Design Challenge with littleBits in the Library Makerspace

This week I had the pleasure of presenting a sneak peek of my Librarian’s Guide to littleBits through a webinar with School Library Journal. (You should be able to access the archived webinar soon!)  The guide itself will be published on SLJ and the littleBits website for you at no cost and should be up in about two weeks. You can be sure I’ll let you know as soon as it is live!

The webinar coincided with the end of a design challenge I’d held in my library makerspace for the last couple of weeks. One of the things I’d mentioned during the webinar is that free tinkering time is awesome and necessary. However, you eventually have to guide students with a Design Challenge to introduce the concept of long term projects. To quote myself from the Librarian’s Guide to littleBits, “A design challenge will give your makers a time limit, test their abilities, and most importantly give them a chance to show off their work.” 

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.24.53 PM

I’ve hosted a lot of workshops so far at Ryan Library, but hadn’t really had a long term design challenge until the #HackHalloween challenge was issued by littleBits earlier this month.

Designed by me in Canva

I introduced the challenge to my RHS Makers one morning and the brainstorming began.  We had to work in small increments since these boys come in every morning, but often can not stay after school. I loved listening to them brainstorm ideas.  They got to building and created 3 different projects for our haunted library movie. They had big plans to build multiple swinging servos that would push books over, a doll that would track you, and spooky sound effects triggered by motion or a Makey Makey switch.  We stayed late one night to video our movie and just ended up making another project.  Finally, Thursday, I told them we HAD TO FILM it! (I think they would’ve worked on projects forever.)

So without further ado, here is the Haunting of Ryan Library made by my RHS Bitsters:

Since multiple students worked on the project, I had them create a littleBits account to represent them as a collaborative. I helped them add all the pictures and videos I took over the last month and we uploaded our littleBits project guide to the project page. (I hope to get individual students to create accounts too and join our Denton littleBits chapter as well.)

This #HackHalloween design challenge really is a great quick example of how the students focused their efforts on making something creepy, had to finish projects in a certain time frame, and even get to show off their collaborative project by uploading to Youtube and the littleBits project page.

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I’d like to end this post answering some of the questions we didn’t have time to answer during the webinar:

Question Answer
For a pop up makerspace, what kit would it be best to start with? Definitely the Workshop Kit! It comes in a mobile tackle box!
Our librarians want to know how to avoid theft of the littleBits?  Patrons would be creating in an unsupervised area. Thanks!

How did you prevent students from walking away with littlebits? We were thinking of having kids loan them out like books, but I like your idea of just keeping them out.

Is this in a public library? I wouldn’t suggest totally leaving littleBits in an unsupervised area.  My littleBits corner is near our circulation desk. I can always see students while they are tinkering.
I lock the cabinet up for weekends since we have lots of off campus traffic.
I’m not really ready to circulate littleBits, we use them too much every day! I’d have to get more kits that I specifically used for checkout if I wanted to start doing this.
What would you recommend for elementary school libraries? At least one deluxe kit, one space kit, and one gizmos and gadgets kit.
What kind of challenges are you doing next? Not sure yet! Will probably be a Sphero or Makey Makey challenge and then come back around to littleBits again next time!
Is there a link to the littleBits kit suggested for library makerspaces? I love my littleBits Pro Library! Write a grant if the cost is too high.
Can you say something about why the library is the best space to do this kind of invention lab work? Why not the science room? Do you want all students to have access at any point during the school day? Is your science room open for free tinkering time throughout the day? To me if we want all students to have access to an awesome resource for free, than it should be housed in the library.
Is it harder to get high schoolers to engage compared to the middle schoolers or younger kids? Not at all.  My teens LOVE littleBits. Especially since the Pro Library has all the synth Bits. I’m hoping to get the midi Bit soon and get my students tinkering with music software too!
Should I be worried that students won’t be able to keep their products, since they can’t take the LittleBits home with them?
Do you disassemble the inventions to reuse the parts with other children. If so, how long do you  keep the creations?
No.  Most maker projects are meant to show off and track with some kind of documentation, but they don’t really need to be kept together for a long time.  I post my students’ projects on Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Youtube, etc.  So they can always show others what they made.  

I also love how students can upload to the littleBits project page. I wish I’d had my students post on this page last year! This #HackHalloween project was the first one I had students post. (Thanks to Diego for encouraging me to upload during our community call.)

For a limited budget in a middle school classroom, what kit would you recommend that would provide the most variety for the students? At least one deluxe kit, one space kit, and a couple of synth kits!
Can you talk more about how you organize your Littlebits?  
How many students are in your school and how many Littlebits kits do you own?
This will be answered in depth in the guide! 🙂

We have 2500 students, one Pro Library, and one littleBits workshop kit.

Is there a minimum amount of time that students should have available whether for tinkering or for a challenge? This is hard to answer. The time you’d like to dedicate to tinkering really depends on your school community. Plus, the time for a challenge would depend on what the challenge is! During the Bit Olympics people held two hour challenges.  It just depends on what outcome you want and what you are challenging your students to do. My Makey Makey Challenge last year lasted almost 2 months!
How do you handle projects that take more than one session? Do you have a place to store projects-in-progress?         I have a long-term projects shelf.  We have empty shelves behind our circulation desk where I stored the #Hackhalloween projects every day until we were ready to film.

2 thoughts on “Design Challenge with littleBits in the Library Makerspace

  1. Pingback: New Here? | Create, Collaborate, Innovate

  2. Pingback: Review of New littleBits STEAM Student Set ! | Create, Collaborate, Innovate

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