Last night, just before bedtime, I handed over littleBits to our three younger kids. They had never seen or used it before and I wanted to gauge their reaction to it.
Overall they loved it and it was the first thing Fionn looked for when he got up this morning. Sibéal also snuk off with it for a while on her own last night after the others had gone to bed.
The two favourite parts for all of them are the pressure sensor and the buzzer.
I love the concept and I think it’ll be a huge help in kids understanding analogue electronics and getting an interest in it. However I do have a couple of worries.
The first is the most obvious – the price is 3x to 4x too high. We just could not justify paying $89 (Starter Kit) for something that will probably not be used beyond tomorrow. Sibéal’s Android tablet was only slightly more expensive and will last her for a year or two. For a schoolroom, where it gets passed around, that price might be ok, but we honestly wouldn’t buy it unless it was in the $20 to $30 range. Given that they have raised a bunch of VC, I hope they use it to re-align the price. I just can’t see it getting mainstream adoption at the current level.
The second concern is more technical. There is only so much you can do with non-programmable analogue circuits (analogue engineers, please leave abuse in the comments ). At some point it’s going to need a digital controller and digital blocks. I don’t know if this is in the plan or even in the design already. As an ex-Philips guy, I love seeing the adoption of I2C (I-squared-C, not I-two-C) by the Maker community many years after I used it in nearly every project. It strikes me as ideal for littleBits due to the minimal pin count and low speed.
The third issue is easy to fix. The head of the screwdriver is too big for the pots. Kids found it really hard to get it working. An extra 5 cents needed there I think!
Sibéal is the main “Maker” in our house. She has that great combination of an interest in tech and an interest in art. Her plans for Halloween involve creating zombie costumes and using toggleable LEDs in ping-pong balls to scare people. I hope littleBits will encourage her two younger siblings to get equally interested.
One final note – at the start of the video I mention that littleBits is probably two simplistic for our older two boys but when Oisín (aged 10) saw littleBits last night, he insisted he had a go on his own today.