littleBits is a really simple way to get children (and grown ups) into making and designing their own electronic devices.
The littleBits library includes 10 kits and nearly 70 interoperable modules, with each module snapping together easily using magnets. No soldering, no wiring, no programming, just snap together for prototyping, learning and fun. It’s impossible to connect them up wrong!
I’ve just bought myself a littleBits Base Kit and a Cloud Starter Bundle to investigate the potential for teaching science and computing. I’ve only had the kit a few days and I’m impressed already! littleBits products have won more than 25 tech and education awardsand it’s not hard to see why!
Each bit has a specific function (light, sound, sensors, buttons, thresholds, pulse, motors, etc), and modules snap to make larger circuits. Just as LEGO™ allows you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are small, simple, intuitive, blocks that make creating with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. Every module works with every other in millions of combinations, so chilren will never run out of things to make.
The modules are colour coded, to help plan how to connect them. Input Bits are pink. They send signals to your circuit through buttons, dimmers, light sensors and more. The orange Bits connect your circuit to other systems and let you build in new directions, these include Arduino and Makey Makey units and Logic Gates. Green Bits are outputs, which do stuff: these include led lights, buzzers, led bar graphs and motors. Blue modules provide power – either connect to a 9V battery or a USB cable.
In the simple circuit below a light sensor is used to control a buzzer. The light sensor can be easily switched between working when its light or working when its dark by moving the switch on the module.
If you’re looking for ideas to get started, then the littleBits website provides a wealth of ideas for projects that can be built with their kits.
The LittleBits motor has a connector that lets it connect to a Lego spindle to control and move Lego machines. It was easy to set it up so that it made a Lego conveyor belt move, for example. The only problem I had was fixing the motor to the lego so that it didn’t move. We’re looking into 3D printing a Lego base that snaps to the feet of the LittleBits motor.
I was very interested by the idea behind the CloudBit kit. This module allows you to connect your devices to the internet via a built-in wifi adapter. The Cloudbit can be controlled via the LittleBits cloud website, which you can access on any device. It was a very simple task to set up an on screen button which switched the motor on and off. You can also output from the Cloudbit back to the web, so clicking a button or covering the light sensor would display a reading on the web page.
There’s even a way to interact with Minecraft via the Bitcraft mod and for grown ups you can integrate littleBits into your Smart Home setup!
The CloudBit can also be connected to a wealth of other inputs via the IFTT (If This Then That) website. If you’ve not played with the side before it allows you to set up simple rules from hundreds of different web tools. For example I could set up a rule that if someone tweets an @ reply to me on Twitter, the littleBit would turn on the buzzer for 3 seconds.
Or for example if I reach my step goal on my Fitbit it would light up an LED. This is a simple way to build your own Internet of Things gadgets with so many ways this could be used.
With all the different inputs and outputs, there’s a wealth of different ways that the Littlebits can be used. And because the kit is modular, you can start with a basic kit and add more inputs and outputs over time.
For teachers, there’s a special section of the littleBits website for Educators, with ideas, lesson plans and educators guides. There’s also a special discount scheme if you want to buy in bulk for your school.
I’m really impressed with the kit so far and am looking forward to playing with it some more when I get a bit more time! You can buy a littleBits Base Kit on Amazon here, or visit the littleBits website to find out more!