Chapter Spotlight: littleBits Lyon, with Connie & Benjamin Chow-Petit

littleBits Workshops in Lyon, France

August 19, 2015

Connie & Benjamin

 

littleBits Lyon
Connie & Benjamin Petit

 

Our Global Chapters Program is a global network of organizations with a shared mission of putting the power of electronics in the hand of everyone regardless of age, gender, technical ability and language. Find your local Chapter or start your own!

 

Where are you based?
Greetings from Lyon, France!

This is Connie from littleBits Lyon where I am Chapter Leader with my partner/co-creator Benjamin. We live and work in Lyon but have travelled and lived abroad for some years and then came back to France in 2011. I am originally from Canada and Benjamin is originally from France.

 

Tell us more about your organization/space.
We started the Lyon Chapter with no space or organization. It sounds a little crazy but we strongly believed (and still do) that a good idea with passionate, pro-active people behind it will naturally evolve from data, experience and insight.

Hence, data gathering and bold experiments will be the hallmark of the Lyon Chapter.

We also strongly believe in personalization and in a continuum between individuals and organizations, education and innovation.

An education association will be launched in the near future to help us further our interests and activities in these domains.

 

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What inspired you to start a Global Chapter?
I had been following littleBits closely since its’ creation four years ago and at the time was looking for new activities to add to my maker hobbies. I knew even then that somehow, I would want to be a part of littleBits in some way or form.

When Benjamin and I met afterwards, he and I joined the maker/hacker movement locally and started working deeply in new forms of education. By chance I checked the littleBits website and saw that the Global Chapters just started. Perfect! We applied on the spot.

 

How are you re-inventing your makerspace/ learning space with littleBits?
Our priority is access for all to education, experimentation and innovation. It is true for individuals regardless of age, degree of interest or time, and organisations, whether around problem solving or cooperation.

We highlight Design Thinking in our methods and allow for free exploration with minimal guidance, accompanied by personalized support for activities and ideas that reinforce STEAM education, a concept not fully developed here in France.

We also build cooperation around specific problem-solving or innovation tasks, like a river management program for example, with solid objectives and an high expectation of efficiency in mind.

Additionally, we are invested in the federation of the maker/hacker/Fab Lab network here in the region, which makes for a nice close-knit community within a community who are also interested in advancing education and invention in a new way.

In only 3 months time, we have conducted our itinerant and ephemeral workshops in partnership with both the local Planetarium Vaulx-en-Velin, a local bio hack-lab called La Paillasse Saône with their program M[Y]Ni Kids and another association called Imagineo with their Imagin’Lab event.

 

Tell us more about your last event.
Two events we participated in coincided with each other simultaneously and were very different in scope:

1) My Vacation on Mars:

A temporary exhibition at the Vaulx-en-Velin Planetarium (in Greater Lyon) with the grand public, based around science and society, space and exploration – our vacation on Mars!

 

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Credit: littleBits Lyon, Planétarium Vaulx-en-Velin

 

2) Imagin’Lab:

We had a small sample of participants aged 6-14 for an event called Imagin’Lab with the association Imagineo.

 

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Credit: littleBits Lyon, Imagineo

 

These events were unanimously successful in that everyone wanted to return even after the event was finished! Each group and individual had different needs and interests so thanks to a flexible and adaptive method, we managed to satisfy and challenge the participants equally without enforcing a strict age-based structure. And, more importantly, the key metrics of [human cooperation] and [willingness-to-explore] were seemingly improved. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit currently existing fMRI technology on participant’s cranium for a more objective evaluation 🙂

 

What were some of the projects that came out of your event?

  • Mars atmosphere experiment – with -85°C carbonic ice and a vacuum generator!
  • Collaborative Mars Rover
  • Dog Echo Vocoder
  • Disco stage with DJ set & Instruments
  • Dancing dog & Lights
  • The IronStar – a demilitarized, Iron-Man inspired, power exo armor!
  • Automatic letterbox ringer
  • Light video game

What did you learn from hosting these events?
That a person of any age is capable of exploring with littleBits. We also found that under 18 and seniors felt the most comfortable with our technology and educational methods. And, that participants under 18 are miraculously careful with the bits 🙂

Passion, persistence and willingness to learn and share are the key metrics of any collaboration. Age, degree of knowledge or expected structure of participation are becoming increasingly irrelevant variables. Our programs, interestingly, become more ordered and chaotic at the the same time, as they mature; revealing an interesting property of a self-adapting system. Definitely something to explore.

Ha! And Martian dust that contains iron powder does stick to littleBits magnets to form beautiful, and conductive, “magnetic” loops. None were damaged by the phenomenon, quite a tribute to the resilience of littleBits.

 

Who else in your community inspires you?
The people. There are many passionate people wanting to make changes in our society for the better and it’s inspiring to have met and to have worked, and to work one day soon, with many of these individuals that shape our lives here locally and abroad – and that includes especially our younger friends and participants.

 

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What’s next for your Chapter?
Our ephemeral workshops are taking shape from Fall through 2016, with three very diverse and distinct spaces – an art gallery with a kid-lab space, a digital art and technology space and an associative bio eco hack-lab, citizen space.

We have a concert & expo event coming up, that we co-organised, that will integrate our workshops to help make open source free art with the public. It’s discovery, collaboration and creation with sound, light, visuals and whatever else.

And lastly, we have been personally asked to help shape several innovation and STEAM educative programs here in France so we hope to bring STEAM education to the forefront locally while incorporating the use of littleBits in institutions and as an integral part of the maker movement.

 

What’s been your favorite thing about being a Chapter leader? Why should others join?
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.

We think that diversity breeds strength and innovation; and that the changes that littleBits incarnate are still at a nascent stage. Therefore, by joining, you could make a significant, nonlinear difference in the relative probabilities of positive, negative, or generally interesting outcomes. Probably? Yes, data supports this assertion.

Please just proceed to experiment 🙂