Skip to Content

The PicoBoard

Program and play! Introducing toy sensors that connect Scratch creations to the physical world

The PicoBoard is a new toy developed by the Playful Invention Company (founded by Mitch Resnick et al.). Designed for use with Scratch, the PicoBoard contains sound and light sensors that allow Scratch programs to sense and respond to physical stimulae.



Here's the product description from the company website:


With the PicoBoard, your Scratch™ projects can sense – and respond to – things going on in the world outside your computer.

For example, using the sound sensor, you can make a sprite change how it looks whenever there is a loud sound.


whirl example
Scratch logo  


Or, using the readings from a PicoBoard's light sensor, you can program a sprite to hop up and down whenever a shadow passes by.

You can use the slider and button to control a character in a video game.

A PicoBoard also comes with a USB cable and four sets of alligator clips that measure the electrical resistance in a circuit. You can use the alligator clips to build all kinds of custom sensors. For example, if you attach the clips to a pair of home-made bracelets, you can detect when your wrists touch.


The PICO website features ordering information, as well as various support resources for educators (videos, photos, setup guides, links to discussion forums, etc.).

Jill Codding

Musical Play doh? Wait a minute! I want to know more about that, please!

Karen Brennan
Zachary Ray


I taught a few classes with the Pico system. We did not have the Pico Board but instead used the Pico Cricket system where all the sensors are separate and attach to the Pico brain via cables. This is sold  as a companion set with the Lego WeDo motor. My students all loved the classes and want more! We made many of the included projects including moving sculptures and musical Play-Doh. We also made our own projects such as a door alarm, light activated music, random light sequences... all kinds of stuff! I let them make some of the Lego Windmills and similar hand operated, moving constructs. Then we went around and added motors in place of the hand-cranks.


I was wondering if anyone has used both the Cricket system and the Board system and what insights/preferences they might have?


Karen Brennan

I've worked with both and I like both, although they serve different purposes or enable different forms of expression. I like how the Pico board interfaces with Scratch, as it allows me to extend my digital Scratch stories based on sensor input. Controlling what's happening on the screen with something in the physical world isn't something that Crickets can do.

I like the Crickets because they extend just sensor input (as with the Pico board) with different forms of output (particularly the motor).

I find that LEGO's WeDo kit is a nice middle ground. It has some of the sensors (tilt, proximity) and a motor, and interfaces with Scratch (unlike the Crickets).