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>. Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:07:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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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Educator Spotlight: Rachel Albert /educator-spotlight-rachel-albert /educator-spotlight-rachel-albert#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:00:35 +0000 /?p=20295 This week, we’re excited to share Rachel Albert’s education story! Rachel encourages her students to create 3-D interactive art installations that engage their problem-solving skills and express their cultural heritage and life experiences. Check out their life size tape sculpture on our project page.

Rachel Albert 2

Tell us about your school or program.

I work in a public alternative high school in Northern Virginia that serves a very diverse student body.  Some students had difficulties in a traditional high school and were placed at our school following disciplinary proceedings in the county school system. Others are teen parents trying to balance parenting and school, and still others are new immigrants and English language learners, starting out on a long journey to earn an American high school diploma. The art program at my school focuses on three-dimensional work that allows students to problem-solve, while also expressing their respective cultural heritages and life experiences.

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

I first discovered littleBits when looking for a step-up from snap-circuits as a learning tool for my 6 year old son.  He loves circuits, engineering and making creations that do something.  Ever since he received a littleBits Base Kit as a birthday gift, all he’s asked for is additional modules for every special occasion.  His favorite invention is a cardboard box “ambulance” for his stuffed animals.  It has headlights, but the best parts are the siren and a spinning design on the outside – which are all activated by a pressure sensor when a stuffed animal patient is inside!  

How does your school/program use littleBits as a 21st century STEM/STEAM teaching and learning tool?

The 2 Starter Kits we use in the art program have been the first exposure my school has had to littleBits. After using these with my students, I think these Kits will help generate excitement about hands-on learning.  Our students sometimes struggle with the feeling that school is not for them and the “when will I ever use this?” mentality.

I am also hopeful that the littleBits Kits will engage the students who have some engineering interest, but who lack English language proficiency required to take courses in those areas.  The potential for confidence building in those students is truly exciting.  Additionally, I have offered the 2 Kits as a collaborative tool between my art program and the science department, and those faculty seem excited about the use of them in the classroom too, so we’ll see where it takes us!

What is your favorite littleBits project?

The first activity I plan to do with students are the littleBits challenge cards – I love those!  Students need to understand the individual pieces before they can figure out how to integrate them into their own work.  I don’t think I have a favorite project yet, since this is new for me in the classroom, but I will keep you posted! 

Describe littleBits in your own 3 words:

Accessible, playful, functional 

Rachel Albert 1

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

I imagine either an interactive or choose-your-own-adventure type of art.  Artwork that interacts with the viewer can have a profound effect on the maker and the observer.  Having students think about cause and effect and also about what they want the viewer to take away from the experience of seeing the work could be inspiring.

I’d like to have students plan for a work of art that changes depending on the viewer’s experience- make something that changes when opened, something that lights up when someone is in front of it, etc.

Rachel Albert 3

I would love for students to design clay sculptures that would littleBits.  We have made water fountains before out of clay, and the planning that is required to accommodate a pump, tube, and the general flow of water, requires a higher level of thinking than a simple flower vase. That’s when watching students work, think and problem solve is really interesting!

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

Let the students explore the modules first.  In my observation, learners– from my 6 year-old son, to my 20 year-old students– are craving to make things that are interactive.  The spark of excitement when their circuit does what they planned to is so genuine.  Once students understand what can be done, maybe try asking “how do you want this to work with your own ideas?”  Let it come from them.

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Introducing the cloudBit™ /introducing-the-cloudbit /introducing-the-cloudbit#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:58:43 +0000 /?p=20335 Web-connected devices, or “The Internet of Things”, just might be one of the fastest-growing trends in the tech world today. Every other day we hear about new kickstarter campaigns, major acquisitions, new standards, alliances and consortiums in this space, all racing to position themselves as the greatest new “revolutionary” gadget that will change the world, ranging from the ridiculous to the absurd to the sublime.

However, all the current ways to make things talk through the internet are either very specific, closed consumer devices with one purpose and little flexibility, or require a high degree of skill & knowledge in hardware or software or both.

Today we’re VERY excited to release the cloudBit, our most powerful module yet. It gives anyone the power to turn any object into an internet-connected smart device in a snap – no soldering, wiring or programming required.

