Ready, set, gizmo!
If you can dream it, you can probably build it with littleBits’ Gizmos and Gadgets Kit, a new high-tech building blocks set that lets you create all sorts of clever contraptions without going having to go near a soldering iron.
Remote control cars? Tiny electronic guitars? Pinball machines? Doorbells? Pet feeders? A patient, savvy tween (or a young-at-heart grownup maker) should be able to assemble any of them in less time than it would take you to build a LEGO Millennium Falcon.
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The best part is that you don’t have to be an engineer to make it work. The worst part, however, is probably the Gizmos & Gadgets Starter Pack’s price tag: $199.95. And while it’s easy and fun to build with, you’ll probably find yourself wanting more pieces to add on. (You might consider building a robotic arm to pull your credit card out of your wallet.)
But if you can afford it, a lot of geeky fun awaits. Although it might look like an intense LEGO set, the learning curve is quite manageable and you’ll be building buzzers and spinners in no time.
Each coin-sized piece – or “bit” – snaps together magnetically. So if it doesn’t fit on one end, then it should lock right on the other. To power your creation, you’ll need to connect a D battery (supplied) and flip the switch.
It’s exciting to see that the designs don’t end with the large instructional booklet included with Gizmos & Gadgets. The littleBits app has a growing list of user-generated inventions.
For Yahoo Makers’ test round, we went with the coolest robotic design, the BitBot:
After connecting all the bits, you’re left with two circuit boards: a controller and the vehicle. Using two dimmer sliders, you can increase the acceleration and direction for each wheel. You can also customize the remote control car’s look with the prepackaged alphabet and design stickers.
We went with the stripes, Yahoo and Triforce logos. It only took about 10 minutes from start to finish. It’s quite fulfilling to build a robot from the ground up, granted there were no soldering irons involved. Yet the ease of creation and encouragement to think outside the box is all you need to get your brain going.
For other projects, you’ll snap together the light sensor, buzzer, servo, and other bits in different combinations.
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If you want to expand the littleBits universe there are a few intriguing expansion kits to choose from: Connect your house to your desktop or mobile device with the Smart Home Kit. Build a spacey noisemaker to make sound effects that are out of this world with the Korg-partnered Synth Kit. And learn to computer program with the Arduino Coding Kit.
Other companies – including LEGO, with its cool (and also pricey) Mindstorms robotics kids – have ventured into ventured into the world of engineering, too. But littleBits distinguishes itself with a just-challenging-enough difficulty level and endless creative possibilities.
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