littleBits teaches electronics by making the connections irrelevant — no tangles of jumpers, wiring diagrams, or globs of solder. Even the programming is done for you, reducing the complexity of building circuits to, basically, snapping the parts together with the help of magnetic couplings. The product is for ages 8 and up.
There currently around around 50 Bits. These consist of single-function components that you’d expect to see in a series of electronic modules: a button Bit, a dimmer Bit, and so on. My favorite is the “pulse” Bit that packs a 555 timer chip.
The Bits are color coded based on what they do. Power Bits are blue, input Bits like buttons are marked in blue, output Bits like LEDs and buzzers are green. There are also connectors like wires and AND gates, and these are coded orange. There is also screen printing on the PCBs that explains the logical connections of the Bit–see the photo to the right–as well as information you need to use the Bit. For instance, the toggle switch Bit indicates which is direction is on and which is off.
Sound interesting? LittleBits is organizing a global make-a-thon this Saturday, Sept. 14. The winner gets a $1,000 littleBit library and his or her project displayed at World Maker Faire in New York later on this month.
Want to participate but need inspiration? LittleBits held an artbot design class at the Harlem School of the Arts. They also collaborated with the MoMA Design Store to create a store display done solely with littleBits for the electronics.
LittleBits was founded by MIT Media Lab graduate and Eyebeam fellow Ayah Bdeir — you can learn more in her TED talk. She will be on hand at World Maker Faire to announce the winner of the make-a-thon and to host a talk on the Innovation Stage on “How Children are Teaching Adults to Make Again”. Meanwhile, there will be demonstrations and workshops at the company’s booth all throughout the weekend.
[bottom photo: Adafruit]