Technology Review: LittleBits

Young Bloggers  /   /  By Savannah Ugo
Stone Soup Magazine
December 2017

Photo by Lisa George pour Ultra-lab [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wanted to invent something but had no idea where to start?  What if there was an electronic platform that was easy to use, complex, expansive, and visually pleasing all at the same time? Meet LittleBits.

LittleBits is an electronic platform made up of various tiny modules.  These modules can be linked together in different formations and accompanied with arts and crafts to create anything from a simple slide-dimmer light to a remote controlled flying miniature house. Each module, called a “bit”, is brightly coloured, approximately the size of a 2 by 4 stud Lego brick, and is equipped with magnets on one or both ends, so that the bits easily snap to each other to create the circuit of your choice.

Different coloured bits perform different functions.  Blue bits provide the energy from outlets or batteries that power the circuit.  Pink bits, or “input bits” make it possible to control your circuit with the push of a button or the slide of a switch.  Some input bits can even sense a change in temperature or sound.  Green bits are the action bits, the ones that make an invention move or light up.  And finally, there are orange bits.  These are the wires that spread out and connect the circuit over a distance; the railways of the whole operation.

My brother and I are homeschooled so my mother is always trying to find different ways to learn about science, history, and other school subjects.  We had (and still have) a physics kit with some plastic building planks, a weak motor, and some accessories.  Every time we had science class we would try to build a simple project.  It was extremely frustrating trying to connect the poorly fitting pieces and when we had finally completed the project, it would sputter to life, and promptly fall apart. Now when I have a sudden flash of inspiration I just need to figure out, “how will I build this?”  Instead of assuming it simply can’t be done.

Bits are also great for repurposing toys like Lego or old bikes.  Their website sells Lego adapters which connect bit circuits to Lego models, making them move, or light up.  So if you want to make the ladder on your tree house model come up and down by itself, than with Lego adapters, you can do it without a whole bunch of tape.

The LittleBits Company is based on the mission to inspire the next generation.  They have created an online community of “bitsters”, other people who also like to invent with bits.  On the littleBits website, inventors can share positive feedback and be encouraged by each other’s creations.  The company’s wish is for kids to “learn how to be more than just consumers of technology.”

I recommend LittleBits to anyone who has a problem, a way to improve the world or an idea how they can just make life more fun.  LittleBits technology isn’t just for math geniuses and computer whizzes.  It’s for anyone who’s ever wanted to try.

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