LittleBits: your own basic electronic kit for education

littlebits kit in box

There are a lot of basic e-learning kits, from some generic ones for general e-learning, others focused on robotics or Arduino, to practice with renewable energies with photovoltaic technology, etc. But one of the most sought after is the famous LittleBits. The startup in New York, is one of the best known that offer this type of kits for education and makers.

It was created by Ayah Bdeir in 2008, and since then it has grown to significant numbers, present in over 200 schools around the world and in many homes. They have certainly managed to return something that was common in the 80s and 90s, where you could find famous educational kits of all kinds, including electronic ones. Besides, littleBits has a lot of open-source software products and libraries. With these open-source pieces you can create code to manage the hardware you sell.

In some shops, like Amazon, you can find different types of littleBits kits. With prices ranging from 80 to 600 euros for more advanced ones. The good thing about these kits is that with just a few modules you can create a lot of things. For example, one of the basic littleBits kits includes about 10 modules that allow thousands of possible combinations to create almost anything you want.

Why is littleBits so interesting?

littleBits

The modules can be easily coupled and uncoupled with small magnets for prototyping. They are suitable for children, because if they make a mistake in the design, they can easily be restarted, without having to weld or remove the solder, or work with dangerous elements. That’s why they are so popular, the ease and the multiple combinations make it very fun for the little ones (and not so little) to learn by playing.

They also usually include colour coding on the modules, that allows not to confuse how they should be connected, for polarity, etc. That way, you can start working with the kits without previous knowledge of electronics or circuits. The pink colours are those of the inputs and the green ones for the outputs. If that’s not enough, include an instruction booklet that will help you with 8 example projects.

With that you can get used to the way it works, and then move on to realizing the more than 150,000 possibilities you have. However, you can also find more ideas on networks. LittleBits even has an official website where you will also find a database with another 100 projects in addition to those in the manual. So there are no limits to your creativity.

Among the basic modules usually found in kits, are the light sensor module, DC motor module, power supply module, switch module, etc. But remember that depending on the kit, the composition and orientation may vary.

How to have a littleBits?

To get your hands on a little bit, you have several possibilities. One of them is to directly buy these kits. But if you find them expensive and want to save a few euros, you could create the kit yourself. This way you can give your child a cheaper learning kit that you have made yourself, or perhaps you can give it to yourself. This will also help you to learn during the construction process.

Buy kits

You can buy some kits at Amazon with different objectives and prices:

  • littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit + Code: en with which you can create a nice R2D2 of the Star Wars saga and you can program and control from a mobile device. It doesn’t need the intervention of adults, it can be safely manipulated by children. With the Droid Inventor app for iOS and Android you can teach the Droid new skills.
  • littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit: is similar to the previous one, but instead of having the Star Wars character, it has the space rover from Mars. A small robot that you can assemble, customize, and program from a mobile device. The price is about 139 euros, something more expensive than the previous one.
  • littleBits Smart Home Kit: is a , as you can tell from the name. The price is about 680 euros and includes a large number of modules and components. You can build devices connected to the Internet thanks to the open source littleBits library. The devices you create can be controlled by the Internet to automate it. No wiring, no soldering, no programming knowledge is needed. You can use mobile devices to manage your 14 bits or modules, from temperature sensors, to MP3 players…
  • littleBits Wiring Kit: there are several versions, s and faces of about 682 ?. It allows you to build circuits of light, sound, with motors, etc., easily connected and controlled. You can also buy several kits and they are compatible with each other, to combine them if you already have one.
  • littleBits Synth Kit for electrical installation: for about 137 euros you have 12 bits or modules to compose. Both this and the previous ones, include manuals with step by step instructions and examples. In this case, focused on sound synthesization.

Create your kit

Another option, if you like DIY or you are a hardcore maker, would be to create it yourself, being able to customize the modules you need or want for your kit. There is a very good project by JackANDJude that allows you to see the step by step creation process of a kit with several modules or bits.

The kit that has created is composed of 10 modules:

It is the power module or power supply that will feed the rest. It can be easily mounted with these components and joined together as shown in the circuit picture:

  1. 9V battery
  2. Box or battery holder with red and black wires for polarity
  3. 9×12 perforated printed circuit board.
  4. LM7805
  5. 0.1 uF ceramic disc capacitor (code 104), 1.0uF, 10uF
  6. 330 ohm resistance
  7. Red LED
  8. SPDT switch
  9. 3-pin jumper
  10. Head for 3 pins, for the jumper

Light sensor module

The RGB led module with light sensor, must have the following parts, connected as shown in the picture:

  1. Perforated 9×12″ printed circuit board
  2. Tricolor RGB LED
  3. 3 resistors 330 ohm, and 3 photoresistors
  4. LM741 operational amplifier
  5. 3-pin jumper and head for him

LED Module

This module is very simple, and can be mounted with:

  1. Perforated 9×12″ printed circuit board
  2. Bright white LED
  3. 220 ohm resistance
  4. LM741 Operational Amplifier
  5. 3-pin jumper and head for this

Another one of the easiest modules to create with:

  1. Perforated 9×12″ printed circuit board
  2. SPST button or switch
  3. Capacitor 0.1uF
  4. 1M Ohm Resistance
  5. 3-pin jumper and 3-pin connector

Inverter module

The inverter module is also very important for varying voltages. It consists of:

  1. Perforated circuit board
  2. Capacitor 0.1uF
  3. Resistance 1M ohms
  4. Inverter chip 74AHC1G04DCK
  5. 3-pin connector and jumper

Pulse module

It is one of the most interesting modules for generating pulses or clock signals. It is composed of:

  1. Perforated 9×12″ printed circuit board
  2. Timer chip 555
  3. LM741 Operational Amplifier (optional)
  4. Capacitor 10uF, 0.01uF
  5. 100 ohm, 1K, 10K resistors and 10K micro-potentiometer
  6. Bipolar transistor NPN 2n2222
  7. LED
  8. 3-pin jumper and head

Switch module

In this module you will need the following materials

  1. 9×12 perforated circuit board
  2. SPDT switch with 3/4″ lever
  3. Capacitor 0.1uF ceramic or polyester
  4. Resistance 1M ohm
  5. 3-pin connection and jumper

Light-activated module

The last module would be this one here (although you can add DC motors,…), composed by:

  1. 9×17 perforated printed circuit board
  2. 2 LM741 operational amplifiers
  3. Capacitor 0.01uF
  4. Resistors: 4x 100K, micro-potentiometer 100K, and photoresistor
  5. AND gate, like the ones included in the 74LS08 chip, although you can use something different.
  6. DPDT switch
  7. 3-pin jumper and head for him

By the way, a very good recommendation they give is to label the modules with a permanent marker or with identification stickers so that you know which one is which. From there, you can use the jumpers and connectors to make your compositions…

Source

Instructable – DIY LittleBits

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