littleBits http://wp.littlebits.cc <em>littleBits</em> is an opensource library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for <em>prototyping</em>, <em>learning</em> and <em>fun</em>. Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:08:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 littleBits vs Breadboarding: the number module /littlebits-vs-breadboarding-the-number-module /littlebits-vs-breadboarding-the-number-module#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:01:54 +0000 /?p=20842 More than 5 years ago, littleBits began as a way to help designers and those not familiar with electronics, to prototype interactions. Since then, we’ve iterated and redesigned our modules to make some of the trickiest and tedious setups, to work in a snap.

At first glance, many people don’t see the months and months of planning, testing and design that goes into each module.

Here, we’ve broken down what it would take to create a number module if you were to breadboard vs. using littleBits.

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Breadboarding:

Cost:
1 breadboard ​​$3.49
19 resistors​​ $1.52
5 capacitors ​​$0.90
1 opamp​​ $0.38
1 microcontroller​ $3.00
1 7-segment display​ $1.89
1 switch​​ $0.35
10 jumper wires ​$0.80

Total cost:​​ $12.33

Time:
Wiring​​​: 3 hours
Programming: ​​2 days
Debugging: ​​2 days

Total time:​​ about 4 days

littleBits:

Cost:
$24.00

Time:
5s

The number module measures the voltage present on its input connector, then displays that value in one of two modes. In “values” mode, it displays the percent of full scale from 0 to 99, with 5V being full scale, or 99. In “volts” mode, the module displays the voltage at the input.

The input signal is buffered by an opamp (U1), then passed through a single pole RC low pass filter to band limit the signal to around 16Hz. This signal is passed to the Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) of an Atmel ATMEGA168 microcontroller (U2). The microcontroller performs digital domain noise reduction, and converts the measured ADC values into display values. These values are translated by the microcontroller firmware into control signals that illuminate the correct segments of the display to represent the desired numbers.

Check out the blog next week where we will break down the light sensor!

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Case Study: Pre-Service Education /case-study-pre-service-education /case-study-pre-service-education#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:42:07 +0000 /?p=20780 Jacina Leong and the team at The Cube, an evolving hub of STEAM at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, are integrating creative thinking and learning modalities using littleBits. Read more about their ongoing library outreach and holiday workshops, as well as plans for a pre-service education program.

By: Jacina Leong

Title: Public Programs Curator

Organization: The Cube, Queensland University of Technology. Brisbane, Australia

Age Levels: 8+

Date: July 2014

 

Download Case Study PDF

 

Bio (The Cube):

With the rise of the STEM to STEAM agenda a new space of creative opportunity has appeared. This is a space for the intrepid creative adventurer to explore and offer up ideas and resolutions into this yet undefined area of educational experience. Motivated by the mission to expand the demographic of people engaging in STEM, The Cube is the inspiration point for an evolving hub of STEAM at Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia). The Cube’s central focus is in integrating creative thinking and learning modalities into the STEM landscape. More information available online: www.thecube.qut.edu.au

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Explain how you incorporated littleBits into your program/class?

littleBits has been incorporated by The Cube into the following programs:

- Outreach programs across Brisbane libraries – The Cube has partnered with Brisbane City Council (BCC) Library Services to deliver workshops across BCC libraries, since January 2014. To date, ten littleBits workshops have been delivered engaging 240 kids (ages 8 – 12).

- Educator Professional Development – the workshop, ‘Creative Tools for the 21st Century’, introduced educators (teachers from primary and secondary schools) to simple-smart toolsets such as, littleBits and MaKey MaKey. Educators worked towards the development of an automated drawing machine (based on the littleBits lesson plan) and along the way, learned about the function of each bit through test-and-play.

- Holiday programs (onsite at The Cube) – based on the outreach programs delivered across BCC libraries, The Cube also delivered littleBits workshops for ages 8 – 12 in the holiday program “A robot by any other name.”