With the cloudBit, you can snap the internet to anything.

That means the Internet of Things is now open and accessible – enabling anyone to prototype, test ideas, and participate in a field that could change the world and how we live. People can recreate popular connected devices (like a smart thermostat), invent their own, or build solutions to their unique needs. Our mission is to put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, from the simplest circuits to powerful internet-connected devices.

littleBits has always had the goal of making electronics a material , the way that wood, metal, cardboard and paper are materials we can use to create. The cloudBit is the next major step in this same vision — we are now making the Internet into a concrete material that can be easily incorporated into any physical creation or invention. See our founder Ayah speaking about this at the recent Solid conference in San Francisco:

How to Get It

Starting today the cloudBit and the limited edition Cloud Starter Bundle are available at littlebits.cc.

The Cloud Starter Bundle comes with six electronic modules, an insert card with five tutorials and 100 more available online, and two accessories to easily start connecting everyday objects to the Internet.

The cloudBit is available for $59, or included in the Cloud Bundle for $99.

How It Works

The cloudBit can be paired with every module in the littleBits library to create trillions of combinations and ideas.

There are three ways it interacts with the connected world:

Bits™ to Web – Using hardware to communicate with web services and software; a button or motion sensor can trigger a web action such as a SMS message or a tweet, logging sensor data in a spreadsheet, etc.

Web to Bits – Communicating events in the web to the cloudBit. Think Facebook  likes or Twitter followers settings off bells and whistles.

Bits to Bits – Communicating from machine to machine. With more than one cloudBit, people can “wire” them to communicate with one another across any distance.

littleBits Cloud Control

We’ve developed a web app called Cloud Control to make the setup process easy and offer different and powerful ways to interact with cloudBit immediately out of the box. On any computer, tablet or phone, you can remotely trigger or read from your cloudBits.

cloud-dimmer cloud-dial

Internet-connected with IFTTT

We’ve worked with IFTTT to build out the littleBits channel and extend the functionality of the littleBits platform by allowing people to integrate with their favorite websites. IFTTT has over 100 channels and growing, many of which are new hardware channels, allowing you to connect your littleBits projects directly to tons of other connected devices.

cloudBit API

Advanced users can find their way around a simple, powerful API, the possibilities are limitless!

cloudBit Inner Workings

The infrastructure that powers the cloudBit is very sophisticated, built on the latest Node.js technologies. The cloudBit system actually consists of many different modular pieces working together seamlessly.

The elements of the littleBits Cloud Platform [see diagram]

  • Device server, to which the cloudBits connect via a raw HTTP socket
  • HTTP API, used by our services and accessible by advanced cloudBit users [documentation here]
  • WebSocket streaming API, used by Cloud Control for real-time interaction [will be available to cloudBit users in the future]
  • REPL server, for system administrators, to have direct command-line access to the data stores and messaging systems
  • all of the above are tied together by a pub/sub messaging system, for now we are using Redis pubsub [although we will most likely move to a ZeroMQ architecture soon]

Backstory

Like many ideas, we have been thinking of making an internet-connected littleBits module since the beginning. With the additions of a few key team members early last year [including me :) ], we decided it was time to tackle it.

We had many things to decide: what would a littleBits cloud-connected module look like? How would the actual hardware be set up? How would the web & software part work? We researched, experimented, tested and tested again. Here is an early experiment done with node.js for arduino, which is not yet going through the internet [it's connected directly to through USB].

And below we have a finished cloudBit, performing the same interaction but with our Cloud Control app through the internet:

Here are some more historical versions of the cloudBit, and the final version below:

cloud-hardware-versions

cloud-module-diagram

It’s been a long, fascinating road and we’re really proud of the cloudBit. We’ve gone through 2 complete hardware revisions, 2 major software builds, and we are now super excited to release it out into the world to see what you all are going to create!

Thanks to all of my fellow littleBits teammates and Tom Kennedy of Refactory.co, as well as Richard Rodger and Matteo Collina at NearForm.com for their help in making hardware limitless.

Check out the new cloudBit, and get tons of project ideas here or discuss on our forum.


