These types of electronic invention tools consist of a circuit board connected by a USB cable to a computer. Alligator clips, connected to a conductible material, enable current to flow in the circuit when the circuit is closed. An electrical signal is then sent to the computer, as either a keyboard stroke or mouse-click signal.
Invention kits such as Makey Makey are themselves not programmable but can be used as an input device linked to a program such as Scratch 3.0. This makes them ideal for designing creative digital solutions to a range of problems.
Electronic programming boards can be used by students to create digital solutions for a range of problems. The programming boards typically use a microcontroller, which is a small chip (a tiny computer) that sends and receives signals to turn things on and off. The microcontroller is connected to inputs, such as buttons or sensors, and outputs, such as lights or a speaker. These components combined are referred to as an ‘embedded system’. An embedded system is designed to run one program.
The most common programmable boards are the BBC Micro:Bit and the Arduino.
There are a number of lending libraries that enable schools to play with and learn about programmable boards This assists schools to better understand this type of tech before making a purchase.