As part of the Fresh Air Fund’s Career Awareness program, we invited fifteen 12 to 15 year old city children to participate in a workshop in midtown Manhattan. The career counselors asked me to focus on how playing with littleBits ties in to the real world.
None of the participants had ever used littleBits before.
Duration: 2 days of 45-minute classes
Middle School (ages 11-13)
Elementary (ages 8-10)
English Language Arts
MODULES & ACCESSORIES USED (20)
slide dimmer (1)
roller switch (1)
dc motor (1)
long led (1)
light sensor (1)
vibration motor (1)
pressure sensor (1)
sound trigger (1)
bright led (1)
battery + cable (1)
STEP 1 : Sketching Prototypes
Industrial designers often begin with a concept sketch and then build a maquette. We can do the same thing with littleBits, cardboard and recyclables! See Ayah Bdeir’s 2 minute video: “Coffee Maker”
If I had more time, I would have also shown a five minute video on the same vimeo channel entitled “littleBits workshop”, which shows 4 designers sketching prototypes with littleBits and cardboard.
STEP 2 : Introduction to littleBits & Exploration
After a brief introduction to littleBits, students were given 20+ minutes of open ended exploration time. I provided support wherever it was needed. Some students immediately began inventing, while others were more interested in experimenting.
STEP 3 : Sketch An Idea / Reverse Engineer a Product
“OK, folks, it’s time to invent something! Here’s some paper, cardboard, markers, glue, popsicle sticks, chenille stems, beads & feathers. What do you want to make today?”
In addition to craft materials, I brought simple consumer products. The kids jumped on the idea of trying to figure out what was inside these closed devices. Pretty soon, we were on our way to documentation.
STEP 4 : Documentation
Documentation comes in many forms, whether it be email communications, comments on computer code, diagrams, sketches, demonstration videos, physical models, etc.
littleBits circuits are typically documented in text with plus signs between the names of modules. Many people draw their project ideas in detailed, color coded illustrations with module names clearly labeled.
Below is one such diagram by Marcus, which is called “Laughing Egg”.
Marcus’ circuit in text: battery/power + pressure sensor + buzzer + vibration motor
STEP 5 : Share Your Idea!
Once ideas were documented, I delivered their paper to another table and asked students there to recreate the design. There were four tables which represented engineers and designers in different cities: New York, Boston, Calcutta, and Miami.
Below is “My New Button” by the Miami firm.
STEP 6 : Feedback Loop
Several designs were “emailed” back and forth between different design firms.
Below is what Marcus’ “Laughing Egg” diagram looked like towards the end of the workshop. Questions were asked and answered. Suggestions for improvements were made.