I attended the littleBits workshop on Tuesday where I got the chance to test their toolkit and talk to two of the people behind the little scene (bad pun?). It was an informative experience both as a participant and observer of a workshop, especially as I am currently planning my own.
I also had a few conversations with the guys running the workshop regarding current planning to market/implement littleBits’ as an educational tool, which got me thinking about why it might hit a few roadblocks in this domain. It has a very low point of entry to create functioning circuits, but it was engineered to be simple. Its aim should then be to get new learners engaged and excited, but has essentially been designed to be a black box. This is one of the great paradoxes of these kinds of tools that requires walking a tender line. For me, littleBits was designed with novice designers in mind, not novice students. So in this regard it becomes a question of framing: I DO think that this is a great tool to teach interaction, experience, industrial, or product design. It fosters creativity, stimulates excitement, and seeks to engender a sense of community within its users. The workshop is a microcosm of that community, which is pretty freaking awesome.
Here is my initial version of the IRB, albeit without any of the participant forms, questionnaires, etc. All to come over winter break!
Liz Taylor and I ran a soft circuits dorkShop a couple weeks back to introduce beginner p comp students to alternative materials. We had a great turnout and some really interesting projects emerge:
Here is a link to the G doc presentation with materials, notes, etc.
This workshop will give beginner physical computing students an introduction to using soft materials in their projects. They will learn how to make and implement different forms of soft switches and variable resistors in both paper and fabric form using Arduino. This workshop is a great supplement to their current/flourishing knowledge of physical computing: since they will actually be making the components they use on a daily basis, thereby giving them a deeper understanding and insight to the practice of building circuits.