— Colin Vernon, Head of Cloud Platform


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Tips & Tricks: Cloud Module /tips-tricks-cloud-module /tips-tricks-cloud-module#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:57:42 +0000 /?p=20249

Welcome to the cloud! With the cloudBit, now you can snap the internet to anything. We’ve compiled a number of fun and useful tips & tricks to get your creative juices flowing. Enjoy!

 

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

 

How to Set up your Cloud Module

Cloud_1LR 

Cloud Control

This is a littleBits web app that lets you control and receive feedback from the cloudBit

photo 1photo 2

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets you connect to different web apps and select IOT products through simple conditional statements, called recipes. With IFTTT, you can connect littleBits to Gmail, Instagram, Phillips Hue and more!

Check out the littleBits IFTTT channel for awesome recipe ideas

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 1.56.59 AM

 

WEB TO BIT INTERACTIONS

Extra Control with littleBits Modules

With both Cloud Control and IFTTT, we have some control over the timing and intensity of the output modules on the receiving end of a cloudBit circuit. You can also mimic these same output functionalities (and more!) with just littleBits modules. Here are some quick examples:

  • Extend the 1 second signal (from the cloudBit) with a timeout module. The timeout will hold the circuit on for up to 5 minutes after receiving a pulse. Circuit: USB power + cloudBit + timeout + output modules.

  • With a latch, you can turn a momentary pulse into an ON/OFF switch. The cloudBit will send a single pulse when triggered through the cloud. The latch will then grab this pulse and hold the circuit either off/on. Circuit: USB power + cloudBit + latch + output modules

  • Want a variable output? Place a dimmer after the cloudBit to adjust the percentage of signal that passes on to the circuit. Circuit: USB power + cloudBit + dimmer + bargraph.

  • Place an inverter after the cloudBit to trigger the circuit to turn “off” when it receives a pulse from the cloud. Circuit: USB power + cloudBit + inverter + output modules.

Variable voltage output from cloudBit

As mentioned above,you can use both Cloud Control and IFTTT to send voltage percentages (intensity levels) to the cloudBit. In Cloud Control, you can use the slider application to send a single pulse at a percent of the voltage through the cloudBit.

 Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.12.14 AM

In IFTTT, we have even more control. The output trigger in IFTTT allows you to set both the voltage percentage and the duration of time you want your circuit to be on for.

 Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.15.09 AM

You can use a number module to verify the percent voltage that the cloudBit sends out to the circuit. This way, you can see the voltage percentage on both sides of the interaction (online and on your circuit). This is helpful for matching certain percent voltages to specific output interactions (i.e. the angle of a servo arm).

servoarm

Because we have the option of outputting variable voltage, we can use this to our advantage with the Arduino module. The Arduino module is able to look at different analog signals and determine what program to run (based on your code), like a specific song or sequence of movements. Click here for more information about using analog inputs to make selections with the Arduino module. IMG_7704

BIT TO WEB INTERACTIONS

Let littleBits environmental sensors/ triggers work for you

Environmental sensors/triggers (like the light sensor, sound trigger and motion trigger) are great for collecting information and sending it to the cloud without you physically having to activate something. For example, we created a baby monitor that texts you when it hears noise (circuit: USB power + sound trigger + cloudBit + servo). With the motion trigger, you could make an alert for your home that calls you when someone enters. Another idea would be to place a light sensor under the last roll of toilet paper. Then you could create a recipe in IFTTT that sends you an email notification (But more TP!)  whenever the light sensor is uncovered, and therefore triggered.

 large_Remote_Crib_Communicator_circuitlarge_IMG_2233

Use littleBits to collect data!

Send information to the cloud every time you trigger a cloudBit. You can use IFTTT to record information into a Google spreadsheet or have it displayed in a graphical fashion through apps like Numerous. Check out our Mr. Thirsty, our data-collecting water cooler project. He collects data about how much water we drink at littleBits HQ (In these days of the quantified office, if you’re not measuring it, is it really even happening?).

large_IFTTT_Coldlarge_IMG_3920

Triggering IFTTT with input sensors

When using littleBits sensors to trigger an action through IFTTT, note that the input threshold is 80%. This means that if you have a light sensor, it will need to sense enough light to give an 80% output voltage. You can check that this is the case using the number module.

