Sign up for our eNewsletter

Become a fan
Follow us on Twitter
We're on YELP

Products by Interest Area

Visit our online shop

Become a facebook fan

Reach And Teach Invent: Circuit Playground with RTPLAYGROUND Software

 Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version 

Congratulations on arriving at this page! I am the Spirit of Invention, but if you like, you may call me Mr. Hats which is short for Hatsumei (which is a Japenese word for "INVENTION"). Together we will learn how to get the most out of your Reach and Teach Invent: Circuit Playground pre-loaded with our RTPLAYGROUND Software.

With this kit, you can create/invent all sorts of fun games and interactive activities without having to write a single line of code or solder anything. It includes the Adafruit Circuit Playground which is a single board Arduino with lots of goodies that our RTPLAYGROUND software will help you explore and use in your own inventions.

In the box you received you should find the following:

  • Adafruit Circuit Playground Classic with RTPLAYGROUND software preloaded by Reach and Teach
  • Alligator clip cables
  • 3-AA Power Module (batteries not included)
  • A piece of velcro tape for optionally mounting your Circuit Playground to the Power Module

Not included is a USB data cable for accessing some optional features of this board. You may also wish to add a Servo Motor Kit at a later time to do some robotics experiments. Both of these are available at reachandteach.com.

Circuit Playground with annotations

RTPLAYGROUND is preprogrammed with 10 functions numbered from 0 to 9. To select one of these functions:

  1. First attach power to the Circuit Playground through a USB cable (not provided) or the included battery pack power module. The battery pack Power Module takes three AA cells. The Power Module can be attached to the black connector at the bottom of the circuit board. There is an ON/OFF switch on the pack. Go ahead and turn the battery pack ON.
  2. Set switch #21 to the right to set the function. One of the Green LEDs should be lit.
  3. Pressing the left button #4 will cause the Green LEDs to cycle with each press in a counter-clockwise direction. The upper top left LED refers to function 0 and proceeds with functions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 as described below.
  4. Set #21 to the left and the Circuit Playground will start running the selected function.
RTPLAYGROUND Pre-programmed Functions

Again, check the previous section to see how to select and run each of these functions.

Function 0 - Rainbow Cycling demo

This function simply cycles all of the LEDs through a range of rainbow colors. It's kind of relaxing to look at and it's a good test to ensure that your board is working properly.

This is the default program function that runs when you power on RTPLAYGROUND but the default function can be changed. Simply set switch #21 to the right and select the default program function that you wish to configure as described above. Then hold down the Left #4 button and click on the Right #19 button. You should hear a beep indicating that the new default program has been set.

Function 1 - Operation game

This function allows you to create games like the old style "Operation" game where you have to carefully pick up objects without touching anything else near them.

Initial Setup and Testing

After selecting and starting Function 1, you will notice that 10 green LEDs will be lit corresponding to the number of lives you have in the game. If you touch Pad #3 and the GND (ground) Pad next to it, it will cause the board to beep and each of the LEDs will start to go dark. After you touch it 10 times, all the LEDs will be dark and then replaced by a RED circle of LEDs and a musical tone sequence will play indicating that you are out of lives. After a couple of seconds the LEDs will turn green again indicating that you can play again.

Suggested Project: "Eat that sushi" game

Rather than making an "Operation" game (because it seems kind of old-school), try creating a game where you need to pick up pieces of sushi with chopsticks without touching the sides of the cup they are sitting in. To implement this, you will need a number of pieces of cardboard shaped and decorated like sushi. Connect some small foil lined paper cups to each other using alligator clips and connect to one of the GND (ground) pads on the Circuit Playground. Take a pair of wooden chopsticks and cover both sticks with foil. Connect both sticks to each other and to the #3 Pad using alligator clips. Check out the version we made at http://www.reachandteach.com/eatsushi

Function 2: Finger Musical Keyboard

This function allows you to create a handheld kalimba out of cardboard and foil. You can also make a keyboard out of other conductive objects like metal silverware or other interesting things. This however is a monotonic keyboard which means that only one note can be played at a time so you can't play chords with this function. For extra credit, think of a way to use a rotating coffee can, tin foil, and paper with holes in it to create a "piano roll" musical instrument.

