MIT Media Lab alumna and entrepreneur Ayah Bdeir SM ’06 believes everyone can learn to build their own electronic inventions. Her fast-growing startup, littleBits, is putting the materials to do just that into the hands of children and adults around the world.
Founded in 2011, littleBits recently closed an $11 million funding round and has sold hundreds of thousands of “bit modules” — components that snap together magnetically to make anything from motorized toys to alarm clocks to musical instruments.
The company has earned awards from a variety of organizations, including educational groups who admire the gender-neutral kits’ ability to inspire young people to learn engineering. “It’s an easy, easy way for kids to get started on electronics and making interactive objects. But we take care to not dumb down the electronics in any way for adults,” says Bdeir.
Bdeir grew up playing with Legos and chemistry kits, but it was her Media Lab experience that sparked the idea that would turn into littleBits. Her work with the Lab’s Computing Culture Group led Bdeir to think about technology as a creative tool. “I got interested in, ‘How do you put a powerful tool in the hands of people that are not experts? How do you enable an artist to use lights, or enable a designer to prototype with sound and sensors?'”