At Maker Faire New York I had a chance to play around with littleBits, those clever open-source electronics modules that fit together with magnets. I was amazed how intuitive it was, and watched as very young kids assembled working circuits without any instruction whatsoever.
As littleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir said in her talk on the Innovation Stage at Maker Faire New York, kids don’t really need a manual because their natural sense of adventure leads them to experiment with the friendly Bits. Adults, by contrast, wanted a meaty set of instructions that they could read through to ensure that they didn’t “do something wrong.”
littleBits has released a cool new set that still retains the supremely kid-friendly vibe of the original. Called the Synth Kit, it’s a series of synthesizer modules, co-designed with synth legends Korg. In short, it lets kids experiment with electronic music.
The kit’s modules include a power supply, two oscillators, filter, micro sequencer, delay, and several others. The speaker module also includes a mini headphone jack, clearly a great option for parents who are not fans of electronic music. There is, in fact, a manual, a robust 32-pager featuring 10 cool projects that can be snapped together in moments.
I love how every one of the modules has its name written on it, which is obviously so they can be identified. However, I found that the relatively obscure names intrigued kids. Take the filter module. The kids wanted to know what a filter was. The littleBits site has a page describing each module, and the filter page informed them that it changes the timbre of the sounds. In other words, littleBits modules aren’t merely noisemakers, they also educate kids on actual electronic music terms.
Once they have assembled all of the projects described in the book, what then? The advantage of the modular format is that it’s a cinch to swap in other modules to see what happens. For instance, add an oscillator module to instead of the random module and get… well, you’ll just have to find out.
The Synth Kit is available in the Maker Shed.