 

BIT TO BIT INTERACTIONS

 Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.06.03 AM

Bring Bit to Bit Interactions to the next level

When you set two modules to follow one another in Cloud Control, you make two circuits that can talk to each other from anywhere, even across the globe. You could keep this interaction simple like pressing a button on circuit 1 to trigger an LED on circuit 2 and vice versa, like we did in out Long Distance Lamp project. In this case, you may notice that if you hold the button down on circuit 1, the LED will stay lit on circuit 2. If you want to add a next level of interaction to these circuits, add some littleBits input modules before the cloudBits and try some of the following examples:

  • USB power + pulse + cloudBit 1. In this case, the circuit with cloudBit 2 will pulse to the beat of cloudBit 1. Try adjusting the speed of the pulse to see what happens.

  • USB power + button + latch + cloudBit 1. In this case, the circuit with cloudBit 2 will hold its state either on or off because of the latch. Turn on a light across the world!

  • USB power + timeout + cloudBit 1. In this case, the circuit with cloudBit 2 will stay on as long as you set the timeout for on cloudBit 1.

  • USB power + Arduino + cloudBit 1. Program the Arduino module to send pulses at intervals that you set, perhaps every 20 minutes, to the circuit with cloudBit 2.

Create an infinite loop by connecting the output of each cloud module to its own input with a double OR module. The two circuits will then play tag with another. Check out this awesome Cloud Tag project by Community Pro, RichB.

large_filled_tagmovie2 

Use littleBits environmental sensors/triggers on one cloudBit circuit to automatically trigger an action on a second cloudBit circuit. For example, when a light sensor on circuit 1 sees light, it will trigger the cloudBit on circuit 2. Also try using a sound trigger, motion trigger, pressure sensor, bend sensor, or roller switch!

OTHER TIPS:

When prototyping a project that uses the cloudBit, we often use a button in place of the cloudBit to cut down on time. You can get the same functionality with the button (without having to fiddle with your phone). Once the circuit and build for the project are set, add the cloudBit and test from there.

Want automatic and manual transmission? In other words, if you would like to be able to control a project using either the cloudBit or a manual input (i.e. a button module), you can use a double OR module. We did this in the circuit for our project, the WiFi Music Player.

large_wifi_music_player_circuit

Use the cloudBit as a proximity beacon. Set up a circuit in your car (you will need to plug the USB power into a USB port). Set up the cloudBit on a specific WiFi network (i.e. your home network). Now, when you pull into the vicinity of your home, your cloudBit will automatically log onto the WiFi and trigger the cloud. You could set a recipe in IFTTT that texts “honey I’m home” when you arrive.

Use littleBits to control other internet connected devices, like Phillips Hue or Wemo. You can set up recipes easily in IFTTT to make this happen.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.32.58 AM

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Prototyping with littleBits: Case Studies /prototyping-with-littlebits-case-studies /prototyping-with-littlebits-case-studies#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:45:41 +0000 /?p=20327 The truth about electronics is that it’s hard. It takes a lot of time and dedication to see through the soldering, broken circuits and iterations. The result is that many people who actually do enjoy the design process and making, don’t know it because of the high barrier to entry. littleBits wants to change that: one designer, educator, artist, child, person at a time. Electronics should be accessible to anyone! This summer, we embarked on a series of case studies to show how different people, with varying backgrounds of electronics, can use littleBits to solve their problems.

Whether you’re a technologist taking your prototyping time from one day to 20 minutes [See Incredible Machines] , or a farmer looking for a way to remotely monitor your chickens [See Andy Reed], littleBits is the most flexible electronics platform to invent anything. Check out the videos below to meet some very special people who brought their ideas to life with littleBits.