Initial setup and testing:

The numbered pads are mapped counter-clockwise to produce an octave of tones: #3 - C, #2 - D, #0 - E, #1 - F, #12 - G, #6 - A, #9 - B, #10 - C. As you touch each of these pads you will hear the different notes. You will also notice that the LED closest to the pad that you are touching will also illuminate with different colors for each note.

Function 3: Contact Tag

This function will cause a red ring of LEDs and a sound to play whenever the #3 Pad and Gnd are touched at the same time. You can use this function to create your own contact tag game, a bean bag throw game, a paper wad basketball game, or a security system that detects when someone steps on a doormat.

Initial setup and Testing

Touch the #3 Pad and the Gnd pad next to it to see what happens when a "hit" is detected.

FOR HARDWARE HACKERS: If you have an optional servo motor, you can attach it to the Circuit Playground with the servo's orange lead connected to 3.3V, the yellow lead connected to the #12 Pad, and the brown lead connected to GND.  The #6 Pad will also toggle between 3.3V and 0V to drive an external LED or a small motor (by adding a resistor and transistor). Also check out our instructable at https://www.instructables.com/id/Add-Computer-Control-to-Any-Electronic-Circuit-Kit/

Function 4: Flashlight/Laser Tag

You will need a flashlight or laser pointer for this activity. WARNING: Lasers are not toys and should always be used only by an adult or under adult supervision. NEVER point a laser at your or someone else's eyes since that can result in damage to your/their eyes. Using this function, you can create a fun flashlight tag game or a hit the target game. You can also use light and mirrors to create a sophisticated security system which fires when the light beam is broken anywhere in the room.

Initial setup and testing

Place the powered up Circuit Playground across the room from you. Running this function will cause a blue LED to be lit. The light sensor is located just to the right of the glowing blue LED. Shining a flashlight or pointing a laser pointer at it should cause the target "hit" response of a circle of red LEDs and sound to play. Alternatively, passing your hand over the light sensor in a well lit room should result in the target "hit" response to occur.

FOR HARDWARE HACKERS: If you have an optional servo motor, you can attach it to the Circuit Playground with the servo's orange lead connected to 3.3V, the yellow lead connected to the #12 Pad, and the brown lead connected to GND.  The #6 Pad will also toggle between 3.3V and 0V to drive an external LED or a small motor (by adding a resistor and transistor). Also check out our instructable at https://www.instructables.com/id/Knex-Motor-External-Control-Hack/ to see how to use this function to add simple computer control to a K'nex invention.

Function 5 Flashlight/Laser Tag with Random Activation

This is pretty much a simply modified version of Function 4, so all of the warnings and instructions from that function apply. However, for this function, the blue LED randomly turns ON and OFF. The target is only active when the blue LED is lit. If you have multiple Circuit Playgrounds with RTPLAYGROUND installed, you can place these around the room to create a really fun target game. You can also implement a multiplayer flashlight tag game.

Function 6 College Bowl Button Responder

If you've ever wanted to have your own college bowl game (or Jeopardy or Family Feud game) and needed to detect which of two teams hit a button first, this is the function for you.

Initial setup and testing

Starting this function will cause the small #13 system red LED to be lit indicating that the system is armed. Note that to keep things honest, if either team is holding down their button, the system can not be armed. Once armed, if the #3 Pad is grounded first, the ring of LEDs turns red indicating that the RED TEAM is awarded the chance to play. If the #10 Pad is grounded first, the ring of LEDs turns blue indicating that the BLUE TEAM is awarded the chance to play. After the system is tripped by either team, the two team inputs are disabled until the system is armed again by clicking on the left #4 button.
Of course you can use real buttons for this game, but who needs these if you have foil, paper clips, or other conductive objects lying around and free for the taking?

For another interesting experiment, try setting up a race track for two rubberband powered cars. How might you use foil at the finish line and this function to indicate whether the Red car or the Blue car wins the race?

Function 7 Temperature Sensor

The colored LEDs on the Circuit Playground will show the approximate temperature.

