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Getting Started with Sid - Circuit Playground Express

June 23, 2021

Getting Started with Sid - Circuit Playground Express

Today I’m going to be checking out Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express. This board was made to work with beginner coding platforms with built-in lights and sensors to help learn coding. This little guy really streamlines a lot of the things you can do with boards when learning. By having so many built-in components and so many alligator clip pads there’s not soldering required and it has minimal set up requirements. 

First thing I did was plug in the Circuit Playground express into my laptop with just a basic micro USB cord. There is also the option to use a AAA Battery Holder but for this first exploration USB works perfectly for me. It showed up pretty immediately and from there I went to the Adafruit website to Lady Ada’s Circuit Playground Express intro page to make sure I was on track. 

I decided to stick with what I was familiar with from previous explorations and I wanted to work within the Arduino IDE which can be downloaded here. From there I had to install the additional drivers to have the IDE be able to work with the Circuit Playground Express. Once that was done I selected the board within the IDE so it would know where to send the code. 

With everything set up it was time for a classic Blink test, using the sketchbook examples already found in the Arduino IDE.

After I was sure everything was connected right I ran the Demo code to get a breakdown of what the sensors were picking up, the board basically reads the environment and tells you the temperature, the time and other factors it can sense. 

I played around with a few different sketches to see what the Circuit Playground Express could do. The Fidget Spinner sketch was a lot of fun, seeing what patterns the LEDs would make and the different colours they could do was exciting. For such a small board there’s quite a few options but I always go back to blue for LED stuff. Based on pressing the right and left buttons and moving the board around the LEDs would change colours, patterns and do little sequences. 

After that I decided it was time to see what kind of noises the board could make. A built-in speaker and microphone are very attractive features for someone like me who just wants to make weird noises as much as possible. I tried out the speaker sketch that plays the little Mario coin sound when tapped which was a good nostalgic moment. I will note though I had to tap it a bit harder than expected as seen above. 

I also had a lot of fun annoying my cats with the Birthday sketch. This one can do either a simple yellow LED sequence similar to candles or you can press the left button and reset at the same time to get bright, rainbow colours. The board will play the Happy Birthday song over and over as the LEDs do their sequence. Since it’s a very small speaker the sound is a bit high pitched, hence my cats getting pretty annoyed with it. 

All in all the Circuit Playground Express is really impressive and versatile for its size and cost. Compared to other learning boards this one really does a lot with very little. It’s especially ideal for anyone who’s feeling a bit nervous about taking on soldering or many little bits and pieces. 

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