background, or you're up for a challenge, there are plenty of microcontrollers to choose from.

But if you (and your students) are new to coding and electronics, your best bet is something powerful, expandable -- and simple enough to use right out of the box.

Luckily, getting students started with microcontrollers is easier than ever before! Here's a look at three boards -- the Circuit Playground Express, the Gemma M0, and the PyBadge -- that are great for teachers who are ready to learn coding and electronics themselves, and/or working with students who have little or no coding background.

Adafruit's beginner boards are newbie-friendly in many ways:

  • They can use MakeCode drag-and-drop block programming (and toggle back and forth to text-based Javascript).

  • They are designed with clip-able connections.

  • They include built-in inputs for physical control, like sensors that can register tilt or sound.

  • They include built-in outputs like speakers and lights.

  • When students are ready to move on to the next level, the boards can be programmed with more advanced languages like CircuitPython and Arduino.

Keep reading for tips on which boards are best for beginner educators and students, and suggestions for how to get started!

Suggested Boards

Adafruit caters to educators by offering boards and the accessories you need to get started individually as well as in classroom sets and in kits that include all the basics and more.

On Adafruit's Educator Page, you'll find links to products and information on educator discounts. Combine them with discounts for bulk purchases for extra savings.

The list below is just a sample of the options available!

A Black woman's manicured hand holds a round microcontroller with lit up LEDs.
Circuit Playground Express is the next step towards a perfect introduction to electronics and programming. We've taken the original Circuit Playground Classic and...
Pink polished fingers holding a Adafruit GEMMA M0 - Miniature wearable electronic platform.
The Adafruit Gemma M0 is a super small microcontroller board, with just enough built-in to create many simple projects. It may look small and cute: round, about the...
Angled shot of a Adafruit PyBadge for MakeCode Arcade, CircuitPython, or Arduino.
What's the size of a credit card and can run CircuitPython, MakeCode Arcade or Arduino? That's right, its the Adafruit PyBadge! We wanted to see how much we...
Rectangular case for Circuit Playground Express - Base Kit.
It's the Circuit Playground Express Base Kit! It provides the few things you'll need to get started with the new
Angled shot of educational electronic kit contents, including dev boards, alligator clips, USB cables, and LED PCBs.
For many years, instructors and teachers have asked us to come up with a better way to teach programming and electronics. We have worked on Circuit Playground Express for over a year...

This guide was first published on Aug 06, 2019. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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