Initial setup and testing

LEDs will be a combination of black (unlit), blue, green, yellow, and red. You can read the temperature based on what combination of LEDs are lit as follows:

  1. With a combination of black and blue LEDs, each blue LED indicates a temperature from 30°F to 46°F in two degree increments. For example, 3 blue LEDs would indicate 34°F. All blue LEDs indicate 48°F.
  2. With a combination of blue and green LEDS, each green LED indicates a temperature from 50°F to 66°F in two degree increments. For example, 2 green LEDs would indicate 52°F. All green LEDs would indicate 68°F.
  3. With a combination of green and yellow LEDS, each yellow LED indicates a temperature from 70°F to 86°F in two degree increments. For example, 7 yellow LEDs would indicate 82°F. All yellow LEDs would indicate 88°F.
  4. With a combination of yellow and red LEDs, each red LED indicates a temperature from 90°F to 106°F in two degree increments. For example, 5 red LEDs would indicate 98°F.
  5. All black LEDs indicate a temperature below 30°F. All red LEDs indicate a temperature 108°F or above.
  6. Try placing your finger on the board's temperature sensor (marked with a thermometer icon) and try raising and lowering your temperature with your mind.

Function 8 Tilt Sensitive Game Control

The built-in accelerometer can detect the changing orientation of the board. This function will detect whether you are tilting the board forward or back or left or right. 

Initial setup and testing

Tilting the board causes the following actions:

  1. Tilting the board forward causes the top red leds to light
  2. Tilting the board back causes the bottom red leds to light
  3. Tilting the board to the left causes the left green LED to light
  4. Tilting the board to the right causes the right green LED to light
  5. Pressing either the left or right button will cause the blue LEDs to light

FOR PROGRAMMERS: You can also attach the board via USB to a laptop or tablet and control a game by simply tilting the Circuit Playground board. To enable this option, set switch #21 to the right (like when you select a function) and press the right button. The #13 red led will light indicating that external data mode is enabled. You can click the right button again to disable this option (the #13 red led will turn off). Set switch #21 to the left to activate the function. 

Attaching the board via USB cable will cause keyboard strokes to be sent to your attached computer or pad as follows:

  1. Tilting the board forward causes an UP ARROW key to be sent
  2. Tilting the board backwards causes a DOWN ARROW key to be sent
  3. Tilting the board to the left causes a LEFT ARROW key to be sent
  4. Tilting the board to the right causes a RIGHT ARROW key to be sent
  5. Pressing the left button will cause an "A" key to be sent
  6. Pressing the right button will cause a "D" key to be sent

Try playing the Robot Arm^3 game on the Scratch website which is controlled using the arrow keys and the A and D keys. You can find this game at: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/10607750/

You may now want to try this with a game you have created using Scratch or any other programming language you feel comfortable using. 

NOTE: Using the external data reporting option will tend to interfere with anything else you are trying to do with your keyboard, so remember to turn this option off when you are attached via USB cable and not wishing to send keystrokes to your attached computer or pad. 

Function 9 Color Organ

Color Organs display different colors based on how high or low the frequency is of the sound being picked up by the on board microphone. 

Initial setup and testing

Holding the Circuit Playground near any sound source, music, person talking, etc. will cause the the LEDs to light in a variety of colors. The brightness of the LEDs will correspond to the volume of the sound.

FOR HARDWARE HACKERS: If you have an optional servo motor, you can attach it to the Circuit Playground with the servo's orange lead connected to 3.3V, the yellow lead connected to the #12 Pad, and the brown lead connected to GND.  The servo motor control provides responsive output to voice (sung or spoken). This is handy for creating a talking head robot. You can see how we used this with an origami fox at out instrucatable at: https://www.instructables.com/id/Voice-Responsive-Origami-Puppet/

FOR PROGRAMMERS: You can also attach the board via USB to send the frequency bin numbers (0 to 9) sequence of the captured sounds to an external computer, laptop, or pad device. If you are clever, you can create an external program that can do simple speech or tone recognition this way. To enable this option, set switch #21 to the right (like when you select a function) and press the right button. The #13 red led will light indicating that external data mode is enabled. You can click the right button again to disable the mode. Set switch #21 to the left to activate the function.

NOTE: Using the external data reporting option will tend to interfere with anything else you are trying to do with your keyboard, so remember to turn this option off when you are attached via USB cable and not wishing to send keystrokes to your attached computer or pad.

I hope you have fun inventing stuff with this product. Please share your inventions and any questions you have on the Reach and Teach Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/transformworld




Green America approved