Little Bits are little bits of component electronics. They are simplified into 4 categories. Power (blue), Switches (pink), Wires (orange), and Actions (green). When students connect a blue, pink, (orange optional), and green ‘story’ they can then act it out. There are an incredible array of components available through LittleBits.cc
Last week I was privileged to join a grade 1 class exploring these components. You can’t connect the components wrong as they physically fit specifically and are magnetic and push away if you attempt to connect them wrong.
It is very easy to see the creations they have made and ask questions. Sometimes they tell their story with a switch at the end. A simple – what does this do? Sparks further thinking and eventually new attempts. First the students said that the switch did something but when prompted and nothing happened, they re-evaluate and make changes.
Grade 1 students engaged in real science about electricity is pretty impressive. They learn about electricity but also scientific thinking of taking what we know, trying something and seeing how it works or if it works – then re-thinking.
I am an advocate for giving students soldering irons, solder, wires and letting them explore; however, I didn’t feel there was a single safety risk in a grade 1 classroom with LittleBits. I would like to see that LittleBits are the beginning and not the ending of experimenting with electricity.
A confession about the car I printed that was designed for LittleBits – It had to be printed at 70% size to fit on our printer. I knew I would have to adapt the holder to make it work. Once completed I knew I had to make quite a few adjustments.
The size of the whole for the shaft needs to be enlarged.
The platform for the DC motor bit can’t fit as it is in the way of the wheel
But these problems made me think… How else can I do this?
a. I can make smaller wheels – if that doesn’t create dragging on the ground
b. I can use a DC motor from a broken bubble blower I saved from my girls broken toys.
c. I can hold the motor in place with a glue gun
d. I can adapt a LittleBit wire (Orange component – that was cut by a student to power the motor, and insert a switch)
e. I could print a battery holder and use left over wires to build a circuit
f. I could purchase a battery holder, light and switch in the dollar store, cut off its lights and apply the battery holder to the small DC motor I have left over.
I love the language of ‘tinkering.’ Exploring 3D printing and options for integration into classrooms makes me think of how to tweak or tinker with activities, tools, resources and learning opportunities.
Highly recommend LittleBits.cc as a tool for exploring electricity but also as a tool to explore scientific thinking. It has awakened for myself a tinkering mentality. I think that tinkering will be more a valued skill for any person in the near future.
(A small caveat is that LittleBits are little and use fine wires. After use in many classrooms we are finding some of the connections are breaking.)