From kids in elementary school to executives at ad agencies and inventors in garages, more and more people are getting into hardware prototyping thanks to MIT graduate and CEO of littleBits Electronics Ayah Bdeir.
Bdeir’s New York-based company littleBits Electronics has created a library of modular electronics that snap together with magnets for prototyping, making it possible for people of all ages to build anything from music synthesisers to cloud and Wi-Fi-controlled objects, such as doorbells and thermostats.
Just this week, the company struck a deal to distribute littleBits Electronics products in more than 2,000 RadioShack stores across North America.
The company has also raised US$15.6m to date in three investment rounds from 16 investors.
Bdeir came up with littleBits Electronics while she was working on a master’s degree at MIT Media Lab.
“During that time I was creating a lot of innovations in the area of wearable devices and interactive installations. I was using all kinds of electronics because I was an engineer,” Bdeir said at the Web Summit in Dublin.
“One day I was inspired by this idea around how can we make electronics inspiring to other people in such a way that you can invent and prototype in the same way as you can with software coding or creating a webpage.
“We have a library of 63 modules that you can combine in any number of ways to make anything from remote-controlled robots to SMS doorbells to a wearable prototype for start-ups.
“We are seeing interesting applications emerging across learning display, design-thinking and problem-solving.”
Impact on education
The Web Summit 2014: Interview with Ayah Bdeir of littleBits
Bdeir said more than 3,000 schools are using littleBits Electronics modules to teach electronics.
“They are being used all the way from elementary to middle school and we’re seeing the kits used in university and colleges, as well as in arts and crafts.
“I see this time as being just like how software went through a period where it was sexy and everybody wanted to be a software entrepreneur. Now it’s hardware’s turn.”
Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland