Simple STEM/STEAM Building Blocks - Maker Faire


We were able to meet with Dr. Azi Jamalian to learn more about litleBits - building blocks that blink, beep, and teach. The idea behind littleBits is to get tech in the hands of children. They have components like power, switches, and devices (such as fans or lights) that are color coded for easy recognition and each component has magnets that allow them to connect with ease.  Here's a transcript of our conversation:

Dr. Azi Jamalian: The whole mission is to democratize electronics and technology and put it in the hands of everyone. And you don't have to be an engineer to play around with it so, it's a cool stuff.

littleBits is a platform of electronic building blocks that you snap them together to build things. A lot from small to large and the whole idea is to empower every child no matter what their gender is, no matter what their comfort level with technology to start playing around with electronics and start inventing the world they want to live in.

Let me show you how they work. Every invention starts with something blue. Blue is the power. You snap it to something green and it works. As simple as that. It could be a buzzer, it could be a fan, as long as it's green, it does something. And then anything pink controls your app. So for example, I can use the switch and turn on and off my buzzer.

And then we have different inputs and different outputs and you mix and remix them, and mix and match to find the invention you like.

Do you have little kits or anything like that to kind of make an end product or anything?

Dr. Azi Jamalian:
So let me show you a few examples. So I showed you the fan, but this one is a simple invention with a slider and a fan and one of the inventors thought of it as a fortune teller. So I'm gonna turn on it - make a wish, make a wish, to make a wish... And it goes, what do you think? So as simple as a fan and a slider, you could come up with an invention depending on the purpose you wanted to give it to it.

We have different kits starting from hall of fame kits which are starter kits. And they start with our most popular inventions, in the kit. From there it goes all the way up to STEAM students that encode kits, which are much more comprehensive kits, and a much more comprehensive experience.

This one is our code kit that has this "code bit" that connects to a computer. And it's a drag-and-drop block based coding and now you're combining coding and electronics. So you actually come up with your own code for your own games, activities and you upload it here.

The whole mission is to democratize electronics and technology and put it in the hands of everyone. And you don't have to be an engineer to play around with it, so it's a cool stuff.

I love how the little pieces like magnetic together so makes it really simple. That's awesome.

Dr. Azi Jamalian:
It makes it simple because it is magnetic. If you put it in the wrong direction, it always repels. And that's a great safety for kids. And when you have it in schools with 20-30 kids all playing with electronics, the student or the teacher shouldn't be worried about "are they gonna put it in the right direction? Are they gonna make a short circuit?" and all those things. So it's super safe and simple to play it.

In terms of education, we are actually in more than 10,000 schools right now. We're working with like thousands of thousands of educators who are basically excited about the power STEM/STEAM in education. And how it helps students to and really be ready for 21st century and for the future that we don't know. 65% of them will have careers that we don't know what it is so we need to make sure they're all ready for that.

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