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Who were the key people (and their titles) in your organization that made this project possible?

Lubi Thomas (Senior Digital Curator) and Jacina Leong (Public Programs Curator).

 

What worked well?

The workshops are collaborative and encourage participants to work in small teams to ideate and implement prototypes using littleBits. Participants are making connections with others in the community, which may not otherwise have been made.

 

What has been the response of your students/community?

Here is some feedback from participants and partners:

“ … The Cube workshops for children and families provide a unique opportunity for individuals to discover the creative potential and application of new technologies. These unique workshops can challenge an individual’s perception of their own capabilities in creative endeavors, educational options, careers, entrepreneurship and business ventures.” – Brisbane City Council Library Services

“Great PD that allowed opportunities to interact with multiple technologies, great modeling of processes and good variety of opportunities.” – Educator, attendee of ‘Creative Tools’ PD workshop

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What are your future plans for littleBits use?

STEAM think-tank for pre-service teachers (students from QUT Faculty of Education) with an interest in simple-smart technologies (like littleBits) as tools for learning. The think-tank will support at a pre-service teacher level the further development of their knowledge, skills and understanding of computational thinking, a key element of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies. Although yet to be endorsed, the increased emphasis upon the fundamentals of computer science across disciplines is generating interest and apprehension amongst educators, who in some instances are uncertain how to prepare or deliver into this curriculum.

The program will guide pre-service teachers in exploring these technologies and their potential uses in learning, enabling them to generate ideas and the production of learning resources that could be used in education programs, at The Cube or beyond.

As the STEAM think-tank program evolves we hope that it may suggest a model that could be used to develop similar extra-curricula communities of practices to connect pre-service teachers.

 

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Project of the Week: Cloud Sleeper by Doktor Bob /project-of-the-week-cloud-sleeper-by-doktor-bob /project-of-the-week-cloud-sleeper-by-doktor-bob#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:30:23 +0000 /?p=20735 large_filled_doktor-bob_alarm
Light and heavy sleepers alike will love this combination wake up alarm/white noise machine by Doktor Bob. It uses the cloudBit, the Arduino module and the Synth Kit to accommodate sleepers of all kinds. The random module supplies white noise for light sleepers while the cloudBit and Arduino modules control the morning alarm sounds. Through IFTTT, the cloudBit is set up to trigger every morning at 6am, activating the Arduino module to play a programmed Westminister Bells melody. The volume of each type of noise (white or alarm) can be adjusted through the mix module which feeds into the speaker.

 

Check out this video for a great tutorial and to see it in action:

]]> /project-of-the-week-cloud-sleeper-by-doktor-bob/feed 0 Ayah Bdeir Awarded MIT Tech Review “Innovator Under 35″ /ayah-bdeir-awarded-by-mit-tech-reviews-35-innovators-under-35 /ayah-bdeir-awarded-by-mit-tech-reviews-35-innovators-under-35#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 22:26:02 +0000 /?p=20705 We’re very proud to announce Ayah Bdeir has been named a “2014 Innovator Under 35” by MIT Tech Review. The award recognizes “exceptionally talented technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world.”

MIT Tech Review interviewed Ayah about her background, founding littleBits, and her mission to make technology accessible for anyone to use creatively.

“Bdeir takes pride in the fact that the product appeals to girls and boys, children and adults, designers and engineers. ‘A screwdriver is a screwdriver for everybody,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or how you use it. Every person will find what they want.’”

Watch the video below for the full interview with Ayah, plus a peek into office life at littleBits:

 

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Read more about the “Innovators Under 35″ award here.

 

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Schultz and the City /schultz-and-the-city /schultz-and-the-city#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:49:01 +0000 /?p=20634 This week, Philadelphia’s favorite canine hit the big city. For an entire week, Schultz the schnauzer galavanted around NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. Schultz’ addition has upped the Hoffer family count in the littleBits office up to THREE.

 

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Jane Hoffer, VP Ops

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Aaron Hoffer, Engineering Intern

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Schultz “Schultzy” Hoffer, Security

Well done Hoffs. Well done.

Without further ado, please enjoy a sneak peek into the life of a littleBits pooch.


1. No business matters will be discussed until morning coffee is consumed.

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2. Working like a dog in the engineering lab.

3. I can haz laser cutter.

4. Wearing my Warby Barkers.

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5. Rolling deep.

 

 

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Educator Spotlight: Eugene Hsiao /educator-spotlight-eugene-hsiao /educator-spotlight-eugene-hsiao#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:43:17 +0000 /?p=20618 What can you make with the Workshop Set? Our Educator Spotlight this week shines on Eugene Hsiao, from the Cubic Creative Company in Taiwan, who enjoys making simple, but creative projects with his junior high through college level students.

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Tell us about your current teaching experience.

I am currently the CEO of the Cubic Creative Company. I have demonstrated littleBits for college students in summer camps, prepared 2-day workshops for high school teachers, as well as 2-day workshops for junior high school students. I’ve also taught circuits with littleBits for children as young as 10 years old.

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How did you discover littleBits? What drew you to our product/company?

I was looking for new educational toys from TrendHunter. I have used Gigo and LEGO to teach creative thinking for professionals in industries for many years and recently for students ages 10 – 22. littleBits has clear advantages for making electronics accessible for students, including color-coding, modular functions and safety. Students can focus on creating the desired functions without the danger of mistaking the combination of electronic parts.

Why did you chose the Workshop Set for your students?

Given the use and quantity we need in our classes, the Workshop Set was the best choice for our investment. Students should be able get hands-on experience by making individual creations. In this case, each student needs 4-5 basic components (or modules). For a complex project, a team of 3-4 students might need more like 10 – 20 modules, so it’s nice to have a good assortment available.

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If you could challenge your students to make anything with any amount of littleBits, what would you have them create?

I usually start by challenging my students to modify everyday objects. They learn to discover what is needed and improve the current system, such as a voice-controlled garbage can. It is fun to see they can tackle basic engineering techniques with confidence. Once they are accomplished in building with the littleBits circuits, they can create more challenging projects such as smart lighting for autos or the home. This project needs more insight in scenarios, problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

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What advice can you offer teachers who are new to littleBits?

The easy and simple construction of littleBits can lead students to build something quickly without really understanding the complexity of the interactions. Asking questions is always a good way for them to think more about the problems they are solving and go deeper into the topic of the projects.

 

Thanks Eugene for sharing your story!

 

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Engadget: Can littleBits’ Lego-like kits democratize DIY engineering? /engadget-can-littlebits-lego-like-kits-democratize-diy-engineering /engadget-can-littlebits-lego-like-kits-democratize-diy-engineering#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:00:03 +0000 /?p=20827 Engadget interviewed Ayah Bdeir on her background, founding littleBits, and how young girls can dive into making and programming.

 

“‘It literally takes you seconds to get started and you can start building simple stuff like a blinking LED or a moving motor. Or very complex stuff like a wireless transmission or a radio frequency or make something programmable. . . With littleBits, you can snap bits together in seconds and suddenly you get a flurry of ideas that come to you and you can’t help but be inspired. ’”

 

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Read the full interview here.

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Educator Spotlight: Paul Treadwell /educator-spotlight-paul-treadwell /educator-spotlight-paul-treadwell#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:55:25 +0000 /?p=20506 Today we shine the educator spotlight on Paul Treadwell, who works with Cornell University on a variety of technology related projects. Paul recently used littleBits modules with a 4-H group to recreate digital circuits from Minecraft in the physical world, helping his students to understand an abstract idea in more concrete terms. Read more about Paul’s experiences with littleBits below:

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Tell us about your current teaching experience.

