A microcontroller is the “brain” in some electronics projects. They can be programmed to perform specific, reoccurring tasks over and over. They can be programmed using nearly any computer and a free piece of software (download is below).
Many microcontrollers have “shields” that can be stacked onto the board to extend its capabilities (adding Wi-Fi, LTE, a touchscreen, or even motor drivers to control a 3D printer, for example). Arduinos, a very popular microcontroller, come in many form factors with varying capabilities. Unlike Raspberry Pis and BeagleBones, Arduinos do not run an operating system and are not full computers.
Microcontrollers are available in Maker Hub – Downtown.