littleBits Tries to Make Engineering Cool for Kids

Greg Wheeler
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Engineering has always been a hard concept to teach young children, but it doesn't have to be. The use of demonstrations and special tools or toys can make engineering for kids fun and educational at the same time. With products like littleBits, children get a true hands-on experience that may just foster a love of science.

Right before the recession hit, Ayah Bdeir was a software engineer in the financial sector—a job which paid really well but gave her no real personal satisfaction. As an MIT student, she always thought she would graduate and make things, but she instead took a safe desk job where her creative side was never engaged. One day she quit and vowed to create a way for even the most tech-deficient people to learn concepts that trained engineers use every day. This is how the dream for littleBits was born, and now that dream is a reality and is being used around the world as a teaching tool for engineering for kids.

Bdeir sells littleBits kits filled with electrical components that are easy to use along with instructions on how to use them. The pieces are color coded and easy to grip, which makes the engineering projects for kids that they are made to facilitate even easier to achieve. The parts can be anything from a solar panel to a sensor that works in tandem with other components to form items such as lamps or machines. Each piece is clearly labeled with information about how it functions, and all the parts are built to fit together easily. The kits teach engineering for kids but also encourage children to think for themselves and create items using their own ideas. This combines engineering for kids and creativity—two concepts that are not always easy for parents and teachers to put together. If children begin taking an interest in engineering as a result, then littleBits could be a boon to the industry, which has seen steady job growth in recent years and shows signs of continued demand.

Some of the kits are designed for home use, while others are specifically made with the classroom environment in mind. In fact, on the littleBits official website, there are many projects posted to teach engineering for kids. Challenges that help ensure children are retaining their new knowledge are also available. The products have become so popular now that local groups are popping up to meet other littleBits lovers and exchange ideas and projects. Independent websites are also coming up with fun engineering projects for kids, such as using littleBits components to make homemade crayons.

The United States has a low science education ranking among developed nations with engineering in particular facing a shortage of qualified and educated workers. Products like littleBits teach engineering for kids that is fun and interactive and could help get them interested in related careers. This kind of innovation may help close the science education gap and prevent projected future engineering shortages.


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