My most recent teaching experience with littleBits came as part of a large 4-H program on campus at Cornell University. For the past twelve years I’ve worked with 4-H youth on a variety of technology centered projects – from prototyping mobile devices to digital storytelling. This year, my focus shifted to a more maker oriented program. Kids are swimming in technology, but it is mostly a black box. I wanted to do something that opened that box, at least a little bit.

littleBits came to mind immediately as I began the process of planning for this session. I wanted to provide a range of activities of varying technical skill levels, in order to accommodate a mix of technical facility in my participants.

One of the ground level learnings I wanted to facilitate was a basic understanding of how components fit together to create something. This may seem a bit facile but over the years, and over a range of topics, I have found that kids can work quite well with technology without more than a surface acquaintance of what makes things go zoom. littleBits provide a fun and easy way for kids with no prior experience or understanding of circuits to grab a  handful, sit down with minimal guidance and begin connecting things to see what happens. 

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In the past I have found some of the most powerful learning happens when I provide a loose framework (there have to be some boundaries), reliable tools and technologies and a safe environment. During this session we worked with littleBits and Minecraft (among other tools). My mandate to the kids working with littleBits was vague – “Create a redstone circuit in Minecraft and then build it in the real world with littleBits” – because I viewed this as a kind of beta test. I had no set mappings of Minecraft to littleBits circuits (that component is coming soon!), just an intuition that Minecraft could be an easy entry into the world of circuits out here in the real world.

The results were surprising. During the course of our time together (the whole session lasted about 14 hours spread over three days) the littleBits group ( 5 youth) created 3 separate circuits in Minecraft, mapped them out and replicated them with littleBits modules. An intense amount of discussion and negotiation occurred as they created and then reasoned out how to re-create the interactions. Minecraft became an opening door that lead to a real and tangible world of components that could be combined to create something physical.

How did you discover littleBits? What drew you to our product/company?

It might have been two years ago via Make magazines podcast with Ayah Bdeir in 2012 – though I wouldn’t bet the bank on that. I keep an eye out for new and interesting developments so it could have been via a tweet or somewhere else…but I’d been aware of littleBits for a while.

What drew me to littleBits? I think the easy, snap together like Legos nature of the components, the amazingly creative things people are doing with them, and the fact that littleBits is one of a new wave of projects/companies that are front and center in the process of breaking the gender stereotype of technology innovation.

That last point is perhaps an overly delicate way of acknowledging the woman/girls in tech and computing world shift that is happening.

What is your favorite littleBits project? 

Not to seem too overly self-focused. but my current favorite is mapping Minecraft to littleBits. I’m working with several colleagues to develop this into a more focused program and curriculum that we can test a bit more and then unleash into the wild. See a video on our work here: Redstone to littleBits: Mapping virtual circuits in the real world

Describe littleBits in your own 3 words

Tactile, tangible and magnetic

If you could challenge your students to make anything with any amount of littleBits, what would you have them create?

Well…not any one thing. That’s a broad imaginary mandate but I’d frame it as a challenge to create things that can monitor and interact with the world and be able to map them (whatever changes are being monitored) online. My gold standard would be to have them create sensors and communication systems that would interact with the natural environment to create histories and records of changes in the world.

What advice can you offer teachers who are new to littleBits?

Trust in the bits – they are magnetic in more than one way.

 

Thanks Paul for sharing your story and unique application of littleBits with our community!

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A Note from Ayah, Founder and CEO /a-note-from-ayah /a-note-from-ayah#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 16:24:22 +0000 /?p=20460 We recently launched the newest addition to the littleBits library: the cloudBit. The cloudBit is the easiest way for anyone to make their own internet-connected devices and inventions, no soldering, programming, or wiring. This is a moment I have long been waiting for; the module has gone through multiple iterations, and we wanted to get it just right. Even though this is the most complex module in our library, we wanted it to be like any other littleBits module: unintimidating, immediate, and most of all, inspiring. Using the cloudBit you’ll be able to snap the internet to anything. I can’t tell you how excited I am about what the cloudBit means for you as a user and for littleBits as a platform.

