Unit 1: Introduction to Brain Surgery

In your first class you’ll start programming the Circuit Playground Express Robot Brains.

A computer – whether large or small or teeny tiny – runs according to its instructions. (also called “software”)
The Cliq robot’s brain is a small computer; a Circuit Playground Express.
(Even the Selfie Ring Light had a simple computer inside it!)

When we run a program we’ve written, it’s like giving the computer a series of commands.
Imagine you have a very obedient dog, that listens to your instructions and does whatever you’ve told it to do.

Does it know the reason for those instructions? No, but it will follow just the same.
“Human, you want me to drive off the table? Okay! …human! I appear to have fallen! What is your next instruction?”

Why learn to program? What is it useful for?
Everything. (seriously)
Your fridge, your watch, your Selfie Ring Light, your car, your bluetooth headphones, and almost everything around you (including all the apps on your phone) relies on software programs to work.
Programs control life support machines, amazing pieces of art, every computer or phone app you’ve ever used, traffic lights, self-driving cars, even robots exploring Mars. (Not to mention the massive rockets that get them there) 

In today’s class you’ll start programming the “Circuit Playground Express” – the brains of your robot.
What you learn with this board is applicable to any kind of programming.


  1. Take your Circuit Playground out of the packet and write your name on it.
  2. Connect the USB cable from your computer to your Circuit Playground Express.
  3. Press the small RESET button  to go into programming mode.
    The lights should turn red, then turn green.
    When they’re green, it’s ready to load a program.
  4. Open up your browser and go to https://makecode.adafruit.com


MakeCode is a program writing and editing tool that runs in your browser.
It’s colourful and really easy to use, but it’s very capable.
What you learn in MakeCode can be applied to writing programs in any of the more advanced tools out there.

Student Exercises

Unit 1 Worksheet (or you’ll have this on paper)

In this lesson, you will:

  1. Complete the six tutorials listed in the MakeCode website.
    If you don’t see them on the main page, just scroll down.
    Click on a tutorial and press the ‘Start Tutorial’ button.

    • For each one, reflect on what you’ve learned, and what you could do to modify those programs further.
    • If you get stuck, just click on the Hint Owl:
  2. Write a new program of your own for the Circuit Playground Express.
  3. Consider the possibilities – what could you do creatively with what you’ve learned?


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