Tag Archives: electronics

Makerspace Essentials – littleBits

UPDATE (10-7-15): littleBits now offers Educator Resources!

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials

littleBits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits.  The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library.  You can see an introduction to the product here.

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg
image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg

littleBits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators.  If you are unable to purchase directly through littleBits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on Amazon.com.

If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide. Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.

When we first got our littleBits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces.  They were great for me to learn how the modules worked.  However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own.  You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead.  If you like those, here are some more.  Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.

Organizing your littleBits can be a challenge.  I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “littleBits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table.  I was thrilled when littleBits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces.  One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the littleBits containers.  As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.

Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of littleBits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012.  She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world.  “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”

If you are given the opportunity to purchase littleBits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!

For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”

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12 Days of MaKey MaKey

It’s Friday and it’s December, which means that it’s time for another “Gifts for the Gifted” post!

gifts

I have posted about MaKey MaKey a few times, but I was surprised to look back and see that it didn’t make my Gifts for the Gifted series last year.  This actually makes sense because I hadn’t used one yet at this time last year. Now that I’ve had a bit of experience with it and watched some of my students use it, I can definitely recommend it as a great gift.

You will need a computer with a USB port in order to use the MaKey MaKey.  But the rest is up to your imagination.  It looks intimidating, but the directions are a snap (I let my students hook it up and they had no problems).

In this tweet from @simontrembath, his 4th graders made an Operation game using MaKey MaKey (thank for the RT @JoyKirr!)
In this tweet from @simontrembath, his 4th graders made an Operation game using MaKey MaKey (thank for the RT @JoyKirr!)

I have a detailed description in this post.  Basically, you can use anything that conducts electricity (including your tongue or your own skin) to power the MaKey MaKey.  The most popular demonstrations use bananas.  If you’re a bit stumped for other ideas, I’ve collected a few here to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Eat Your Lunch While Simultaneously Playing the Star-Spangled Banner  
  2. Create Musical Paintings with Conductive Paint
  3. Create Musical Instruments with Cardboard and Conductive Tape
  4. Design a Video Game Controller
  5. Musical Plants
  6. Play Whack-a-Potato (these kids are adorable!)
  7. Make a Chewing Gum Remix
  8. Make Good Use of Your Wet Socks
  9. Play the Pumpkin Drums
  10. Play the Planets
  11. Go Fishing
  12. Orchestrate Your Ornaments

Granted, some of these are a bit complicated – but even showing the videos to your child or students should help them to think of even more ideas!

There are a lot of places to purchase MaKey MaKey, such as Amazon, MakerShed, Best Buy, and the MaKey MaKey website.  It’s usually around $50.

For more ideas for creative gifts for children, you may want to visit my Pinterest Board or check out my previous posts from this year: OsmoCircuit Stickers, Shell Game, and 3Doodler.

Little Bits Holiday Kit

Little Bits Holiday Kit

For those of you new to this blog, I am devoting Fridays during the holiday season to recommending “Gifts for the Gifted”.  You can see the three posts that I have done so far herehere and here.  You can also visit my Pinterest board on Games for Gifted Students.  A lot of these are not just for gifted students, but would be appreciated by many children – and adults.

Today’s recommendation happens to be one that I have not tried, yet.  But, I am ordering this kit for my 10-year-old daughter because it looks like the perfect combination of imagination and engineering.  The Little Bits Holiday Kit retails for $49, and includes the following items:

  • A double sided instruction sheet with quick start guide and project suggestions
  • A custom-made 9V battery + cable
  • A 9V battery connector.
  • Custom plastic screwdriver

7 littleBits:

  • • power
  • • pulse
  • • light wire
  • • dc motor
  • • bright led
  • • wire x2

The list above does not really do the kit justice, however.  There is so much potential in the various combinations of these parts, some of which is shown in the video below.  And, if you have a child or group of students that might be interested, Little Bits is also offering a “What are You Making for the Holidays?” challenge with a deadline of December 11th.  Inventors of any age are invited to submit sketches of a possible Little Bits design, and the winners will receive all of the parts to build their inventions.

If your child is interested in building, inventing, and designing, this could be a great gift to put under the tree!