Six Months of Global Chapters: Here’s What We’ve Learned

Insights into the Global Chapters program

November 4, 2015

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At littleBits, we firmly believe in sharing knowledge and working in the open. In this spirit, we want to share what we’ve learned about the Global Chapters over the first six months of the program. The goal of the program is to create, grow and nurture a network of passionate individuals and organizations who want to share the littleBits mission to put the power of electronics into the hands of their local communities by hosting events year-round.

Now with 181 Chapters in 50 countries around the world, from Beijing to Beirut, Santiago to Stockholm, Athens to Austin, we’d like to share a recap of our budding community.


Where are Chapters?

Chapters exist in all types of spaces, including makerspaces, after school programs, STEM/STEAM education companies, libraries and now schools as well. 59% of Chapters exist outside the United States.


Who is a Chapter leader?

No Chapter leader is the same. Chapters leaders come from a full-spectrum of backgrounds and have different interests. They are educators (informal and formal), technologists, makers and littleBits believers. However, there is one common characteristic that unites them all: they are dedicated to serving and educating their communities. Meet Casey, Travis and Manuel.


Casey Janowski (Austin, TX)

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Casey calls Austin, TX home and indulges in breakfast tacos as much as possible. She has her Masters in Art Education and is lucky to work at TechShop, planning exciting events for her community, where she has tools and tech at her fingertips. An avid painter, her current obsessions are laser cutters and designing a programmable LED installation in her home.

How did you discover littleBits?
I joined the TechShop family in 2013 and we ordered a few kits to experiment with. My first event was the BitOlympics Global Makeathon that year. We connected with our sister shops across the country through Google Hangout and I watched magic unfold as kids were building with bits!

Why did you start a Global Chapter?
Hosting a Global Chapter with littleBits allows us to bring in young makers and expose them to the possibilities a makerspace offers. We hosted several Build Nights before we became an official Chapter leaders and saw how much everyone enjoyed playing. The community support of littleBits and the other Chapter hosts helps us grow our build nights and challenge the kids to keep creating.That alone has been so helpful and inspiring.

What made you want to bring littleBits to your community?
Making is natural to kids so exposure and access to tools equals great ideas. We saw a natural connection to incorporating what we can do with our machines and littleBits and we often create accessories by cutting them out on our lasers and making on demand parts to help the kids with their projects. We love our community of makers, big OR little!


Travis Lin (Taipei, Taiwan)

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Travis had a career in IT industry for 25 years as engineer, sales and entrepreneur, but DIY was always his interest at leisure time since childhood. Fablab Dynamic is one of the makerspaces where he conducts littleBits workshops. Maker Education, Aquaponics Monitoring System, and wooden joint of temple are three projects that take most of his time today. He is also teaching classes at the  Taipei National University of the Art once a week.

How did you discover littleBits?
I discovered littleBits because one of my friends gave me a Deluxe Kit. He thought I should be very excited for sure. Yes, he was right. It reminded me the wonderful memory about the introduction of LEGO Mindstorm into Taiwan. littleBits provides a wonderful experience for me to prototype my ideas easily.

Why did you start a Global Chapter?
After being a part of the littleBits community for some time, I noticed the Global Chapters program. Based on my personal experience, I believed this is an appropriate way and tool for me to introduce the spirit of Maker to my community.

What made you want to bring littleBits to your community?
For the past two years, I have been deeply involved in Maker Movement and believe this could be a wonderful platform for grassroots innovation. I would like to help young people in my community understand the positive impact of the Maker Movement. littleBits provides an excellent tool for this purpose not only in fast prototyping but also in STEAM education.


 Manuel Avendaño (San Pedro Sula, Honduras)

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Juan Jose Manuel Avendaño Reyes is a 25 year-old tinker entrepreneur who enjoys thinking. He is a self-proclaimed “geek from Honduras” who is working in his own tech-startup to provide an advanced makerspace for his community in San Pedro Sula. It began as a kid when somehow he always got sucked into this world of robots, spaceships and futuristic citadels. He never lost that geeky passion for building things, making others and creating technology to the point of taking mechatronics and software engineering as he started college. Because that wasn’t enough to fill his hunger for neo-futurism, he ended up starting his own project with the help of littleBits and their awesome community of makers which he is proud to be part of.

How did you discover littleBits and why did you start a Global Chapter?
It kind of began when I was molding the idea of building the makerspace, I had nothing, I was just searching and researching when I bumped into this interesting toy which looked like electronics-lego that immediately catched my attention. To be honest I fell in love with it and the possibilities it gave to the maker culture, without a doubt I had to get involved and here we are now.

What made you want to bring littleBits to your community?
As I stated before I loved it; the possibilities it offered in education, prototyping and creating art, music, business, in providing a new better way for technology development in so many areas blew my mind. That gave me the push to improve the idea I had of building a makerspace for my country where the circumstances beg for an amazing disruptive development as the one littleBits provide.


Events

Since the launch of the Global Chapters program, there have been 327 events that have taken place around the world (that’s almost two every day). There’s a Flickr album of wonderful photos from these events here. Don’t miss them– you won’t be disappointed.

Vancouver, Canada

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Credit: Karl Simmons

Cape Town, South Africa

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Credit: Ort Sa Cape

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Credit: Olabi Makerspace + Meduzza


 What’s being said?

“The best thing about being a Chapter leader is being able to see the inventiveness of the participants. Giving people an idea and watching them take it in directions even I didn’t know it could go. It is rewarding and inspiring when you see people, especially those who are new to electronics, eyes light up (pun intended) when they build a circuit so easily with littleBits.” – Justin Gillfilan (Brisbane, Australia)

“I am always in awe of the progress of the learners and the amazing projects they come up with using their creativity. Helping them get there is a truly rewarding experience.” – Ksenia Nadkina (Calgary, Canada)

“Our favourite thing about being Chapter leaders is seeing the happiness our workshops bring to people’s faces. We love being able to use littleBits to complement our education programs and initiatives as an effective and innovative tool that enables so much hands-on learning and exploration. We are beyond thrilled at this integrative aspect that includes such a warm community and team spirit. – Connie & Benjamin Chow-Petit (Lyon, France)

“It’s great to be part of an international community – the support is fantastic and it gets the inspirational juices flowing. We love telling the kids about other similar groups of children their age that are halfway across the planet and it’s also a good promotional tool and discussion starter when introducing ourselves to new parents and venues. We strongly encourage any active littleBits groups to become chapter leaders and join the community!” – Amnon & Gabi Carmel (Sydney, Australia)


What’s next?

There’s always room to improve and iterate, and we plan to do so in the coming months and into next year. While we don’t have new definitive plans to announce yet, we have a number of ideas on our minds:

-Additional 1:1 support and webinars.

-More swaggg!

-Additional programs that allows more people to get involved and hands on with littleBits.

If you have any feedback or ideas, please email us at [email protected] And if you’re interested in joining the program, apply here.