Prototyping with littleBits

Havas, Integrating Marketing Agency
Jeremy Blum, Google Astronaut + Maker/Educator
Incredible Machines, Design Collective
Andy Reed, Maker Dad

 

 

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Prototyping with littleBits: Andy Reed /maker-dad-case-study /maker-dad-case-study#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:44:24 +0000 /?p=20323 Andy Reed had a problem. He has a farm full of chickens, but never knows whether or not they have the right amount of food. The only way he could know is if he or his daughters walked all the way to the coop and inspected the feed. A few months ago Andy stopped by the SOLID conference in San Francisco and met our founder, Ayah Bdeir, and our Community + Events Manager, Erin Mulcahy. When he told Erin his problem, she quickly snapped together a solution. See how Andy and his family rigged up a clever enclosure using the cloudBit to monitor his chickens feed from across the yard, or across the world!

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Prototyping with littleBits: Jeremy Blum /jeremy-blum-case-study /jeremy-blum-case-study#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:43:46 +0000 /?p=20325 We’ve all been there. You’ve checked the forecast, your mom talked you about it the night before, the air is muggy. It’s going to rain. Yet, you have managed to forget the umbrella. Enter Jeremy Blum. He’s a Google Astronaut, educator and a well known name in the maker community. His tutorials on Arduino are actually one of the teaching tools for programming we’ve used at littleBits!

Jeremy set out to solve the forgetful umbrella problem by using littleBits to not only blink an umbrella holder when the forecast is rainy, but to text you if you walked out the door without it. Check out the video for more.

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Incredible Machines Case Study /incredible-machines-case-study /incredible-machines-case-study#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:42:40 +0000 /?p=20319 Incredible Machines is a Brooklyn-based collective of designers, technologists and makers. We’ve always seen littleBits as limitless in the hands of masters, so we thought we’d hand over some cloudBits to these guys and see what they can do. The result? A hacked Canon DSLR that responds to sound, touch and IR. In 20 minutes. We’ll let them tell you the rest.

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Havas Case Study /havas-case-study /havas-case-study#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:40:44 +0000 /?p=20321 Havas is an integrated marketing agency and specializes in experiential marketing for some of the biggest brands in the world doing interactive experiences or public installations and more. We held a workshop with the Innovation Lab at Havas to see not only how littleBits could help bring their ideas to life, but to show folks who don’t know anything about programming or electronics can still contribute to the prototyping process to create a wearable devices or interactive installations in minutes.

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Education: Music Lessons /education-music-lessons /education-music-lessons#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:05:52 +0000 /?p=20257 moog

What’s that sound? It’s the Synth Kit making the rounds at workshops and classrooms near you! To kick start your own jam sessions, check out some of the latest ideas that the littleBits team and our community have come up with:

 Create your Own Orchestra

Using flashcards and hand signals, Hans Tammen has created large multi-movement pieces with large ensembles of electronic instruments for over a decade. As part of this year’s MakeMusicNY, he worked with an ensemble of littleBits synthesizer players. See the full details here on how to assemble your own orchestra (the video from the event pretty awesome too).

orchestra

Model the Human Vocal Tract

This 2 hour, advanced workshop was run at MoogFest by our Lead Engineer Geof Lipman, featuring the littleBits Synth Kits and logic modules. The goal of the workshop was to create a modular synthesizer that models the human vocal tract by producing vowel and consonant sounds, or phonemes. Check out the lesson slides and overview here.

moog1

Explore Clock Division and Multiplication

Practice your math skills with this musical lesson. Clock division and multiplication are handy tools for sequencing melodies, drum patterns and control signals.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.48.18 PM

 

 Combine Music and Physics

Hook up your Arduino at Heart Module to the Synth Kit to view the waveforms of the pair of slightly different frequencies as well as the waveform of the resulting beats.  You’ll quickly understand why “the ’square’ waveform has a rich, powerful character and the ‘saw’ waveform has a more mellow, rounder character (see below).

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.51.34 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.55.19 PM

 

Expand your Setup

The Synth Kit booklet is a great place to start, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for exploring the sweet beats that the Synth Kit can produce. Try out some of these projects to further engage your students or create your own and share on our community page!

Bring the ocean to your students with these high pass filter coastal sounds:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.33.28 PM

Combine 2 Synth Kits for double the fun:

korg 2 kits

Add an Arduino module to create your own Midi Interface:

large_filled_littleBitsSimpleMidi3

Don’t forget your construction materials! Adding some LEGOS transforms this synth setup into a musical working engine:

engine

 

Thanks as always to our community for sharing your unique creations!

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