Our mission at littleBits is to Put the Power of Electronics in the Hands of Everyone. I previously shared that in the first two years of the company, we focused on the Everyone in that statement. We built the most accessible and extensive library of modular electronics so that everyone –from a professional designer to a grade school student– could be creative with electronics. For the last 8 months, we have been focused on the word Power. We created powerful functionality, exemplified by the Synth Kit, Arduino module, Wireless, Logic, Space Kit, and now, the cloudBit.

Why am I so excited about cloudBit? Web-connected devices, or “The Internet of Things,” are some of the sexiest buzzwords these days. Everyone is ooh-ing and aah-ing at every new smart device on the market, and how they can make our lives better. However, the landscape is riddled by large companies parachuting utility-type solutions on us or small companies that are creating hyper-specific applications that don’t capture the richness of our lives. These products either have a single purpose and limited flexibility, or, if you wanted to customize them, they require a high degree of skill in hardware/software. Therein lies the problem. We believe that hardware needs to be limitless and that the Internet of Things needs to be democratized. The next billion dollar idea isn’t going to come from Apple or Google, it’s going to come from designers, makers, educators, kids, entrepreneurs; it’s going to come from you. littleBits is the platform that will enable you to prototype and build that idea.

Whether you want to re-create the most popular products on the market, prototype the next big thing, or bring your home into the 21st century, you shouldn’t need a degree in engineering to do it. Better yet, if you have a problem that is so unique to you, a problem no large company would want to address because it’s too small a market, go for it! Snap the internet to anything, and change your own world.

We hope you love the cloudBit. We hope you create amazing things with it. And, when you do, share them with the littleBits community to inspire others. If you have feedback about the cloudBit or anything littleBits-related just email us.

Lastly, I want to share a very heartfelt thank you for supporting litttleBits. The reason we push to make hardware limitless is to match your imagination. We never would have been able to get to this pivotal moment without you.

Thank you,
Ayah Bdeir
Founder and CEO, littleBits

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Summer of STEAM Contest Winners /summer-of-steam-contest-winners /summer-of-steam-contest-winners#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:25:53 +0000 /?p=20442 Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 11.40.24 AM

In honor of littleBits attending the White House Maker Faire on June 18th, we offered schools + educators* the chance to win over $20,000 in littleBits product; our biggest giveaway yet! Of the 1,000+ entries submitted, there were 15 randomly selected winners, with 3 lucky winners getting a littleBits Pro Library ($2,999 value) and 12 educators receiving Workshop Sets ($999 value).

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The BIG Winners of the Summer of STEAM Contest are…

Pro Libraries

Tina Moricz, Manzanita Elementary in Tucson, AZ

Diana Rendina, Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL

Alexa Sever, Sugarland Elementary in Sterling, VA

Workshop Sets

Kimberly McClain, Odyssey Charter School in Las Vegas, NV

Kirsten Morgan, Wardlaw Elementary School in Vallejo, CA

David Dobryden, Park Century School in Culver City, CA

Craig Yen, Valle Verde Elementary in Walnut Creek, CA

Jacob Lingley, Bliss Carman Middle School in Fredericton, NB

Anthony Bialek, Bednarcik Junior High School in Aurora, IL

Trina Reed, Levittown Public Library in Levittown, NY

Carla West, St. Therese School in Deephaven, MN

Stan Mesina, August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu, HI

Youngmoo Kim, ExCITe Center of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA

David Spencer, Savannah College of Art & Design in Atlanta, GA

Pat Killian, The Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, NY

 

Congrats to all of our winners and thank you to everyone who entered the contest. We loved reading your inspiring submissions and are honored by your continued support for hands-on learning and making with littleBits. As always, educators are eligible for our 15% discount, simply fill out our form here to get started.

*This contest was only open to school educators/administrators and non-profit education organizations in the US and Canada.

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