Introduction to Schematic Diagrams with littleBits

Introduction to Schematic Diagrams

LittleBits are wonderful little color-coded electronic building blocks that snap together easily to help us learn about and experiment with electronics. They also snap apart easily leaving a box of bits and experiences!

How do we remember what we learned/made? How can we record it so we can communicate it, repeat it, build upon it? Draw a schematic diagram!

A schematic, or schematic diagram, is a representation of the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic elements that aid comprehension… the symbolic elements are arranged to be more easily interpreted by the viewer.” Wikipedia

I developed this lesson as part of the introduction to littleBits for the Maker program I created at The Rye Arts Center for ages 8-12. It met for 10 sessions on Saturday mornings for 2 hours. We spent 2 of those sessions with littleBits.

The first session we spend learning what littleBits can do, then experiment, record and reflect. The timing of the instructional steps below represents the second half of that session. The next week we come back with our ideas and whatever we need to make something cool to electrify with littleBits! When we are done we all get together and look at the projects and diagrams together. Diagrams go home, and the projects get disassembled at the end of the program.

I like to find ways to show students that they can mix media and achieve different results, and to help them realize that most tools can be used for several purposes. For example, many artistic tools are used to record information. The pencil, crayon, digital camera…

This lesson uses paper, pencil and crayons to create a schematic diagram of a littleBits circuit!

Assessment Strategies:

Through Q&A, discussion and observation while students are working, student understanding and abilities can be assessed.

The completed diagrams can be used to record/track/assess a student’s general understanding of how to use littleBits, completion of specific littleBits projects, or success at solving logic and design problems.

Learning Standards:


K-2-ETS1 Engineering Design

K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem’s solutions to other people.


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

Duration: Duration: 60 minutes

Credits: Special thanks goes to Leah Sanft, awesome Art teacher at the Grady and Dixson schools in Elmsford, NY who never ceases to inspire me. Also thanks to Ike for being the best guinea pig!

High School (ages 14-17)
Middle School (ages 11-13)
Elementary (ages 8-10)


littleBits Basics
English Language Arts

usb power (1)
pulse (1)
rgb led (1)
screwdriver (1)
random (1)
USB Power Adapter + Cable (1)

Plain white copier paper 1

Crayons: Dk Blue, Lt Green, Orange, Pink
Magnifying glass
Pencil with eraser


STEP 1 : Step 1: Classwork (15 Min)
Introduction to Schematic Diagrams1

Previously, littleBits has been introduced to the class with a demo and hands-on led by the teacher.

Instructions are given for the students to start experimenting to create their own simple circuits with littleBits. 4 or 5 bits works good for beginners. Teacher shows examples if necessary. See my examples of simple circuit diagrams for ideas.

STEP 2 : Step 2: Lecture / Demonstration ( 15 Min)

Introduction to Schematic Diagrams2

Concept of a Schematic diagram is introduced by teacher. Sample questions to encourage discussion: How can we record what we did? What is the important info. Where can we find it?

The littleBits Schematic technique is demonstrated:

– Place the completed circuit in front of you. Double check that it works as expected.

– With a pencil on plain paper, draw a simple representation of the circuit. Rectangles for bits, lines for wires. It helps to keep the lengths of the rectangles proportionate to the length of the bits in your project, and all the heights the same.

– Label the center of each rectangle in pencil with the code number of the bit it represents.

– Write the name as it appears on each bit underneath it’s rectangle in pencil.

– With crayons, outline each rectangle with the proper color for each bit.

– Write a title for your project, your name, the date and any other instructions or annotations.

STEP 3 : Step 3 Classwork (20 Minutes)

Introduction to Schematic Diagrams3

Students work to complete a color coded, labeled schematic diagram of their circuits. Students can exchange their schematics with other students and build/test each other’s diagrams.

STEP 4 : Step 4: Sharing / Reflection (10 min)

Introduction to Schematic Diagrams4

Students present their drawings in front of the class, and we have a discussion.

Q & A. How would we change it? Instructions for next time.

Images that could be useful for discussion/reference/comparison/further study:
Real schematic with legend. Maybe a littleBits schematic for a simple module.

Circuit diagram – the littleBits quick start guide (in this case an example of a nice drawing, but not what we are trying to do)

Catalog, posters or reference cards of all the littleBits.

A Rube Goldberg illustration!