Tan uploaded his very first project to the littleBits Project Page in January 2016. The Inchworm project was simplistic in design (it only contains 3 bits), yet it does so much! It appears that we weren’t the only people inspired by it— in fact, others around the world have been making their own versions of the inchworm. The inchworm became such a success that we included the invention in the Gizmos & Gadgets, 2nd Edition kit.
Check out our interview with this innovative inventor:
Where are you based?
I’m a bit of a nomad right now. My hometown is Raleigh, NC. I spent the last two years in Philadelphia, PA for graduate school. Now, I’m writing this from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, as I backpack the world before returning to the workforce.
How would you describe yourself in an Ernest Hemingway-style novel? (6 words or less)
Hungry for adventures worthy of storytelling.
What was your littleBits “a-ha!” moment? The moment you were bitten by the littleBits bug.
My friend rented a littleBits kit from the NC State University library – shout out to my alma mater. I took it home and my 5 year old nephew was instantly curious, so we made silly things for the next hour. I was hooked the instant we made a bubble machine and he went “WHOAAAA THAT’S SO COOOOOL”. Who knew making things that made kids excited to make things would be so exciting?
When starting a littleBits project, what does your design and video process look like?
I usually have a user experience in mind when I start, like what a “thing” does, how it’s interacted with by kids, and how it might be shared in a video. Then, the design process gets a bit messy but typically follows a cycle of sketching concepts, building them, testing the project, and improving what feels sloppy. The engineer in me searches for ways to simplify everything. Then, the amateur filmmaker in me just goes for it, although there may be some storyboarding and storytelling work involved.
How has littleBits impacted you creatively?
It’s great fun imagining what could be made with a given set of bits, almost like a puzzle. I love that they let me fail-forward quickly and hack things together. I’m most excited to combine what littleBits offers with simple mechanical components like springs and gears.
What do you plan on inventing next?
I like things that move. One of my recent ideas is for a “flippy frog” that does a somersault when triggered with a clap or an IR blast. Want to hook me up with a spare kit so I don’t have to raid the library every week?