Ultimate 2012 holiday gift for curious little kids: LittleBits

LittleBits is taking the world by storm, and rightly so, which is why we’re highlighting them as a gift idea for curious kids this year. They’re not only a great idea, there’s also a great entrepreneurial story behind them.


Aya Bdeir, LittleBits

LittleBits was founded by Ayah Bdeir, a Lebanese engineer with a history in the open hardware movement in 2011. Bdeir wondered why transistors are not more readily available to non-engineers. You can watch her explain in this TED talk how transistors are the ‘building blocks’ of our day (she goes from cement blocks to Lego to transistor – the comparison is a bit strained, I think).

Bdeir eventually decided to create a modern version of the Lego blocks – with electronic components that are small, friendly and endlessly adaptable and swappable. The frustration level is eliminated, because every part is color coded so you immediately know what it does: blue is power, green is input, orange is wire, pink is output.

The goal of LittleBits is to create components that are literally capable of everything that technology offers: speakers, lights, dimmers, buzzers, haptic components, light and sound sensors, everything. By making the components easily switchable, it’s an ideal way to experiment and play. There’s a few very funny examples in the video, like a confetti cannon that goes off when you wave at it, or a play-doh lobster that’s “afraid of the dark. Here’s the cannon:

When I first saw the Belgian circuits design tool circuits.io, I thought that it would make a great video game to teach children and adolescents about circuits. One of the problems that hardware hackers have with the modern wave of devices is that they seem so shiny that they become unapproachable for kids – unlike the old ugly computer boxes that had big screws on them that essentially screamed: “unscrew me” at young and daring hackers.

LittleBits is essentially the same, but with real components. As LittleBits says: it’s for protyping, for learning, but most of all: for fun.

Watch Ayah Bdeir’s TED talk:

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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