# Variables

We can think of a variable as being like a plastic bin in a classroom that can hold crafting supplies. You could label a bin “glue sticks” and put 10 glue sticks inside. At the beginning of class, you might walk around the room and hand a glue stick to each student. You remove a glue stick from the bin until the bin has zero glue sticks in it. Forty-five minutes later, you can then collect the glue sticks until the bin has 10 glue sticks in it again.

The variable bin goes from ten down to zero, then it pauses for 45 minutes, and then it goes from zero up to ten. You could label the “glue sticks” bin with “pencils,” and while it would serve the same functional purpose of holding glue sticks, it would be confusing. The best practice is to label the variable with what it actually contains rather than with a label that is humorous or vague.

Let us take the example of controlling the intensity of the NeoPixels displayed on the Circuit Playground Express with a variable. Our goal is to fade the NeoPixels on and off by using a variable. Click on the Variables Toolbox drawer and then click on the Make a Variable button. We will create a variable called `intensity`. It’s like making a plastic bin and labeled it “intensity”.

To begin with, we’ll put “0” in the intensity bin. That means that we need an `||loops:on start||` block from the `||loops:LOOPS||` Toolbox drawer, and we will need a `||variables:set||` block from the `||variables:VARIABLES||` Toolbox drawer. We will set the `intensity` variable value to `0`. Variables need to be told what they hold. It’s like having a bin labelled “pencils” and having zero pencils in the bin to start with.

``let intensity = 0``

Next, let’s pick an input to start our program, such as `||input:on button A click||`. Inside that input, we’ll need to set the color of the NeoPixels and we’ll need a `||light:set brightness||` block as well (the initial default value will be `20`).

``````let intensity = 0
input.buttonA.onEvent(ButtonEvent.Click, function () {
light.setAll(0xff0000)
light.setBrightness(20)
})
intensity = 0``````

Now, if we click on the Variables drawer again, we can pull out the “intensity” lozenge block and drag that into the `||light:set brightness||` block where it will replace the default value of `20`. We want the intensity of the NeoPixels to increase from zero, so let’s also drag out a `||variables:change||` variable block and place that after the `||light:set brightness||` block.

``````let intensity = 0
input.buttonA.onEvent(ButtonEvent.Click, function () {
light.setAll(0xff0000)
light.setBrightness(intensity)
intensity += 1
})
intensity = 0``````

If you press button A on the Simulator now, first all NeoPixels will know they should be red, then the brightness will be set to whatever is in the `intensity` variable (which right now is zero), and then that zero will change by `1`, so the brightness will be set to `1`. The max brightness of the NeoPixels is `255`, so you won’t even be able to see a brightness value of just `1`. Back to the pencil bin metaphor, it’s like we have an empty bin and then immediately put just one pencil in it. Let’s increase that to something more impressive.

From the `||loops:LOOPS||` drawer, pull out a `||loops:pause||` block, place it after the `||variables:change intensity||` block, and type in the number `50` instead of the default 100 ms. Also drag out a `||loops:repeat||` loop. If you hover in the space between the blue `||light:set all pixels to||` and the `||light:set brightness||` blocks, a gray version of the `||loops:repeat||` loop will open up, and you can let it encircle the other three blocks. Type `100` instead of the default `||loops:repeat 4 times||`.

``````let intensity = 0
input.buttonA.onEvent(ButtonEvent.Click, function () {
light.setAll(0xff0000)
for (let i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
light.setBrightness(intensity)
intensity += 1
pause(50)
}
})
intensity = 0``````

Now, press button A in the Simulator. The NeoPixels will be told their color is red, then they will be set at whatever number is in the `intensity` variable (which initially is zero). Next, the `intensity` variable will grow by one. Then, after a 50 ms pause, the process will repeat for a total of 100 times, with the `intensity` variable growing by one each time. The empty pencil bin will have one pencil dropped in every 50 ms until it contains 100 pencils.

Finally, let’s fade the NeoPixels back off. Right click / alt click / control click / two finger tap on the Repeat block. This will call up a menu that lets you duplicate whatever is in the loop.

Place that second `||loops"repeat 100 times||` loop and the three blocks it contains below the first loop. To fade the lights back off, we’ll want to put a value of `-1` in the `||variables:change intensity||` block this time. To mark the point when the NeoPixels begin their fade, go to the `||musicMUSIC||` drawer in the Toolbox and drag a `||music:play sound||` block in between the two loops.

``````let intensity = 0
input.buttonA.onEvent(ButtonEvent.Click, function () {
light.setAll(0xff0000)
for (let i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
light.setBrightness(intensity)
intensity += 1
pause(50)
}
music.powerUp.play()
for (let i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
light.setBrightness(intensity)
intensity += -1
pause(50)
}
})
intensity = 0``````

Building this program gives some insight into how variables work. They are like the storage bins that let you collect, disburse, and control data.